Winchelsea in southern Victoria has connected to the state’s main gas supply, following the commissioning of AusNet Services’ new underground gas network.
In 2011, the Victorian Government initiated a program to support the reticulation of natural gas into qualifying country towns.
Applications from regional Victoria were sought and a number of towns identified to receive a funding contribution towards the cost of building the gas network.
Winchelsea was one of those towns receiving funding from the program, which is now known as the Regional Gas Infrastructure Program.
In late 2012, AusNet Services were notified of their success in bidding to reticulate natural gas into a number of country towns.
In 2013 a tender was undertaken and contracts were issued for the construction of a City Gate (ie. a pressure reduction station, marking the interconnection point between the gas transmission network and the gas distribution network), and installation of the necessary pipework around Winchelsea.
Construction to connect Winchelsea to natural gas began in 2014, with Comdain Civil Constructions contracted to build the City Gate and Draper’s Civil Contractors contracted to installed the gas network.
Winchelsea is located approximately halfway between Geelong and Colac, with the closest part of AusNet Services’ distribution network at Grovedale 26km away or nearly 35km from Colac.
Winchelsea is not connected to other parts of AusNet Services’ gas distribution network. However it is relatively close (approximately 3km) to APA’s gas transmission pipeline, which runs from the south west Victorian gas fields to Melbourne.
AusNet Services connected to this transmission pipeline as part of this project.
The main benefits to extending gas networks into more country towns are for the residents. As future natural gas customers, they enjoy:
- Convenience – no more fire wood or LP bottles to fill and store
- Alternative energy source allowing choice
- Cheaper than electricity and LP Gas
- Clean and reliable energy
- Improved value of their homes
The availability of natural gas can also have a marked positive impact on the local economy over time.
Natural gas is a potentially significant benefit for new businesses considering establishing themselves in these locations; and for existing businesses, the flexibility and improved economics of natural gas can enable new possibilities.
With commissioning now complete, AusNet Services’ Manager Gas Networks, Elias Raffoul, said residents wishing to connect to the natural gas network should act now to be early recipients of natural gas.
“We estimate that more than 600 Winchelsea residents and businesses now have access to natural gas. By connecting, they can enjoy the benefits of natural gas for cooking, heating and hot water systems, replacing the need to use bottled gas, electricity, and firewood,” Mr Raffoul said.
Where to now?
In the last five years, AusNet Services has extended the natural gas network in western Victoria to more than 92,000 homes and businesses, and is expecting to invest more than $500 million in the gas network over the next five years.
AusNet Services is now finalising extensions of the gas network in the Victorian towns of Avoca and Bannockburn. It is anticipated that consumers in both of these towns will be able to access natural gas in the first half of 2017.
While there are currently no plans to extend the gas network to further regional towns, AusNet Services said it was always willing to speak with shire councils about options to install gas, as often a large company wishing to set up business regional could be the catalyst to get things moving – especially if a financial contribution was required.
Strategically, AusNet Services is keen to grow its gas network, and augmentation through country towns fits in well to enable this goal. However the main driver of augmentation is through the construction of new estates – the utility enjoys a high uptake rate by people building new homes in these estates.
“We thank the state government for helping bring natural gas to Winchelsea through the Energy for the Regions and the Regional Gas Infrastructure programs and we look forward to connecting more Victorians to natural gas,” Mr Raffoul said.