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A new report on earning social licence in the energy industry has just been released, outlining the actions governments, energy regulators and transmission companies can take to ensure impacted communities can benefit from, not just tolerate, new grid projects. 

The release of the RE-Alliance Report, Building Trust for Transmission: Earning the social licence needed to plug in Australia’s Renewable Energy Zones comes as AusNet continues to struggle with the local community surrounding the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project. 

In April 2021, AusNet introduced the Community Consultation Group (CCG), in a bid to improve relations with the community surrounding the proposed Western Victoria Transmission Network Project.

However, just this week, CCG members announced their resignation from the group, as a result of what they describe as “continued misrepresentation, deception and lack of empathy from AusNet representatives”.

The group consisted of 13 members, who are representatives from across the proposed transmission corridor. CCG members now say “AusNet does not have social licence for this project”. 

The release of the RE-Alliance report couldn’t be more timely for the industry.

According to RE-Alliance National Director Andrew Bray, “The switch to cleaner, cheaper power will benefit all of us, and the transition to renewable energy in Australia is happening faster than many of us anticipated. The concentration of large-scale wind and solar in Renewable Energy Zones will bring new jobs and breathe new life into many regional communities. 

“However, our biggest challenge in seeing through the transition is upgrading our existing electricity grid, the poles and wires that transport our power from where it is generated to where it is needed. To prepare the grid for the massive influx of new energy projects that will be built over the next decade, we need to build large transmission lines to carry all that power.  

“While these projects will deliver clean and cheap energy across the country, regional Australians living where these lines will be built should benefit from the projects as well.

“Our report Building Trust for Transmission: Earning the social licence needed to plug in Australia’s Renewable Energy Zones, outlines the actions governments, energy regulators and transmission companies need to take to ensure impacted communities can benefit from, not simply tolerate, new grid projects. We can support regional communities and enable a fast transition to clean power at the same time.”

Ideas included in the report include grant programs for local community groups, co-investment models where nearby communities can receive a share of the profit, neighbourhood improvement schemes that could focus on planting trees and upgrading roads, and a fairer and more transparent compensation system for landholders.

Changes to regulations at state and federal levels, outlined in the report, would insert earlier and deeper community engagement and improved landholder compensation into the infrastructure pipeline outlined in the ISP.

For more information, and to read the report, click here.

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