Shire of Collie council choose coal

The consideration to install solar panels on shire buildings to save an estimated $446,106 in 10 years has lost after several councillors said it would be the wrong step to go into competition with the coal industry.

The motion to seek quotes from energy companies and to provide a loan of up to $90,000 in the 18/19 budget towards the supply and installation of solar panels lost 5 – 2 at the latest council meeting. 

Councillor Michelle Smith said she was worried about the implications of having solar panels when Collie was traditionally a coal town and employs people at Muja power station and other energy companies. 

She said going into competition with the coal industry would not be the correct decision.

Councillor Elysia Harverson said despite living in a coal town she didn't believe that putting up solar panels would impact the grand scheme of things and saving $44,000 per year should out way any decision. 

Councillor John Piavanini said he was ‘totally opposed’ to the shire installing solar panels on their buildings and the shire should be ‘leading the way and burning more coal’. 

Shire of Collie chief executive officer David Blurton agreed that the shire had not installed panels previously because of the impact it could have but said they must look incorporating environmentally friendly initiatives within shire buildings, energy savings and reducing costs. 

Shire of Collie president Sarah Stanley said it was a perceptions issue about having solar in a coal town but the shire have a responsibility to save money and spend ratepayer dollars as best as they can.

Cr Stanley said there was a lot of fear in the community as to what would happen to coal and related industries but by not going ahead with something that makes so much sense would just give more air to the argument.  

She said they needed to move forward so the town was not as reliant on coal. 

The shire were approached by EGP Energy Solutions to have solar panels supplied and installed but had a preliminary assessment undertaken first on the shire depot, Roche Park, the Collie Public Library, Margareta Wilson Centre, the shire offices and the swimming pool. 

EGP found without solar it would cost the shire $585,422 for 10 years, as opposed to $139,316 with solar.