Learn more about the identified need, services that could meet it, and next steps in our process for the SA Energy Transformation project.
South Australian Energy Transformation
ElectraNet has been exploring options to facilitate South Australia’s energy transformation, while helping to lower electricity prices and improve system security.
In 2016, ElectraNet began exploring options to reduce the cost of providing secure and reliable electricity, enhance power system security in South Australia, and facilitate the long-term transition of the energy sector across the National Electricity Market (NEM) to low emission energy sources.
In November 2016, ElectraNet released a Project Specification Consultation Report (PSCR) that explored the technical and economic feasibility of a new interconnector between South Australia and the eastern states as well as other non-network solution options, through the SA Energy Transformation Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission (RIT-T).
The RIT-T is the economic cost benefit test that is overseen by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and applies to all major network investments in the National Electricity Market.
In June 2018, a Project Assessment Draft Report (PADR) was released identifying that the construction of a new, high-capacity interconnector between South Australia and New South Wales would deliver substantial net benefits to customers.
In February 2019, following extensive consultation with stakeholders we released the SA Energy Transformation Project Assessment Conclusions Report (PACR) as the final step in the RIT-T process.
The RIT-T PACR estimated the cost of the project to be $1.53 billion with a completion date of 2022 to 2024.
To deliver the project, ElectraNet is partnering with TransGrid, the manager and operator of the high voltage electricity transmission network in NSW. Should the project be approved, TransGrid would fund the works within its jurisdiction.
In April 2019, ElectraNet requested the AER make a determination under clause 5.16.6 of the National Electricity Rules (Rules) that the preferred option identified satisfies the requirements of the RIT-T. This step was necessary as a precondition for ElectraNet and TransGrid to seek contingent project funding from the AER.
On 24 January 2020, the AER approved the RIT-T describing the business case for project as “robust” and determining that the proposed interconnector remained the most “credible option that maximises the net economic benefit” in the NEM, ultimately benefiting electricity customers.
While the AER concluded that it is “satisfied the RIT-T has been successfully completed”, it noted that “any significant changes to the costs of the preferred option could have a material impact on the outcome of the RIT-T”.
The AER’s RIT-T determination is available on the AER website.
The project also has an official name, Project EnergyConnect and a stand-alone website with public information which can be accessed at www.projectenergyconnect.com.au
Updated Cost Benefit Analysis
The Rules require ElectraNet to consider whether, in its reasonable opinion, there has been a “material change in circumstances” that might lead to a change in the preferred option and thereby potentially require reapplication of the RIT-T.
Since the RIT-T was concluded with publication of the PACR in February 2019 there have been significant changes in both project costs and benefits from what was assessed in the RIT-T.
ElectraNet has been investigating whether there has been a “material change of circumstances”, taking into account this new information on both costs and benefits.
This has involved working closely with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to update key variables and inputs that impact on the market benefits of the project to align with its 2020 Integrated System Plan (ISP). We are fully aligning our analysis to be consistent with the 2020 ISP to the extent practicable.
Firm project cost estimates for the works in South Australia and New South Wales are required to conclude the updated cost benefit analysis.
Both ElectraNet and TransGrid are committed to delivering Project EnergyConnect at the lowest possible cost to customers. However, there is a general increase in transmission costs being experienced across the NEM, with AEMO reporting in a stakeholder update on 30 April 2020 that it was incorporating an approximate 30% increase in transmission capital costs in its Final 2020 ISP for all ISP transmission projects.
Both ElectraNet and TransGrid have been working through competitive procurement processes with construction contractors to firm up capital cost estimates that will form the basis of applications to seek contingent project funding from the AER. These cost estimates are expected to be available by September 2020.
We will progress our updated cost benefit analysis in the meantime based on a range of expected cost outcomes.
Thermal Generator Variable Heat Rates
In its RIT-T determination the AER disagreed with applying Minimum Capacity Factors (MCFs) to SA Gas Powered Generation (GPG) in the modelling of market benefits.
We have, therefore, removed the use of MCFs from the updated cost benefit analysis, and instead have worked closely with AEMO to consider a more accurate representation of SA GPG operation with MCFs removed.
This includes replacing fixed or static heat rates for thermal generators with variable heat rates that more accurately represent plant behaviour at different levels of generator output.
Both ElectraNet and AEMO are now including variable heat rates for all thermal generators in the NEM in their market modelling where relevant – this provides a more accurate representation of operating efficiency and therefore fuel costs.
Previously, thermal generators were modelled based on their level of efficiency at full output regardless of their output level – this underestimates fuel consumption and therefore costs because thermal plant (especially GPG in SA) often operates at lower levels of output that is relatively less efficient and burns more fuel at these lower levels of output.
AEMO derived variable heat rates for all existing generators in the NEM from input/ output curves of new entrant technologies provided by GHD. ElectraNet engaged Aurecon to provide independent advice on variable heat rates amongst other things. This advice aligns closely with AEMO’s calculated values. Differences were observed on gas power steam turbines and brown coal plant. However, these differences are not material enough to vary from the most recent ISP parameters.
ElectraNet remains committed to engaging with stakeholders on Project EnergyConnect.
On 20 August 2020, ElectraNet held a webinar to provide stakeholders with an update on Project EnergyConnect and an overview of the updated cost benefit analysis being undertaken for the project.
We appreciate the high level of interest in the project and participation at the webinar.
The webinar slide pack is available here.
A record of questions raised by stakeholders at the webinar and in subsequent discussions, together with our responses, is available here.
A summary of the EnergyQuest report on long-term gas price forecasts referred to in the webinar is available here.
On 24 July 2020, we invited stakeholder submissions on the application of variable heat rates to thermal generators in the time-sequential market modelling of our updated cost benefit analysis by 7 August 2020.
Click here to see our summary of what we’ve heard in submissions and how we are responding.
See below for the submissions following our July 2020 Stakeholder Update:
- Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC)
- Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA)
- Reach Solar
- ERM Power
- Major Energy Users
- Energy Australia
Click here to see the 6 August 2020 stakeholder update.
Click here to see the 24 July 2020 stakeholder update.
How to Contact Us
If you have any comments or questions in relation to ElectraNet’s updated cost benefit analysis for PEC or any other aspect of the Project, please contact us at email@example.com and we will be happy to arrange an opportunity to discuss.
Project Assessment Conclusions Report
PACR - Supplementary reports
PADR - Submissions
Documents Published in response to requests at public forums - August 2018
Project Assessment Draft Report (PADR) and associated reports - June 2018
Project Specification Consultation Report (PSCR) and associated reports - November 2016
South Australian Energy Transformation
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