Oct 12
Better connected NEM regions could ease ‘energy crisis’, says TransGrid CEO

​This week, our CEO Paul Italiano addressed the Australian Financial Review’s National Energy Summit, where Australia’s ‘energy crisis’ was dissected by some of the industry’s leading minds. His speech outlines the role that transmission networks can play in delivering reliable, sustainable and affordable energy in a transitioning energy system. Read on for more insights into how transmission can harness the nation’s abundant renewable resources to address energy shortages and reduce costs. 

As Australian Financial Review journalist, Jennifer Hewitt recently observed, conversation about the energy crisis solution has become about being quicker and cheaper. In other words, Australia is looking for a quick fix.

While I agree that a short-term solution to the energy challenge is imperative, it should not be at the expense of the planning required for a sustainable, affordable energy system of the future.

Artificially extending the life of an energy coal plant or curtailing gas exports is not an answer for 2022, and it is certainly not an answer for 2050.

We should be careful not to take a short-term approach to long-term investment challenges in the National Electricity Market.
There is enough time to implement and execute solutions that are in the best long-term interest of consumers. But our time is running out. 

One option available at the moment is better utilisation of the assets we already have. Leveraging the footprint of our transmission system and removing the constraints that exist in the NEM, enables more energy flow between state markets and will allow easier connection for new energy sources to enter the grid. 

NEM regions could be better connected to minimise localised energy shortages 

We tend to look upon the NEM as one big bucket, which of course is not true. 

In reality, our electricity system is comprised of as a series of energy ‘nodes’. Australia has some of the highest levels of dispatchable energy in the OECD, but electricity nodes are not well-connected, meaning that when one region is suffering a shortage, three others could be seeing a surplus. 

These constraints are – by and large – caused by the nature of the existing configuration of our transmission network. 

The limitations of the current network are a major impediment to freeing up capacity. They contribute to the erosion of reliable supply and the lessening of wholesale market competition.  

Benefits of transmission investment

It is transmission infrastructure that provides access to the economy of scale and economy of scope in our network. It provides access to the substantial capacity that is outside of the grid, and also the ability for us to dispatch the lowest cost generation. 

If our nodes were better connected we would not only have more than enough power to meet our demand, we would have excess energy available to be transported between regions and states. 

In addition, and very importantly, we would also be able to use these connections to better manage the impact that increased renewables have on the efficient running of our electricity system. 

Transmission provides reliable and low cost dispatchable generation

However, it seems that as a society we have lost our sense of electricity transmission’s value proposition in the NEM, and the social benefit of transmission to our community.

Transmission is more than moving electrons from A to B. It is a universal network asset that provides reliable and low cost dispatchable generation. 

We can retire ageing coal fired power stations and replace them with generation from other sources by using a common platform. The value proposition allows people to share capacity across the network and facilitates equal access for all. 

As a market we must keep in mind that we need to invest in maintaining and developing an integrated grid, with a common platform, accessible to everyone. 

Without one platform, the social benefits of transmission are eroded, and the potential of sharing capacity and integrating other forms of generation – including renewables – cannot be realised. 

We need to plan prudently for the energy system of the future 

The NEM will need capacity to accommodate the population growth and increasing demand that we are beginning to see. Right now, TransGrid is doing very little to build for the challenges of our network’s future.  

The City of Sydney alone is forecasting population growth of 25% over the next decade.

The Metrorail project in Sydney requires 70MW of power to run the ventilation system.

Generators of all sorts are contacting us, seeking to connect to the grid. We’re turning away more generators than we are able to connect because of the capacity constraints of the system.

So, what are we doing about it? 

At the moment, our Revenue Proposal (to the Australian Energy Regulator) suggests $100 million augmentation expenditure for the next five years. That’s less than four dollars per customer, per annum. This of course is amortised over 50 years. 

It is important to note that TransGrid’s electricity tariff over the last two regulatory cycles has decreased. Even our Proposal to the Revenue Determination that’s underway proposes a price reduction of 2.5 per cent in real terms over the next five years. This will bring us to 15 years of consecutive cost reductions in electricity tariffs for transmission. 

It’s also important to note that TransGrid did not appeal the decision in the last round of regulatory process. In this respect, we seek to differentiate ourselves from other networks in the Australian energy market. 

At some stage, however, a low level of investment becomes unsustainable. The current situation is concerning for the long-term, given that transmission is the low-cost and effective investment to access new generation. 

Transition to renewables

The effective management of our transition to renewables is without doubt the biggest challenge for the network. 

Much has been said about investment in renewables and the pathway to the reliable, secure, affordable and low-emission supply of electricity. 

Australia is blessed with some of the world’s best renewable energy potential. There are new technologies that allow us to manage this more effectively. 

In July this year, TransGrid connected White Rock Wind Farm, west of Glen Innes. There are two more projects in that space.  Individually, White Rock is able to supply power for 75,000 homes a year, indicating that there is space for significant renewable generation in our market.
This is one success story. Unfortunately, we have had to turn down a few others that have been trying to connect to our system. The value-add of these investments, we believe, would be substantial. 

Renewables, particularly in combination with storage capabilities, have the potential to provide a cheaper form of reliable energy than some of the traditional sources. Heavy coal ranges between $70 and $100 per megawatt. This is more than the competitive prices we’re getting for renewable generation. 

Cost-effective renewable energy – enabled by transmission – is already a reality overseas 

There are other countries and jurisdictions around the world that have been successful at integrating higher levels of renewable generation than we have. 

If you look in Texas, the cultural home of US crude oil, competitive renewable energy zones were established 10 years ago to access wind capacity.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas covers 75% of land, manages 85% of the load, involves 60,800 kilometres of transmission lines and more than 550 generation units. They propose to integrate 18.5 GW of renewable generation into their system.
  
Even whole towns such as Georgetown in Texas are supplying their electricity exclusively with renewable generation. What’s important is that the case for renewable generation in Georgetown, Texas, was not built on a renewable ideology. It was built on the basis of cost. 

Increasingly, we see that the economics of renewable generation, with the support of global investment in the technologies required to make them work, are becoming more and more important on an economic basis, rather than an ideological basis. 

Despite this, we do still hear the doomsday arguments about renewables: the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. The truth is, with the right technology and the right level of connectivity we can effectively manage the efficiency and impact that these technologies have on the system.

Scotland is another example. They built 692 km of transmission lines that have significantly increased the amount of renewable generation available. They export energy to the London market. 

As a nation we have been slow to act on our energy challenges. The Finkel Review has provided an economically rational, socially responsible path to planning and implementing a sustainable energy system for the suture. We call on government to adopt the recommendations. 

I’d like to conclude with a quote from Warren Buffet: “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

If we persist in looking for solutions that provide a cheaper, quicker experience we will forego the shade that we can offer future generations. We’ve been basking in the shade of trees planted by generations of electricity engineers before us. We should make sure that we don’t hand down a poorer legacy to future generations.   

Sep 25
R U OK? How to look out for a workmate in 4 steps

At TransGrid, the safety of employees, contractors and members of the public is in our DNA. This year's R U OK Day campaign focused on staying connected and having meaningful conversations. Watch the video to find out how you can open a conversation with someone who might be struggling in just four steps. 

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For more informaton on suicide prevention, including a wide range of resources visit ruok.org.au


Sep 22
EUAA NSW Energy Forum: Taking control of your energy future

​Australia's energy sector is under pressure to deliver energy that's affordable, reliable and sustainable. Our network (and the National Electricity Market) will look very different in the future. The transmission network in Australia has been built around linking our coalfields and hydro resources to major population centres. Now, the industry is looking at developing the electricity system to enable the move to a clean energy future.

The cost of wind and solar generation is falling, and sources such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance predict that the cost of new solar will be cheaper than existing coal plants by 2032. It's a big change, but one that transmission networks can lead by acting as the platform to support a transition to a renewable energy system.

These were some of the themes addressed by TransGrid's Gerard Reiter, Executive Manager, Network Planning & Operations at the Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA) NSW Energy Forum on Monday 4 September. Gerard presented in the first session of the forum, following The Hon. Don Harwin, MLC and The Hon. Adam Searle, MLC.

"TransGrid has an enormous opportunity to evolve the grid to cater to new generation types in a changing National Electricity Market", Gerard said.

"We have to think differently about the purpose and potential of transmission. And we have to work together with others in the sector, so the outcome is competitive and effective."

For information on other EUAA events including their annual conference in May 2018, visit the EUAA website.



Sep 22
Planning for summer

​Maximum electricity demand in NSW has grown consistently over the last three years, due to population increase, hotter summer temperatures and a reduction in electricity prices. This places pressure on the network, particularly in hot summer months that typically result in periods of peak demand. We're working closely with energy generators and regulators to develop a comprehensive Summer Readiness plan to protect consumers and businesses by safeguarding the reliability of our energy supply.

There are a number of inputs that inform this planning. One is the Transmission Annual Planning Report. Each year, TransGrid and other regulated electricity networks conduct a planning review. We collaborate with AEMO, distributors, and interstate transmission networks to develop the overall grid in the most efficient way, for the benefit of consumers.

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This is informed by state demand forecasts, provided by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO); and connection point forecasts, provided by distribution networks.

For further information about peak demand, check out the Breaking Down Peak Demand post. 


Sep 21
Renewable Energy Hub industry briefing

On Thursday 24 August TransGrid and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency co-hosted a briefing for energy industry stakeholders on the role of transmission in Australia's energy system of the future.

Attended by delegates from federal and state governments, industry regulators, networks and renewable energy developers, the briefing covered the following areas of interest for Australia's energy sector:

  • The Renewable Energy Hub – an ARENA-funded study examining innovative grid connection options for renewable energy proponents in the New England region
  • Unlocking Australia's Renewable Energy Future – a strategic approach to making the most of Australia's solar, wind and hydro resources at the lowest cost
  • Renewable Energy Connection Update – a bird's eye view of the state of renewable energy connections across TransGrid's high voltage network
  • The Changing Renewables Outlook – Presented by CSIRO Chief Economist Paul Graham, an examination of the role of the energy sector in reducing Australia's carbon emissions in line with our international commitments and obligations.
To learn more about the Renewable Energy Hub study and read the report visit our consultations page.


Sep 21
Project update: Powering Sydney's Future

​TransGrid is continuing to engage with stakeholders as part of the planning process for the Powering Sydney's Future project. 


In September, members of our project team met with local councils along the preferred route to provide an update and obtain feedback on the proposed community engagement approach.

We are also in the process of developing materials for schools and community groups in areas along the preferred route, so stay tuned!

To find out more about Powering Sydney's Future, watch the video and see the preferred route, visit our consultations page.


Sep 20
Switches flicked on to energise Deer Park Terminal Station

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Deer Park Terminal Station in Ravenhall, 22km west of Melbourne CBD is now connected to a 220kV transmission line to the Victorian network. The switches to energise both transformers were flicked on 13-14 September 2017, marking an exciting milestone for TransGrid.

Deer Park Terminal Station was the first major interstate competitive win for TransGrid against interstate competition. The project involved construction of a 220/66 kV terminal station and associated connection works. TransGrid was also approved to operate and maintain the substation.

The terminal station will alleviate constraints caused by existing and projected growth in customer load levels in the underlying sub-transmission/distribution network at Keilor Terminal Station and Altona/Brooklyn Terminal Station.

The project was delivered under budget and a month ahead of schedule.


Aug 23
TransGrid asset management on par with NASA and the US military

TransGrid has become the first Australian organisation to join the likes of NASA and the US military as a recipient of the Jacobs Asset Management Recognition Medal. 

About the asset management medal 

The medal recognises organisations that go beyond standard asset management compliance. Such organisations embrace the full extent of the Asset Management Concept and the benefits that this can bring. The provenance of the medal stems from Jacobs US operations, where clients are recognised for their efforts to achieve excellence in challenging environments. 

Perusing asset management excellence in a transforming energy system 

At a time of energy system transformation, drivers such as community expectations, retirement of existing generation and advances in renewable energy technologies are reshaping Australia’s expectations of how networks should operate, and the service they should deliver. In combination with this, growth in energy consumption and maximum demand is expected to continue over the next decade.

In this time of change, our aim is to deliver value to the community through investment in a safe, secure network enabling a stable market at the lowest cost to our customers. 

To this end, planning and development of the network is undertaken on a cyclical, needs-basis to ensure that transmission service delivery to our customers is cost-effective, environmentally responsible, responsive to changing requirements, and compliant with jurisdictional, contractual and regulatory obligations.

We use a comprehensive risk-based approach to asset refurbishment and replacement. We prudently manage our portfolio of forecast network developments by:
  • Engaging with stakeholders early in the planning process and ensuring that communication and genuine consultation remains open to deliver the best outcomes for consumers,
  • Considering all options to address emerging security of supply issues,
  • Continuing to optimise all projects within the planning horizon to ensure efficient delivery of the required network developments.

Culture of everyday excellence 

We are accredited to the global ISO55001 Asset Management Standard. Our vision is for accreditation to remain a by-product of excellence in our everyday operations. Over the next 12 months, TransGrid’s aim is to move into reliability centered maintenance, and to build on asset management system with a focus on big data and analytics. 

Learn more about asset management services that are available to support your business

In addition to the comprehensive schedule of asset management on our network, we offer connection opportunities; and specialised asset maintenance services for organisations with high voltage transmission equipment. 

Connecting to the transmission network 

To learn more about the process for network connections in NSW, and ACT, visit the Connection Process page of the TransGrid website.  

Maintenance 

To learn more about the service offering, email maintenance@transgrid.com.au or visit the Maintenance page of the TransGrid website. 
TransGrid maintenance offers: 
  • Maintenance plans, customised to your needs 
  • Emergency maintenance 
  • On-demand maintenance
Aug 21
Bushfire prevention: behind the scenes of an aerial patrol

​Roland Bennet is a veteran on the annual network maintenance patrols that occur ahead of bushfire season. He’s been flying the lines for thirty years. This year, Roland is training newcomers to spot maintenance that’s needed on or around TransGrid’s electricity lines.  

The patrols are vital to the safety of communities nearby lines, and for the safe and continual supply of electricity across the State. 

The team working from the cockpit is extremely focussed. 

“We’re in the air for eight to ten hours a day, fly over a transmission tower  every two minutes, and travel at up to 40 knots an hour. It’s busy,” says Roland. 


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View from the top (L to R): Patrolling the lines; recording potential risks; boarding the chopper; vegetation near a transmission line. 

On a transmission network that spans 13,000 kilometres, it’s vital to record all potential hazards quickly and accurately. 

“Normally, there’s a pilot and two people to check the transmission line and surrounding area. One checks for vegetation that’s growing too close to the line, and the other checks for maintenance that’s needed on the line. 

“If we see something than needs urgent repair, we report it immediately. For the most part, we record location, proximity to the transmission line, and exactly what the issue is. 

This information is passed to teams who carry out the maintenance work. The patrols and resulting maintenance work are vital to minimising risk on the lines and surrounding areas ahead of summer. Hot summer days are typically when bushfire risk is highest, and also when the network is under pressure to supply the most electricity. 

People may rarely see helicopters patrolling the lines, but come the cooler months Roland and the team reliably take to the skies. This year the patrols occurred from 31 July to 27 August. 

 “There are a few hard yards involved, but it’s a good feeling to know we’ve played a part in keeping the network in good shape. At the end of the day, it all comes back to keeping people safe.”

We can all help to keep our transmission network safe. If you see a potential hazard on the TransGrid network, call 1800 027 253 to explain the location and nature of the risk. 
Jul 20
Renewable energy zones hot topic of discussion at Australian Clean Energy Summit 2017

​Future proofing the grid was in focus at the Australian Clean Energy Summit in Sydney this week where TransGrid CEO Paul Italiano outlined the most promising renewable energy zones across the NSW, SA and Victorian tri-state area. 

He joined Australian Energy Market Commission chairman John Pierce, Finkel Review panel member Chloe Munro and Clare Savage from Business Council Australia for the 'Future proofing clean energy - regulation for a smart, affordable and secure energy system' session.

The panel looked at how the Finkel recommendations will be delivered and what this could mean for consumers, business and the energy industry. Paul also outlined some of the challenges in harnessing Australia's abundant resources to establish the renewable energy zones flagged by Dr Finkel, comparing it to Texas which has successfully created policy-driven competitive renewable energy zones.

The panel agreed on the importance of moving forward with the Finkel recommendations endorsed by COAG as a package to provide the policy certainty that Australia needs to provide more affordable, secure and reliable energy and meet our Paris climate commitments.

Generator reliability obligations and the regulatory investment test for transmission were some of the key issues raised from the floor.

As we move towards an energy system which will feature an increasing proportion of renewable generation, the industry will need to take a different approach to security of supply. TransGrid's Tony Meehan, Executive Manager, Regulation explored this notion in his presentation which was part of a session titled 'The path to becoming a renewable superpower: transitioning the generation fleet to clean energy'. 

Building on the theme of renewable energy zones introduced by Paul Italiano, Tony began his presentation by recognising Australia's newest wind farm. White Rock Wind Farm, approximately 20km west of Glen Innes has been in operation for two weeks and is connected to the grid via TransGrid's White Rock substation. White Rock is one of a hundred substations across NSW and the ACT which help to move electricity from the source of generation to where it is needed.

The transmission network in Australia was built around coalfields and hydro. Tony noted that as an industry, we're looking at rebuilding the electricity system to enable the transition to a clean energy future. The introduction of more renewable energy means disruption at the source of generation. This is not the first time the system has been disrupted; technology has enabled the changes in the past and it will enable the changes needed for the future. A trajectory towards 100% renewable generation is feasible and the technical challenges associated with this transformation can be met in a way that is affordable for consumers.

Renewable energy zones will support the national electricity system by enabling connection of large-scale renewable generation in areas with abundant renewable resources. The need for different types of generation and the need to access it from different locations than we have in the past was a consistent theme across all presentations in the session. 

Following the presentations, Dean Travers from ENGIE Renewables facilitated a panel discussion which covered issues such as the financial, regulatory and knowledge sharing challenges facing renewable generators that want to connect to the grid. 

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From left to right: Bin Lu (Australian National University), Donald McPhail (Energy Queensland), Tony Meehan (TransGrid), Catherine Way (DP Energy), and session chair Dean Travers (ENGIE Renewables).

For more information on the Australian Clean Energy Summit 2017 and to keep an eye out for dates for next year’s event, visit www.cleanenergysummit.com.au


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