Victoria plans grid upgrades to support renewable energy zones

By Charlie Duffield
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An existing solar farm in Victoria, Australia. Image: Trina Solar.

The Australian state of Victoria has unveiled six grid upgrade projects as part of efforts to unlock new renewables investment.

The stage one projects of the AU$540 million (US$398 million) renewable energy zones (REZs) will make it easier for new projects to be connected to Victoria’s grid, showing developers how Victoria is ready for new solar and wind projects, according to Lily D’Ambrosio, state minister for energy, environment and climate change

Acting like “shock absorbers”, three pieces of infrastructure will smooth out higher and lower rates of energy flowing through the lines, so renewables can easily enter the grid.

Another three projects will upgrade the transmission network, to increase the capacity of existing lines, so they can carry higher energy loads, pumping more renewables across Victoria.

The Australian Energy Market Operator will seek tenders for the six projects, which will modernise Victoria’s electricity grid and unlock new clean energy investment.  

Currently Victoria has its strongest energy infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley, where coal-fired power has historically been concentrated. Yet the upgrade projects are targeted along the windy southwest coast and the sunny northwest to allow more renewables to flow through.  

In February 2021, the locations of six REZs were confirmed as Ovens Murray, Murray River, Central North, Western Victoria, South West and Gippsland.

D’Ambrosio said the grid upgrade projects “will ensure we have the transmission needed to harness the sunshine and wind across Victoria. This is a clear signal to investors that Victoria is open for business, and ready for new wind and solar projects that create jobs and opportunities in local communities across Victoria.”

A new body named Vicgrid was created to plan and develop the REZs, and oversee investment decisions related to the AU$540 million REZ fund.

In creating an additional 10GW of capacity for renewables, Victoria’s total renewable energy capacity across its REZs is expected to top 16GW by 2040, tripling the state’s renewable capacity today.

Additionally, a further two network investment projects – the Mortlake Turn-in, and the Western Victorian Transmission Network Uprate – are also under assessment.

Elsewhere in Australia, Queensland is investing AU$145 million to establish three REZs, while New South Wales secured a nine-fold oversubscription for its first zone, before announcing a second 8GW zone that is expected to attract AU$12.7 billion in investment.

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