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Horizon to be transformed

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Photo - Helen Tatchell

By Helen Tatchell

“Perfectly positioned between Melbourne and Ballarat are the picturesque rolling hills and heritage townships of Moorabool Shire. Boasting beautiful gold rush era towns and picturesque environmental areas, Moorabool Shire has something for everyone,” it says on the ‘Explore-Regional Victoria’ website.
However, these picturesque areas are about to change dramatically with over 70km of new 500kV transmission lines proposed to run through Western Victoria and traversing the length of the Shire.
In the AEMO Western Victorian Renewable Integration draft report, it recommends that the preferred option includes the construction of a new 500kV double circuit line from Sydenham to Ballarat.
A submission sent to the AEMO on 26 June 2019 by Moorabool Shire Council stated they are generally supportive of renewable energy, which is evidenced through the substantial number of wind farms (both operational and under construction) within the municipality.
“We are mindful of achieving a balanced outcome where the amenity of the Shire is not unreasonably compromised by the visual intrusion that such infrastructure projects can have on the landscape, and angst this causes within the community,” Moorabool CEO Derek Madden said.
“We are aware the Shire will be significantly impacted and have requested in our submission that we are recognised as a key stakeholder and liaised with frequently to help inform any future decisions as the project continues,” he said.
The Council submission also stated that underground high voltage transmissions lines comes at an increased expense. The Project Assessment Draft Report states “Building a new transmission cable entirely underground – this option is expected to cost up to 10-times more per kilometre than overhead lines, and is not expected to deliver net market benefits”.
Mr Madden said Council is of the view that undergrounding the transmission lines would be a solution to many of the concerns the Shire has with the project.
“If the financial implications are too high in their entirety, then at a minimum the transmission lines should be underground around the towns to minimise the visual intrusion in highly populated areas.
“The Shire demands that the project is conducted in a manner that has the least impact on our residents, our existing landscape, the natural environment, farming activities, our towns and the growth projected for the Shire,” he said.
The draft report also stated that Option C2 has a higher net market benefit because it supports a greater proportion of the new Snowylink interconnector proposed by the Integrated System Plan (ISP) than Option C1.
“If brown coal in Victoria retires early, this may forward the Snowylink interconnecter upgrade identified in the ISP,” the report reads.
And the cost?
In present value terms the report estimated the total capital cost, through the staged implementation process, at $370-million and proposed to commence in 2025.
“The modelling and some of the assumptions used are not reflective of true costs,” Mr Madden said.
“In reality the cost could be much higher. This is suggested in the PADR through the admission there are significant risks and uncertainties.
“Given the decision of viability is based on a consumer pays model, there is potential for this project to create unexpected consumer costs in the long run,” he said.
Mr Madden said Council welcomes further discussion in regard to their submission.

SIDEBAR
– The Regulatory Investment Test – Transmission (RIT-T) process commenced in late 2016, to assess the technical and economic benefits of increasing transmission network capacity in Western Victoria, and to identify a preferred augmentation option. In April 2017, AEMO published a Project Specification Consultation Report (PSCR) that described the need for investment in the Western Victoria region, and the potential investment options to address the need.

– Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has prepared the Project Assessment Draft Report (PADR) (December 2018) to meet the consultation requirements of clause 5.16.4(j) – (s) of the National Electricity Rules.

– Transmission line routes identified in the document are indicative only. The actual transmission line routes will be determined during the detailed design and route assessment phase, after conclusion of the RIT-T process.

“Western Victoria is one area in particular which has become an attractive location of renewable energy generation projects due to the availability of renewable energy resources (such as solar or wind energy). There is significant interest from energy market participants seeking to connect renewable generation projects in Western Victoria to the power system.”
– Fact Sheet – Energy integration in Western Victoria – 2018 and beyond