Amid the threats of market intervention to build a new gas generator in NSW, and promises to open up at least five new gas basins across the country, there was as least one piece of welcome news – money to accelerate three important new transmissions links identified by the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan.
The federal Coalition said it would “work with state governments through a program worth up to $250 million to accelerate three critical projects” – the Marinus Link between Tasmania and Victoria, Project Energy Connect between South Australia and NSW, and the VNI West link between NSW and western Victoria.
All three are critical to fulfil the renewable energy targets and ambitions of two Liberal states – Tasmania and South Australia – and Labor in Victoria. They are also deemed essential by AEMO if Australia is to meet the scenarios outlined in the ISP – its 20-year planning blueprint – which would deliver between 70 and 94 per cent renewables by 2040.
“These links will help put downward pressure on prices, shore up the reliability of our energy grid and create over 4,000 jobs,” the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said in his statement.
“Our plan for Australia’s energy future is squarely focused on bringing down prices, keeping the lights on and reducing our emissions and these interconnectors bring us a step closer to that reality.”
Tasmania has a plan to reach 200 per cent renewables by 2040, effectively meaning that it will produce twice as much as it needs and will export the surplus to the mainland via its “battery of the nation” project. But it needs the $1.5 billion Marinus link to deliver it.
South Australia has a target of “net 100 per cent renewables” by 2030, and to become a big net exporter beyond that – but it also says it needs the new 800MW link from Robertstown in South Australia to Wagga Wagga in NSW to add a new link. So far the project has been mired in regulatory review.
The VNI West link – like the others – is also key to unlocking vast gigawatts of new renewable energy, and will be key to opening up the western part of Victoria, which is currently facing major congestion and system strength issues, but is where most of the best solar and wind resources are found. It is key for the state government’s target of 50 per cent renewables by 2030.
It is not exactly clear how the $250 million promised by the federal government will be spent. South Australia energy minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan, however, said it was welcome, and would help unlock numerous renewable energy projects, including the full extent of the massive $3 billion Goyder South project that will combine 1200MW of wind, 600MW of solar and 900MW of battery storage.
“The interconnector will lead to cleaner, more reliable and more affordable energy for people across our state,” he said in a statement. “The Australian Energy Market Operator has deemed the SA-NSW Interconnector ‘critical’ and a ‘no regrets’ project to address SA Labor’s legacy of blackouts.
Van Holst Pellekaan said the interconnector – which it hopes to complete by 2024 – will also deliver an average $66 saving for households, and said he could not understand why the state Labor party continued to oppose it.