The first session of the Powering Sydney’s Future forum hosted by TransGrid has resulted in the exchange of some bright ideas on the best ways to ensure the reliable future electricity supply for Sydney. Almost 100 representatives and experts from a wide range of stakeholders attended to discuss the pressing issue.

The gathering included consumer advocacy groups, academics, government representatives, regulators, large energy users, infrastructure organisations and energy providers. TransGrid’s inner Sydney network supplies electricity to more than half a million households and businesses. However, parts of the existing network have been identified as approaching the end of their service life.

To ensure the continued safe, reliable and efficient supply of electricity to inner Sydney, a solution will soon be needed.

Among the delegates there was a concerted call for an overhaul of regulatory framework to provide incentives to electricity networks for non-network alternatives. Peter Coombes, City of Sydney Green Infrastructure Senior Program Manager, was one of the key speakers. He focused on the issue of local generation and told delegates that regulatory framework had to adapt to manage technological change.

“Not adapting will take consumers off the grid, stranding assets and increasing costs for everyone else – regulation must work for all,” he said.

“Change is going to happen and it will be a good outcome for the community. There’s a need to change but the regulators need to be told how the rules should change.”

Due to the significance of this project and its location, TransGrid and Ausgrid are working closely together in order to achieve a coordinated and cost-effective solution.

“This think-tank has been invaluable in providing us the opportunity to consider a range of alternative initiatives and move toward a new way of thinking and planning to meet Sydney’s electricity needs,” said Greg Garvin, TransGrid’s general manager of Strategy and Stakeholder Engagement.

As part of the early engagement five key initiatives were identified and evaluated, helping TransGrid understand the potential role they could play in addressing the future energy needs for the inner Sydney area. They are network planning, energy efficiency, reliability standards, local generation and demand response.

“I think we have seen some real progress, the range of options outlined is better and the way TransGrid is engaging with the community is also a much better process,” said Chris Dunstan, Research Director from the University of Technology Sydney.

Feedback from the forum will form the basis of ongoing engagement and will help to guide planning performed by TransGrid and Ausgrid.

Following the early engagement phase, TransGrid will continue to communicate and engage with stakeholders and the community to review and finalise options until a decision is made on any future investment. This will include opportunities for formal feedback through the Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission (RIT-T) process and further community engagement throughout the environmental investigations/ approvals. TransGrid will also issue a request for proposals to the market for demand response later this year and facilitate a demand management workshop.

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