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SACOSS holds ElectraNet to account ahead of major State spend

SA/NSW Interconnector to go ahead following resolution of formal dispute process 

“The initial proposal promised a number of solutions; we had concerns about whether this proposal could actually live up to its promises,” Ross Womersley, CEO of SA Council of Social Service (SACOSS) said. “We wanted reassurances from ElectraNet that this project would provide stable, secure electricity for all consumers.”

On 15 March 2019, SACOSS challenged the planned $1.53 billion electricity interconnector between SA and NSW through a formal dispute process lodged with the Australian Energy Regulator (AER).

SACOSS claimed that ElectraNet, a private company owned by State Grid Corporation of China, Malaysia’s YTL Corporation and Australian Utilities were not forthcoming with necessary details on how this interconnector would affect consumers, local generation suppliers and the state budget, in the present and the future. The basis of the dispute was that the proposal had not adequately treated the risk of unintended consequences following commissioning of the proposed interconnector.

“Our challenge to ElectraNet’s SA/NSW interconnector proposal was raised out of genuine concerns with insufficient evidence of feasibility,” Mr Womersley said. “The formal dispute process is the only avenue for consumers to escalate concerns to an independent body such as the AER – we are otherwise left debating highly technical issues with the proponent of the project.”

The report released by the AER today on the decision about the South Australian Energy Transformation notes that the AER are now satisfied with the information subsequently supplied by ElectraNet.

SACOSS has accepted this resolution, with Mr Womersley commenting that, “Within this latest report, our concerns have been addressed with the level of technical precision that we would expect from a proposal of this kind. After further inquiry, the AER found extra supporting evidence for the business proposal.

“We were right to appeal the initial proposal. There was inadequate analysis on how this project would affect consumers, particularly low income households and others in vulnerable positions. The risks facing those consumers simply were not assessed prior to our dispute.

“We raised a valid issue that went to the heart of feasibility and promises of this project – we are satisfied that the AER heard our concerns on behalf of consumers, and acted in the best interests of consumers on this matter.

“We need to keep large organisations like ElectraNet accountable – especially when they are proposing a costly project without an acceptable amount of detail made available in their final report.

“SACOSS will always speak up for the interest of South Australians – and continue to raise a dispute on these issues if we feel we have to.”

Published Date: 
Wednesday, 5 June 2019