Cook Government ignored clear warnings from Western Power of electricity grid failures

Thousands of Western Australians have been suffering through heat wave conditions without power and
water because the Cook Government failed to listen to the warnings of its own experts.

WA Liberal leader Libby Mettam said the Government had been warned the State’s regional power grid had reliability challenges but had done nothing to install fit-for-purpose back-up or shore the grid up and prepare it for the type of weather events that happened this week.

“For the past two years the Budget papers have included warnings to the Government that exactly this scenario would happen if it did not invest in the network infrastructure and in back-up capacity,” she said.

“Those warnings have become reality and as a result, the reality for thousands of Western Australians is no power, no water, no phone access and in some cases no fuel, while hundreds of businesses have lost thousands of dollars.”

In the 2023-24 State Budget papers Western Power warned the State Government that “the distribution network is facing both reliability and safety challenges in the regions”.

The warning from Western Power was even more strident in the 2022-23 State Budget papers when the agency said: “In recent times, extreme climate events have had a significant impact on the network.

Climate change will present both physical and transitional risks for Western Power. Climate change will see a need for greater emphasis on disaster preparedness and increase the challenge of protecting grid infrastructure and supply to vulnerable communities.”

Ms Mettam said the warnings could not have been any clearer.

Shadow Energy Minister Steve Thomas said the power outage in the City of Kalgoorlie was symptomatic of a broader failure of state energy policy.

“In 2022 power outages had significant impacts on Kalgoorlie residents and hit local businesses directly in the hip pocket,” he said.

“Two years on, and in the middle of the biggest fiscal boom in our state’s history, the lessons that should have been learnt appear to have been completely lost on this Labor Government.

“Kalgoorlie is a major regional city and has backup generators in case of system-wide failure, but once again that backup has failed.”