AEMC proposes rule changes for major transmission projects

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As authorities seek to accelerate the expansion of the grid to cater for Australia’s transition to renewables, the country’s energy market rule marker has published draft regulations for community engagement that would form part of the process for securing approvals on major transmission projects.

The Australian Energy Market Commission’s (AEMC) draft conditions would formally require transmission businesses looking to develop major new projects to engage earlier in the planning process and continue the engagement throughout transmission regulatory investment test (the RIT-T).

AEMC Chair Anna Collyer said the draft rules aim to provide greater transparency and reduce uncertainty around major transmission projects, by stipulating when transmission businesses are required to engage, who they must engage with and how it needs to occur.

“‘Social licence’ is a term that is used a lot when we talk about infrastructure delivery, but behind the term are individuals and communities who deserve timely access to transparent information and clarity about their rights,” she said.

“With more than 10,000 kilometres of transmission lines to be built to support the national electricity market, these rules for engagement are an important step in improving the community engagement process on major projects.”

Collyer said getting the right frameworks in place means “conversations between communities and transmission businesses should happen sooner, so that concerns can be identified and addressed by networks earlier in the process.”

Under the draft rules, transmission businesses would be required to engage with “stakeholders who are reasonably expected to be affected” by development of major transmission projects including local landowners, local councils, local community members and traditional owners.

Those stakeholders would have to receive information that is “clear, accurate, relevant and timely and explains the rationale for the proposed project.” The draft conditions say the information and means of communication must be tailored to the needs of different stakeholders, and those stakeholders must have “sufficient opportunity to consider and respond” to the information provided.

The draft rules would apply throughout the planning of “actionable” or “future” Integrated System Plan (ISP) projects and renewable energy zones (REZs).

Collyer said the draft rules have been informed by “multiple rounds of feedback” and take in recommendations from the AEMC’s Transmission Planning and Investment Review which was completed earlier this year.

“Stakeholders will now have another opportunity to provide feedback for consideration in response to these draft rules,” she said.

The AEMC will hold a virtual public forum on 29 August 2023 while written stakeholder submissions are being accepted until 28 September 2023.

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