Clean energy infrastructure push hits hurdle amid fight over farmland as Anthony Albanese visits Tamworth
Albanese said he had a respectful and constructive discussion on Friday with farmers who wanted to ensure there was proper consultation before transmission routes were finalised.
“Clearly the energy companies need to do better when it comes to that engagement and consultation,” Albanese said.
“We do need to respond to climate change, but we also need to take up the opportunity that’s there for a growth in jobs that will come from renewable energy – that renewable energy is the cheapest form of new energy.”
Power line delays are being driven in part by local objections to the effect key projects such as HumeLink in NSW and the Western Renewables Link and VNI West in Victoria will have on property values, the environment and the landscape.
Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood said these projects were “all way behind where they need to be” and the government might need to spend money to both speed them along and buy the land corridors required.
“To get anywhere near the 82 per cent renewables, which is also directly connected to the 43 per cent emissions reduction target, is looking quite hard,” Wood said.
“The only way you’re going to do that is to really put your foot down, which means you may end up building some stuff that is more expensive than you had hoped, and you may end up having to do compulsory acquisition.”
Australia is experiencing one of the world’s fastest energy transitions as the profitability of coal-fired power stations, which still make up two-thirds of the electricity grid, is hammered by cheaper sources of renewable energy.
AGL’s Liddell coal plant in NSW closed earlier this year and at least four more – the Yallourn generator in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, NSW’s Eraring and Vales Point power plants, and Queensland’s Callide B – are expected to shut down by 2030.
This means massive volumes of coal-fired power must be replaced by the end of the decade, which requires thousands of kilometres of new transmission lines to be urgently built to plug in giant new wind and solar farms, and better facilitate the flow of clean energy from one part of Australia to another.
However, the transmission links joining the eastern states’ power grids are already “maxing out”, the Australian Energy Market Operator has warned, while massive volumes of solar and wind power are having to be curtailed because there was not enough transmission capacity to transport it.
Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen announced on Thursday “overdue improvements” to consultation with local communities that he said would ensure they reaped the benefits of new jobs and investment in renewable projects.
The draft rule changes, to be implemented by the Australian Energy Market Commission, say communities must be able to consider and respond to project proposals, companies must take their feedback into account, and consultation must start early in the planning process and continue frequently throughout development.
New England Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce spearheaded a farmer protest in his electorate on Friday, which was timed to coincide with Albanese’s visit to Tamworth, accusing the government of overseeing “tick-a-box” consultation while the threat of compulsory land acquisition hung over farmers.
“The government, who has the power to compulsorily acquire and drive their agenda through your land – to change the landscape around your house – are doing precisely that,” Joyce told the ABC.
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