As two of South Australia’s largest essential service providers, SA Water and ElectraNet, have a long-standing business and operational relationship. SA Water is one of the largest energy users connected to the South Australian transmission network (owned and operated by ElectraNet) and strong relationships between the two are critical to ensure the essential services are reliably delivered to South Australians every day.

SA Water is currently constructing 35 solar photo-voltaic (PV) farms across the state, 7 of which are located at SA Water pumping stations connected directly to ElectraNet’s transmission network.  As such, ElectraNet has been contracted to undertake large-scale upgrades at the substations at these locations. This will enable SA Water to export surplus energy generated by their solar farms directly into the National Electricity Market via ElectraNet’s network.

SA Water first approached ElectraNet in 2018, with a proposal to install solar generation at the 11 ElectraNet substations that feed SA Water’s pumping stations.

After early assessments, four sites were identified as not commercially viable, whilst at viable sites several commercial opportunities were identified to reduce project timeframes to meet the challenging delivery schedule. This included commencing construction activities without a Transmission Connection Agreement yet being agreed. Construction activities were brought forward by six to nine months, resulting in design and construction being completed for the first six sites in under 14 months. To achieve this, during a global pandemic, is an enormous achievement and a testament to the dedication of all parties to overcome challenges and get the job done.

With works occurring across multiple sites in parallel, connecting each of the plants to the transmission network presented further challenges. Effective and proactive communication between ElectraNet, SA Water and its contractors was essential.

A long history between the two companies meant complex existing commercial arrangements had to be unpacked and adjusted to suit new needs.

The “grandfathering” of existing substation sites (due to them being originally built when the network was owned by ETSA) required careful consideration and presented several regulatory challenges to be navigated.  The result was the development of a bespoke Transmission Connection Agreement (used across all sites) that considered prescribed and contracted transmission services, and the transfer of some services from prescribed to contracted as a result of the reclassification of existing assets. This was ‘a first’ for ElectraNet, and required significant consideration by the corporate development, regulation and legal teams.

A highlight of the commercial arrangements was the willingness of both parties to find a solution for all of the SA Water / ElectraNet sites that is pragmatic, flexible, met expected essential services reliability requirements and preserved some of the benefits of the pre-existing arrangements.

COVID-19 also presented challenges to safely delivering the overall project but this has been managed through a strong commitment to safety and problem solving from all parties involved.

The project inevitably resulted in a Transmission Connection Agreement between SA Water and ElectraNet which is one of the more complex of its kind and encompassing all seven connection sites in one.

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