The switch to cleaner, cheaper power will benefit all of us, and the transition to renewable energy in Australia is happening faster than many of us anticipated. The concentration of large-scale wind and solar in renewable energy zones will bring new jobs and breathe new life into many regional communities.
However, our biggest challenge in seeing through the transition is upgrading our existing electricity grid, the poles and wires that transport our power from where it is generated to where it is needed. To prepare the grid for the massive influx of new energy projects that will be built over the next decade, we need to build large transmission lines to carry all that power.
It's been over 40 years since our country has seen this kind of infrastructure rollout.
While these projects will deliver clean and cheap energy across the country, regional Australians living where these lines will be built should benefit from the projects as well.
Our report Building Trust for Transmission: Earning the social licence needed to plug in Australia’s Renewable Energy Zones, outlines the actions governments, energy regulators and transmission companies need to take to ensure impacted communities benefit—not simply tolerate—new grid projects. This will support regional communities and allow a smooth and timely rollout of transmission lines at the same time.
Ideas included in the report include grant programs for local community groups, co-investment models where nearby communities receive some of the profit, neighborhood improvement schemes that could focus on planting trees and upgrading roads, and a fairer and more transparent compensation system for landholders.
Landholders are watching farmers be generously and annually compensated for the wind turbines and solar panels they host on one hand, but not the big poles and wires that will carry renewable energy to the rest of the grid.
Farmers often point the finger at transmission companies, Transgrid or Ausnet, and they certainly could be doing more. But they are constrained, particularly when it comes to landholder payments, by a regulatory regime that prioritises efficiency and cost-saving to energy consumers above all else.
Changes to regulations at state and federal levels, outlined in the report, would insert earlier and deeper community engagement and improved landholder compensation into the infrastructure pipeline outlined in the ISP.
If you want to get in touch to let us know what you think, please contact [email protected]