The Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources has used powers under the National Electricity (Victoria) Act 2005 (NEVA) to accelerate the Victoria - New South Wales Interconnector (VNI) West project.
VNI West is one of five actionable projects in the 2022 Integrated System Plan (ISP) critical to maintaining reliable and affordable energy for consumers, while supporting Australia’s transition to a net-zero emissions power system and economy.
The order provides for AEMO – in its role as Victorian Planner (AVP) – to undertake an early works program for VNI West and to assess and consult on alternative project options, including the connection point between VNI West and the Western Renewables Link (WRL).
AVP Group Manager Nicola Falcon, said the Government’s decision will enable greater consideration of local community input to complement the regulatory investment test and fast-tracks key project developments.
“AVP and Transgrid will continue to undertake genuine and meaningful engagement with stakeholders in line with the regulatory investment test,” Ms Falcon said.
“The Government’s announcement allows the consideration of alternative project options, leveraging broader stakeholder feedback, and brings forward project early works, such as engagement and consultation on planning and environmental approvals.
“This improved engagement will better reflect the needs of local communities, minimise project delivery and timing risks, and generally improve electricity reliability for all Victorians,” she said.
AVP and Transgrid will publish a consultation report this week that responds to stakeholder feedback on the Project Assessment Draft Report (PADR), including alternative locations for the terminal station connecting VNI West and WRL.
This will be followed by a six-week consultation period for communities, traditional owner groups and stakeholders to provide feedback and ensure the assessment has captured important social, heritage, environmental and economic factors for each option.
This includes those factors that sit outside the scope of the regulatory investment test but may impact on the timely development of the project, consistent with the objectives of the NEVA Order.
“AVP and Transgrid are fully committed to ongoing engagement which is essential to build understanding and ultimately social licence for transmission projects,” Ms Falcon said.
“New transmission projects are critical to harness clean, low-cost electricity and improve the reliability and security of electricity supply as ageing coal-fired power stations close,” she said.