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The innovative scheme securing power supply in the Goldfields

For many years, large mining companies in the Eastern Goldfields and Western Power shared a common issue. Network capacity was at its limit as power to the area was restricted to the one 220kV line that services the region. This meant that there was no additional capacity available to support the large energy loads required without compromising everyone else already connected to the network.

So instead of building a new 650km transmission line to the region at a very significant cost to taxpayers, Western Power has developed an innovative way of better utilising the available capacity on the network – the Eastern Goldfields Load Permissive Scheme (ELPS).

Three of Norton Gold Fields mine sites are currently signed up to the scheme.

How does ELPS work?

Announced in March 2021, the ELPS scheme provides an alternative energy supply by distributing the  capacity when it’s available and then curtailing the supply when it is not.

“As Western Power hasn’t been able to connect these large loads in the region this has led to some miners going completely off grid.  Others have made do with some power from the grid with the balance provided by expensive diesel generation costing approx. $1.3m per MW, per year. This situation has been far from ideal, as at Western Power we want to be able to connect and serve our customers.” says Pat Costello, ELPS, Program Manager.

When required, customers are automatically notified that they need to reduce their ELPS load within a set time. It’s a mostly autonomous process and managed out of our Network Control Centre.

“Our forecasts show that the ELPS service will still provide a high availability rate for our ELPS customers, without impacting existing customers in the Eastern Goldfields. Providing a great outcome for all customers in the region.” says Pat.

While the chance of experiencing a power outage is moderately higher on the ELPS service rather than for a customer who is connected via our usual (reference) service, our customers have told us that the opportunity for any additional power supply is valuable to their operations.

Our 80-metre communications tower at Black Flag substation helps enable the scheme.

What are the benefits of ELPS?

The innovative scheme provides an option for larger customers to access power supply that ordinarily would not be available through traditional network solutions.

This new ELPS service gives mining customers reliable and cleaner power, while reducing their costs to run expensive diesel generators.

Customers will have some upfront connection costs, however the potential for future savings is attractive, potentially removing the need for expensive on-site generation.

Three of our substations help enable the ELPS scheme.

How is the ELPS scheme enabled?

The scheme has been designed on real customer input and contains configurable parameters to help enable the connection to different customer installations.

We monitor scheme performance, have an operating protocol for each site and have a dedicated Network Operations Engineer and Customer Relationship Consultant to oversee the service.

In terms of infrastructure, we have made upgrades in the region including constructing an 80-metre communications tower, multiple communication site upgrades and the refurbishment of substation transformers.

“With this scheme, we are able to provide better service to our large industry customers without the large costs to taxpayers,” says Pat.

Interested in our ELPS scheme?

If you wants to know more about the scheme and attaining an ELPS connection, please contact our Access Solutions team: [email protected]

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