QUESTION: Project EnergyConnect

Today during Question Time, Mark asked the Treasurer, on behalf of the Minister for Energy and Mining, a question about Project EnergyConnect.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Project EnergyConnect is the name currently being given to the proposed electricity interconnector between South Australia and New South Wales. According to energy media reports in the last few days, a number of coal-fired power station interests in New South Wales are trying to slow or stop the project because they recognise that it poses a risk to their business model, because it is now regarded as an excellent avenue for exporting South Australian renewable energy into New South Wales and Victoria. So I think the project is gathering support.

The state government has put in some, I think it might be, up to $88 million (the Treasurer will correct me if that figure is not correct). The project has been declared a major development, so it is subject to an environmental impact statement, but we have not yet seen that statement.

My questions of the minister are:

1. When might we see the environmental impact statement for Project EnergyConnect?

2. Is the government encouraging the developers to consider alternative routes for the project that avoid going through the middle of two of the most important conservation reserves in that part of South Australia, namely, Taylorville and Calperum? 

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer): I will have to take the questions in relation to environmental impact statements on notice and bring back a reply. The honourable member did offer in his explanation some commentary about who might be supporting or opposing EnergyConnect. One of the greatest opponents of EnergyConnect is the Australian Labor Party in South Australia and the member for West Torrens.

Everyone else can see the no-brainer logic that, when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, we have bucketloads of renewable energy that we can export to the Eastern States to stabilise the market, to stabilise prices and to replace coal-fired power stations that might be being closed down. But if we don't have a second interconnector, we can't actually export the bucketloads of renewable energy that we've got.

Equally, if the sun ain't shining and the wind ain't blowing, we actually need an interconnector to ensure that whatever electricity, renewable or otherwise, that is being generated in the Eastern States can be imported to keep the lights on, to stabilise security and to stabilise prices.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Opposition Whip knows better.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: One of the greatest threats to EnergyConnect is the attitude of the member for West Torrens and the state Labor Party, because they have sought for years to undermine the interconnector which, as I said, to anybody else is a no-brainer. In relation to the EIS—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Bourke!

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —I will take that on notice and bring back a reply. In relation to the issue of the moveability of routes—

The Hon. J.E. Hanson interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Hanson!

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —one of the issues, I suspect—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! The Hon. Mr Ridgway is not helping.

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS: —but the detail will come back on notice—is that clearly the changing of routes may well impact on the costing of various proposals. Given that the Australian regulatory authority is currently looking at a regulatory proposal, I assume it's within a certain costing parameter that exists at the moment, therefore that may well be a restriction in relation to the possible movement of a route. It may well be; I don't know.

I would have to take advice on this, and I will bring back an answer. Is it if you move the route and it changes the cost, whether that has to then go back through another regulatory process, which might further delay the possible implementation of the project. I will take the EIS questions on notice and bring back a reply for the honourable member.