Issue 9 September 2005

NSW hunts for demand reductions

The New South Wales Government is conducting a "high priority" project to find a demand management strategy to defer or avoid electricity network expansion in the inner metropolitan Sydney area.

In its 2005 annual planning report, transmission network service provider TransGrid says it and Energy Australia are committing $10 million to fund the project, which also involves the State Government's infrastructure planning and energy departments. TransGrid says its planning scenarios for the next 10 years see power demand in the State rising by between 910 GWh and 2,040 GWh a year. Load growth over the past decade has averaged 1,600 GWh annually and is dominated by demand in the Sydney area.

The report cites modelling that would see a "high scenario" rise in end-use consumption in NSW from 70,000 GWh annually at present to more than 87,000 GWh by 2015 and a "medium scenario" rise to almost 82,500 GWh.

TransGrid warns in the report that the development of the national electricity market and the introduction of high voltage interconnection with Queensland is increasingly imposing greater stress on the power network than it was designed to manage. "Some significant augmentations" will be needed in the next 10 years to ensure that the economic operation of the NEM and the reliability of supply are not undermined.

The report highlights a major problem in supplying more electricity to the Sydney metropolitan area. Sydney is surrounded by major national parks to the north, south and west as well as increasingly densely populated urban areas. Even 20 years ago, says TransGrid, it was recognised that the prospect of obtaining new easements for major transmission lines in to the city was remote. Rebuilding one of the existing HV lines to higher capacity, it points out, will require its removal from service, "placing severe constraints" on the network.

Reinforcing QNI remains key concern

Joint studies by the NSW Government's TransGrid and the Queensland Government's transmission company, Powerlink, indicate that a major uprating of the key high voltage link between the two States is unlikely to pass the ACCC's regulatory test -- but the development of power stations such as the recently-announced 750 MW Kogan Creek generator are expected to increase the need for power transfers south over the line.

The TransGrid annual planning report says that NSW can obtain about 1,080 MW transfer capacity on the QNI at present -- the link enables Queensland to supply about 11 percent of NSW power consumption at present -- and it hopes this can be increased following further tests and installation of oscillatory damping controls. However substantial upgrading of the north/south power flow will require new line developments and possibly power system control developments to overcome stability constraints.

TransGrid adds that the network cannot accommodate any significant additional generation in the Hunter Valley or further north without either major line works or limitations on imports from Queensland.

TransGrid also points out that Victoria currently relies on being able to access up to 1,900 MW of capacity from NSW plants and the Snowy River Scheme at times of peak summer load, but future NSW demand and possible industrial developments in the Wagga Wagga area may progressively reduce this flow. It says a number of network projects able to increase capacity to Victoria and South Australia between 400 MW and 1,600 MW are under consideration.

WPC 'on track' for break-up

The West Australian Government-owned utility Western Power Corporation is "on track" to meet a deadline of April next year to implement disaggregation in to four separate businesses, say WPC managing director Tony Iannello in the wake of the passage of legislation in the State Parliament.

Breaking up WPC has been highly controversial in WA and was thwarted in the State's upper parliamentary house when first introduced by the Gallop Government.

All four new businesses will continue to be owned by the State Government -- three of them will generate, distribute and retail electricity in the south-west interconnected region; the fourth will be an integrated operation providing power to the centre and north of the State.

Meanwhile Iannello has released WPC's 2004-05 annual report showing an annual profit of just over $206 million -- $35.4 million lower than in the previous year -- and payments to the State Government of more than $215 million.

Iannello says average electricity prices in the State have fallen by almost 20 percent in real terms (inflation adjusted) over the past decade. The State Government has given assurances that there will be no tariff increases in the first few years of disaggregation.

WPC has also committed to the construction of a new gas-fired, combined cycle 320 MW power plant for the south-west interconnected system. The generator will be built by Wambo Power Ventures on land adjacent to Western Power's Cockburn plant.

Energy Supply Association statistics show that the State's consumption of electricity has risen from 11,635 GWh in 2000 to almost 13,000 GWh in 2004.

Sustainable cities

More than 12.7 million of Australia's population of 20.2 million live in cities, with urban growth continuing strongly and household energy use running well ahead of the increase in residents. It's a situation that has led the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Heritage to call on the Federal Government to set targets for urban area sustainability and to connect these targets to policy and funding decisions by pursuing incentives for sustainable outcomes along the model of national competition promotion.

The committee in a recently-published report says the aim of the policy should be to uncouple economic growth from increasing urban energy consumption. As one of the most urbanised countries in the world with water shortages, transport congestion and high energy demands, Australia must take action now, it says, to address future development of cities. It points out that residential energy use has increased 60 percent since 1975 against a population rise of 35 percent and that commercial energy use is predicted to double between 1990 and 2010.

The committee's recommendations include calling on the Government to double the photovoltaic rebate, to promote increased use of renewable energy and to persuade the States and Territories to mandate the disclosure of energy efficiency and greenhouse performance of homes when they are sold or leased. A key step, the reports adds, is to provide accessible information about energy use to the public, commenting that electricity is not fully appreciated by the community because it is "inexpensive, invisible and readily available at the flick of a switch."

The report notes that heating and cooling account for 39 percent of residential sector consumption of energy and 15 percent of residential greenhouse gas emissions and it argues that both can be reduced through good building design and improved insulation.

Generation plans

The Energy Supply Association in its latest annual statistical report has identified 57 generation projects proposed, under advanced planning or under development across Australia. They include more than 2,600 MW of proposed gas-fired generation capacity in New South Wales, 1,512 MW of gas capacity in Victoria and 2,730 MW of gas plant in Queensland. Time frames for the developments range to 2013.

Keith Orchison

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