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TasNetworks – AusNet

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Tags: TasNetworks

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, can you describe the relationship between TasNetworks and the company, AusNet?

Mr BARNETT - I can't personally describe it. I'm happy to pass to the CEO to see if he can answer that question. It's an operational question.

Mr BALCOMBE - AusNet is a peer transmission network service provider and a distribution networks provider. They also operate gas in Victoria. We have a very collegiate working relationship with them. It goes back to a time when TasNetworks was contemplating the Agilis Project, which was our SAP project. Over my years as a CEO and a member of the Energy Networks Association I've got to know their previous CEO, Nino Ficca, very well.

At that time, when we were contemplating putting in our SAP project, Mr Ficca gave us some of their intellectual property relating to how they rolled out their SAP project from the point of view of some of the governance arrangements. He also provided one of his general managers to sit on our steering committee. He saw that as a development opportunity for his general manager and also a significant value-add for TasNetworks. That SAP project was delivered on time and on budget. That's pretty rare with regard to SAP implementation.

We also deal with AusNet with regard to operational elements. We consult with their asset managers; we consult with their regulatory team; we share perspectives. One of the great things about this side of the industry is that we are all monopoly businesses so we do not act in competition and we are quite collegiate in that regard. I would say it is a positive, constructive working relationship.

Dr WOODRUFF - AusNet is named in a number of TasNetworks' Project Marinus documents. I want to understand whether there is any intention that AusNet would be working on or maintaining any of TasNetworks' infrastructure, including the proposed Hampshire to Sheffield line?

Mr BALCOMBE - The reason AusNet would be named in our documents is because they are the Victorian transmission network operator and Marinus Link has to connect into the Victorian transmission network. That would be the principal reason we have been dealing with AusNet.

With regard to the Staverton to Hampshire line, I don't foresee that AusNet would play any role in that other than sharing data with regard to transmission developments in general across the country, as we would be doing with ElectraNet in South Australia or TransGrid in New South Wales. It is sharing data. Specifically, we would be talking to AusNet with regard to connecting into the Victorian network.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you for confirming that. There is some concerning news about AusNet in the Victorian media about their ability to undertake safe transmission line maintenance following on from the bushfire royal commission, but we won't go there.

Has TasNetworks undertaken a bushfire risk assessment for the proposed Hampshire to Sheffield section of high-voltage line? Sheffield or Staverton, I am not sure which.

Mr BALCOMBE - You are talking about the Staverton to Hampshire line. That will be part of the work we will do as part of the environmental approvals process.

What I would say in general with regard to transmission lines is they are generally safe. There is very little evidence in Tasmania of transmission networks starting fires. As I said in response to an earlier question, Dr Woodruff, most bushfire starts are triggered from the distribution network. I make the point that with regard to transmission easements in general, they service fire breaks. I will hand over to Bess Clark, who might have other perspectives with regard to your question.

Ms CLARK - I think Lance has covered it at the high level. In effect, for any new development we have to get the relevant planning and environmental approvals and consider all the impacts a project could have, and one of those is clearly bushfire. As Lance indicated earlier, one of the offsetting benefits of transmission lines is that we sensitively clear vegetation and that in turn can create a fire break, so it can actually mitigate bushfire risks as well. Transmission lines have very little contribution to bushfire risk in and of themselves.

Mr STREET - I think you're going to set a record today, Dr Woodruff, for unsubstantiated defamatory claims, but anyway.

Dr WOODRUFF - I beg your pardon? I didn't make any unsubstantiated or defamatory claims.

Mr STREET - You've made two already today.

CHAIR -Thank you, Mr Street.