Minimising Environmental Effects of Energy Transmission Networks

Minimising Environmental Effects of Energy Transmission Networks

Purpose of this Paper

The purpose of this paper is to develop consistent investment assessment framework to facilitate early identification of project risks and potential impacts. Applying enhanced regulatory framework during a project’s inception may avoid or mitigate many of the risks associated with selecting broad areas of interest or multiple corridors without truly understanding a project’s impact.

This framework should be applied during the Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission (RIT-T), as well as recently legislated State-regulated Assessment Tests, and also to ‘in development’ projects that have proceeded beyond these tests.

Involving the community in the route selection process and adopting community supported guidelines will further reduce excessive delays resulting from community conflict and push-back.

Mitigating the impacts of energy transmission networks early will simplify the complex energy transmission routing process and will streamline and expedite new network investments.

Section 1 of this paper discusses the current regulatory framework for new energy transmission and proposes enhancements to this framework to improve viability and expedite project delivery. This section also provides an overview of current and future projects where this community supported framework should be applied.

Section 2 of this paper contains a brief discussion of the types of environmental impacts associated with transmission lines. It also includes a summary of key considerations in transmission line route selection and discusses community supported best practices for project design.

Section 3 of this paper discusses widely accepted and community-guided approaches and best practices for assessing and mitigating impacts associated with the routing, siting, construction, and operation of high-voltage energy transmission and associated facilities.

Section 4 of this paper discusses the importance of early community involvement and informs on the benefits of working to acquire and maintain social license. This section also contains a summary of internationally guided ‘Prudent Avoidance’ practices for siting energy transmission infrastructure.

Feedback is sought from community and industry stakeholders to develop consistent investment assessment framework to facilitate early identification of project risks and potential impacts. Written submissions to the Discussion Paper closes midnight, 30 August 2021.

As we transition to renewables across the country, the need for a secure, effective, efficient, and resilient energy grid is vital.  Most states have not constructed major transmission infrastructure for more than three decades and the circumstances within which future infrastructure will be put in place have changed significantly. Consequently, when engineering an integrated network, it is fundamental the impacts on environment and community be considered as part of the Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission (RIT-T) process, project scoping and development.

It is the view of Energy grid Alliance that all transmission projects should be required to comprehensively consider social and environmental factors and investigate viable transmission alternatives to ensure communities are not adversely impacted and the environment is protected and preserved. We support the new planning rules developed by the Energy Security Board (ESB), passed into law on 13 May 2021 that require both the needs of communities and developers to be considered in renewable energy zone (REZ) design; and align the REZ objectives being pursued at a state level with the actionable Integrated System Plan to ensure REZ developments are part of the optimal development path for the broader power system.

As the role of Energy Grid Alliance is to inform on the benefits of working with communities to establish best planning practices, I have pleasure in attaching a community-guided discussion paper titled ‘Minimising Environmental Effects of Energy Transmission Networks’ for your review and discussion.

Australia requires a more resilient transmission network that will increase the supply of low-cost renewables, balance intermittent wind and solar resources, help meet diverse demand peaks and insure against the increasing unreliability of coal-powered generators. At present, however, investments in large scale transmission networks are being held up by a complex regulatory regime that subjects transmission projects to excessive delays.

Push-back from communities, concerned about the impact of overhead energy transmission is also becoming recognised as a major delay factor with escalating cost impacts on projects. This community opposition adds further delays and signals a new challenge that will be faced by every new transmission project unless an enhanced regulatory framework is adopted, and community stakeholders actively participate in the decision-making process.

This is an opportunity to develop an innovative community guided approach that seeks to mitigate socio-economic and environmental impacts during the project’s inception. This will minimise or eliminate material project delays and costs. Adopting this framework will streamline infrastructure investment and increase the overall net benefit to Victorian economy and energy consumers.

Written submissions to the Minimising Environmental Effects of Energy Transmission Networks Discussion Paper are welcome before midnight 30 August 2021.

Please email framework@energygridalliance.com.au to submit responses to the Discussion Paper.

For any queries regarding the process, please email framework@energygridalliance.com.au

Energy Grid Alliance may publicly release submissions to the Discussion Paper; respondents should indicate where any material is commercial-in-confidence and should not be released.

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