Evaluating Transmission Undergrounding

Evaluating Transmission Undergrounding

What is the initiative?

Many regional communities and landholders have suggested undergrounding new transmission lines to avoid visual and other impacts. Where undergrounding has not been progressed, some have expressed concern that this option was not fully investigated or given adequate consideration.

The Evaluating Transmission Undergrounding initiative aims to improve the experience of impacted landholders and communities by collaborating with community representatives and stakeholders to:

  • Validate community concerns, considerations and expectations for how the viability of underground compared to overhead transmission designs are evaluated by transmission businesses
  • Co-develop a shared knowledge and evidence-base, including Better Practice approaches to assessing and evaluating social costs and mitigating impacts
  • Identify and address public information and evidence gaps, sources of (dis)information and practice (in)consistencies.

Together, we will collect and consider a wide variety of perspectives and evidence to bring greater transparency to how the viability of underground compared to overhead transmission designs are evaluated. This includes considering the insights gathered through the NSW inquiry into the feasibility of undergrounding transmission infrastructure.

Where are we up to?

Agreement to collaborate to improve the experience of communities impacted by transmission developments
Agreement on key areas of investigation
Agreement on research methods and tools
Independent research
Collaborator Insights Report
Agreement on opportunities for better practice to improve community outcomes
Co-development of public facing 'Considerations Framework' including Better Practice commitments for future transmission builds
Co-development of public information on key topics of community interest of concern
Launched and embedded within collaborating transmission businesses
Aug 2023
Sep 2023
Sep 2023
Oct 2023 - Jan 2024
April 2024

Why does this initiative matter?

This #BetterTogether initiative builds on previous collaborations between transmission businesses, community and agricultural representatives to deliver the Landholder & Community Better Practice Engagement Guide and Better Practice Social Licence Guideline.

Specifically, the Better Practice Social Licence Guideline included the below commitment from transmission collaborators.

Consider undergrounding when it is a viable option as part of community and landholder consultation. Investigation reports and supporting analysis, including the challenges, benefits and impacts of overhead compared to underground transmission designs from a landholder, community, environmental, technical, and cost perspective should be completed and made publicly available. In some instances, it may be preferable for research to be conducted by an independent party with appropriate expertise. It is also important that this information be well circulated with communities, this could include through direct community and landholder engagement and project newsletters.

What are the Customer + Community outcomes?

All #BetterTogether initiatives are founded in collaboration with the purpose of delivering against one to the Energy Charter’s five Principles. This Evaluating Transmission Undergrounding initiative focuses on:

Principle 1: We will put customers at the centre of our business and the energy system

We will put customers at the centre of our decision making by:

  • Genuinely listening to understand landholder and community expectations and the social costs associated with overhead compared to underground transmission designs
  • Mitigating social impacts as far as possible, including working to identify Better Practice alternatives and solutions
  • Being transparent on the decision-making process, including how social costs are evaluated and considered.

Principle 4: We will improve the customer experience

We will improve the experience of host communities by collaborating with community representatives and stakeholders to ensure host communities have access to clear, consistent, relevant, credible, evidence-based information on how undergrounding is considered.

Who is collaborating on this initiative?

Transmission businesses, community and agricultural representatives have again committed to work #BetterTogether to improve the experience of those impacted by transmission development.

Community Outcomes Group

Australian Energy Infrastructure Commission, Community Power Agency, Karin Stark (Farm Renewables), Rod Stowe (NSW Landholder and Community Advocate), RE-Alliance and members of the Ag Energy Taskforce, which includes: Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group, National Farmers’ Federation, National Irrigators Council, NSW Farmers, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Queensland Farmers’ Federation and Victorian Farmers Federation.

Transmission and Energy Industry Collaborators

Transgrid (NSW), Powerlink Queensland (QLD), AusNet Services (VIC), TasNetworks (TAS), Marinus Link (VIC/TAS), Australian Energy Market Operator Victorian Planning (VIC) and ElectraNet (SA).

Several other organisations have been invited to observe and provide feedback at key stages, as important stakeholders in the outcomes of this collaboration.

Better Practice Social Licence

Engaging meaningfully with landholders and affected communities is essential the putting the social licence principles of procedural fairness and partnership into practice. The Better Practice Guide to Landholder and Community Engagement underpins the Better Practice Social Licence Guideline.

Want to learn more about this #BetterTogether initiative?

If you would like to learn more about the #BetterTogether initiative on Landholder and Community Social Licence, or join the Community Outcomes Group, please reach out to Heather Wagland, Director, Energy Transition.