AusNet welcomes the work by the Essential Services Commission to improve consultation with communities directly affected by new renewable energy transmission projects.
The Commission has released a Statement of Expectations which will enable greater collaboration between communities and transmission companies on the important issue of land access. This valuable tool will provide clarity to all parties involved as well as those directly impacted by the development of new transmission lines, such as the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project (WVTNP), which is soon to be renamed as the Western Renewables Link, to underscore the importance of the project for the energy transition in Victoria.
AusNet’s Chief Development Officer, Chad Hymas, says: “The Statement of Expectations will help to ensure the community can hold us to account against clear guidelines of how we are to approach negotiating land access and agreement making.”
AusNet has been commissioned to investigate and develop the proposed 190 kilometre WVTNP by the Australian Energy Market Operator. This proposed transmission network will deliver clean renewable wind and solar generated electricity from the west of the state to maintain safe and reliable electricity supply for all Victoria and help put downward pressure on power prices. Mr Hymas says: “AusNet acknowledges how frustrating and upsetting the process of land access has been for some landholders. We hope that the Statement of Expectations and the training our staff and contractors are doing to deliver this, will improve the experience for landholders, acknowledging the challenges experienced to date.”
Further, the company is yet to begin developing agreements for easements which will require significant engagement with landholders.
“AusNet is absolutely committed to working closely with the Essential Services Commission to ensure the community’s expectations are fulfilled and the process is improved in the future. The work that the Essential Services Commission undertook to ensure the Statement of Expectations met their needs provides us with some assurance that if we can follow it, experiences for landholders will improve,” Mr Hymas says.
AusNet understands the challenges these large infrastructure projects pose for regional communities and individual landholders in particular who are directly impacted by the development of new transmission lines. The proposed electricity transmission project is the first of its kind in over three decades and the transition from existing coal-generated power in other parts of the state to clean wind and solar power generated in western Victoria is complex. Local communities play a vital role in shaping renewable energy infrastructure and we thank them for their cooperation and promise to listen and act on their feedback.
AusNet will incorporate the new expectations into our project practices, as well as investing in the necessary modifications to our procedures, along with initiating training on the new requirements.
“The new statement of expectations is an important step, but there will continue to be issues that need to be resolved as the project progresses. We strongly believe that working closely with the Essential Services Commission will help provide a clearer and more effective process for landholders,” Mr Hymas says.
AusNet thanks the Essential Services Commission for its leadership and guidance on landowner and community engagement practices, and we look forward to closely working with them as Victorians accelerate towards our renewable energy future together.