Dear Editor,

I was disappointed in the article entitled Opposition to Transmission Lines Puts Renewables at Risk in which quoted an emeritus professor stating that “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.”

Transition to renewable energy is a complex issue. It may require 70% of existing farmland to meet energy requirements (without offshore wind) according to the Victorian Government in 2022. The land required for transmission is in addition to that.  Is it unjustified to be concerned when there is no plan about how to ensure we generate energy, grow food and fibre and maintain habitat?

The University of Melbourne in their 2022 Land Gap report identified the total area of land needed to meet projected biological carbon removal in national climate pledges is almost 1.2 billion hectares – equivalent to current global cropland. Countries’ climate pledges rely on unrealistic amounts of land-based carbon removal. This would require half that area being converted to forests.

Pledges are easy to make but harder to achieve, especially when private land is being pledged for multiple purposes. Agriculture land is being pledged as the solution to housing shortages, to energy production, to transmission needs, to timber production and to carbon sinks. It is rare that governments discuss how to achieve these competing desires with the landholders themselves.

When it comes to transmission this can be forced on landholders, often without full compensation for the loss of production year on year.

Farmers have been seeking answers to questions on restrictions.  Instead of answers, local farmers had restrictions placed on their use of machinery 2m lower than the regulation.  This requires a permit from from Ausnet for every piece of machinery used on a farm, and application may need to be made monthly. How can that be seen as unjustified concern?

Hepburn Shire farmers are not alone in seeing these issues and in calling for a better regulatory system. The Energy Charter was launched in 2019.  It was formed from several Australian energy businesses who recognised that better customer outcomes required a whole of sector response. This group has prepared guidelines on land access and social license.  The companies themselves have realised there are issues that need to be dealt with.

The Australian Energy Market Commission also recognizes issues caused by failing to understand landholder impacts.  They are currently seeking feedback on a draft determination and more preferable draft rule that seeks to enhance transmission network service providers (TNSPs) engagement with communities to build and maintain social license.

Current planning processes for transmission lines are not looking at impacts on each and every farm.  There is a long list of things you are not allowed to do that are essential to continued use of the land. These impacts are not currently in the compensation model.

If we are to transition to renewable energy we need a plan that looks at all of the issues – that makes sure we are still able to produce food and fibre and that landholders that are forced to host transmission lines are treated fairly and are not forced to suffer significant economic loss.

Lisa Gervasoni
Hepburn Springs