December 19, 2023

Dithering on electricity infrastructure threatens Australia’s energy transition

If Australia is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, we’ll need to see a major programme of renewable energy projects come online in the next two decades.

The appetite is certainly there for new solar, wind, and hydro schemes, with investment dollars pouring into the green economy to support the energy transition. The economic advantage in doing so as early as possible, is clear to see. But as we say in the electricity industry, “there’s no transition without transmission”.

We can talk all we want about ambitious new off-shore wind farms and solar installations in the desert, but without new infrastructure to support the transmission of electricity from these new low-carbon, energy sources, we’ve no chance of hitting that net zero goal.

Unfortunately, our leaders at a federal and state level have delayed and put off decisions for far too long about investing in upgrading the country’s electricity future to prepare it for the big shift to renewables.

As the AFR reported last month, “more than 10,000 kilometres of new transmission lines and a nine-fold increase in renewable energy generation is essential by 2050 to meet net zero targets and keep the National Electricity Market “reliable and secure”.

That estimate is from the Australian Energy Market Operator. While new transmission projects are being planned, our experience suggests that a lack of transmission capacity will prove to be a painful bottleneck to the electricity sector in Australia.


Groudline is an engineering company that works on powerline infrastructure all over Australia, as well as in New Zealand, The United Kingdom and the United States. A New Zealand based company founded in 2004, we’ve geared up to help our partners in Australia expand and upgrade electricity transmission lines and equipment.

We’ve worked on some great projects, including shielding power lines to make them more resilient to bushfires and the sort of climate events that are expected to become more frequent. But as we look towards our work plan for 2024, we won’t be doing much in Australia other than supporting our existing loyal customers.

A lack of clarity around the future development of electricity infrastructure gives us no certainty with which to plan future investment in Australia. Our biggest asset is our people, skilled and experienced powerline engineers who can tackle complex and potentially dangerous projects.  

But our focus has shifted to our other markets with stasis at the federal level leading to a lack of progress on greenlighting new transmission projects that we can tender for. Renewable generators will be hesitant to commit to new projects unless they can be sure that the lines are there to transmit the electricity to consumers. As the CSIRO’s 2023 Gencost report found:

“A delay in making transmission available is one possible source of delay in new entrant competition.”

This is in contrast to the situation we find in the UK, where the country committed relatively early to renewables, including investing heavily in offshore windfarms and upgrading transmission infrastructure to deliver electricity to cities and towns.

In the US, the Biden administration is directing nearly US$400 billion to clean energy projects and electricity and transmission infrastructure via the Inflation Reduction Act, in the form of tax incentives, grants, and loan guarantees.


A major component of the US strategy around accelerating the move to renewables is devolving funding for projects to the state level, trusting that local authorities and planners know how to best allocate federal investment.

South Australia and other states have been proactive in taking a long term view of electricity generation and transmission infrastructure here as well. But these efforts are too often hamstrung by federal and state decision makers sitting on their hands and pointing the finger at each other.

We’ve seen transmission project proposals gathering dust for six years or longer while political leaders and the various companies and contractors involved, debate and negotiate. While we are a small player servicing the electricity sector, many other companies are in the same boat.

Australia now faces an exodus of skilled talent to other countries that are moving faster to build transmission infrastructure to support the shift to renewables. It doesn’t have to be like this. Australians know what needs to be done and the net zero emissions target is part of the nation’s climate change policy.

Now we need to clear the bureaucratic roadblocks, streamline decision making at a federal and state level and get to work building the infrastructure that will help power a cleaner, greener economy for Australia. If that happens, Groundline will be here to help.


Groundline is a global consultancy specializing in transmission and distribution lines engineering services for network operators and service providers.  

We bring creative thinking to projects, ensuring solutions are cost-effective, resilient, safe and good for the planet.  

With offices in the USA, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, we have experience in all aspects of the power lines industry - from 11kV to 500kV+, new builds to refurbishments, condition assessments to asset management, site support and design verifications, to project management.  Our team have worked around the world, from remote, dry deserts, to wild, wet rainforests, urban cities, to cyclone-prone prairies.

Whatever challenges you face, we understand your requirements.  

Get in touch to discuss how we can ensure your power network is fit for the future.

Contact us here

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