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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Electrical line continues to divide western Victoria

The biggest energy infrastructure project in generations has a new preferred route, but some stakeholders worry the project is being rushed through.

An electrical transmission build has recharged community concerns after a route change and ministerial intervention.

The planned line to connect Victorian and NSW grids has faced resistance from Victorian landowners along its original path and the Victorian Farmers Federation says those near the new preferred corridor haven't been consulted.

"Yet again, the government has allowed AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) to announce a new transmission route in the dead of the night, without one jot of consultation with the farmers that could be impacted," federation president Emma Germano said in a media release.

The new preferred option was announced with the backing of a ministerial order from Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio on Saturday afternoon, drawing ire from the farming group.

"The minister is using autocratic powers to rush these projects meaning there is no requirement for a cost benefit analysis or competitive tender," Ms Germano said.

"Victoria's energy rules aren't just broken, they're rotten."

The new route - while not finalised - will run across the Murray River north of Kerang, instead of near the tourist town of Echuca.

AEMO would not respond to the federation's comments, but said the new route had been developed after considering more than 600 submissions covering issues including sensitive cultural areas, biodiversity and prime agricultural land.

It also noted the Wimmera Development Association and Gannawarra Shire Council had requested the project to run through their local government areas and hoped to boost their local energy infrastructure.

A Victorian government spokesman said it was providing additional payments to private landowners to have the line on their land.

Payments to host landowners were initially set at $8000 per kilometre annually for 25 years.

The government says as the ageing coal-fired generators retire, the transmission line is necessary to deliver reliable renewable energy to homes and businesses across Victoria.

Victoria Energy Policy Centre director Bruce Mountain believes the plan is greatly under-costed and there are alternatives.

"We think there are much quicker, better alternatives to set out," Professor Mountain told AAP.

"This is a legacy way of thinking about transmission... that has been superseded by changes in wind and solar costs."

Prof Mountain and colleague Simon Bartlett will write a response to AEMO's last report and present it in a public seminar in July.

"It's extremely problematic," he said.

"This is the biggest energy policy decision, I think, since the establishment of brown coal generators in the (Latrobe) Valley, the biggest transmission project in the history of our state."


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