Swanbank station could keep state's lights on, reduce prices
THE long-awaited restart of Swanbank E Power Station could make the difference in keeping Queensland's lights on during summer's extreme weather while also reducing the cost of power.
Producing enough supply to power a city the size of Townsville, the Swanbank station on Thursday became the first gas combined-cycle plant in the nation to be recommissioned.
Six months after employees began firing up the gas station, Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Minister Anthony Lynham visited the site to mark its return.
"The best thing about this power plant is it's quick on, so when we need that power we can just flick it on, it's only half-an-hour to rev-up this power station," he said.
It has been in cold storage since 2014, with the gas entitlements sold off.
The 15-year-old plant, operated by Stanwell, will return to full operational capacity to boost available megawatts during summer's peak demand periods.
Providing an extra 385 megawatts of power into the grid, Dr Lynham said switching on Swanbank would improve energy security and help reduce wholesale electricity prices.
With about 2000 megawatts of surplus power in Queensland, the State Government has the ability to sell its excess to the southern states.
Last year about $200 million was injected into the state through power sales, which Dr Lynham said would go into the pockets of Queenslanders and drive prices down.
Dr Lynham did not say when residents would notice the difference to their power bills but said the government's $2 billion Affordable Energy Plan was working.
He said recommissioning the Swanbank plant would help the government achieve its plan of ensuring power prices did not rise above CPI.
"We can do that because we have energy assets in our hands," he said.
"I'm sure Queenslanders are very happy that we recommissioned this powerplant."
But Dr Lynham refused to detail the cost to taxpayers of purchasing gas and recommissioning the plant, declaring the deal "commercial in confidence".
Stanwell Corporation chief executive officer Richard Van Breda said it took six months to prepare the unit for service and secure gas supplies.
"We've also recruited and trained 16 additional people to operate and support the operations of the power station," he said.
Swanbank Power Station will contribute about 5 per cent of Queensland's average electricity demand.
Last summer a record demand of 9369 megawatts saw the state almost lose power supply.
Mr van Breda said Swanbank was vital to maintaining enough supply as demand increased.
"It's very important having an additional unavailable over the peak period," he said.
The station will produce 300 megawatts during the peak between 7am and 10pm.
When days cool, the station will return to flexible operating mode - producing what the market requires.