– Tony Goodfellow, Victoria/Tasmania Coordinator, RE-Alliance.
In a great example of the local leadership that is needed to build a successful energy transition, a local west Victorian organisation is calling for transmission infrastructure upgrades to unlock the opportunities offered by renewables.
The Wimmera Development Association (WDA) is “the peak economic development organisation for the Wimmera Southern Mallee region,” which encompasses the area around Horsham, and they recently released the report ‘Keeping the lights on & enabling a renewable energy revolution in Wimmera Southern Mallee’.
The Wimmera Southern Mallee (WSM) region has some of the best wind and solar resources in the country – and the report highlights the widespread local support for renewable energy.
“Residents in the WSM region are supportive of new wind and solar generation developments in their area, with 80 per cent supporting new wind projects and 86 per cent supporting new solar projects.”
There are three Renewable Energy Zones in western Victoria, and the projects in them represent a potential of $6.16 billion in investment, 1,737 jobs and 3,082 indirect jobs for the region.
However a major block to accessing these opportunities is transmission infrastructure: “...there are over 19 renewable energy projects, totalling over 10 GW, under consideration in this area. However, without additional transmission, they could not be connected.”
“The WDA, representing the communities in the region, is strongly supportive of transmission infrastructure upgrades in the WSM region to unlock the economic opportunities flowing from both proposed and future renewable generation capacity.”
The report highlights energy issues and the potential consequences of missing out on being an energy superpower with an example of energy poverty:
“Businesses and community members in the region see this situation as exemplifying energy poverty. This extends beyond economic development, to operational impacts now and restrictions on future opportunities. As noted by another person ‘there’s a [food industry] business here in Horsham, and their equipment is all electronically monitored. If they get a surge in power, it will shut down the batch and then they lose two hours to a full clean out and [also lose] that batch’. Critically, this impacts the capacity of local businesses to expand – i.e. businesses looking to grow cannot add additional facilities/equipment. This restricts both business operation and, importantly, the creation of new jobs.”
Thus, the report concludes with the Wimmera Development Association and its member councils committing to “be prepared to be public (and vocal) supporters of any decision that involves moving the terminal station to Bulgana.” They also, “would like the opportunity to partner with government on promoting the wider opportunities that renewable energy investment can deliver in repositioning the Wimmera Southern Mallee regional economy.”
It’s wonderful to see local leaders advocating for decisions that will help their communities make the most of the opportunities our renewable energy transition offers.