Clarity is needed around renewable energy zones

Gippsland South MLC Danny O’Brien says the state government needs to better explain its plans for transmission lines and renewable energy developments in the region.

THE state government is being asked to explain what is proposed with its Gippsland Renewable Energy Zone and the impacts – positive and negative – on communities.
Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said the government’s announcement had raised more
questions than answers and had initiated concern among some local landholders.
Speaking in state parliament, Mr O’Brien said while there was general support for renewable energy developments, the government needed to do better to explain its plans.
“The government made a $540 million announcement in the budget last year, but gave no indication that its Renewable Energy Zones included things like a proposed 500kv transmission line running from the Latrobe valley to the Giffard area,” Mr O’Brien said.
“We now have a level of concern in that district about a proposed 500MW solar farm which would no doubt link in to that transmission line,” he added.
“The issue is that even if the community accepts that proposal, we don’t know how many other solar or wind farms might be coming to the area, and what exactly the government has in mind.
“So far it has just one page in a document that talks about this new overhead transmission line, but gives no real indication of what it’s intended to service and what the government’s intentions will be for land use in the area.”
Mr O’Brien said he had always given in-principle support to the proposed Gippsland Renewable Energy Park, which would become Victoria’s largest solar farm, but he understood some local landholders had fears.
“I helped facilitate a public consultation between the proponent Solis RE and locals a few weeks ago and it is clear that many people have concerns,” he said.
“These are only exacerbated by the government’s Renewable Energy Zone plans, which so far amount to not much more than a headline in a media release.
“Managing the transition towards renewable energy will be critical and the government needs to ensure that it doesn’t sacrifice Gippslanders or Gippsland landholders as it chases
positive headlines in the city.
“I’ve called on the minister to come to Gippsland to explain what is exactly meant by these zones, what the benefits will be for Gippsland, and what the cost might be for local communities.”
The minister has 30 days to respond to Mr O’Brien’s questions.
The Victorian government is currently developing a Renewable Energy Zone Development Plan, it says “to ensure that investments are coordinated, timely and deliver positive outcomes for Victoria and local communities”.
The first step in the Renewable Energy Zone Development Plan has been the release of a directions paper, which identifies potential projects for investment “that could unlock the potential of our REZs”.
The government says the Renewable Energy Zone will be backed by a $540 million REZ Fund, which will be administered by a new body known as VicGrid.
This body will be tasked with the over-arching planning and development of Victorian REZs.
The government says VicGrid will “actively engage” with regional communities to ensure “appropriate and beneficial development in each REZ”.
The form and function of VicGrid will be determined following feedback from industry and stakeholders.
The directions paper is available online.
Written submissions to the directions paper closed at midnight on Wednesday, March 31.