Attention paid to transmission deficits -- States embark on overhaul

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Tasmania's recent entry into the National Electricity Market (NEM) brings Australia a step closer to a single power trading exchange -- and there are signs that some of the long called for improvements to the country's grid and transmission networks are being dealt with. An effective trading market and well dimensioned grid infrastructure are essential for growth of the Australian wind power business. Lack of transmission is already holding up some projects.

Dominique la Fontaine of the Australian Wind Energy Association welcomes the focus on Australia's power transmission infrastructure. "Grid interconnection and integration are critical issues for the wind energy industry in Australia and these new developments are positive steps forward for the further expansion of the industry," she says.

In line for an upgrade is NEM's Queensland-New South Wales interconnector (QNI), says Queensland energy minister John Mickel. It will provide increased system reliability and the ability to access additional power in times of high demand, says Mickel, while also facilitating "competition and assist in maintaining low prices for industry."

The electricity system on the other side of the country, in Western Australia (WA), is to get a funding injection to help improve reliability, says WA energy minister Alan Carpenter. Almost A$500 million has been earmarked for capital works across the state's electricity system over the next four years. The capital injection comes on top of an extra A$1.8 billion for Western Power announced last year. "The extra money means we can fast-track system-wide improvements to WA's electricity system," says Carpenter. Already this year, a new A$60 million transmission line has come into operation in the state, which former WA energy minister Eric Ripper noted "will be the backbone for new renewable energy projects."

Tasmania's energy minister, Bryan Green, sings a similar song. Joining the NEM and the commissioning of Basslink underwater interconnector -- connecting the island state's transmission network to Australia's mainland -- are major steps in the government's strategic energy plan, Powering Prosperity, notes Green. Completion of the delayed A$870 million Basslink connection is expected in April 2006.

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