WA points to Esperance initiative as energy transition ‘blueprint’ for Australia


Western Australian regional energy provider Horizon Power said Esperance has successfully transitioned to electric power through a unique initiative that paves the way for a renewable energy future for the town in the state’s southeast.

State government-owned Horizon said the Esperance Gas Distribution Company (EDGC), the owner and operator of the area’s gas network, on Friday stopped supplying reticulated gas to the residences and businesses in the community.

Horizon said the majority of the town’s private residential and business customers have already made the switch from reticulated gas to an alternative energy source, with most electing for a full or partial electrification solution, “delivering increased energy efficiency and lower emissions.”

The shift is part of the Esperance Energy Transition Plan, announced in 2021 after EDGC revealed that it would not continue to supply gas and operate the reticulated gas network after the state government awarded a long-term gas supply agreement to EVOL LNG, which planned to truck gas to Esperance from Perth.

Horizon, which acts as both utility and network operator in WA outside of the state’s more populous southwest, decided that converting current reticulated gas customers to alternative longer-term energy solutions would offer the greatest benefits for customers and the broader community, with the least risks.

The transition initiative, backed by $10.5 million in state government funding, offered financial assistance for existing gas customers to remove their gas appliances and replace them with new ‘like for like’ electric alternatives to replace existing gas units, including installation costs and electrical work.

Businesses were also offered free independent energy audits, with a grant scheme providing financial support for their chosen transition pathway.

WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston said the electrification of Esperance sets a benchmark for the rest of the country and will accelerate the state’s ambition to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“This is a significant milestone for the state, demonstrating the first electrification of its kind for Australia,” he said. “This project will serve as a blueprint for other electrification works around the country.”

Horizon said a small number of customers in Esperance will make the transition to electricity in the coming months while some businesses have made the commercial decision to postpone that transition and will rely instead on bottled gas.

The Shark Lake Renewables Hub features 4 MW of solar alongside wind turbines, battery energy storage and a gas power plant.

Image: Horizon Power

Esperance’s shift to electricity has been supported by the development of a hybrid renewable energy hub that brings together solar and wind power and meets almost half of the town’s annual electricity demand.

The Shark Lake Renewables Hub includes a 4 MW solar farm combined with two 4.5 MW wind turbines integrated with a 4 MW lithium-ion battery energy storage system backed by gas generators.

The integrated power system, which is owned and operated by Perth-based Contract Power, has been operating since mid-2022, generating up to 46% of Esperance’s electricity demands.

“This is a long-term solution delivering cleaner electricity by reducing the carbon footprint and increasing the generation of renewable energy for the community,” Horizon said.

“Solar and wind power are an ideal way to combine renewable energy sources. During the day, a solar farm captures energy from the sun, and after dark is when the wind farm is most active. Combined, these two energy sources allow electricity to be generated by renewables around the clock.”

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