New South Wales Energy Minister Don Harwin has announced co-ordinated planning for new high-voltage power lines to help unlock $18 billion worth of new rural renewable energy generation projects.
New power lines are needed to overcome a bottleneck in getting renewable energy to consumers. There has been scaremongering of late claiming that the introduction of a glut of renewable power could cause blackouts, but this notion has been dismissed out of hand by experts.
Speaking at the Energy Networks of Australia conference in Sydney, Mr Harwin signalled that the existing strict test that infrastructure investments have to pass to qualify as regulated assets may have to be relaxed.
New power lines needed for rural renewable energy projects
The new electricity transmission infrastructure strategy aims to allow energy generated from rural renewable energy sources to pour into the grid to make up for the shortfall of output which will follow the closure of coal and other fossil-fired power stations such as AGL’s Liddell plant, which is due to cease operations in 2022.
AGL dismissed an offer by Chinese owned Alinta Energy to purchase the site for $250 million, saying the site was valuable because it was network ready. CEO Andy Vesey said that AGL is planning to turn the Liddell site into a renewable energy hub consisting of solar, pumped hydro and battery storage.
New South Wales has vast potential as a renewable energy power source and the government has identified three rural renewable energy sites which have been made priority energy zones. The zones are in New England around Armidale, around Dubbo in the West and around Hay in the South West.
The NSW government has looked to Texas in the US as a reference. The state of Texas introduced measures to unlock access to vast and cheap renewable source energy. Texas assigned regions which were to be used exclusively to generate and deliver reliable power through competitively priced renewable energy zones.
Private sector flooded with rural renewable energy plans and ‘ready to go’
The private sector is flooded with investors that are ready to go, however, the state does not have the network capacity to transmit the new energy to consumers. Put simply, New South Wales needs poles and wires to access cheap, renewable power. Analysis shows that the volume of proposed energy generation projects was 15 times higher than the remaining capacity in the network.
ENA chief executive Andrew Dillon said that while the details were still unclear, a coordinated strategy would be welcome.
Mr Dillon said the current regulatory test for investment in new transmission presented hampered new investments and was designed for a time when new investment in networks was being driven by increasing load rather than the transition to renewable energy.