15 November 2023

Rockliff Government called out for changes to North-West Transmission Development plan

| James Day
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A 3D map showing the proposed Marinus Link between Tasmania and Victoria, along with the rest of Australia's energy network.

Minister for Energy and Renewables Nick Duigan says “what needs to be built, will be built”. Photo: TasNetworks.

Tasmania’s Shadow Minister for Energy has called on Premier Jeremy Rockliff to reverse the government’s recent decision to delay large sections of the North-West Transmission Development (NWTD).

The government said the revised changes were to ensure it and the Marinus Link were delivered on the state’s terms.

Building the 240 km of new and upgraded overhead transmission lines is the state-owned utilities company TasNetworks, who expect the project to contribute $1.4 billion in economic stimulus – $7.1 billion directly to Tasmania – and double clean energy production by 2040.

The organisation’s subsidiary, Marinus Link Pty Ltd, is in charge of the proposed electricity and telecommunications 1500 megawatt (MW) interconnector between Tasmania and Victoria that has the capacity to supply power to 1.5 million homes.

While the organisation is fully owned by the Tasmanian State Government, Victoria and the Federal Government are providing financial support to the project enabling electricity to flow between the states and deliver low-cost, reliable and clean energy to the National Electricity Market (NEM).

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The island state has contested the project’s cost in the past, claiming the majority of its benefits go to the mainland due to its ability to store excess energy in Tasmania’s hydro storage for when the NEM’s demand outstrips supply.

Tasmania already has five wind farms and enough green hydro energy capacity to keep it completely powered, along with multiple other wind projects being considered.

TasNetworks’ CEO Seán McGoldrick said the NWTD was now being delivered in two 750 MW stages from early 2025, so that focus could be maintained on the first Marinus Link cable until a final decision is made on the second.

About 60 per cent of the NWTD will be completed through this approach, according to Mr McGoldrick, providing “surety” as it and the Marinus Link proceed to a Final Investment Decision in late 2024 “with the knowledge that Tasmanians will only pay their fair share”.

Labor MP Dean Winter, the Shadow Minister for Energy, said the new plan would hold the state’s economy back.

“TasNetworks’ decision has been made following what failed, former Minister Guy Barnett called a ‘ripper deal’ in which the Tasmanian Liberal Government wrote to the Prime Minister saying it was no longer sure project Marinus was in Tasmania’s best interests. Following the letter, the project was halved in size.

“As the decision stands, at least six windfarms and HIF’s proposed e-fuels facility at Hampshire will be left without connections, placing over $10 billion worth of investment at risk.

“The major benefit from Marinus is getting new generation into the grid. The new plan effectively scraps or delays six of them indefinitely.”

In September the federal and Tasmanian governments announced the deal’s amendment, which included a new option for the state “to sell its stake to the Commonwealth upon commissioning of the project”. The Commonwealth’s contribution to construction also increased, while Tasmania’s was reduced to nearly half and Victoria’s remained the same.

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Original estimates set the cost for Marinus Link’s first and second cable at $3.1 billion and $3.8 billion respectively, but according to the Australian Energy Market Operation’s (AEMO) 2022 Integrated System Plan they will cost around $2.38 billion and $1.40 billion. The project is part of Tasmania’s ‘battery of the nation’ strategy with the expectation it will deliver 2800 jobs and around $2.9 billion to the island state and Victoria.

“There is no stronger support for renewables in the state than the Rockliff Liberal Government,” said Minister Duigan in response to the Opposition’s “campaign of misinformation”.

“Along with ensuring the vital Marinus Link is developed on Tasmania’s terms, we are ensuring the associated transmission network is rolled out in a timely, responsible and affordable manner.

“The government is working with proponents to ensure their future needs are factored into that planning so they can make investment decisions with confidence.

“What Tasmania doesn’t need is an irresponsible Opposition continually attempting to undermine that confidence.”

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