WA Town Ditches Reticulated Gas for Renewable Future

Esperance electrification

Esperance has (nearly) transitioned to full electrification – and a good thing too given the town’s private gas network owner and operator shut off gas supply on Friday.

Esperance is situated on the south coast of Western Australia, around 700 kilometres from Perth, and is home to around 10,200 people. Its major industries are tourism, agriculture and fishing.

The Esperance Gas Distribution System is owned and operated by Esperance Gas Distribution Company (EGDC), which is a subsidiary of the Energy Infrastructure Trust. The EGDS has been operating since 2004, supplying hundreds of Esperance customers via 40 kilometres of low-pressure gas distribution infrastructure.

Why Has The Gas Been Turned Off?

Back in September 2021,  EGDC announced it intended to stop supplying reticulated gas to customers after it lost the contract to supply the town’s new power station.

The Shark Lake Renewables Hub (SLRHub) consists of 4 MW of solar capacity, two 4.5 MW wind turbines, a 4 MW battery and a 22 MW gas power station. SLRHub’s renewables aspect is expected to supply up to 46% of Esperance’s electricity requirements.

Since EGDC’s announcement, Horizon Power has been working with the Esperance community on the transition. According to the Western Australian Government, the majority have now made the switch from reticulated gas to an “alternative energy source” – with most opting electing for electrification.

“This is a significant milestone for the State, demonstrating the first electrification of its kind for Australia,” said WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston. “The project sets a benchmark for the rest of the country. While other organisations are in their planning stages, Horizon Power is making things happen.”

Horizon Power must have really cranked up its activity as an ABC article last month noted recent figures from the utility indicated 35 per cent of affected households and 85 per cent of businesses were yet to transition. But it seems now just a “small number” of customers are yet to transition, which will occur in the coming months.

“The transition to electric power in Esperance represents a significant milestone for the town, ushering in cheaper energy prices for households and businesses and positioning the community for a renewable energy future,” said Agricultural Region MLC Shelley Payne.

… and just on that last bit:

No New Solar For Esperance Households (For Now)

With all these new all-electric households, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume solar power system installations would also be appearing on rooftops at a pretty rapid clip. But when checking Horizon’s solar eligibility application for Esperance, it states:

“Unfortunately your town is unable to connect to solar at this time.”

This is because Esperance has reached its network hosting limit.

“But we’re working hard to fix this for you,” states Horizon. “By installing battery storage to increase hosting capacity in your town.”

This isn’t an issue confined to Esperance. Many towns across the Horizon Power service area have or are still facing similar issues. And it’s been going on for years. This cheery video explains the situation:

While there have been some releases of extra solar hosting capacity, these are snapped up pretty quickly due to pent-up demand. Horizon is acutely aware of the demand, and has set a target of enabling all households that want to install solar panels to be able to do so by 2025.

As for small-scale solar power in Esperance as it stands now, in the 6450 postcode area more than 972 systems had been installed with a collective capacity of 5,653 kW as at February 28, 2023.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. The customers are the losers:
    1. No more gas but you can’t have solar either.
    2. Why allow 4MW of Utility Solar and then stop roof top.
    3. Why only 2 wind turbines(9MW) at the 6th windiest location in WA.
    4. 22MW of gas power generation using 6 gas trucks per week (from Perth 800km) is not much of a CO2 saving.
    5. What happened to the Kambalda to Esperance Gas Pipeline – why truck gas in?
    6. Why not allow roof top solar and wind as much possible.

    I hope the focus was saving CO2 not profit.
    No local councilors were involved in the decision in 2020.
    Ref: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-20/esperance-power-station-approval-dap-panel-shire-state-process/12678912

  2. Ross Adams says

    How did we get to this. The gas gets turned off, the pollies somehow claim credit and the town will quite likely be in the dark more than ever.
    The lunatics really are running the asylum.

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