WENTWORTH Shire is a step closer to taking a central position in Australia’s energy grid.

Work began at Buronga this week on the New South Wales portion multi-billion-dollar Project EnergyConnect, which is building an interconnector running from South Australia to Wagga Wagga.

The Buronga and Red Cliffs substations will also be linked, allowing sharing of energy between the three states for the first time.

Sunraysia will benefit with both construction and ongoing jobs, while the infrastructure will allow local renewable energy to be sent to customers.

Digging sticks made by Barkindji Maraura Elders Environment Team senior ranger Malcolm King were used on Tuesday to get construction officially under way.

Transgrid CEO Brett Redman said the project would abate 1 million tonnes of emissions per year while also saving the average NSW household $60 on their power bills.

Mr Redman said he expected new wind and solar farms would be built along the line, including in the Wentworth Shire.

He said there can be “no transition without transmission”, calling the SA-NSW link a “super highway for energy”.

“Right now what we’re seeing is a shift from where energy is made,” he said.

“Historically it was in the coal regions, the Upper Hunter, the Latrobe Valley, this is where we used to make electricity – and still do – and send it to the demand centres like the big cities.

“Today, we’re moving to renewables, that means we open up new regions where we are going to make energy – wind farms, solar farms – so we’ve got to build new super highways to get that energy to the demand centres. That’s where Project EnergyConnect comes in.”

Transgrid, responsible for the NSW network, is overseeing the $1.8 billion NSW section of the project, covering a 700km distance. It is expected to create 1500 jobs during construction.

The section from the SA border to Buronga and on to Red Cliffs was due for completion in 2024.

Wentworth Mayor Tim Elstone said it was a fantastic project for the region, which would bring people in and benefit local businesses.

“And that’s great, given where we’ve all come from, not just the Wentworth Shire but the whole Sunraysia region, in terms of the pandemic and the recovery mode that we’re in, so it will be a great boost for us,” Cr Elstone said.

It was hoped the new transmission capacity will lead to more renewable energy projects and further benefits.

“That’s yet to be seen but you would think that’s a fair assumption and hopefully that will happen down the track,” Cr Elstone said.