Energy Access

Will a New Coal Power Station Improve Electricity

The main argument for building a coal-fired power station at Lae is allegedly to serve electricity needs in Lae, in particular and on the Ramu grid in general.

Electricity supply in Lae is stop-start, and many businesses, buildings, and households use back-up generators (usually running on dirty diesel or heavy fuel oil). However, while this is undoubtedly a problem: providing more energy to the grid will is not the solution. It is a problem of the Ramu grid’s ageing infrastructure, which can best be addressed by making repairs and upgrades to that infrastructure.

As for the Ramu grid itself, a second 180MW hydropower station has been approved on the Ramu River (the Ramu 2 plant), and a 30MW biomass facility in the Markham River Valley has also been approved.

Certainly, more such developments may be needed in the coming years for the Ramu grid. But demand growth scenarios for this grid are very optimistic in terms of what is needed (one projection was that demand growth would quadruple from 2015 to 2030). This is an extremely optimistic projection, and in any case, about half of this demand growth was for the approval of new mines (Wafi-Golpu, Yanderra) or the expansion of existing mines (eg Porgera). 

It is inequitable that the PNG people should be paying for the supply of power to these mines when history shows that they receive a tiny share of the profits that these mines make.

In short, the proposed Lae power station is not necessary to improve access to electricity for the populations in Lae and other parts of the Ramu grid. 

Image above: Village in Papua New Guinea 

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