The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) announced earlier this month that it is investigating options to connect the Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector West project (VNI West) to the Western Renewables Link (WRL) at a location further west than the WRL project’s proposed terminal station at Mount Prospect.

This may have implications for the route of the WRL and proposed terminal station less than 15km from Daylesford and within prime agricultural land.

AusNet are reconsidering the route and terminal sstation location in light of decisions about the VNI West.  AusNet will investigate alternate terminal station locations including sites in the Bulgana and Waubra/Lexton areas.

Both AusNet and AEMO have received considerable feedback from communities and stakeholders about the powerlines and substation.  As part of the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process, AusNet is investigating project alternatives and evaluating the impact that any proposal to relocate the proposed terminal station will have on the WRL project.

If the current Mount Prospect terminal Sstation site is retained, it is probable that another 500kV VNI West transmission line would connect the station to Bendigo.

If the Terminal Station moves to Waubra/Lexton, the 500kV WRL lines would join the 500kV VNI West transmission line from Bendigo at that point. The proposed route in its majority would remain with a deviation in the Waubra/Lexton area.

The most favourable location from a Hepburn Shire perspective would be a terminal station at with 500kV WRL line and a 500kV VNI West transmission line running north to Kerang. However, other communities would be seriously impacted.

At this stage, the WRL EES will be submitted to the Victorian Government in early 2023. However, if AEMO decides to connect VNI West to a WRL terminal station in a different location, the submission of the WRL EES may be further delayed.

Hepburn Shire Council has welcomed the announcement that alternative options for the transmission line route and terminal station for the VNI West project are being considered.

“Council is incredibly supportive of reliable renewable energy,” said Mayor, Cr Brian Hood, “but these projects will be part of communities for decades to come. They need to be well-planned and thought out. This has not been the case for VNI West nor the Western Renewables Link to date,” said Cr Hood.

“We have worked closely with our community to oppose this project and this review is a positive sign that we may be listened to,” he said. 

“The very large terminal station and power lines up to 80m high would be an incredible blight on our landscapes and have considerable adverse impacts on the highly-valuable and productive agricultural land in our Shire.”

While no decision has been made to change the proposed location, Council is optimistic that the review opens the opportunity for a rethink of the project. 

“We are grateful that levels of government are listening to our community’s concerns with this project and will be very interested in the alternative options that they propose,” he said.