Community coalition renews fight against HumeLink transmission project


Landowners in the path of the proposed 500 kV, 360-kilometre energy transmission project in southern New South Wales (NSW) said safety and environmental concerns raised by NSW Fire and Rescue and NSW Environment and Heritage are being ignored by the state government.

In response to Transgrid’s Environment Impact Study for the HumeLink project, the Stop Rethink HumeLink (SRH) coalition, a joint initiative of the HumeLink Alliance Inc and HumeLink Action Group, has highlighted the government agencies’ concerns about environmental, public safety, and cultural heritage impacts.

“Among the most explosive submissions by government agencies, is one from the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) which stressed the importance of resilient transmission infrastructure in fire events and recommends the undergrounding of transmission lines,” SRH said in a statement.

SRH spokesman Michael Katz said the RFS’s view, in accordance with the Planning for Bush Fire Protection (PBP) 2019 guidelines, should put the transmission lines underground “to limit the possibility of ignition of surrounding bushland and to enhance protection of critical infrastructure in the event of bush fires.”

Katz said the Department of Planning and Environment’s Biodiversity, Conservation and Science Directorate (BCS) also expressed grave concerns about the project’s potential for “serious and irreversible Impact” on critically endangered ecological communities and threatened species.

The agency identified potential risks to Box Gum Woodland and Tableland Basalt Forest communities, along with critically endangered orchids and the smoky mouse.

In a keynote address at a March 2024 Social Licence in Energy Symposium, Transgrid Chief Executive Officer Brett Redman said community acceptance in driving the successful development of transmission projects was of critical importance.

He emphasised the need for transparent communication, active engagement, and genuine collaboration with local communities to ensure their voices are heard and respected throughout the energy transition.

Transgrid is currently seeking public submissions on two HumeLink public consultations for the HumeLink Contingent Project Application Stage 2 (CPA2) (closes 3 April 2024) and Transgrid’s Response to the Material Change in Circumstances (MCC) assessment (closes 21 March 2024).

“Before rubberstamping this project, the government needs to have a truly independent review of all options,” Katz said.

“This should include consideration of a proposal by internationally recognised energy transmission engineering consultancy, Amplitude Consultants, for an underground transmission line along a revised route that Transgrid has labelled ‘credible,’ which would only be marginally more costly than the preferred overhead line.”

Subject to the Australian Energy Regulator’s revenue determination and completion of finance arrangements, construction of the HumeLink transmission line project, that will link the Snowy 2.0 project to the grid, connecting Wagga Wagga, Bannaby and Maragle in southern NSW, is scheduled to begin late 2024.

In December 2023, Transgrid awarded $2.9 billion (USD 1.89 billion) in construction contracts to an Acciona and GenusPlus Group joint venture (JV) for HumeLink East and a CIMIC Group company UGL and CPB Contractors JV for HumeLink West.

In August 2023, Transgrid finalised a $100 million contract with ZTT Australia to supply transmission infrastructure for major projects, including HumeLink, as part of the Transgrid Powering Tomorrow Together.

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