THE Victorian Government's bid to supply natural gas to a dozen towns across the state is fast running out of puff.
The big-ticket pre-election promise by the Coalition, worth $100 million, is not attracting the same enthusiasm from gas companies. So far, only Mildura and Huntly, north of Bendigo, are on the drawing board.
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There have been no takers for the "priority towns" of Avoca, Lakes Entrance, Invermay, Winchelsea, Heathcote, Orbost, Warburton, Marong, Bannockburn, Terang, Maldon, Wandong-Heathcote Junction and Koo Wee Rup.
Gas companies were asked in a first-stage tender to connect the towns. A government spokesman admitted the response was disappointing.
Despite the cool response, Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said he was determined to make good on the promise, with $85 million in surplus.
Stage two offered a fixed subsidy for the piping of gas to the dozen towns.
That tender closes this month, with the Government saying there had been some interest on the scheme.
Mr Ryan has announced a third-stage tender, asking for non-pipeline solutions such as proposals to decant and transport compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas to the outskirts of regional towns or estates. Gas would be piped to homes from large depots.
Mr Ryan said the Government "will engage with natural gas suppliers" who could provide natural gas to smaller rural communities using CNG, LNG or other technologies.
"New and emerging technologies such as CNG and LNG have the potential to deliver on the Government's commitment to provide a lower cost energy alternative to towns in regional Victoria at a comparable price and level of service to natural gas sourced from a conventional pipeline," he said.
Mr Ryan said the Government's preference was to supply natural gas to towns using pipelines.
His spokesman said it "was always intended" to seek a mix of pipeline and gas tanks.
This third stage tender will close on December 6.
The Government is spending $1 million on a feasibility study for a 500km pipeline in the Murray Valley to provide natural gas to Moira, Gannawarra, Swan Hill, Buloke, Mildura, Murray, Wakool, Balranald and Wentworth councils.