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Second Bass Strait interconnector technically feasible

Tasmania’s plan to become the ‘battery of the nation’ is one step closer, with the initial findings from a feasibility study predicting a second interconnector may be commercially viable in the 2030s or even sooner.

TasNetworks and ARENA this week released the initial findings from the feasibility study and business case for the proposed ‘Marinus Link’ – a second undersea interconnector cable after the current Basslink.

Last year, ARENA and TasNetworks committed to jointly fund the $20 million study, announced by the state and federal governments in November 2017.

This week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor also jointly announced $56 million additional funding for the next stage of the second interconnector project.

The initial study report found Marinus Link was technically feasible as either a 600 MW high voltage direct current cable or a 1200 MW interconnector delivered as two 600 MW stages.

According to the initial findings, the capital cost of the interconnection options would range from approximately $1.3-1.7 billion for the 600 MW option or $1.9-3.1 billion for the 1200 MW capacity option.

The final report from the ARENA-funded study is expected by the end of 2019.

The study is complementary to the work being undertaken by Hydro Tasmania to explore whether Tasmania could play a greater role in the National Electricity Market as the transition to renewable energy accelerates.

The construction of additional interconnection between the island state and mainland is a vital element in a plan laid out by the state and federal governments to make Tasmania the ‘battery of the nation’ and bolster the NEM as more renewables come online.

First announced by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in April 2017, the ambitious plan aims to expand Tasmania’s hydro and wind generation to provide backup for mainland states as ageing fossil fuel generators are retired.

The business case will depend on how rapidly the NEM transitions to renewable energy, but the report finds (pg 15) the benefits of the Marinus Link will likely outweigh its cost in the mid 2030s. If existing fossil fuel generators are retired before they reach the end of their design life, the new interconnection could become viable as soon as the mid 2020s.

As part of the study, TasNetworks have identified possible routes for the interconnector to pass between Tasmania and Victoria.

Tassie northcoast
Tasmania’s rugged north coast

The preferred route to connect Sheffield or Burnie in Tasmania’s north west and Latrobe Valley will be identified soon, and is subject to consultation with the local communities.

TasNetworks CEO Lance Balcombe says the second interconnector will be vital to unlock Tasmania’s potential to become an energy storage powerhouse, and allow more renewables to come online in Victoria and Tasmania.

“Marinus Link is poised to support energy security by providing a reliable supply of electricity to Tasmanians and other Australians,” Balcombe said.

“This is currently being explored through Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation Project,” he said.

Work on the undersea link is being undertaken alongside other research scoping opportunities to grow Tasmania’s renewable energy output.

The early stages of the project have found 14 potential sites for new pumped hydro generators and scoped the potential to expand two existing hydroelectric power plants.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced a further $30 million in funding under the federal government’s Underwriting New Generation Investments Program to accelerate Hydro Tasmania’s investigation to refine their shortlist of 14 sites down to three preferred options and ultimately identify a single pumped hydro site which could be constructed by 2025 to take advantage of new interconnection being built.

The Battery of the Nation’s Future NEM assessment has also identified opportunities to harness Tasmania’s wind resources, which are well positioned to complement mainland wind farms.

ARENA has provided funding for early works exploring how the Battery of the Nation initiative could support Australia’s transition to renewable energy.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller says the second interconnector could provide a way for Tasmania’s vast hydro resources to be used to support the National Electricity Market as it transforms over the coming decades.

“Tasmania has vast renewable energy potential – including wind and pumped hydro – ready to be developed,” Miller said.

“In order to maximise the potential of Tasmania we need to ensure there is enough interconnection to the mainland.

“There is a lot of work still to be done, but the initial findings are promising,” he said.

Tasmanian second interconnector looking promising

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and TasNetworks have today released the initial report on the feasibility study for a second interconnector across the Bass Strait.

In November last year, the Australian and Tasmanian Governments announced their commitment to jointly fund the $20 million feasibility and business case assessment for a second interconnector, named Project Marinus.

With $10 million of funding committed from ARENA, TasNetworks are investigating how a second Bass Strait interconnector – proposed to be called ‘Marinus Link’ – could be designed, built and form a key part of Australia’s future energy network.

In their initial report, TasNetworks found 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 link would utilise a high voltage direct current cable to cross the Bass Strait.

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 indicate a second interconnector could become economically feasible in the early 2030s or as early as the mid 2020s – depending on when existing coal fired power stations retire.

TasNetworks have also have mapped several routes and identified favourable routes that would be likely to achieve environmental and planning approvals and land access. Favourable routes connected Sheffield or Burnie in Tasmania’s north west and the Latrobe Valley in Victoria will be identified in early 2019, and is subject to community consultation.

TasNetworks will now 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 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.

Last year, ARENA released a report by Hydro Tasmania which confirmed that Tasmania could play a significant role in the transformation of the NEM over the next two decades.

A second interconnector would be needed to unlock Tasmania’s potential to expand its existing hydro electric scheme, build new pumped hydro capacity, or invest in new wind farms, as the current Basslink interconnector is at capacity.

ARENA is helping to fund the Battery of the Nation initiatives to set up a blueprint for how Tasmania’s renewable resources are developed over the coming decades.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said a second interconnector could see Tasmania’s vast pumped hydro resources used to support the National Energy Market.

“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.

TasNetworks CEO Lance Balcombe said: “A second interconnector strengthens the connection between Tasmania, Victoria and the rest of the mainland NEM.”

“Marinus Link is a strategic enabler of greater storage potential in Tasmania and further development of renewables in Victoria and Tasmania,” Mr Balcombe said.

“Marinus Link is poised to support energy security by providing a reliable supply of electricity to Tasmanians and other Australians. This is currently being explored through Hydro Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation Project,” he said.

ARENA media contact:

0407 125 909 |

Download this media release (PDF 130KB)

Open Source Grid Integration Model for the National Electricity Market

Microgrid trial a step toward 100% renewable university

Situated 20 kms south-east of Melbourne’s CBD, Monash University’s Clayton campus functions like a stand-alone city.

Everything to accommodate the needs of more than 50,000 people is available on-site. There are hundreds of classrooms, lecture theatres, gyms, laboratories, restaurants, a pool and even a cinema.

All of this consumes a lot of energy.

As part of an ambitious goal to be emissions free by 2030, Monash University is partnering with ARENA and Indra Australia on the Smart Energy City project.

Harnessing the collective power of a 1 MW array of solar panels, 20 buildings with automated energy management systems, electric vehicle chargers and a 1 MW battery, the project will create a new microgrid at the university’s 57 year old Clayton campus.

Connected to the main electricity grid and controlled by software from Indra Australia, the smart network aims to demonstrate that a 100 per cent renewable electricity system can operate reliably and affordably, while reducing strain on the broader energy system.

ARENA is providing $2.97 million towards the $7.1 million trial, which will back up the university’s behind the meter assets with energy from a power purchase agreement with a renewable generator.

At the launch of the project, Indra’s Head of Energy Solutions Andres Molnar said the company has been developing their platform for a nearly a decade. With the ability to work in real-time with other intelligent assets at the edge of the grid, he said there is a bright future for the technology.

“Right now, we are simply focusing on the internet of things to deliver better services in a more efficient manner,” Andres Molner said.

“We expect this capability will allow us to make optimal use of Australia’s vast grid-connected distributed energy resources.

“That in due time, will reduce the need to dispatch high-cost peaking generation and will also allow us to make the grid more resilient, with less or later investment.

“Those are probably two of the biggest contributors to the energy prices making the headlines in the news day in, day out,” he said.

Becoming the first Australian university to set an energy reduction target in 2005, Monash has now developed the Net Zero initiative. Starting with the microgrid trial at Clayton, the plan aims to power all campuses with zero emissions renewable energy by 2030.

Monash University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Ken Sloan said he hopes that in the long-term the project will have benefits for the innovative technology precinct surrounding the Clayton campus.

“Within walking distance of this campus you are going to bump into some of the most innovative organisations,” Ken Sloan said.

“What we are hoping is this program will not only affect what happens within the boundary of this campus, but also spill over the road into other parts of the precinct, so that when we get to 2030, we will not only be talking about Monash as a Net Zero campus, but Monash as a city well on its way to being a Net Zero city,” he said.

DEIP breaking new ground on distributed energy

Findings from the project will inform ARENA’s work to integrate behind the meter assets into the broader energy network, as Australia transitions to a heavily distributed energy system.

During his recent keynote address at the All Energy Conference, ARENA CEO Darren Miller launched the Distributed Energy Integration Program (DEIP) – a collaboration with energy market authorities, industry bodies and consumer associations.

The program will examine every aspect of the energy system to find ways to promote distributed energy, and find ways to make sure everyone benefits as the grid undergoes the most dramatic transformation to date.

Projects like Monash University’s Smart Energy City and DEIP will build an understanding of the challenges and opportunities to arise from the predicted growth of distributed energy.

With 57 projects in the agency’s distributed energy portfolio, ARENA Investment Director Phil Cohn said he believes the Monash University microgrid will become a flagship project in ARENA’s portfolio of distributed energy projects.

“We are serious about making major advances in how these resources are integrated into our increasingly distributed and decarbonised energy network,” Phil Cohn said.

“We hope the Monash smart energy project will become a real flagship within our DER portfolio as it addresses three critical issues.

“Firstly, the technical integration of DER assets so they communicate with the grid and each other to make the system stronger. Secondly, extracting maximum value from the services DER can provide by participating in different markets. And thirdly, improving our understanding of customer preferences and responses to pricing signals,” he said.

Project Marinus: Further Bass Strait Interconnection

Microgrid trial will help transition Monash University to run entirely off renewables

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) today announced it was partnering with Monash University and technology partner Indra Australia to trial a microgrid on Monash’s Clayton campus that will see the campus powered by renewable energy.

On behalf of the Australian Government, ARENA will provide $2.97 million in funding to Monash University and Indra Australia for the Monash Smart Energy City project.

The pilot project will test the microgrid across the Monash University Clayton campus in Melbourne’s south east, utilising Indra’s Ingrid ‘Advanced Grid Management’ (AGM) software platform.

The microgrid will be operated as a grid connected smart embedded network containing a variety of distributed energy resources (DER) including up to 1MW of rooftop solar, 20 buildings with automated energy management systems, 1 MWh of battery storage and electric vehicle charging stations.

The $7.1 million project will provide for the deployment and integration of Indra’s software platform and enable Monash to demonstrate how a 100 per cent renewable electricity system can operate reliably, provide value to consumers and reduce strain on the energy network.

ARENA CFO Ian Kay said this project would help Monash University transition to renewable energy.

“The project will use Monash University as a ‘living laboratory’ that will help universities form their own microgrids and take control of their energy usage.

“Universities use a significant amount of power during the day, Indra and Monash have offered a solution that can reduce peak demand and place the education sector on a path towards renewables,” Mr Kay said.

Findings from the project will help inform ARENA’s work around DER, as Australia moves towards an increasingly distributed energy system. Last week, ARENA launched the Distributed Energy Integration Program with energy market authorities, industry bodies and consumer associations.

Indra Australia’s Energy Solutions Manager Giovanni Polizzi said: “Indra actively invests in emerging technologies and innovative projects and we forge strong partnerships with organisations developing cutting-edge technologies.

“We are pleased to be a key technology partner in this leading initiative in which Indra’s intelligence leverages edge computing using both centralised and distributed components to monitor and control distributed grid elements in real-time.  It will allow Monash to control and optimise when and how energy is used across the campus.”

Program Director of Monash’s Net Zero Initiative Scott Ferraro said: “Through the Net Zero Initiative, we will be sourcing 100 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

“The microgrid will enable us to demonstrate how smart control of our distributed energy resources can enable this whilst providing benefits to our customers on campus and the broader energy network.”

Image Credit: Monash University 

ARENA media contact:

0410 724 227 |

Download this media release (PDF 122KB)

Indra Monash Smart City