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Desalination plant claims questioned  

The West Australian Water Corporation was mistaken in claiming Perth’s desalination plant is carbon neutral, the WA Conservation Council says.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has told a private complainant the corporation can no longer claim that the plant is carbon neutral and directly powered by the Emu Downs wind farm, north of Perth.

The complainant told ABC Radio that the ACCC should follow up by demanding an apology from the Water Corporation and review its documents and statements.

The ACCC said that under its statutory obligations, it was unable to confirm the letter or even whether an investigation had taken place.

WA opposition water resources spokesman John Day today said he had seen a copy of the ACCC letter and called on Premier Alan Carpenter and his ministers to apologise.

“If the wind’s not blowing they’re not getting energy from that source,” Mr Day said today.

“So the ACCC has really … pulled the government up and made sure that in their public comments they’re going to be a little less tricky.”

WA Conservation Council president David Harries said he believed the Water Corporation had always had a genuine interest making its operations as sustainable as possible.

“(But) there’s a lack of clarity about how the mandate of the renewable energy and the renewable energy certificate system worked,” Professor Harries said.

“The … water corporation was under the impression that if it signed a contract with someone to supply electricity … that it could claim that it operated its plant on renewable energy.”

The desalination plant is in Kwinana, south of Perth, 280km from the Emu Downs wind farm, near Cervantes, north of the capital.

The WA Labor government went to the 2005 state election pledging that the plant would be fully fuelled by renewable energy.

The Water Corporation denies it has been misleading but says the desalination plant is powered indirectly by back-to-back contracts with state electricity supplier Synergy and the wind farm.

It says the ACCC recently issued a guideline saying carbon neutrality could only be claimed if the entire life cycle of the product had been offset.

A spokesman for Synergy today confirmed that renewable energy certificates, once they are on-sold, are not attached to any particular source.


The West Australian

26 June 2008

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