On 16 March 2021, PLUS ES (operated by Ausgrid) announced the closure of the High Power Test Station at Lane Cove.
Lane Cove Testing Station (LCTS) provides certification testing to Australian and International Standards for electricity transmission and distributed network equipment.
This was important because it was the only testing facility in Australia that could verify the performance of components under very high currents that represent fault, load and overload conditions. It was also the only one remaining in the southern hemisphere that can test to the globally recognised ASTA certification standards.
Among the many impacts resulting from the closure of the facility, are a reduction in Australia’s sovereign manufacturing capability. The closure could also result in possible reduction in the reliability and safety of Australian electricity networks due to increased risk and delays resulting from using offshore test facilities and/or importing other electrical systems.
The electrical industry, under the auspices of Engineers Australia and the Australian Industry Group, formed a steering committee to explore options for the continued operation of the LCTS facility and more broadly the retention of high current testing services in Australia. The steering committee represented large manufacturers, the distribution industry and smaller manufacturers that service the industry, with particular focus on industrial switchboard manufacturers who are potentially seriously affected.
Following this, the committee has engaged with Ausgrid, the Australian Government, NSW State Government, all relevant state and federal ministers, NSW Treasury, state and federal agencies, Offices of the federal and state Chief Scientist, academic institutions, distributors within Australia and New Zealand and high wealth individuals in order to find a solution. The industry consortium had proposed various business-focused structures to enable an independent LCTS to function but had been unsuccessful.
Since then the committee has been working with a government agency and its major contractors to include a high current test capability as part of a large facility proposed for development by 2025.
Negotiations have allowed the costing of a facility with relevant capability to be included in a business case currently being considered for approval. It is essential if such a facility is funded that the industry participate in its specification and functional review. The facility is in the early stages and would still be some years away, but it represents an opportunity to ensure important testing services are available in future for Australia.
Engineers Australia and the Australian Industry Group will continue to work closely with industry and the community to find a viable solution for these testing services for the long-term benefit of Australia.