The WVTNP seeks to upgrade transmission in western Victoria to enable better integration of recently developed renewable energy generation in the region into the electricity network. The upgrades should address constraints in the capacity of the existing transmission network for existing and committed projects and unlock an additional 450 MW of new generation capacity in the Western Victorian Renewable Energy Zone.188 The upgrades consist of a number of components:
Minor upgrades to existing 220 kV transmission lines from Red Cliffs to Wemen to Kerang to Bendigo, and Moorabool to Terang to Ballarat. This would provide an additional 10% of transmission capacity on these lines.
Construction of a new North Ballarat terminal station and new 220 kV transmission lines from North Ballarat to Bulgana via Waubra. This would provide 1,500 MW of new transmission capacity between these terminal stations. Construction of new 500 kV transmission lines from Sydenham to North Ballarat. This would provide 5,400 MW of new transmission capacity between these terminal stations.189
The project received approval from the Australian Energy Regulator in 2019.190 This means that detailed planning and design work on the project may commence, however, planning and environmental approvals are still required. As of September 2020, community consultation is ongoing as part of a process to determine the proposed route prior to seeking planning and environmental approvals. Modelling of the project shows that it would provide the most benefit if the major upgrades can be completed by 2023. However, the Project Assessment Conclusion Report considered this an unachievable date due to the requirements for land, easements, planning, and environmental approvals which are expected to take approximately two and a half years, including detailed design and planning. If the project passes these approvals, construction is anticipated to last for two years with a current project completion forecast for late 2024.191
During the assessment of the WVTNP, a number of stakeholders proposed an extension of the project with an additional 220 kV double circuit transmission line from Bulgana to Horsham to Murra Warra Terminal Station. This would enable the development of a large amount of new generation capacity in the Western Victoria Renewable Energy Zone. This extension was assessed to have a present value cost of $85 million and a present value benefit of $17–39 million.192
On a purely financial basis the proposed extension has a net cost. However, the extension may offer a number of other benefits that are not accounted for in a pure financial valuation by unlocking additional generation capacity. Further capacity in the region could assist Victoria in meeting its renewable energy and emissions reduction targets and promote further investment in Western Victoria.
Under amendments to the National Electricity (Victoria) Act 2005, s 16Y(2)(d) of the Act now enables the Minister to specify an alternative regulatory test that considers a broader range of criteria than market cost and benefit alone.
188 Ibid., p. 88.
189 Australian Energy Market Operator, Western Victoria Renewable Integration Project Assessment Conclusions Report, Australian Energy Market Operator, 2019, pp. 5–6, 51.
190 Australian Energy Market Operator, AusNet Services Group Awarded Contract to Deliver Western Victoria Transmission Network Project, media release, Australian Energy Market Operator, 17 December 2019.
191 Western Victoria Transmission Network Project, Project Information, 2020, <https://www.westvictnp.com.au/projectinformation> accessed 29 September 2020.
192 Australian Energy Market Operator, Western Victoria Renewable Integration pp. 49–50.
Source: PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY Environment and Planning Committee Inquiry into tackling climate change in Victorian communities - Chapter 4 Community energy pp. 108-109