The Western Victorian Transmission Line Project (WVTLP) is meeting strong community opposition. The opposition has focused on the impact on the landscape and  farming, its pathway and whether it is an above or below ground installation.

Maybe we should step back and ask, “What is the problem that is being addressed?”

Is the State government aware of a huge shortfall of available energy for the greater Melbourne (population and industrial) area?  Or has policy, investment and geography seen an increasing supply of (renewable) energy without accessible customers?

Before you think I am “shooting Bambi”, I stress that I believe we must decarbonise energy production and supply and we must do it as soon as possible.

The WVTLP appears to address the decarbonisation issue by bringing renewable electricity into the grid with the intent of this replacing electricity generated from fossil fuels. Great! – but ….

We are all aware that electricity from solar and wind must be used as it is produced. And its production is variable because it depends on wind and sunlight. Unless large batteries are included in the system, this  electricity it is not storable. As a result, electricity production effectiveness is severely curtailed. It does not address the need for the grid to maintain immediate demand generation capabilities which are usually fossil fuel based.

So let’s relook at “What is the problem?”

We all want to access renewable energy and increasingly replace the use of  fossil fuel. Renewable energy (Solar and wind) is increasing being made available from “energy farms” across  western and northern Victoria. These are effective energy factories producing a product (electricity) that has an incredibly short shelf life that must get to market and be consumed immediately.

Is there an alternative?

What if the renewable  electricity, at the point of production was transformed into storable energy? Energy that was transporable and available for future on-demand electricity generation.  Green Hydrogen and Green Ammonia are such options and can be produced  using existing technologies. Along with producing a valued added product (the energy is more valuable because it can be used when needed, not just when produced), there would be significant opportunities for regional skilled employment.

What would this mean for the Transmission Line project? Firstly the  green stored energy could be piped (possibly in what may become redundant infrastructure – gas pipelines) eliminating or reducing the scale needed for the transmission lines.  The piped energy (hydrogen or ammonia) could be transformed back into electricity in Melbourne (or elsewhere)  producing the desired decarbonisation impact.

Sounds to good to be true?

Maybe it is. However I would ask the state  government to do an independent review of alternatives to the  WVTLP. It must be independent – not by the electricity industry (regulator or provider).  The federal government in the recent budget has endorsed green hydrogen  “ … to support our future energy needs the world needs clean, flexible, storable and safe fuels. Hydrogen has all of these characteristics.”

The office of the chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, or the CSIRO are obvious candidates for this review.

A modest investment now could enable Victoria to avoid a long term mistake.

Mark Rak, Daylesford.