Hydro-electricity from the Ord River could be lighting Western Australia's far North within three years.
The WA Government will develop up to 16 megawatts of hydro-electric power plant on the Ord diversion dam at Kununurra.
The plan is designed to bring down the cost of supplying electricity in one of the remote areas of the State and underlines the Government's commitment to renewable energy.
"The scheme will cost about $20 million and will be the biggest in the State," Fuel and Energy Minister Geoff Gallop said today.
Dr Gallop's announcement follows Premier Carmen Lawrence's plans for a range of programs to help working people and families to reduce their energy bills.
"Hydro-electricity will replace about 11 million litres of light fuel oil used at the Kununurra and Wyndham power stations each year," Dr Gallop said.
"The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation has been consulted about the project, which will supply enough electricity for about 16,000 homes or their equivalent.
"Two hydro generating units will be installed at the diversion dam.
"SECWA has been studying ways to reduce the operating costs of the Kununurra power station, as well as alternative power supplies for Wyndham."
Dr Gallop said the options for Kununurra were to install more light fuel-oil generating plant; co-generation; and a gas-fired power station.
"A hydro-electric scheme using the vast water resources in Lake Argyle was always intended for the Ord River project," he said.
"The 16mW project to be undertaken is much smaller than the original vision, but has great potential for growth.
"Like the Esperance wind farm project announced late last year, it is an example of the sorts of new renewable electricity sources that are becoming available.
"The Kununurra hydro scheme is a cleaner and cheaper means of supplying electricity in the Kimberley."
Dr Gallop said it would reduce SECWA's losses on supplying electricity to people in the region, who were heavily subsidised.
"Savings such as this contribute to the Government's target of reducing electricity prices by 25 per cent in real terms by the year 2000," he said.