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Connection and operation under a special approval

A special approval issued under the Electricity Act 1994 (Electricity Act) allows the holder to perform the activities specified in the special approval. These may be any of the activities normally authorised by a generation, transmission, distribution or retail authority.

Generally, special approvals are granted when special circumstances apply such that authorisation of the activities by a generation, transmission, distribution or retail authority, as the case may be, is not appropriate. For example, a special approval may allow the operator of a mine operating its own supply network as an activity incidental to its main operations to perform distribution activities without imposing all of the obligations of a distribution entity.

Obtaining special approval

You must apply to the Regulator (Director-General, Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy) for a special approval under the Electricity Act.

We recommend you contact the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy to discuss your project and determine whether a special approval is the most appropriate authority for your situation prior to submitting your application. The department can provide you with guidance on the application process prior to you submitting your application for a special approval.

Connecting to the grid

Contact the relevant transmission or distribution network service provider (NSP) to discuss connection options, connection process, fees and technical requirements. Connection to the national grid will need to follow the process required under Chapter 5 of the National Electricity Rules (NER).

Step 1: Connection enquiry

The first step in connecting to the national grid is to make a connection enquiry to the relevant NSP. The connection enquiry should advise the type, magnitude and timing of the proposed connection to the network. The NSP will provide a written response outlining the information that must be provided in an application to connect.

Step 2: Application to connect

Any person who has made a connection enquiry, and has received a response from the NSP, may make an application to connect.

Step 3: Negotiate access standards

An application to connect must include a proposal for a negotiated access standard for any technical requirement that does not meet the automatic access standard.

Step 4: Negotiate connection agreement

The NSP must make an offer to connect for all applications submitted at the automatic access standard or for which a negotiated access standard is agreed. The offer to connect must be consistent with, and no more onerous than, the conditions in the schedules to Chapter 5 of the NER. Additionally, proposed terms and conditions must meet the applicable minimum access standards for the proposed plant, as advised by the NSP and set out in schedule 5.2 of the NER.

If you wish to accept the offer to connect, you must negotiate a connection agreement with the relevant NSP. The negotiated connection agreement is to include performance standards and any preconditions such as environmental and planning approvals.

You, and the NSP, must jointly advise the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) of a new connection agreement within 20 business days of execution of the agreement.

Planning and construction

As the owner of the infrastructure, you will be responsible for all aspects of the planning and construction process. This includes:

  • network design
  • corridor selection
  • environmental assessments
  • planning approvals
  • acquisition of land and easements
  • obtaining any permits and/or wayleaves necessary for construction.

Access to land

Under section 115 of the Electricity Act, the Minister may, by gazette notice, authorise an electricity entity (and its employees and agents) to enter onto land, and remain on it for as long as necessary, to decide the suitability of the land for the entity's proposed works.

Section 59 of the Electricity Act provides that a special approval holder is not regarded as an electricity entity under the Electricity Act unless a regulation provides that the holder is to be treated as an electricity entity. Therefore, before a special approval holder may be granted authority under section 115, it must first be declared, by regulation, an electricity entity for the purposes of section 115 of the Electricity Act.

A special approval holder who has been made an electricity entity for the purposes of section 115 of the Electricity Act may apply to the Minister for authority to enter land under that section. If granted, this allows you to enter specified land to determine its suitability for proposed works.

We recommend you contact the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy to discuss this matter prior to submitting a formal application to the Minister.

Preliminary design

Undertake preliminary design activities necessary to undertake environmental assessment and to obtain planning approval, for example finalising the preferred infrastructure and route selection prior to commencing environmental assessment and consultation or applying for planning approval.

Planning approval

A special approval holder cannot access the community infrastructure designation process for planning approval.

You will need to obtain planning approval by applying to the relevant authority through the Integrated Development Application System (IDAS). IDAS applications are made to the relevant local council or, where the State has jurisdiction under the SPA, to the State Assessment Referral Agency (SARA) .

See chapter 6 of the SPA and relevant local planning instrument/s.

Environmental assessment and consultation

For information about the environmental assessment requirements for IDAS planning applications, refer to the Department of Environment and Science, the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning and the relevant local council/s.

In some cases the project may require environmental approval under the Commonwealth's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, depending on the environmental values of the land. We recommend you contact the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy for further information prior to preparing your application for planning approval.

Detailed design

Following planning approval and acquisition of land, fine tuning of the infrastructure design should be completed.

Clearing permits and wayleaves

Ensure any permits and wayleaves identified through planning and consultation with state agencies during the planning application process have been obtained prior to construction.

Read the requirements for clearing vegetation.

Easements

The necessary land and easements should be acquired through commercial negotiations with the relevant landowners.

A special approval holder may be able to access compulsory acquisition powers under the Acquisition of Land Act 1967 (Acquisition of Land Act). Under section 116 of the Electricity Act, the Minister may, by gazette notice, authorise an electricity entity authority to acquire land for works, including proposed works. This authority will provide constructing authority status for the purposes of the Acquisition of Land Act.

Section 59 of the Electricity Act provides that a special approval holder is not regarded as an electricity entity under the Electricity Act unless a regulation provides that the holder is to be treated as an electricity entity. Therefore, before a special approval holder may be granted authority under section 116, it must first be declared, by regulation, an electricity entity for the purposes of section 116 of the Electricity Act.

We recommend you contact the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy to discuss this matter prior to submitting a formal application to the Minister.

We also recommend you contact the department for further information regarding taking easements, compulsory acquisition of land and state land. Relevant information includes the Land Titles Practice Manual (Queensland) – Part 9 Easement and the easement policy Easement PUX/901/527.

Construction

Construction is to occur in accordance with the network connection agreement and planning approvals.

Commissioning

Once construction has finished, and prior to commencing operation, the project proponent will be required to conduct commissioning tests in conjunction with the relevant NSP. Chapter 5 of the NER outlines the processes to be undertaken prior to and during commissioning tests.

Registering with AEMO

You will need to apply for an exemption from registration as a network service provider from the Australian Energy Regulator (AER). You will also need to register as a market customer with AEMO if purchasing electricity directly from the wholesale National Electricity Market.

Flowchart showing order of processes

This chart illustrates the processes to be followed. The purple boxes represent processes or requirements under Queensland legislation. The green boxes represent processes or requirements under national legislation.

Note: A special approval holder will not necessarily have the right to seek authorisations under sections 115 and 116 of the Electricity Act, which relate to land access for investigations and compulsory acquisition of land, respectively.

Flow chart - Privately own operate SA

Laws and regulations affecting the electricity industry

The following list of Acts may be relevant to your project:

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