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A new draft Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) Community Benefits Plan has been revealed for feedback, which will support local communities as they become part of the energy transition. 

The plan recognises the important role that rural and regional communities are playing in the renewable energy transition by providing direct investment in projects that improve energy reliability and affordability for local communities.

A REZ Community Energy Fund will be created in each of the state’s six renewable energy zones – communities will be able to apply for funds for projects that improve power supply, lower energy bills and create energy jobs.

Examples could include things like community microgrids, network upgrades or bulk purchases of solar panels or heat pumps.

Benefits for Traditional Owners will be developed as part of this plan through direct engagement and any benefits will need to deliver economic empowerment and support self-determination.   

The funds for communities and Traditional Owners are in addition to payments to landowners that host transmission infrastructure, who receive $200,000 per kilometre of transmission hosted on their properties, which is on top of existing compensation arrangements. 

Guidelines for significantly impacted neighbour benefits will also be introduced, recognising properties next to land that hosts new transmission infrastructure. 

The new measures in the draft REZ Community Benefits Plan will apply to all new renewable energy projects built in the REZ Zones as well as new transmission projects.

VicGrid is visiting communities in May and June to discuss the draft Plan through workshops and drop-in sessions. Feedback will be used to shape the final Plan, to be released later in 2024. 

Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, said that the government is making sure regional and rural Victorians and Traditional Owners get the best outcomes from the energy transition with special funds for community energy projects.

“As our old coal fire generators close, new renewable energy and transmission infrastructure is critical to keeping the lights on and delivering energy reliability and affordability for all Victorians.”

Image: Sharon Shaw/shutterstock.com

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