Page 5763 - Week 18 - Tuesday, 10 December 1991

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Electricity Purchases

MR JENSEN: Mr Speaker, my question is directed to Mr Connolly in his capacity as Minister with some responsibilities for ACTEW. Minister, the ACT is currently purchasing its electricity from outside of the ACT, as we know. Some 30 per cent is generated by the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme and the rest is from several power stations, mainly in New South Wales, although there is some coming in from Victoria. I wonder whether the Minister can advise on what basis ACTEW considers that the cheapest option is to purchase power rather than seek some means of generation locally.

MR CONNOLLY: I thank Mr Jensen for his question. It would be a massive capital investment for the ACT to set up a local generation plant involving hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowed money. ACTEW effectively wholesale purchases electricity and passes it on to consumers. What ACTEW is doing is, in fact, what will become more the pattern in south-eastern Australia particularly as we move to the integrated grid. The pattern of even States such as New South Wales and Victoria generating solely in-State capacity and having to have a sufficient surplus capacity for emergencies will be a thing of the past soon, as we move to that integrated grid.

The ACT is represented on the national grid management strategy to develop those works. So, I have no plans for a generation capacity in the ACT and nor does ACTEW because, on its advice, it would be far more expensive and would go against the trend in Australia for an integrated grid management.

MR JENSEN: I ask a supplementary question. Based on that answer from the Minister, is the Minister therefore not aware that there is now some technology which would enable the generation of electricity via the water system in the ACT through the delivery of water from dams outside the ACT into the ACT area, and that using that technology would enable some electricity to be generated by that process? If the Minister is not aware of that, will he undertake to have a look at that issue with a view to seeking to reduce the amount of electricity that we have to purchase from outside? I was not talking about big power stations, Mr Connolly.

MR CONNOLLY: I see - lots of little power stations. They could all be named after members of the Labor team, but we would need probably 11 or 12 of them after the next election. I will certainly ask for some advice. The ACTEW board contains a number of people with expertise in electricity and energy management matters. Dr Saddler, who is a noted energy expert, has recently been appointed to the ACTEW board, and I am sure that they will keep these things under review.

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