Hepburn Shire Council is opposed to major transmission lines for renewable energy going through Hepburn Shire.

Council is opposed to the project in its current location and form because of its impact on a number of agricultural land owners and the visual impact of the transmission towers and overhead lines.

But there are growing concerns that renewable energy targets are unlikely to be met if major transition line projects are stalled. Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University, Professor Andrew Blakers  argues that Australia will not meet its 82 percent renewable target if opposition and lack of investment in transmission lines continues.

According to Professor Blakers, we will need to triple electricity production if we are to shift from gas and coal to renewable electricity to meet our CO2 emissions reductions targets.

Professor Blakers said, “We’re about 10 per cent of the way. We’ve got 25 years to get the other 90 per cent of the way and the developers will put in the solar and wind farms five minutes after the transmission is finished.”

“There is certainly some community opposition to transmission. I think some of it is manufactured and some of it is genuinely felt, but all of it is unjustified,” he said.

“We have an emergency. We need to decrease the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere as quickly as we can. That is far more damaging to regional areas through drought, bushfires and floods than the odd transmission line here and there.”

The Western Renewables Link  is planning overhead high voltage transmission lines through Hepburn Shire from east to west through the Mt Prospect, Newlyn, Kingston and Smeaton communities.

Council wants to see transmission line infrastructure placed underground or re-routed so as to avoid impacting on high quality agricultural land, attractive heritage landscapes and the wellbeing of local communities. However proposals like these have been found to be costly and unrealistic.

Despite the Council’s opposition, following a recent review of the project, the independent market regulator AEMO has recommended a combination of minor upgrades to existing infrastructure and major transmission works – including a new terminal station north of Ballarat and long-distance high voltage transmission lines between Bulgana and Sydenham terminal stations – staged over several years, with the final component expected to be in operation by 2025. This investment is estimated to cost $370 million, and will produce a total return of $670 million in market benefits, resulting in net benefits of $300 million.

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