The Australian Government has announced that it will provide $56 million to fast track the development of a second interconnector across the Bass Strait. The first interconnector, Basslink, is a 300 kilometre, 500 Megawatt (MW) high-voltage direct current cable that links the electricity grids in Victoria and Tasmania.
The Government’s funding announcement follows a recently released report by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and state-owned company, TasNetworks, into the feasibility of a second interconnector across the Bass Strait, named the ‘Marinus Link’.
In the initial report, TasNetworks identified that the Marinus Link could be technically feasible as either a 600 MW or 1200 MW link, delivered in two stages as 600 MW cables.
The study estimates the capital cost of a second interconnector would range from $1.3 – $1.7 billion for the 600 MW link or $1.9 – 3.1 billion for the 1200 MW capacity.
The initial findings also indicate that a second interconnector could become economically feasible in the early 2030s or as early as the mid-2020s.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor explained that approximately 400MW of available dispatchable generation cannot currently be delivered to the mainland, due to constraints on Basslink.
“A second interconnector and new dispatchable generation and storage will help alleviate the significant supply and demand pressures we saw across the National Energy Market (NEM) over summer,” Minister Taylor said.
TasNetworks has already identified favourable routes that would be likely to achieve environmental and planning approvals.
Favourable routes connecting Sheffield or Burnie in Tasmania’s north-west and the Latrobe Valley in Victoria will be identified in early 2019 (but will be subject to community consultation).
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said a second interconnector could see Tasmania’s vast pumped hydro resources used to support the NEM.
“Tasmania has vast potential renewable energy resources – including wind and pumped hydro – ready to be developed, and in order to maximise the potential of Tasmania we need to ensure that there is enough interconnection to the mainland.”
“There is a lot of work still to be done, but the initial findings are promising and demonstrate how a second interconnector could help unlock Tasmania’s potential as the battery of the nation while also provide grid security and reliable supply to both Tasmania and Victoria,” Mr Miller said.
Moving forward, TasNetworks is set to undertake further refinement and analysis that will include the service and funding model and pricing arrangements for recovering Marinus Link costs.
The next phase of the feasibility study will consider the planning and consultation process needed to ensure successful delivery of the Marinus Link.
The final feasibility study report is expected to be released in December 2019.