Millions of dollars in poles and wire infrastructure investment needs to be made across Western Victoria in order for the region to maximise its renewable energy potential, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator.
Earlier this week works officially began at the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm, a 149-turbine behemoth near Beaufort which will generate enough power for about 400,000 homes.
The additional 530 megawatts of clean energy is part of 3000 megawatts AEMO anticipates will be added to the network from the west of the state, outlined in the 2017 Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission report.
However the report states “the electrical infrastructure in this part of Victoria is insufficient to allow unconstrained access to all of the new renewable generation seeking to connect to it”.
Speaking at the Stockyard Hill sod turn on Thursday, Premier Daniel Andrews said “I think we can resolve these challenges and we can finish up with not only more supply but supply in the parts of the state that need it most”.
The infrastructure issues arise as the state prepares to transition away from a centralised power source in the Latrobe Valley towards a decentralised energy network.
The Western Victorian network supplies about 10 per cent of the state’s overall electricity, a figure expected to rise as the state works towards its Renewable Energy Target of 25 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025.
So far AEMO has received applications and inquiries for up to 5000 megawatts worth of energy in Western Victoria, however the report identifies that the infrastructure in this part of the state is not adequate to allow it all to connect to the grid.
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Melanie Robertson said “we have the need to decarbonise our economy and we will achieve this and at the same time deliver on jobs, drive investment, fueling and giving certainty to businesses with energy pricing and developing a supply chain for the renewable energy industry”.
Electricity from the state’s west faces a series of constraints in both being shifted elsewhere in Victoria and interstate. Limited flow paths from energy sources in Western Victoria mean an abundance of new power may be dispatched inefficiently, leading to limited benefits within the existing network.
Limitations on the Victoria-New South Wales interconnector also present a barrier to exporting clean Western Victorian electricity to the north.
Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the state was working with the federal energy regulator to establish what infrastructure works needed to be undertaken.
A second stage of the RIT-T report is expected to be handed down next month.