June 16, 2024

Victorian landowners whose views are spoiled by new power transmission lines on neighbouring properties could receive one-off compensation payments of up to $40,000 under a plan being considered by the state government.

The new transmission planning agency, VicGrid, has opened consultation on a scheme that would collect funds from power companies to pay communities affected by new transmission lines.

Under the proposed community benefits scheme, people with lines built on their properties would receive $200,000 per kilometre – paid in annual instalments of $8,000 over 25 years. The payments would be indexed to inflation.

Meanwhile, neighbouring properties “significantly impacted” by upgrades or new transmission lines could receive a one-off payment of up to $40,000. This would include rural blocks within 400 metres of projects and urban properties within 200 metres.

To be eligible for the payment, the property owners would need to demonstrate a “significant loss of visual amenity including surrounding natural landscape”.

The power lines would have to be “clearly visible from the point of the dwelling, home occupation or other site of sensitive land use”, with payments to decrease in size the further away the property was.

VicGrid was also seeking feedback on an “exceptional circumstances” clause under which property owners could be paid more than $40,000 – such as “impacts to culturally significant sites or practices”, or hospitality and tourism businesses that might lose income due to any changes.

Under the proposed scheme, funds would also be directed to regional communities and traditional owners.

The Victorian government is facing a backlash from communities across western Victoria over two proposals to build high-voltage transmission lines to transport electricity as more renewable energy comes online.

The projects are the Victoria to NSW Interconnector West – known as VNI West – and the Western Renewables Link, a transmission line intended to carry wind and solar-powered energy from a power station in Bulgana in western Victoria to Sydenham in Melbourne’s north-west.

For several years, communities have campaigned against the lines, which will travel hundreds of kilometres and include poles as high as 85 metres in some locations.

Critics want the lines built underground or along different routes – although the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) has argued other proposals would be too costly.

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Aemo anticipates the country needs more than 10,000km of new transmission lines and a ninefold increase in large-scale wind and solar energy if Australia wants to meet its climate targets and set up a zero-emissions future.

VicGrid’s consultation paper said the transition to net zero would deliver “unprecedented new investment in renewable energy generation, transmission and storage projects” and provide “growth opportunities” for the regions, where most of the development would occur.

“However, it is important that host communities are involved in decision-making from the outset and to ensure that they receive direct benefits from hosting this critical infrastructure,” it states.

“Through community engagement so far, we know more needs to be done to achieve better outcomes for hosting communities and deliver lasting benefits that are flexible, responsive, community-focused and shared fairly.”

Consultation closes on 16 June with a final plan to be published in late 2024.

A bill creating the community benefit scheme is then expected to be introduced into the Victorian parliament in early 2025.

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