Minister readies New England region for transmission consultation

NSW Minister for Energy Penny Sharpe today announced that consultation will soon begin on the corridor identifying possible placements for the transmission lines that will carry power from the New England Renewable Energy Zone to the Upper Hunter. 

This preliminary study corridor for the transmission lines will be approximately 1km wide and will be refined as a result of community consultation undertaken by the NSW Government. 

NSW’s EnergyCo is currently preparing a range of materials to distribute to communities in the region to help build an understanding of what this means for them. The New England Renewable Energy Zone was declared in December 2021 and will be an integral part of NSW’s transition to clean energy as aging coal fired power stations are retired.      

We’re keen to see the NSW Government roll out information about preliminary transmission corridors for the New England REZ and start this stage of the consultation process. We encourage people in the area to get involved – it’s a window of opportunity,” said Heidi McElnea, our Engagement Coordinator who is based in the New England region. 

“Communities have an innate knowledge of their local area, and we all need to work together to find the best ways to balance planning, people and the environment, as well as the technical aspects,” Ms McElnea said. 

We are working in the region to connect local people to the right information, building the capacity of locals to know what an excellent transition can look like. Community Power Agency does this through fostering collaboration, offering capacity building to local governments and community organisations and sharing expertise on community engagement, benefit sharing and local procurement.     

There is an interactive map on the New England Renewable Energy Zone website, and it is expected to be updated with the proposed transmission corridor as early as June. That web address is https://caportal.com.au/energyco/rez

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Help your community build local energy resilience with our how-to guide

Over the past decade, regions across Australia have experienced weather events of increasing intensity and frequency. These weather events put pressure on our essential infrastructure such as gas, electricity and water. Climate extremes can also impact our social, economic and emotional wellbeing of communities. Communities who have their basic energy needs met will be better able to respond to these additional challenges. That is why the Community Power Agency has teamed up the Energy Innovation Cooperative to deliver a how-to guide on Resilient Energy Centres (RECs).

What is a Resilient Energy Centre (REC)? 

A REC is a building that has been equipped with a backup energy system so that it is energy independent in the case of a region being cut off from the main electricity grid. Possible functions of the RECs might be that it is a space for resilience planning and an energy resource for response and recovery. However, ultimately the local communities who are leading on the development of these centres should determine their use, in conjunction with key stakeholders. That way, RECs can be fit for purpose and meet the needs of the community. Importantly, RECs are not a place of refuge, emergency relief or a place of last resort. Those places are specific and managed by state and local authorities trained and resourced to operate them.

Key points of our how-to guide

We walk you through the a-z of developing a REC. 

  • First things first, community engagement. 
    A REC should be fit for purpose and reflect the needs and values of the community. Our guide walks you through the principles of community engagement and strategies to help garner community feedback, including sample survey questions. 
  • How to identify potential locations for resilient energy centres
    Every community is different, so we point you in the direction of the people who can help you assess potential locations for a REC. In some cases, you might be able to utilise an existing facility. We detail some considerations that should be given such as accessibility, safety, building requirements and key questions to ask energy system installers.
  • How to establish an organisational structure
    Whether you’ve found a host, or you’re building from scratch, you will need to establish an organisational structure to manage the REC. This could be an existing organisation in the community. Or perhaps you might need to establish a new organisation. Our guide walks you through some of the most relevant considerations, such as; organisational structures, the pros and cons of registering with the Australian Charities and Not-forprofits Commission and how you can manage ongoing operations. 
  • Tech support
    Locking in an installer as early as possible is key. As licensed electricians, they should be able to advise on what technologies or equipment is appropriate for your installation and suggest options for what to choose. Be sure to check out our guide to be across all the most common technologies that are relevant to RECs such as batteries, generators, and the electricity demand of different devices. 
  • Case studies
    We explore case studies from the Upper Kiewa Valley in Victoria and the coastal town of Moruya and the Hawkesbury region in New South Wales. All REC developments should be approached on a case-by-case basis, and these examples illustrate how different they can be. Each case study explains the type of REC that was developed, funding, lessons learned during the process and community outcomes.
  • How to fund RECs
    There are commonly three stages of funding required: feasibility or early community engagement; capital expenditure and installation; and ongoing community activities and system maintenance. There are many different avenues to explore when trying to source this funding. Our guide explores common sources such as crowdfunding, philanthropy, government and private grants, and gifted equipment. 
  • How to determine roles and enable organisations
    Developing a REC requires many different people and organisations taking on clear roles to contribute to the project’s development and success. Whilst the strength of RECs is that generally they are community led, staff and volunteers from other agencies are available for support, contacts and technical advice. Our guide can help you divide and conquer.
Transmission lines pictured on green hills with blue sky in the background.

Community engagement needed for roll-out of Victoria’s transmission host payment plan

Press release

The Victorian government has announced a new program to pay landholders who host transmission lines on their properties. 

Under the program, eligible landholders will receive a payment of $8,000 per kilometre, per year, for 25 years.

Community energy advocate, Community Power Agency, welcomed the news but called for more localised engagement around the payment plan along with a co-designed process for other supportive benefit sharing initiatives that are tailored to meet the needs of host communities. 

It’s a step in the right direction in that the Victorian Government is acknowledging that the community and the landholders really do have an important role to play in enabling this climate critical infrastructure”, Community Power Agency Director Kim Mallee said. 

“But it is essential that the community has a genuine seat at the table when we’re designing these kinds of policies and the way that we roll out infrastructure like transmission lines for the energy transition.”

This framework follows in the footsteps of the NSW government who last year announced a payment plan of $200,000 per kilometre of new transmission infrastructure for landowners, paid out in annual installments over 20 years. 

The Community Power Agency is helping community groups and local governments understand the various types of benefit sharing opportunities associated with the clean energy transition. This collaboration helps to create authentic engagement strategies that have community design at their core.