Community views vital in planning power grid: Bowen

·2-min read
Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS

Landowners will have a greater say on energy transmission projects in their backyards and receive better compensation, as the Albanese government seeks to address community backlash to its mega-plan to rewire the nation.

Labor went to the 2022 election promising a $20 billion Rewiring the Nation program.

On Monday, Energy Minister Chris Bowen flagged changes to the "seriously flawed" regulatory approvals process, saying it was wrong to dismiss community concerns as "just NIMBYism".

Achieving a social licence is the most important issue faced by the industry as it embarks on the near-total redevelopment of the electricity grid, Mr Bowen told a conference.

In response, he revealed a four-pronged reform to the regulatory investment test for transmission (RIT-T) system.

The plan seeks to ensure the RIT-T process examines social benefits and risks for local communities, instead of a simple economic cost-benefit analysis, and concessional finance dividends are passed on to consumers.

Secondly, communities will be consulted earlier in the planning process to enable genuine input rather than a tokenistic step.

Projects will also be required to deliver longer-term dividends for local communities, including compensation for landholders who host transmission lines, and longstanding investments, such as scholarships, as opposed to short-term funding boosts.

Finally, a new community engagement framework will be developed that increases consultation with First Nations peoples.

"Projects where consultation is done well are quicker, easier and better in the long run," Mr Bowen told the assembled energy executives.

He said the Rewiring the Nation program was necessary to make the nation's electricity grid fit for purpose as new renewable energy projects come online in the quest to reach net zero emissions.

"There's no transition without transmission," he said.

"It doesn't make sense to invest in and build new renewable projects if we can't utilise the energy they produce when they are up and running."

While the program is challenged by supply chain constraints and labour shortages, the energy minister said work is well under way on crucial projects in NSW and Victoria, and in constructing the Marinus Link to connect Tasmania to the mainland.

He advised that consultations for the Victoria to NSW Interconnector West project have concluded and the market operator will soon release the recommended route - the final stage in planning.

Meanwhile, regulatory approvals for the Humelink project, connecting Wagga Wagga, Bannaby and Maragle in NSW, are expected next year.

Mr Bowen flagged more announcements in other states and territories in coming months.