Power station fate is set

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Synergy chief executive Jason Waters and chairman Rob Cole discuss the Muja Power Station scale back with Premier Mark McGowan and Energy Minister Bill Johnston in Collie.
Camera IconSynergy chief executive Jason Waters and chairman Rob Cole discuss the Muja Power Station scale back with Premier Mark McGowan and Energy Minister Bill Johnston in Collie. Credit: Kate Fielding / South Western Times

Up to 80 jobs will be axed as the long-awaited cuts in Collie’s coal-fired power generation are set to start with the closure of two units at Muja Power Station.

Premier Mark McGowan made the announcement to workers in Collie on Monday before fronting the media to reveal what he labelled a “difficult decision” but one that had to be made to provide certainty for the community.

The two near 40-year-old Muja C units – owned by the State’s electricity generator and retailer Synergy – will be retired from October 2022 and the other two years later with the first shut down to affect about 30 workers and the second between 40 to 50.

The announcement has come as no surprise to Collie and Bunbury Geographe business leaders, unions and opposition leaders.

Collie Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Bec Woods said it provided certainty and she was confident the Government was listening.

“The recent announcement has given Collie what they have been asking for and that is some certainty around a date and what the process is moving forward in the energy sector,” Ms Woods said.

“The Minister (Bill Johnston) and Synergy have assured us that in three years when these changes start to occur they will be offering voluntary redundancies to those that want them and are ready for that in life.

“They will be offering training for those that want upskilling and for the others they will be offered deployment in another area of their workforce.

“I feel we are being heard and the Government is working with us to help achieve us moving forward by increasing our industry diversity.”

Synergy chief executive Jason Waters and chairman Rob Cole discuss the Muja Power Station scale back with Premier Mark McGowan and Energy Minister Bill Johnston in Collie.
Camera IconSynergy chief executive Jason Waters and chairman Rob Cole discuss the Muja Power Station scale back with Premier Mark McGowan and Energy Minister Bill Johnston in Collie. Credit: Kate Fielding / South Western Times

Mr McGowan said the Government was “moving heaven and earth” to get more jobs and opportunities into the Collie area and it remained committed to having some influence on recruitment at Albemarle’s lithium plant in Kemerton.

“One of the things we’ve been very strong on is working with the company Albemarle to suggest to them that they employ people from Collie who might be displaced and we’ve committed to providing whatever training is necessary to give Collie people that opportunity,” he said.

“I think what we’ve done is given people time to look at their futures – if they wish to take a redundancy, take a redundancy, if they wish to work somewhere else within Synergy, that opportunity may well be available.

“If they wish to work somewhere else within Collie, we’re moving heaven and earth to get more jobs and opportunities into the Collie area.

“I think a lot of the workforce has known that this was a decision that needed to be made ... I think people are appreciative of the certainty that’s been provided here and also the fact that Synergy is going to work one-on-one with people about their futures.

“I think some people were expecting a worse decision, so I think there’s been some small degree of relief that it wasn’t a more dramatic decision.

Mr McGowan said keeping the two ageing generators operating would have led to higher energy bills and an unstable electricity supply.

The two units were only in use about 35 per cent of the time and their closure would allow the remaining Muja D units to operate more efficiently.

Coal-fired power will continue to come from the Muja D, Collie and Bluewaters powerstation.

Synergy chief executive Jason Waters said the decision to retire the units was a reflection of the changing face of the energy market in the South West.

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