TransGrid report says renewables transition is speeding up

Bango Wind Farm in NSW at sunset (TransGrid report)
Image: Sarayut Thaneerat/Alamy

A report from TransGrid, the operator of the NSW and ACT high-voltage electricity transmission network, says the shift to renewable energy generation is happening much faster than forecast and new infrastructure is essential to enable the energy transformation.

TransGrid’s Transmission Annual Planning Report 2021 (TAPR) looks at forecasts for the next 10 years to determine the infrastructure needed to maintain the strength of the network and meet demand.

Customer planning manager Kevin Hinkley says the TAPR outlines how new transmission infrastructure will enable the unlocking and sharing of new generation sources.

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“Right now the network is evolving and the transition to renewables is occurring at a much faster rate than anyone believed was possible and we’re only going to see that transition speed up in the future.

“As coal generators are retiring, we’re seeing more solar and wind and now batteries coming onto our network. We’re seeing large changes in the way the network is being used and obviously that presents new challenges,” Hinkley says.

One of the challenges the TAPR addresses is congestion on the transmission network caused by growth in renewables.

Currently, in NSW alone, 7GW of solar and wind capacity is at various stages of the connection process. The NSW Government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap legislation will ensure an additional 12GW of large scale solar and wind capacity installed in NSW by 2030.

During the past year 5,665MW of renewable energy generation enquired to connect to TransGrid’s network but there were only hundreds of megawatts of spare capacity available.

“If you have a look at generation and connection occurring on our network the capacity available for new renewable generators is increasingly getting smaller and smaller and the existing network cannot connect much more wind or solar,” Hinkley says.

“The only way to connect those amounts of gigawatts of generation which will be needed in the future is to build more transmission infrastructure.”

TransGrid is leading the transition to a clean energy future by working with governments and regulators on major projects and innovative solutions, including:

·     Planning new transmission infrastructure for Australia’s first coordinated Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) in the NSW Central-West Orana region.

·   The proposed HumeLink 500kV transmission line to carry electricity to customers from new generation sources, including the expanded Snowy Hydro scheme.

·    Strengthening the network and enabling greater energy sharing between the states by upgrading the Queensland to NSW Interconnector QNI and the Victoria to NSW Interconnector VNI.

The TransGrid report also sets out the benefits of Project EnergyConnect, the recently approved 900km electricity transmission line, which will connect NSW and South Australia and will be Australia’s biggest electricity interconnector.

“EnergyConnect will enable low cost generation from South Australia to come through to NSW and it will also enable new renewable energy zones along its path and help to further accelerate the transition to renewable generation,” Hinkley says.

Related article: TransGrid CEO Paul Italiano steps down

Another key change captured in the TAPR is the need to augment the network to prepare for electric vehicles and the dramatic increase in load they will bring.

“Imagine within 20 years every car in our network area is electric and drawing power from the network. A typical electric car battery may have enough energy to power a standard house for five days so if you’re charging that at night, across the entire population, that will be massive load increase.

“The pace of change isn’t showing any sign of slowing down and transmission will be crucial to enabling this to happen smoothly and investing in the network is essential to move to a fully decarbonised economy for NSW,” he said.

Download the full TransGrid report here.