It was a full house as Victorian and NSW community members gathered in the Murrabit Hall to hear from Vicki Johnson and Gavin Ronan from the Regional Victorian Power Alliance (RVPA).
The RVPA was created in May 2023 after communities who had been battling the Western Renewables Link under the Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance Inc expanded to include VNI West impacted communities.
The RVPA has over 2,500 individual members and over 11,000 supporters through their social and newsletter networks and advocate on behalf of their members and the environment and demand that the projects are reassessed using a comprehensive triple bottom line process to determine if they are needed at all and to comprehensively understand their impacts.
Critics of the projects have stated that technology has evolved since the project’s first inception and that no real alternatives have ever been considered since the AEMO 2018 Integrated Systems Plan. One such alternative is ‘Plan B’, developed by the Victoria Energy Policy Centre (VEPC) in collaboration with Simon Bartlett and Darren Edwards, after studying the VNI West proposals intensively for several years. The consolidated critique set out in their report states that instead of developing a single super-highway, Plan B proposes augmentations mostly of existing lines, using existing easements to greatly expand Victoria’s renewable generation hosting capacity in a way that will be more acceptable to consumers, regional communities, land holders, renewables developers and the environment.
The 83-page document, titled No Longer Lost in Transmission, argues that Plan B is significantly cheaper – $6 billion versus the estimated $11 billion for VNI West and its associated projects – and will therefore avoid a more than doubling of transmission charges in consumer bills.
The authors argue that Plan B is shorter (1,452km vs 1,659km), will unlock more renewables (16.8GW vs 14.4GW), result in less curtailment (13 per cent vs more than 20 per cent), and use more existing easements (1,300km vs 130km).
The RVPA is taking the Victorian Government to the Supreme Court this week, seeking to quash the two ‘VNI West and WRL Ministerial Orders’, which were published by Minister Lily D’Ambrosio in February and May 2023 to fast track both projects.
The ministerial orders were enacted by Victoria under the National Electricity Victoria Act to bypass the resistance the AEMO project was facing in Victoria.
“After six years, it has been relentless and it actually takes nothing into account on the land, there has been no ground truthing, they don’t know any of the impacts,” said Vicki Johnson as she addressed the Murrabit crowd.
During the meeting, the presenters claimed that statements made in the landholder guide sent to Victorian residents in the path of VNI outlining that access could be made under Section 93 were not true as Transmission Company Victoria (TCV) as subsidiary or AEMO would need to hold a transmission licence to use Section 93 and does not hold said licence.
It was also raised that landholders with an active livestock management plan and appropriate signage held greater protections against unwanted farm access under the Victorian Livestock Management Act.
More details on the group and their legal challenge can be found at www.stoplaborstowers.com.au.
This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 7 September 2023.