TransGrid, the state government authority for powerlines, has hit a snag in its plan to build a $227 million powerline from Dumaresq near Tenterfield to Lismore.
The 330kv line is intended to supply the Far North Coast with mostly coal-fired power from Queensland in order to meet future energy needs.
Under a new test by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), TransGrid must make a new assessment for its proposed line. The Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission (RIT-T) replaced the old regulatory test for transmission investments in August.
The proposed powerline has met a lot of opposition from farmers through whose land the line would run, from environmentalists concerned about the high conservation value of land along the proposed route, and from others who believe the future demand assessments made by TransGrid are flawed.
According to Dr Mark Byrne, who worked on the TransGrid proposal for the Environmental Defender's Office and will soon take up a position as energy market advocate for the Total Environment Centre, TransGrid's decision to subject this proposal to a new federal assessment can be read as a tacit admission that the previous assessment under the national electricity rules was inadequate.
"It appears to vindicate the serious concerns raised by this project's many objectors, who have questioned the company's demand projections and have argued that it is a waste of $227 million of consumers' money," Dr Byrne said. "TransGrid will now have to seriously consider alternatives to building a massive new transmission line, including energy efficiency and local generation opportunities, especially from renewable energy sources."
Lismore councillor Simon Clough told The Echo that TransGrid must now look more closely at demand management.
"They need to look at how people can reduce energy consumption as well as renewable energy sources," he said.
The new test is more stringent and will require a more comprehensive load forecast for the North Coast.
"The issue is one of demand management," Ian Ratcliff from the Lismore Environmental Defender's Office said. "Things like solar installations and energy reduction schemes need to be considered. The high load forecasts made by TransGrid are rejected by our clients, who say the previous test for new transmissions didn't take these factors into account."
The powerline, initially scheduled for completion this summer, was rescheduled for the summer of 2016/17. TransGrid has advised the AER that it intends to conduct the RIT-T assessments after completion of its current environmental approval process and before it commits financially to the project.
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