More talks on AusNet Victorian transmission energy project as petition hits 12,000 signatures
1st December, 2021
By Laura Mayers and Stephen Martin, ABC Ballarat
AusNet has begun another round of community consultation after releasing a confirmed planned route for the controversial Western Victoria Transmission Project.
- Consultation between AusNet and landowners affected by the proposed Western Victorian Transmission Project has begun
- It comes after AusNet confirmed a proposed route on Friday
- A petition objecting to the project has gained more than 12,000 signatures
Released late last week, the route would affect more than 200 private properties.
The 190 kilometre transmission line would run from Bulgana in western Victoria to Melbourne’s north-west, transporting energy from various wind and solar farms across the region.
In its proposal the company said the option to underground the entirety of the transmission line, which has long since been lobbied for by affected landowners, would not be cost-effective.
A seminar and question and answer session was hosted online Tuesday evening, while five face-to-face engagement sessions will start next week in Waubra, Miners Rest, Kurunjang, Darley and Wendouree.
The Tuesday session was hosted by AusNet Services’ distributed energy and innovation manager, Justin Harding, and environmental and social consultant Barton Napier.
“There’s no perfect route,” Mr Napier said at the start of the session.
“We are seeking to balance all conflicting constraints.”
During the session a Moorabool landowner asked why AusNet had yet to contact her – despite a transmission tower being plotted for 155 metres away from her home.
The hosts later said the company was still working to contact all affected landowners.
Mr Napier also said the “default standard” height of the transmission structures would be 75 metres.
A petition by the Western Victoria MP Stuart Grimley received more than 12,000 signatures imploring the company to seek an alternate route and put the transmission lines underground.
Mr Grimley told ABC Radio Ballarat the petition also asked for a review into the project by the Australian Energy Market Operator and the government.
“There’s also debate about the cost of the underground proposal,” Mr Grimley said.
“There are certain sectors of the industry saying it’s going to cost around 16 times what’s currently budgeted for whereas certain community members and groups are saying that should be more like two and a half times the cost for undergrounding.”
Mr Grimley insisted he and the community were entirely supportive of renewable energy, but said the Western Victoria Transmission Project proposal needed to be reworked.
“I don’t think the local community will get what they’re expecting,” he said.
“But I am hopeful that there will be some changes, at the very least.”
The chairman of Ballarat Potato Growers, Chris Stephens, said there could be enormous consequences to the industry if the project continued as proposed.
Mr Stephens said potato growers in the region produce roughly 125,000 tonnes of potatoes each year.
“Our irrigations won’t be able to be used anywhere near the powerline easements,” he said.
“This is the first transmission line in the world that is going to run through a highly productive, intensive irrigation district.
“AusNet say oh yeah you can grow spuds under the power lines… but they have no idea about the systems we use.”
Mr Stephens said farmers are also expressing concerns for what comes after the power substation is installed, and for other energy projects that may want to connect into the station.
“The renewable energy companies have already been contacting some neighbours of mine, trying to buy their land,” he said.
“Because they realised, the closer they are to the substation, the cheaper it is to hook in.”
A meeting at Clunes was held on Thursday November 25 — the evening before AusNet announced the final proposed route.
Vice president of the Victorian Farmers Federation horticulture division, Katherine Myers, said 80 people attended the session.
“I really wish we had have known to be able to give people a heads up of what they were going to be waking up to on Friday morning,” Ms Myers said.
“The emotions were pretty difficult at the meeting… It was actually really valuable for people to grieve together.
“I don’t think it’s over until the fat lady sings, hopefully it goes back to the drawing board and some common sense can be used.”