A massive plan to enhance electricity transmission will bring billions of dollars to Ballarat, according to experts.
Helping to reduce congestion and keep the grid stable as more energy projects come online, the Committee for Ballarat’s chief executive, Melanie Robertson, said it was the biggest investment into the grid since the 1960s.
The project is estimated to cost $370 million, while delivering a net market benefit of $80m through reductions in capital and dispatch costs.
Major infrastructure work will eventually include new high voltage power lines from Ballarat to Bulgana and from Sydenham to Ballarat, and potentially a new terminal station connecting to the existing Ballarat Terminal Station in Warrenheip.
Smaller improvements could begin before 2021 along the Moorabool-Ballarat-Terang lines.
The Australian Energy Market Operator released a preferred option in a Project Assessment Draft Report, which details the work in western Victoria.
According to AEMO’s planning and forecasting executive general manager, David Swift, about 2000 megawatts of new generation has been committed in western Victoria by 2020.
“Based on proposed future generation projects in the region and the Victorian Government’s current Victorian Renewable Energy Target policy, AEMO projects that a further 3,000 MW of new generation is likely to be constructed in the region by 2025,” he said.
“However, without adequate capacity on the 220 kilovolt transmission network, generators connecting to this part of the network will need to be heavily constrained to maintain power flows within safe limits, which could impact electricity prices over the long term.”
The Grampians New Energy Taskforce, which lobbies for more investment in renewable energy in the region, has been calling for capacity upgrades for almost a year.
GNeT’s Stuart Benjamin said there was potential for billions of dollars worth of new projects to be built once the upgrade was complete.
“It depends on the technology used, but we’re talking somewhere between $3 to 5 billion in private investment that will now come into our region because of this announcement,” he said.
“Effectively, what we’re doing is reducing roadblocks in the (grid) system that have been a handbrake on investment.”
He pointed to a hydroponic farm project in Bulgana that uses renewable power as an example of new ideas that could develop.
“You get a sugar hit to regional economies when you build wind farms and transmission, but those jobs come and go - what we want is ways to generate long term jobs and projects that use renewable energy, like Bulgana,” he said.
“There’s 300 new jobs between Stawell and Ararat that are only there because of renewable energy.
“We think, for some of these very small regional towns, the gold rush that’s come from renewables will actually be the thing that saves them, and we’re very pleased AEMO’s come out and said that one of the most important things to do in this country is to upgrade the transmission lines.”
Ms Robertson said it was a “significant” upgrade that would bring more industries to the area.
“It’s helping the decentralisation of the energy grid from the Latrobe Valley to western Victoria,” she said.
“It will bring more jobs into the future, and economic opportunities across the whole state, as well as reliability of energy supply.”
The next stage of the project is community consultation.
Feedback can be submitted through the AEMO website before February 28.
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