As part of the regulatory approval process, Transgrid was required to demonstrate EnergyConnect’s benefits to consumers using a three-part market benefits test. This Regulatory Investment Test – Transmission (RIT-T) is the public economic cost benefit test administered by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) on all projects of more than $6 million.
Through the EnergyConnect RIT-T process, all network and non-network solution options from a technical and economic perspective were assessed by:
- informing stakeholders of investment needs and proposed options
- testing the market for alternative and more efficient solutions
- explaining to stakeholders the basis on which the preferred option was selected.
The AER approved the RIT-T in January 2020 and the rigorous assessment of the forecast project costs has helped to ensure consumers pay no more than is needed to build the new interconnector.
Subsequent to the RIT-T, a Contingent Project Application (CPA), or funding application, was submitted to the AER. The CPA is a thorough assessment of the proposed project costs to ensure they are prudent and efficient. The AER invited submissions from energy consumers and other interested parties.
The AER approved Transgrid’s final CPA in May 2021.
The NSW Minister for Planning declared the NSW section of EnergyConnect as Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI) in August 2019.
Under the NSW Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act), all CSSI applications are required to go through a comprehensive assessment process with extensive community involvement. This assessment process is detailed on the NSW Planning Portal.
The NSW section of EnergyConnect was assessed in two sections, with the current status and relevant documentation including Scoping Reports and Secretary's Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) available online:
- NSW-Western Section from the SA/NSW border to Buronga through to the NSW/VIC border
- NSW-Eastern Section from Buronga to Wagga Wagga
The NSW Government approved both the NSW-Western Section and NSW-Eastern Section of EnergyConnect following a thorough review of the project Environmental Impact Statements (EIS).
The project was determined as a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) and was assessed under the bilateral agreement between the NSW and Commonwealth Governments.
The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment approved the NSW-Western Section of EnergyConnect under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in 2021, following NSW Government approvals.
In September 2022, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, under delegation from the Minister for Planning and Homes, granted approval for the EnergyConnect NSW-Eastern Section.
The Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water then assessed the EnergyConnect NSW-Eastern Section under the provisions of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), with the Minister for the Environment and Water granting final approval for the Eastern Section of the project in December 2022.