As a result of feedback we have received through our consultation programs, we are undertaking a program of initiatives to build social licence and deliver better outcomes for impacted communities. We have a range of current key work streams.
Improving our Community Engagement practices
We are committed to best practice consultation, with guidance from the Landowner and Community Advocate and the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, and through our participation and commitment to the Energy Charter.
We are currently undertaking an in-depth review and reestablishment of our internal community engagement management system. This includes;
- reviewing our on-the-ground engagement activities against industry best-practice standards;
- establishing a refreshed suite of engagement procedures and guidelines for our staff and contractors so they meet community expectations;
- setting minimum community engagement training requirements for our staff and contractors; and
- improving our consultation record keeping and reporting tools so we can better and more easily respond to community enquiries and feedback.
Improving transparency in route selection processes
We have heard from our affected communities that our decision making processes are not transparent enough; that communities want to be involved early; and that decisions do not appear to consider local community-specific issues appropriately.
We are developing a consistent and transparent framework for route selection that takes account of community views during a projects development process (from the solution chosen, through to which alignment is selected). The framework will include clear guidance for the role landowners and impacted communities will play at all stages of the project’s lifecycle.
We are also collaborating with the NSW Government and Energy Corporation on the development of a new Government guideline for the development of transmission line, recognising the importance of environmental and social factors as key inputs into where transmission lines are located.
Independent review and benchmarking into undergrounding transmission lines
We have engaged a global engineering consultancy to undertake an international and national benchmarking study of current practices concerning the undergrounding of transmission lines (132,000 voltage and higher). This research will help Transgrid to understand current good practice, and the circumstances in which undergrounding of transmission lines occurs.
Independent review into co-existence of transmission and agricultural land-use
Transgrid instigated a new Better Together Initiative through the Energy Charter collaborative to undertake research into the potential impacts and benefits of transmission lines co-existing with agricultural land-use practices. The initiative “Landholder and Community Social Licence” has been identified by the Energy Charter as a priority initiative. See more about the Better Together Initiative.
Through the initiative, there will be collaboration between the energy sector and agricultural sector to review existing co-existence examples, identify key co-existence impacts and opportunities, and develop practical guidelines for landowners and farmers..
Review of impact mitigation and compensation
We have heard from impacted landowners that current easement and community compensation mechanisms do not satisfy community expectations. We are committed to providing fair and equitable compensation to landowners and communities impacted by our projects.
- The value of compensation offered and then negotiated with a landowner, is based on the fair and equitable principles set-out in the NSW Land Acquisition (Just Terms) Acquisition Act. Transgrid will always work with landowners to understand the impacts to their property and seek to negotiate an agreed value. In the interests of energy consumers, the Australian Energy Regulator approves a fair allowance for acquisitions based on the legislation. This ensures (and constrains) Transgrid’s ability to negotiate premium compensation outcomes.
- On behalf of affected communities, we have been advocating to the NSW Government and the Australian Energy Regulator to identify opportunities to improve the sharing of energy consumer benefits back to host communities. We hope this will lead to a positive outcome for impacted communities.
- Transgrid has been asked by communities if the easement compensation can be paid in periodic instalments (eg annual payments) as an alternative to the traditional one-off lump sum payment. With the support of Transgrid, the state government have enacted the strategic benefit payment (annual payment) for impacted landowners.
- We are also reviewing our practices concerning mitigations for residents impacted by transmission lines, for example visual impacts for neighbours, and ensuring our mitigations satisfy environmental impact assessment requirements. We are also considering mitigations offered by other transmission line developers.
Enhancing our Community benefits sharing programs
We understand that communities affected by transmission lines are bearing the burden of the physical impact of transmission lines, which deliver a benefit received by all NSW energy consumers. As per our 2022 Community Engagement Policy we strive to create lasting benefits for the communities in which we work.
We are continuing to consider how we can improve our community benefit sharing programs (such as our Community Partnerships Program), local training and skills development, and enhanced use of local suppliers and services. This work includes a focus on improving our we can improve sustainable outcomes for local Aboriginal communities.
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