The South Australian Government will spend $14 million in an attempt to accelerate a project to build a new interconnector with New South Wales.
- Premier Steven Marshall announced the policy last October while still in opposition
- The project could be completed earlier than the previous 2021-22 goal
- The Opposition said it should have gone out to tender to “use the money as wisely as possible”
Premier Steven Marshall made the announcement at the Liberal Party’s South Australian branch annual general meeting today, spruiking the project as one that would save customers money on their power bills and improve reliability.
The Liberal Government announced the policy — and a $200 million “interconnection fund” — last October while still in opposition, as part of its wider energy policy.
“As every person in South Australia would be more than aware, the previous Labor government left us in a precarious situation with energy,” Mr Marshall said today.
“They put ideology before the interests of the people of South Australia.
“One key component of the plan was to establish that interconnection between South Australia and New South Wales.
“In recent weeks, there has been an announcement about the viability of the interconnector … an announcement made by the Australian Energy Regulator and ElectraNet … [and] there was a projection around the start date that we thought was unacceptable.
“So what we’ve announced today is a package for early works, so we can bring forward the interconnector.”
Mr Marshall said he had initially hoped the project would be complete by 2021 or 2022, but the “early works package” could bring the process forward by up to 12 months.
“If we do the early work on deciding the route of the transmission lines … and the environmental approvals that are required, we can shorten this process by a year or more,” he said.
“I’m hopeful we can deliver this in the shortest time possible so we can enjoy lower prices here in South Australia.”
Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the State Government had begun talks with ElectraNet and TransGrid about the project, but it was yet to receive approval from the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).
Earlier this year, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) stated it wanted to work to start on the interconnector as soon as possible.
Modelling showed the interconnector would cost about $1.5 billion and would save households an average of $30 annually.
Opposition says project should ‘go out to tender’
Opposition energy spokesman Tom Koutsantonis said taxpayers should not be made to pay an extra $14 million for the early works package — investigations ElectraNet would have been required to undertake itself anyway.
“I’m very concerned, as most South Australians should be, that the State Government is spending $14 million on what a private company should be spending the money on,” he said.
“I’m calling on the Government today not to hand over $200 million of taxpayers money to a private company without a tender process — this should go out to the market.”
He said a tender process would have allowed the State Government to make sure it used the money as wisely as possible.
“We’d like to know if someone else could build the transmission line cheaper … but of course we’ll never know that because the State Government has already committed to giving this money to a private company,” he said.
“This interconnector should be thought through properly, we shouldn’t be throwing Government money without a competitive process.”