Member for Mallee Anne Webster says the poor consultation process Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has conducted on changes to the Victoria-New South Wales Interconnector West has left Mallee communities with more questions and concerns than answers.
Under an order by the Victorian Labor Government, AEMO has expedited progress on the 500 kilovolt (kV) double-circuit overhead transmission line connecting to the Western Renewables Link at Bulgana and to EnergyConnect at Dinawan Energy Hub in NSW via a new terminal station near Kerang.
Farmers have been blindsided by the proposal, which was originally understood to be an upgrade to an existing 220kv line from Ballarat to Kerang via Bendigo. The new proposal, Option 5, would see infrastructure built on valuable farmland, including irrigation districts throughout Mallee.
“Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio signed off on this order and AEMO have forged ahead with their ‘consultation’ process but they are not being transparent with local communities ,” Dr Webster said.
“I have been inundated with concerned landholders from Donald, Charlton, St Arnaud, Horsham and the communities in the Loddon Shire such as Bridgewater, Inglewood and Boort who are going to be directly affected by the overhead lines and towers going through their properties.
“They are getting little clarity; I’m being told they are being fed high level jargon-heavy information so AEMO can tick a box and say they have consulted, which is a sham process – it’s a Clayton’s consultation.”
Meanwhile the development of the Western Renewables Link and VNI West has been criticised by energy market experts.
“Professor Simon Bartlett AM (previously a member of the National Electricity Market’s Reliability Panel, a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Chief Operating Officer of Powerlink) and Professor Bruce Mountain (Director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre at Victoria University) have released a detailed critique of AEMO’s plans,” Dr Webster said.
“It is deeply disturbing that experts are pulling apart AEMO’s plans and calling it a monumental mistake with an enormous risk of failure, but AEMO Victorian Planning are pressing on anyway.”
In an ABC report this week a spokesperson for Federal Labor Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the Federal Government’s Rewiring The Nation commitments (including VNI West) would support AEMO’s Integrated Systems Plan and other projects that modernise Australia’s electricity grids and increase access to renewables.
“Federal Labor claims AEMO’s plan is a ‘roadmap for the transmission revolution the country needs’ – but Minister Bowen is caught up in ideology rather than reality,” Dr Webster said.
“What we are seeing is city-based Federal and State Labor Governments pushing forward with an agenda, taking a politically expedient road with no care for how it impacts Mallee farmers and their communities.
“We need transparency from AEMO and from both levels of Government about the true impact this infrastructure will have.”