The CEO of the one of the biggest transmission network upgrades of Australia’s National Electricity Market in decades, Queensland’s Copperstring 2.0, says the $1.7 billion project will open up the state’s north to $60 billion of investment over the next 20 years, at a minimum.
Speaking at the Queensland Smart Energy Summit on Tuesday, Copperstring chief Joseph O’Brien said the 1100km of new high voltage network stretching from Townsville to Mt Isa, was not just a great opportunity for Queensland renewables and mining, but a “fundamentally important corridor” for Australia’s industrial development.
O’Brien described the “immense renewable energy resources” – hybrid capacity factors across wind and solar power well up into the 50%s – across the region that would be serviced by the new infrastructure, as well as key geopolitical assets, huge mineral resources and “vast” arable lands.
The energy, industrial and export opportunities that might flow from Copperstring have been touched on before, with modelling by ACIL Allen putting the infrastructure project’s Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) at $4.54 – meaning that for every $1 invested, the project would deliver $4.54 in benefits for Australia.
But speaking this week O’Brien offered up separate modelling from KPMG, illustrated in the chart below, that shows the “enormous opportunity” for Queensland and Australia in developing Copperstring 2.0.
“This is the largest geographic expansion of the NEM ever undertaken. It will make the national transmission grid available to about 106,000 square kilometres of … immensely productive Queensland that is currently isolated from our national grid,” he said.
“So, we can call that $60 billion of investment over the next 20 years.
“We’ve seen these big waves investment in the gas industry in the coal industry, and back 50 years in the minerals processing industry,” he said.
“And so this shouldn’t be a forecast for us, like we forecast the weather, this should be our economic objective.”
But as O’Brien points out, the $6 billion figure only really covers the energy opportunities the Copperstring is expected to open up: utility generation and storage; distributed generation; transmission network and green hydrogen production and export.
“Honestly I don’t think it fully represents the industrial opportunity that hangs on the back of this,” he said.
“This is of enormous consequence to the communities across north and north-west Queensland.
“We expect to have a transmission authority issued to us soon. We will have finalised our loan from the NAIF and will have agreed the terms – and that is as important for Copperstring as it was to the Great Northern Railway,” O’Brien said.
“And we will finalise interconnection agreements, which are really very mature with both Powerlink and Energy Queensland.”