The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has extended the timeframe for making a decision on the dispute raised by the Wunelli Pty Ltd. (Wunelli) in relation to TransGrid’s ‘Reinforcing the NSW Southern Shared Network’ (Humelink) regulatory investment test for transmission (RIT-T).
Under the dispute resolution framework set out in the National Electricity Rules (NER), the AER has 40 calendar days to make a decision on the dispute. This can be extended by up to 60 days to account for the complexity of the issues involved. An automatic extension of time is also provided to account for the time taken for the RIT-T proponent or disputing party to provide information requested by the AER.
Following the extension, the AER is now due to make a decision by 24 November 2021. However the AER is endeavouring to finalise the dispute resolution process as early as possible.
On 16 August 2021, Wunelli lodged a dispute with the AER under Clause 5.16B of the NER on the grounds that it believes the Humelink RIT-T Project Assessment Conclusions Report (PACR) fails to identify and consider all credible options to address the network need. In particular, the dispute notice outlined that:
- there are other network distinct configurations of the preferred option, each having materially different route lengths, geographic or environmental risks, construction costs and network benefits, and also differing in their relationship to existing assets;
- Wunelli considers TransGrid has provided insufficient transparency about the double circuit configuration of the preferred option.
The RIT–T is a cost‒benefit analysis that transmission businesses apply before making network investments in excess of $6 million. The purpose of the RIT–T is to identify the network or non-network investment option with the highest net economic benefits across the National Electricity Market. This promotes efficient investment decisions and helps ensure that consumers pay no more than necessary for electricity network infrastructure.
Our role in the dispute resolution process is to assess the transmission business’s compliance with the RIT‒T and NER rather than to undertake a full merits review. Where instances of non-compliance are identified, the AER may, as part of its determination, direct the RIT-T proponent to amend its final report to ensure the RIT-T is applied in accordance with the requirements of the NER.