NSW push for electricity interconnector with South Australia

Energy and Resources Minister Anthony Roberts. Photo: Dean Osland
Energy and Resources Minister Anthony Roberts. Photo: Dean Osland
A transmission tower in South Australia is damaged following severe winds. Photo: Twitter/Vic_Rollison

A transmission tower in South Australia is damaged following severe winds. Photo: Twitter/Vic_Rollison

The Baird government will push for a high-voltage interconnector to be built between NSW and South Australia following South Australia's blackout, convinced the incident has highlighted the need for national energy security.

NSW Minister for Energy Anthony Roberts will attend an emergency meeting of COAG's Energy Council on Friday, where the South Australian government is expected to seek to speed up a proposal to build the new interconnector between South Australia and the east coast.

The $500 million proposal would involve South Australia's ElectraNet and NSW's Transgrid constructing a 300-kilometre transmission route, potentially between Buronga in NSW and Robertson in South Australia, that could supply surplus electricity from NSW.

NSW can already exchange power with Queensland and Victoria.

The project must first be approved by the Australian Energy Regulator because the construction cost will ultimately be passed on to electricity consumers.

But the Baird government argues the interconnector would not only ensure the lights stay on but also boost the growth of the NSW renewable energy sector, particularly solar farms in regional NSW, which would be able to access South Australian customers.

"NSW is following the work being done to examine the feasibility of an interconnector," Mr Roberts said.

"Any final investment decision will be subject to meeting the [rules] ... overseen by the AER.

"A more connected National Electricity Market would promote greater competition, provide extra supply capacity to meet periods of peak demand and improve energy security."

NSW's share of renewable energy is around 14 per cent, after increasing by 3 per cent last year, according to Mr Roberts' office.

Solar generation increased by 45 per cent in NSW last year. Wind generation rose by 77 per cent to make up 2.5 per cent of total electricity generated in NSW.

There are also 3200 megawatts of renewable energy projects approved and another 4800 megawatts worth going through the approval process, representing $12 billion in potential investment, his office said.

The South Australian blackout prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to attack Victoria, South Australia and Queensland for setting ambitious state renewable energy targets of 40-50 per cent. Friday's meeting with federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg will request the states "harmonise" renewable energy policies.

NSW draws 79 per cent of its energy from coal-fired generators, and the Baird government has been criticised for not setting a state renewable energy target.

Mr Roberts said NSW supports the federal government's target of 23.5 per cent by 2020 and said there has to be a national approach to renewables in a National Electricity Market that doesn't stop at state borders.

"We believe this is the most effective and efficient way to transition to renewable energy without compromising the security of supply for the state and indeed the nation's households and businesses," he said.

"If jurisdictions go it alone on energy policy, they must recognise the potential impacts, which range from security of supply, to the increased costs of supplying electricity, which may also impact other states or territories."

The NSW Greens energy spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said: "NSW should adopt a state-based renewable energy target, otherwise all the investment and jobs in the clean energy sector will be attracted to other states that do have state-based targets and NSW will miss out.

"Mike Baird can either dance with the coal-loving dinosaurs or he can embrace the booming clean energy future."

ElectraNet is expected to lodge an application for approval for the interconnector project by the end of the year. An analysis by PWC for Transgrid has estimated the cost to NSW households at $8 a year.

This story NSW push for electricity interconnector with South Australia first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.