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Victoria releases new transmission framework that responds to key feedback on community engagement

The new Victorian Transmission Investment Framework (VTIF) was released earlier this month. It will set in place a new structure for transmission infrastructure and Renewable Energy Zones in Victoria.

In outlining the new framework, the government said, “We are introducing changes to make sure this is done in a timely way that reduces impacts and provides benefits for affected host Traditional Owners, local communities and landowners.” This framework complements the new payment scheme for landholders who host new transmission including those in development such as Western Renewables Link and VNI West.

It’s good to see that Victoria has taken on board feedback about what has not been working and made the space to address many issues.

The new transmission focussed government agency, VicGrid, takes on delivery of the framework for new onshore transmission and will continue its role for transmission infrastructure for offshore wind in Gippsland and Portland, to enable connection of 2GW of offshore wind by 2032. 

What is it?

The new Victorian Transmission Investment Framework:

  • Incorporates environmental objectives and the State’s needs in response to the transition to renewable energy.
  • Sets up a planning process for new transmission lines and REZs for the next 25 years, with a Victorian Transmission Plan being published every 4 years. Traditional Owners, local communities, landowners and other regional stakeholders will feed into this planning process early, before transmission routes are determined.
  • Initiates place-based approaches to engagement and benefits for impacted Traditional Owners, local communities and landholders with a focus on collaborative, long-term approaches in a defined area. 

What does it mean for existing projects?

On a key question of how this will apply – or not – to projects that are already underway, the government says it wants to apply its defining principles to current projects where possible. They say this will focus on strengthening community engagement principles and benefits for transmission projects. In regard to route selection, VNI West used “multi-criteria analysis (MCA) used to broadly identify potential environmental, social and engineering constraints.” This was made possible with action from the Energy Minister earlier in the year and, under the new framework, looks set to be applied to other projects.

Again this is good to see, and addresses a key challenge with transmission projects generally: when we are able to gain good change it is often difficult to apply to existing projects. 

What do we like about it?

It’s good to note that our recommendations for the framework have been included in the final design, including: 

  • A new strategic planning process which will take on the views of communities early in the process via a strategic land use assessment (SLUA) geospatial mapping exercise to identify the lowest impact corridors for transmission development and new generation
  • A new Victorian Network Investment Test which may be either least net cost or maximum net benefits. In effect, transmission necessary for reliability and security of supply is built even if returns a net cost. This should see a greater supply of cleaner, cheaper renewable energy become available to Victorians sooner.

What’s next?

We will continue engagement with VicGrid and other stakeholders as this new framework is rolled out. We see a real need for investment in a local presence in regional areas to help the community understand what is happening, as well as opportunities to be involved in shaping them through the planning process and community benefits. 

As we previously recommended, there are key actions that could build on the new framework – in particular:

  • VicGrid’s role and function should be broadened to REZ coordination, strategic opportunities, leadership, advocacy and facilitation of generation development.
  • VicGrid’s role should include being publicly facing, ambitious and out-front in addition to advocating to the Federal Government in regard to the Rewiring the Nation Package.

Communities can now get involved through the REZ stakeholder groups that will be set up. To find out more, VicGrid is hosting information sessions for industry (June) and the general public (July): 

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