NSW to speed up new electricity infrastructure

12 November 2018 - 12:00 am UTC

New South Wales is seeking to fast track four electricity network projects to allow more investment in renewable energy projects.

In a strategy paper released by NSW Minister for Energy, Don Harwin, on Monday (12 November) the state said it would try to lop up to nine months off upgrades to two interconnectors – one from NSW to Queensland and another from NSW to Victoria – as well as a new 750MW interconnector from Wagga Wagga in NSW to Robertstown in South Australia and a new 2.6GW high voltage transmission line within NSW from Snowy Hydro via Wagga Wagga to Barnaby, south-west of Sydney.

The national regulator, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), had already highlighted most of these projects as priorities in its July Integrated System Plan, but NSW has put firmer deadlines to the projects earlier than envisaged by AEMO, ranging from 2022 for the upgrades, to 2023 for the interconnector to SA, and 2024 for the new Snowy Hydro connection.

The new network infrastructure would cost up to AUD 2.4bn (USD 1.73bn) and allow up to another 3.2GW of generation to be connected to the grid, including around 1.1GW of “firm” supply, largely from the proposed Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project. 

All the projects would be undertaken by state high voltage network TransGrid – leased in 2015 for 99-years by a consortium of funds including CDPQ, ADIA, Utilities Trust of Australia, Kuwaiti Investment Authority, and Spark Infrastructure – in cooperation with equivalent high voltage transmission line operators in other states. 

The NSW government said in its NSW Transmission Infrastructure Strategy it would play its part in speeding up the projects by giving a funding guarantee to TransGrid “to bring forward important preliminary planning work, including best placement of line routes, geo-technical studies and environmental, heritage and biodiversity assessments for the four priority transmission infrastructure projects”. 

However, the final investment decision is largely governed by the National Regulatory Investment Test regime which requires the Australian Energy Regulator to give final approval to all new transmission infrastructure. This can take up to six years, but NSW along with other states, is working on ways to reduce the time that it takes.

The state also identified three renewable energy zones where there would be upgrades to the existing network to allow more connections. These are the South-West Energy Zone centred on the town of Hay, the Central West Energy Zone centred on Dubbo and the New England Energy Zone centred on Armidale and Tamworth in the state’s north-east.

The report said the interconnectors would “more than pay for themselves” as they would allow more “efficient investment and use of generation and storage”. It said there were about 20GW of energy projects in the state planning system in October this year, worth around AUD 27bn of investment, but only one-in-20 would actually be able to connect to the grid with the present system.

 

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