The town of Collie is not something I really think of when intending to visit WA’s south west.
But that needs to change if the slated ‘SuperTown’ is to survive life after coal.
Even us Perth based locals who travel the South West often, rarely find our way to Collie. It’s a town that’s not ‘on the road to’ anywhere. As a teenager I heard stories of Collies “Friday night fight nights” and never really had a desire to visit since.
To me, Colle predominantly know as the seat of the electricity gods. All our electronic devices are belong to Collie. But the Coal will only last so long.
It’s already caused the State Government trouble, and if they decide the coal should stay in WA and only be used to fire local power plants, it may last 50 or more years. If they don’t, which wouldn’t come as a surprise, the coal will be bound for export and likely depleted within 15-20 years.
That’s not a lot of time to convert a 2 billion dollar+ economy and provide for an expected 15,000 population. But it can be done.
Collie will continue to be an electricity hub for a decades to come, even as the network increasingly decentralizes. Demand for power from Collie’s power plants will continue to grow. The question is how they will supply the power.
The obvious answer to me is to immediately begin producing electricity from solar thermal, hydroelectric and other renewable electricity sources. These can increase over time and eventually take over areas and plants currently used by the coal industry. This will also help reduce localised emission levels, which have raised significantly in recent months.
Local forests, rivers and wetlands should be rehabilitated and sustainable agriculture projects encouraged. Collie needs to set and stick to a plan to progressively diversify into renewable energy, environmental rehabilitation and tourism.
Over a decade the town could be turned from an off-the-track dirty coal town, to becoming a world leader renewable energy production. Local manufacturing needn’t be halted, but should be well regulated. Sustainable agricultural projects should be encouraged.
We could turn Collie into our own beacon of hope for humanity.
Or we could let the town continue relying on coal until the day it inevitably collapses under the weight of its own carbon emissions. I know which option I’d prefer.