A new report from the Victoria Energy Policy Centre (VEPC) insists that TransGrid’s proposed HumeLink project, which would draw a triangle of 500kV power lines through the Snowy Valleys, needs a complete rethink.
The report, titled ‘A review of the HumeLink Project Assessment Conclusions Report’, has been picked up by metropolitan news outlets such as The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and the Australian Financial Review, with a focus on the end cost to energy users. They say the project cost has escalated 250 per cent from $1.3 billion to $3.3 billion. Transmission tariffs will increase by 40 per cent and cost the average household an additional $60 per year, but the impact for Snowy Valleys households hits much closer.
Ted Woodley, one of the researchers and a member of the National Parks Association of NSW and ex-Energy Australia MD, said he’s spoken with local landowners and Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr about the impact the power lines will have.
“When you look at the technical, financial and environmental aspects of Snowy 2.0, they didn’t stack up [when the project was announced in 2017] and they still don’t stack up,” he said.
“If anything, the economics have gotten worse and we are now aware of the enormous environmental damage to Kosciuszko National Park and impacts on the landowners affected by HumeLink.”
Mr Woodley said he’s adamantly opposed to overhead transmission lines being built through the Kosciuszko National Park, from Lobs Hole to the proposed substation at Maragle. The Park’s Plan of Management requires all additional transmission to be underground. He said the VEPC paper instead suggests an independent review, from the ground up.
“The whole HumeLink project could have been designed far better and in some cases it could actually replace existing lines,” said Mr Woodley.
“That’s still going to end up with higher towers… but it’s not an additional line. We believe also that undergrounding should be fully evaluated.”
When HumeLink was first introduced to Snowy Valleys landholders, many asked TransGrid to instead consider underground options, but were told that option wouldn’t work financially.
Mr Woodley acknowledged that building underground lines is more expensive than the current overhead option, but said it’s common practice in most of the rest of the world when channeling power lines through ‘valuable’ land, whether environmental or agricultural.
“I think that people probably don’t fully appreciate yet the size of these transmission lines,” he said.
“They’re the biggest transmission lines in Australia; they’re far bigger than the 330 kV lines that people are familiar with.
“They will be very obtrusive in terms of the visual amenity, and they will affect farming in the vicinity of those lines, particularly if you’ve got irrigation or cropping.”
He added that alongside minimising community impacts, there are some compensations to building underground lines, including greater protection from lightning strikes, bushfires and storms.
“If Snowy 2.0 is [going] to be built, then obviously it needs to be connected,” said Mr Woodley.
“The HumeLink corridors are probably the options that are available, but there needs to be an independent review process to have a look at what’s being proposed and to come up with the best solution from the technical, financial, environmental and community perspectives.”
The report’s major recommendation is that Snowy Hydro needs to shoulder its ‘fair share’ of the cost for HumeLink, and ‘not leave that burden on NSW electricity consumers.’
“When Snowy 2.0 was announced it was going to cost $2 billion and be finished in four years, which is this year,” said Mr Woodley.
“In our view, it’s going to cost $10-12 billion, especially when you factor in the transmission costs, which Snowy Hydro says they’re not going to pay for; even though Snowy 2.0 has determined the routing, size, timing and cost of HumeLink.”
The full report was published Monday and can be found online via https://www.vepc.org.au.