Over 70 letters of support have been lodged by Great South Coast businesses and residents urging the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to reverse its recommendation against Powercor’s draft proposal to upgrade electricity infrastructure in Tyrendarra, Strathdownie, Cape Bridgewater and Gorae West.
“Whether you work in banking, agriculture, forestry, food processing, education, recreation, tourism or local government – our entire community understands that we operate on a shared value model. To reap our ambitious plans for the region – to enhance our position as a renewable energy leader, maintain our status as Victoria’s largest food and fibre producer, and position ourselves as the leading region to live and work – we need infrastructure that unlocks job creation, innovation and investment”, said Food and Fibre Great South Coast Chair, Georgina Gubbins.
“Nothing could have made the shared value case better than this outpouring of support from individual residents, business leaders, councils, and community representatives. When you consider we had about a month to review Powercor’s 155-page revised proposal over the Christmas and New Year period, it’s clear that the level of regional support is phenomenal.”
Less than 100km of SWER line being upgraded to three-phase electricity has a cost of almost $9 million, but brings to the regional economy a minimum of $2 million value annually – in the form of jobs, economic value and flow on spending. There are also social infrastructure benefits that the community have been living too long without.
Food and Fibre Great South Coast Executive Officer, Natalie Collard, called out the limitations in the existing AER process. “We believe the AER needs a decision-making process that is more robust and strategic and considers the wider economic benefits that infrastructure investments generate in regional Australia. In particular AER should consider the inability of infrastructure to be built effectively built if the user pays principle is the sole evaluation criteria, particularly in rural areas where population density is less than metropolitan areas.”
“The implementation of this regional proposal becomes increasingly urgent when the whole Victoria is recovering after the pandemic COVID-19, responding to social infrastructures demands and preparing for the ‘future-proofing’ plan.”
Ms Collard noted that Infrastructure Victoria has included this energy upgrade in its Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy Priorities for the region, released in December 2020. “We call on the AER to value regional infrastructure appropriately and not diminish the value of regional infrastructure to the regional community and state economy. It is entirely appropriate for the AER to review its evaluation process to ensure it is working on behalf of what is best for all Australians,” she said.
In 2021, the Federal Government has highlighted the need to invest in better grid stability to support private investment in renewable generation. Food and Fibre Great South Coast, and our region more broadly, share a commitment to emissions reduction and increased use of renewable energy on farms is an important opportunity that is currently limited in areas with SWER connections.
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