The Chief Executives of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and AusNet Services today returned to Western Victoria for a series of meetings with local communities about the challenges and opportunities presented by major transmission projects.
AEMO CEO Daniel Westerman and AusNet CEO Tony Narvaez met landholders, councils, renewable energy stakeholders and regional business to discuss transmission development and visited one of the largest wind farms in Australia.
The CEOs visited the region in August last year and committed to returning to hear more from locals and update them on the progress with transmission projects. This included investigating alternative sites for the proposed terminal station, and providing landholders with further information on the options for easements and the compensation process for the Western Renewables Link (WRL) project.
As part of its Victoria New South Wales Interconnector West (VNI West) project, AEMO is investigating moving the proposed terminal station that connects WRL to VNI West from its current location, following feedback from the community.
AusNet has been commissioned to design and build the 190-kilometre transmission project that will bring renewable wind and solar energy from the west of the state to the national electricity grid to help meet state and federal emission reduction targets, keep downward pressure on power bills and secure the future reliability of the state’s power.
“We acknowledge the stress that developing new transmission can have on communities,’’ Mr Westerman said.
“We listened to community members, who told us the location of the terminal station was a key issue, and in December last year we announced we would investigate alternate options, including areas around Waubra and Bulgana.”
Mr Narvaez said it was important to continue listening to local communities so the WRL project team can make changes to accommodate their concerns.
“We understand the critical nature of the Western Renewables Link does not make it any easier for regional communities where the impact will be felt,’’ Mr Narvaez said.
“Engagement with local communities is vital and we are always looking at ways to improve. We know the terminal station north of Ballarat has been a significant concern to the community, and we welcome the recent announcement that the preferred option is to move the location to the west of the state.”
Mr Westerman said there was a recognition in the community that new transmission was needed to link new sources of renewable generation to the electricity grid.
“As workhorse coal generators in Gippsland are being replaced by smaller generators dotted around the landscape, we need new transmission to connect low-cost renewables to homes and businesses,” he said.
“That is what these projects will do. They will connect new renewable generation in Victoria’s west, with the kettles, toasters and factories that Australians rely on every day.”
Mr Narvaez added: “We also saw today as we stood near the wind turbines the vital role Western Victoria will play in our renewable future. The Western Renewables Link will unlock enough green energy to power 500,000 Victorian homes.”
AusNet plans to submit the project’s Environment Effects Statement to the State Government later this year.