Update February 2024

Ausnet has released a series of fact sheets for the proposed Western Renewables Link project. These include fact sheets on the Environmental Effects Statement, Draft Planning Scheme Amendment and Terminal Stations.

Read the resources on the Western Renewables Link website

Timing - The latest advice is that Ausnet is looking to submit the Environmental Effects Statement (EES) in the second half of 2024. The EES would be exhibited for public comment for at least 40 business days. Council will work to keep the community informed throughout the project.

Council concerned with proposal for more high voltage power lines

Council has expressed concern at the overhead transmission lines proposed as part of the Victoria – New South Wales Interconnector (VNI) West project.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Transgrid released a Project Assessment Conclusions Report (PACR) into the VNI West project on 27 May 2023.

Council has welcomed some aspects and expressed concern about other conclusions outlined in the report. Council is also concerned about the impacts of new options on other regional communities that were previously not affected by the VNI West project. Read Council's latest media release from 30 May 2023.

Council made a strong submission on the consultation report in April 2023. See the submission in the Document Library.

What is the VNI West project?

VNI West is a proposed new high capacity 500 kilovolt (kV) double-circuit overhead transmission line between Victoria and New South Wales. The project originally included a transmission line from Kerang in northern Victoria to a proposed terminal station in Hepburn Shire at Mount Prospect, planned for construction as part of the Western Renewables Link. The preferred site for the terminal station is now identified at Bulgana in Northern Grampians Shire.

Transmissions Victoria has launched a new website in May 2023 with a number of resources, including an interactive map for communities, farmers and Traditional Owners to mark significant sites, landmarks and areas of specific land use within the VNI West proposed route.

Latest news

Supreme Court hands down ruling

The Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance (MCHPA) went to the Supreme Court in 2023 to challenge Minister for Energy Lily D'Ambrosio's decision to fast-track the VNI West and Western Renewables Link project. The Court ruled against the community group on 20 December 2023.

Victoria Energy Policy Centre to launch report

The Victoria Energy Policy Centre is launching its latest report how expanding transmission need not be at the expense of landholders, renewable generators, communities, consumers and the environment.

In collaboration with Simon Bartlett and Darren Edwards, the centre proposes augmentation mostly of existing transmission lines in place the VNI-West super-highway. The plan will deliver results quickly and will expand Victoria’s renewable generation hosting capacity much more than VNI-West. Most importantly their “Plan B” will have a much smaller impact on consumers, landholders and the environment, and will deliver a much more secure transmission system.

Update from New South Wales

On 20 June 2023, New South Wales Minister for Energy Penny Sharpe announced a parliamentary inquiry into feasibility of undergrounding transmission infrastructure. The Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on State Development will inquire into and report on the feasibility of undergrounding transmission infrastructure for renewable energy projects. Read their media release.

AEMO and Transgrid's Project Assessment Conclusions Report

AEMO and Transgrid’s PACR, including a report summary and other documents are available to read in the Links section and Document Library on this page or on AEMO's website.

Key points of the report

  • Mount Prospect is no longer the preferred option for a terminal station.
  • The proposed route of the transmission lines remains largely unchanged.
  • The report recommends an increase in the overhead power lines from 220kV (kilovolt) to 500kV through our Shire. This requires significantly larger towers and exclusion zones which limits agricultural uses along the transmission route.
  • Undergrounding of power lines has not been considered.

Information sessions on latest consultation report

Online information sessions

Australian Energy Market Operator Victorian Planning (AVP) and Transgrid hosted information sessions in March 2023. The purpose of these sessions was to further describe the project that will assist stakeholders and community in making informed submissions on the report.

Watch a recording of the webinar on AEMO Energy's YouTube channel.

As part of the consultation AEMO produced this fact sheet on Farming and transmission in March 2023. There is also a summary of questions and answers from the webinars in our Document Library on this page.

You can read about AEMO's stakeholder consultation plans on their website.

What is Council's position?

Council has make a strong submission to AEMO and Translink regarding the latest consultation report. This submission is available in the Document Library.

We also outlined our position in our media releases in the Links section.

Council is highly supportive of renewable energy and is pleased to see the terminal station proposed for Mount Prospect in Hepburn Shire is no longer the preferred option. While we recognise significant efforts have been made to improve the project, overall we believe there is potential to do better.

Our main concerns about other conclusions outlined in the report are:

  • The largely unchanged power line route.
  • The significantly larger towers recommended in the report which will have an even greater impact on our important landscapes, farming and the community.
  • That the report does not further consider the undergrounding of power.

We will await updates from AusNet on the impact the proposed changes to VNI West will have on the Western Renewables Link (WRL) in terms of route, timing and engagement.

Read more about what Council is doing towards the Western Renewables Link (formerly the Western Victorian Transmission Network project).

Further background on VNI West

VNI West is a proposed new high capacity 500 kilovolt (kV) double-circuit overhead transmission line between Victoria and New South Wales. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) announced the release of the Regulatory Investment Test (RIT-T) for Infrastructure for the project on Friday 29 July 2022.

The project will include a transmission line from Kerang in northern Victoria to a proposed terminal station (originally identified at Mount Prospect in Hepburn Shire but now the preferred site is at Bulgana in the Northern Grampians Shire) to be constructed as part of the Western Renewables Link.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) 2022 Integrated System Plan identifies VNI West as an actionable project to be progressed urgently. The project is currently estimated to cost $3.256 billion.

AEMO has engaged early with Council about its planning for the project and has been advised by Council that proper consultation needs to be undertaken with the Hepburn community.

The prospect of 500kV overhead transmission lines bisecting the shire is of great concern to the Council and Hepburn community.

Planners of major infrastructure projects should ensure they secure appropriate social licence by addressing the environmental, social and economic implications for communities early in project development.