misunderstanding community opposition to transmission lines – pv magazine Australia

Australia will need to “efficiently” install more than 10,000 km of new transmissions to reach its net zero target by 2050, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator. Strengthening transport is also a cornerstone of the new Albanian government’s climate policy, Rewiring the Nation.

It is therefore worrying that at this precise moment, community movements against large transmission projects are gaining strength and depth.

In its recently published report ‘Acquiring a Social License for Power Transmission – A Best Practices Approach to Power Transmission Infrastructure Development‘, the Victorian advocacy group Energy Grid Alliance argues that the energy industry must ensure that it really understands why communities oppose these projects, rather than simply dismissing it as ‘NIMBYism’ (Not in my back -court).

It proposes to reform transport planning frameworks alongside industry by exploring different models of benefits not only for directly affected landowners, but also for neighbors and regions more broadly, including community ownership approaches. and taking into account the burial of high-voltage DC lines.

“Now they’re in a situation where if he [transmission planning frameworks] does not reset, the industry will stumble over regulatory hurdles and community opposition over the next few years,” said Energy Grid Alliance Director Darren Edwards. pv magazine australia.

“The ability to meet climate change obligations and future energy needs depends on communities having confidence in the fair, just and transparent planning process,” says the Energy Grid Alliance.

Regional communities know the process is flawed and the framework isn’t right, “so there’s no way they’re backing down,” Edwards adds.

“The current regulatory environment, not community opposition, is holding back investment in transmission.”

Money is not always everything

The opposition, according to the Energy Grid Alliance, stems from planning practices that focus on finding the least-cost corridors for transmission lines, without considering environmental and socio-economic impacts from the outset.

Moreover, planning is largely done within major cities and “imposed” on regions, which are home to the vast majority of energy assets and renewable projects in the country. Metropolitan planners do not understand the relationship that regional communities have both with the land and with each other, and therefore do not understand why opposition occurs.

After consulting with regional community groups, the Energy Grid Alliance report highlights the fact that regional Australians, whether they are intergenerational farming families or new ‘tree change’ dwellers, regard as “stewards” of the earth. “They have a real emotional connection to the land,” Edwards says, “it becomes a part of them.”

“This deep attachment to place lends credibility to those who oppose development that could have a negative impact on their territory; it is not “just” a reactionary “Not in my garden” (NIMBY) phenomenon… but an opposition based on a sense of responsibility to care for the place, a love and intimate understanding of the land and water, and the intertwining of its identity with a place through investment in land,” reads the report.

Inadequate planning processes

Many of these communities are also highly connected and feel a strong sense of social “oneness,” as Edwards puts it. In addition to facilitating community mobilization, this has led to a strong awareness in regional communities that transport planning practices, and more broadly national energy laws and targets, largely neglect to consider environmental and environmental impacts. social in the early stages.

Australia’s current transmission planning model primarily looks at the cost of all transmission projects over $500 million going through what is called a regulatory investment test. The test examines the “gross profit”, i.e. the profit for the market, as well as the construction and operating costs. To arrive at the final “net profit” of the project, the cost of construction is subtracted from the “gross profit,” says Edwards, noting the model recognized as lacking by the communities themselves.

When considering why we are switching to renewables in the first place (to protect the environment), the fact that environmental impacts are not factored into the regulatory investment test “makes it laughable,” says Edwards.

“Recognizing that the regulatory environment is not fit for purpose, continuing with existing projects developed within the current framework is akin to building a house without a solid foundation,” the report said.

“No amount of putty or paint (often referred to as Environmental Effects/Impact Statements) will hide the cracks that have appeared or prevent the long term consequences of not having the right frame from the start. And as the communities have strongly indicated, no financial incentive will compensate for oversights in planning.

The report points to some of the anti-transmission groups that have gained traction in Australia, including SOLVE Tasmania (which opposes the UPC-TasNetworks transmission line), Stop HumeLink Towers (which opposes TransGrid’s HumeLink in NSW) , Stop AusNet’s Towers (opposes the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project), Merriwa-Cassilis Alliance (against the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone Transmission project in New South Wales), Gippsland Farmers (against the transmission line linking Gippslands REZ in Victoria.

Compensation no quick fix

“Pushing the ‘talk to them early and pay them more’ agenda is very likely to further dilute trust, increase opposition and dissolve any credible opportunity to gain social license,” the report said.

“What energy investors and consumers need and what many are asking for is an architect with a set of plans, backed by rules and regulations that consider the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), to deliver the best technical, social and environmental solutions and redefine our energy future.

“The transition to renewable energy and the acquisition of a social license could benefit from regulators able to take into account social, economic, emissions and environmental impacts – rather than focusing only on the net benefits and the lesser cost to everyone who generates, consumes and transmits electricity.This will minimize planning risks and create benefits for the climate, business, industry, society, environment and economy.

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