Koppers Speaks: New Policy Knocks Out 50% of NSW Power Poles!

Exclusive: New South Wales largest supplier of utility poles - responsible for more than 60% of the state's energy supply, has gone public with its concerns over the Great Koala National Park.

Fri 29 Mar 24


Almost half of all NSW power poles come from coups tied up in the Great Koala National Park, with the state’s largest supplier concerned that the government is sleepwalking into a catastrophe – at the exact time the network needs a major service!

Yesterday, Wood Central spoke to Richard Lyons, Vice President of Koppers Australia, who said that changes to harvest areas on the North Coast would be disastrous for electricity ratepayers across the state.

It comes as Wood Central reported last week that the NSW Government would be hit by a $25 million-a-year financial blackhole. Industry experts confirm that concrete-based poles “cost 2-3 times more than timber” and steel and fibre composite, which are even higher at “3 to 5 times more than hardwood.” 

As it stands, more than 86% of the country's electricty grid relies on 9 billion hardwood power poles to deliver electricity across Australia. (Photo Credit: Selfwood / Alamy Stock Photo)
As it stands, more than 86% of the country’s electricity grid relies on 9 million hardwood power poles to deliver electricity across Australia. (Photo Credit: Selfwood / Alamy Stock Photo)

Mr Lyons—who oversees Koppers Wood Products Australian operations —said that the business, which supplies “60-70% of the Australian electricity industries estimated 75,000 to 80,000 new and replacement poles per year,” is going public with its concerns.

“Power poles are critical infrastructure; we are one of four suppliers that supply hardwood timber poles to the energy distribution network,” Mr Lyons said, adding that the company works hand in glove with utility companies, especially after disasters like fires, floods and cyclones where urgent replacement poles are required to restore power quickly.”

More than 86% of Australia’s power network relies on hardwood power poles – 9 million in total, with Mr Lyons confirming that timber poles are “preferred by utility companies because they are cost-effective, proven long term, are carbon friendly and sustainably sourced.”

However, “it’s becoming increasingly challenging to source timber poles from State Forest,” putting added strain on supply chains.

“Forestry Corporation (of NSW) do an excellent job with wood supply agreements,” he noted, adding that 2/3rds of the supply comes from State Forests, certified to the Australian Standard for Sustainable Forest Management (AS 4708).

“We estimate that poles make up about 6% of timber sourced from State Forest,” but that small percentage goes a long way for the utility companies to maintain existing infrastructure, “If we got nothing from Forestry NSW – it will be a disaster.”

Screenshot 2024 03 28 132216 fotor 20240328132235
As it stands, there are eleven million different electricity customer connections Australia-wide, with the electricity network (amongst the most widespread in the world) long enough to circle the equator 23 times. (Photo Credit: Supplied by Koppers Australia).

Now, Wood Central can report that the Australian Government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) recently contacted Koppers Australia to understand the relationship between hardwood timber poles and how the Government intends to meet their 2030 renewable energy targets and net zero emissions target by 2050. 

The meeting revealed that unless there is a fundamental change to the way timber poles are sourced, the public can expect to see renewable energy transported not by sustainably sourced timber poles but by concrete, steel, or composite, which makes little sense. 

“The average pole takes 30 years to grow and is preserved for a 50-plus year lifecycle,” Mr Lyons confirmed; however, because of the age of the infrastructure, “a large number of powers are now programmed for urgent repair and replacement.”

Earlier this month, Penny Sharpe, the powerful NSW Environmental Minister pushing for the Great Koala National Park, was asked to address concerns about the network’s future in the NSW Budget Estimates Committee.

NSW powerbroker Penny Sharpe is the activist with 4 ministerial portfolios who joined the establishment to "cause trouble." (Photo Credit: Richard Milnes from Alamy Live News)
NSW powerbroker Penny Sharpe currently has 4 ministerial portfolios and is the NSW government’s most vocal supporter of the proposed Great Koala National Park (Photo Credit: Richard Milnes from Alamy Live News)

Answering a question from Wes Fang, the National Party member for the Upper House, Minister Sharpe did not address whether the NSW Government had looked at mapping the impact of the Koala Park on the supply of hardwood power poles, instead “taking the matter on notice.”


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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