$1.5 billion interconnector opens the door for new European investment in South Australian renewables

A major milestone has been reached in Australia’s renewables sector with the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) accepting the business case for a new 900km transmission line linking South Australia and New South Wales.

The AER green-lighted the regulatory investment test for transmission (RIT-T) for the $1.53 billion Project EnergyConnect, which will provide 800MW of energy flow between the two states.

Led by network companies ElectraNet and TransGrid, the interconnector will link Robertstown, north-east of Adelaide, and Wagga Wagga, in New South Wales and will enable South Australia to distribute world-class wind and solar resources.

The announcement opens the door for investors in Europe and the UK to tap into new renewable projects in South Australia, with numerous renewables and storage projects already lining up in anticipation of the interconnector.

“This project will unlock huge new renewable energy zones in South Australia and NSW with AEMO (the Australian Energy Market Operator) reporting there are more than 5000MWs of planned renewable energy projects in close proximity to the interconnector,” South Australia Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said in a statement.

French giant Neoen noted that the interconnector would spur new investment and allow energy users in other states to benefit from South Australia’s abundant wind and solar resources, which it is tapping for its new Goyder South project that incorporates 1200MW of wind, 600MW of solar, and up to 900MW of battery storage.

“More specifically for us at Neoen, this decision provides a foundation for a project like Goyder… which will connect into the South Australian end-point for the new interconnector,” the company said.

The interconnector announcement comes only weeks after Spanish energy giant Iberdrola made its first Australian investment by committing $500 million to a new hybrid wind and solar project at Port Augusta led by Irish developer DP Energy.

The interconnector puts South Australia on track to reach net 100 percent renewables within a decade and will help provide renewable power to New South Wales to offset the closure of its coal plants.

“South Australia is determined to be a good global citizen, and become a net exporter of renewable energy as part of our aspiration of net 100% renewables in the 2030’s,” said Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

The project will aim to start construction this year after finalising detailed design and approvals with a completion target of 2023.