The New South Wales Coalition government has unveiled a plan to upgrade the state’s electricity grid, to accommodate the “flood” of new renewable energy capacity in the development pipeline.
The plan, called the Transmission Infrastructure Strategy, will increase grid capacity in three key energy zones in the state’s central-west, south west and New England regions, the latter two the homes of the current and former heads of the National Party.
The energy zones in regional NSW will become a focus for new energy generation, the government said, bringing major investment opportunities into regional economies, and paving the way for lower electricity prices.
The government will also support network operator TransGrid conduct feasibilities to fast-track projects to improve connections between states and unlock more power from the Snowy hydro Scheme, while also working to streamline regulation and improve investment conditions.
“The energy market is changing fast and in NSW we are focused on building a network that can connect the flood of new capacity coming online,” said NSW Minister for Energy, Don Harwin.
“There are $27 billion of new energy projects in the NSW pipeline totaling 20,000MW. However, for every 20 projects looking to connect only one can – it’s time to change that,” Harwin said.
“This strategy will prepare NSW for the next-generation energy system and reduce customer bills.”
The grid upgrade plan follows the launch of the Berejiklian government’s $55 million Emerging Energy Program, designed to help replace most of the state’s ageing coal plants with wind, solar and storage over the next 15 years.
As we noted then, NSW is the only state in the National Electricity Market without a specific or aspirational renewable energy target.
But in its recent Integrated System Plan, the Australian Energy Market Operator highlighted the fact that the state was facing the biggest transition, because most of its 10GW of coal-fired generators were getting to the end of their life.
AEMO expects the NSW grid within two decades will be dominated by renewables and storage. The NSW government plan follows many of the same principles as AEMO’s ISP.
This includes upgrades of the connections to Queensland and Victoria, a new link to South Australia from Wagga Wagga, and an extension to Snowy Hydro’s proposed Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme.