Just days after a proposed new Federal seat was announced, the Morrison Government has expanded the powers of the National Wind Farm Commissioner to include transmission lines.
It comes as Ausnet Services / Mondo hold a pop-up session at Darley this afternoon (Wednesday). Attendees said at six police cars were at last week’s Myrniong pop-up, and officers later escorted some people back to their cars.
The West Victoria Transmission Project and two proposed PFAS-contaminated soil dumping sites (Bulla and Maddingley) are expected to be the hot topics for the new seat of Hawke at the 2022 Federal election.
RELATED STORY: Draft report – new seat, new name, new pollie
The new role will now be known as Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner.
The entire Moorabool Shire currently falls within the Ballarat Federal electorate and MP Catherine King said it was vital the revamped commissioner role included the 190km-long high-voltage line between Melbourne’s west and the Ararat region.
“While this announcement is welcome, it is a clear admission that the Morrison Government, AEMO and AusNet have gotten it wrong when it comes to these transmission towers,” she said.
“They failed to adequately engage and consult with local communities and have undermined the important work of ensuring renewable energy gains a greater foothold in our energy market.
“It is integral that the commissioner’s new powers apply to existing projects like the one being built through our communities.”
But even if the commissioner’s role does cover the project through Moorabool, Melton, Hepburn and beyond; Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said the Morrison Government was maintaining its priority on delivering “cheap” power.
Locals along the path of the 500kV powerlines are pushing for them to go underground, which would cost significantly more.
Ms King has previously indicated she supports putting the lines underground.
Mr Taylor said the Government was committed to ensuring community concerns about transmission projects were acknowledged and addressed throughout the design, planning, construction and operational phases of deployment.
“Transmission investment is crucial to the security and affordability of our grid,” he said.
“As these critically important transmission projects take shape, we want to ensure that any concerns community members have are heard and resolved in the appropriate way, and the Commissioner’s expanded role will facilitate this.
“I thank (Melbourne-based commissioner) Andrew Dyer for taking on these additional responsibilities, his ongoing commitment to this important role and for his achievements since commencing the role in 2015″.
He said that since 2015, the National Wind Farm Commissioner had played a role in helping community members and stakeholders work through issues related to wind farm development and operations.
In 2018, the Government expanded the Commissioner’s role to also include managing concerns relating to large scale solar and storage installation.
The Commissioner will now also facilitate the resolution of complaints and community concerns about new major transmission projects, as well as assist industry and governments to identify and adopt best practices for deploying these projects.
The Morrison Government is advancing all major priority transmission projects identified in the Australian Energy Market Operator’s 2020 Integrates System Plan.
Mr Taylor said the Government was also actively encouraging the development of new transmission projects through the establishment of a $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund to be administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
“These critical transmission investments will bring new generation into the energy system while shoring up the reliability and affordability of the system across state borders,” he said.
“The Government is continuing to deliver a more affordable and reliable electricity system for Australians through measures that will lower bills, secure our grid and drive investment in new energy infrastructure.”
📌MONDAY 29th MARCH 📌DARLEY PARK 📌2pm- 7pm We need to stand up NOW and tell Ausnet their towers are not welcome! It will be too late once your looking at them!Posted by Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance on Friday, March 26, 2021
** Meanwhile, Ausnet Services and Mondo held a pop-up information session at Darley Park on Monday.
At least six police cars were at a non-violent information session at the Myrniong Hall last Wednesday (March 24). At least 250 people were there. Officers were also seen later escorting people back to their cars.
Attendees said it came after a series of incidents at Mt Prospect near Newlyn, where a meeting was held two weeks ago.
Another pop-up session will be held at the Waubra Football Netball clubrooms on Tuesday March 30 and the final session will be held at Melton Community Hall on Wednesday March 31.
Both will run from 2-7pm.
The Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance group is one of several fighting a proposed 190km powerline from Sydenham to Bulgana which developers Ausnet Services and Mondo say will have pylons up to 80m high.
The Ballarat-to-Melbourne section will be 500kV.
The project would also involve the creation of a new substation north of Ballarat – possibly in the Clarkes Hill area, where the line would be able to intersect with a Ballarat-Bendigo transmission line.
RELATED STORY: AusNet releases clearer idea of transmission line sites
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Main image: An artists impression of what the WVTNP pylons could look like in Darley. Inset: Commissioner Andrew Dyer