What is a Renewable Energy Zone?
A Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) is essentially a new type of power station, that coordinates the delivery of renewable energy from multiple large-scale generators, such as wind, solar, battery and other renewable energy sources to the grid.
It will involve developing the right electricity transmission infrastructure and capacity to create a secure, affordable and reliable energy system that connects to the National Energy Market (NEM).
What is the Gippsland REZ project?
The Gippsland Renewable Energy Zone™ transmission project (G-REZ™) is one of the first REZ projects in Victoria. It will involve developing the right infrastructure and capacity to connect locally generated renewable energy to the grid.
G-REZ is being led by the owner of Victoria’s electricity transmission network, AusNet Services (AusNet), in partnership with renewable energy developers that have projects in Gippsland.
AusNet is investigating the transmission infrastructure needed to connect these renewable sources of energy into the Victorian electricity grid. We are committed to delivering a solution that works for all parties including the community, other key stakeholders and renewable energy proponents.
The ultimate design, including whether overhead, underground or a combination of both is developed, will depend on a number of factors including whether we can get the commercial model to work, community feedback and further environmental and technical studies.
What are the benefits of shared infrastructure such as that proposed by G-REZ?
G-REZ acts as an extension cord for renewable energy developments to connect to the National Electricity Market (NEM).
It provides a coordinated approach to getting energy from multiple developers to homes and businesses via a single, high voltage transmission line and will reduce the amount of transmission infrastructure required in the region to support these projects.
Without G-REZ, renewable energy developers will be responsible for developing and constructing their own transmission infrastructure to connect their projects to the NEM.
What are the benefits for Gippsland?
G-REZ will enable Gippsland to continue as Victoria’s energy epicentre and lead Victoria’s renewable energy transition. Benefits to the region include:
- More than $70 million direct investment to the Gippsland economy during construction
- Around $2.6 billion of investment in renewable projects in the Gippsland region
- Around 2,100 jobs supported during peak construction of G-REZ and connecting generation projects
- Around 140 jobs supported during the operation of G-REZ and new energy generation
- Economic benefits across the local supply chain
- Unlocking 3-4 GW of renewable energy, which is enough energy to power two million homes
- Reducing 3.6 million tonnes of CO2 annually
- Improving reliability and diversity of Victoria’s energy supply
- Increasing access to affordable energy
Will this reduce energy prices?
G-REZ will unlock an additional 3-4 GW of renewable energy. As the electricity market is mainly driven by supply and demand, this increased supply is expected to reduce wholesale energy prices by $885 million annually in Victoria. Energy retailers will have an opportunity to pass these savings on to consumers.
Will G-REZ fix Gippsland’s brown outs and power outages?
G-REZ will improve the reliability and diversity of the transmission network by building new transmission assets. It is the distribution system that typically leads to outages, or brown outs, to households at a more localised level. G-REZ is focused on new transmission assets, supporting the reliability of the transmission network shared by all Victorians.
As the owner and operator of the electricity distribution network in Gippsland, AusNet invests each year in network resilience initiatives to minimise the risk of power outages for our customers. Given the weather events Victoria encountered last year, we are undertaking additional network resilience initiatives, to further strengthen the network and provide energy resilience for remote communities.
Some of these initiatives include the installation of Gippsland’s first community battery in Mallacoota to improve energy reliability for a town situated at the end of a 240km radial line that is exposed to the elements such as storms, vegetation and wildlife.
Together with the Victorian Government, there is currently a detailed study underway to assess solutions such as standalone power systems, EV infrastructure, microgrid solutions and batteries across our network including in a number of communities across Gippsland.
Each summer we deploy large-scale generators across various parts of the network, including Gippsland, to assist with reliability. We are currently in the process of purchasing additional generators to assist with planned and unplanned outages to help keep the power on for our customers.
We’re also working with the Phillip Island community to install a community energy storage system to help with increased power demand over peak holiday periods.
What is the timing for the project?
The project is in the development stage with future stages subject to the outcomes of initial investigations, community feedback and securing funding. The figure below provides an overview of the key stages and indicative timeframes. Landowner, stakeholder and community engagement is a priority and will take place throughout project development.
Have you decided on routes yet?
AusNet completed a significant amount of preliminary work to identify a preferred route for G-REZ that has the least impact on the environment, landowners and the community.
The original preferred route served as a starting point for AusNet to commence discussions with landowners and was subject to change once these discussions commenced.
AusNet spoke with all landowners proposed to host transmission infrastructure along the original preferred route before releasing this publicly.
Following extensive discussions with a range of stakeholders, including landowners, AusNet announced changes to its preferred route in March 2023. The current preferred route travels to the south of the Loy Yang mine. AusNet also announced it had secured an option for an alternative terminal station site at Stradbroke.
The current preferred route and both the Giffard and Stradbroke terminal station site options can be viewed along with the original preferred route on our website here.
The final design including the exact location of any transmission infrastructure will be determined following an extensive process of community engagement, environmental studies and will be subject to funding and approvals.
Is the original route still the preferred route?
How many landowners in total are now on the new preferred route for the project?
There are 52 private landowners and eight corporate/government landowners on the current preferred route for the G-REZ transmission project (published in March 2023).
Why doesn’t the Renewable Energy Zone connect into Basslink? Why is new transmission infrastructure needed?
Basslink is a dedicated line connecting the Tasmanian transmission network to the Victorian transmission network as part of the National Electricity Market (NEM).
The current capacity of Basslink is approximately 600MW and does not have capacity for additional connections, so new infrastructure is needed to support new renewable generation in the region. The new transmission infrastructure built as part of G-REZ would provide a simple connection for multiple new renewable generators to connect and around 3-4GW of new capacity (or more than six-and-a-half times Basslink’s existing capacity).
In addition, the Star of the South Project is pursuing a transmission corridor that is largely adjacent to Basslink. If AusNet were to also pursue the same route for G-REZ, it would increase the overall width of the Basslink/Star of the South/G-REZ corridor to at least 180 metres and potentially wider in places where a greater separation distance is required between electrical circuits. This would have a significant impact on the land and landowners, and significantly limit the permissible uses of that land.
What other routes were considered?
AusNet initially considered several possible corridors for the G-REZ transmission project – including corridors both north and south of the Holey Plains State Park.
Within those corridors, a number of route variations were also considered.
Why does the preferred route travel north of Holey Plains rather than south, which would follow Basslink?
All of the corridors considered by AusNet were deemed viable options to deliver a project such as G-REZ.
The current preferred route however has been determined to have the least amount of impacts across a numbers of categories including impacts to landowners, biodiversity and cultural heritage.
In addition to considering the impacts associated with various routes, AusNet also has to consider the location of multiple developers and the ease with which they would be able to connect into the required infrastructure and any potential impacts. When all of these considerations are taken into account, what might seem like the most efficient, least impactful or best route may not be, or may only serve the needs of a small number of projects.
The routes south of Holey Plains have existing easements that would make securing an additional easement for AusNet to deliver G-REZ challenging. If AusNet were to progress one of the southern corridors, the total width of easements (i.e. AusNet’s easement as well as existing (Basslink) and future (Star of the South) easements) would be at least 180 metres and potentially wider in places where a greater separation distance is required between circuits.
In addition, if AusNet were to proceed with this option, it would have significant impacts on landowners and impact the usability of land within the easement. Existing land uses, including a number of agricultural activities, would no longer be possible within this large easement.
The construction of a transmission line south of the Holey Plains State Park would also present much greater risks to biodiversity values compared with the northern corridors.
Why have you shifted the preferred route to south of Loy Yang?
We’ve made this change to the route based on extensive discussions with a range of stakeholders including landowners, AGL (owner and operator of the Loy Yang mine) and Latrobe City Council.
Developing the project south of Loy Yang offers a number of benefits compared to the northern option included in our initial preferred route.
It reduces the visual amenity impact to landowners and residents in the densely populated area of Traralgon east.
It also avoids sensitive current and potential future infrastructure within the area including the Loy Yang mine overburden site and the proposed route for the Traralgon Bypass.
By developing the project south of Loy Yang, we’re able to follow existing infrastructure corridors while allowing AGL to continue its mining and rehabilitation activities as currently planned.
Are you still investigating the route north of Loy Yang?
We heard from a number of landowners initially proposed to host G-REZ infrastructure that they would like AusNet to consider potential alternative corridors for the project to connect into or go past Loy Yang.
AusNet listened to this feedback and identified a route to the south of Loy Yang suitable to host G-REZ transmission infrastructure. After completing further assessments to understand the suitability of this route to host transmission infrastructure, as well as meeting all landowners that would be proposed to host infrastructure within this alignment, AusNet announced this as the new preferred route for the project in March 2023.
The corridors north and south of Loy Yang will both be considered as part of our EES submission, however the route south of Loy Yang is our current preferred route for the project. The corridor north of Loy Yang, that included our original preferred route, is now an alternative corridor.
Which terminal station is your preferred one?
AusNet does not yet have a preferred site for the development of its terminal station for the G-REZ transmission project.
We will be continuing to explore the relative merits of both the Stradbroke and Giffard locations for the terminal station. As we learn more about the likely locations and scale of proposed renewable energy developments within the region, we’ll gain a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges each terminal station location presents.
If you were to develop the terminal station at the new Stradbroke location, how much shorter would the overall length of the transmission line be?
Developing the G-REZ transmission project’s terminal station at the new Stradbroke site would reduce the overall length of the proposed transmission line by approximately 15 kilometres.
This would make the overall length of the transmission line approximately 70 kilometres.
Why don’t you use the corridor Star of the South has identified and put it underground?
The Star of the South project has identified a corridor that best suits its project but, following our own assessment, this corridor was not the best solution for G-REZ.
The Star of the South project is pursuing a transmission corridor that is largely adjacent to Basslink. If AusNet were to also pursue the same route for G-REZ, it would increase the overall width of the Basslink/Star of the South/AusNet corridor to at least 180 metres and potentially wider in places where a greater separation distance is required between circuits.
Whether overhead, underground or a combination of both is developed, will depend on a number of factors including whether we can get the commercial model to work, community feedback and further environmental and technical studies.
How do Star of the South and Marinus Link interact with G-REZ?
Star of the South and Marinus Link are well advanced in developing their projects. They have made significant progress in identifying feasible transmission routes and started environmental and engineering studies to further inform their projects.
AusNet will continue to talk to Star of the South and Marinus Link as it further develops G-REZ, and as they continue to progress their current proposals, which involve developing their own transmission lines to connect into the grid.
Is AusNet working with CarbonNet to minimise impacts to landowners?
There are several properties that both AusNet and CarbonNet are seeking to access in order to develop their respective projects.
AusNet is working with the CarbonNet Project to, wherever
possible, minimise impacts to landowners and occupiers in areas where the
projects are adjacent.
What would the proposed infrastructure look like?
AusNet is committed to delivering a solution that works for all parties including the community, other key stakeholders and renewable energy proponents.
The ultimate design, including whether overhead, underground or a combination of both is developed, will depend on a number of factors including whether we can get the commercial model to work, community feedback and further environmental and technical studies.
Any overhead assets would likely include steel towers and poles up to 80m high. These would sit in an easement between 70m and 110m wide. The footprint of each tower would be approximately 20m by 20m.
Any underground transmission lines would be buried in trenches up to 2m deep. These would likely sit in a 30m to 50m-wide easement.
Sections of underground lines would typically have transition stations at both ends of the cable. They would likely sit on around 1-1.5 hectares and include aboveground infrastructure.
Joint pits are located underground but with ground level access. They would require approximately 30m by 180m for installation and have an installed footprint of approximately 10m wide by 2m deep and 4m long. They would sit along the cable around every 500-750m.
Why can't you just use the existing infrastructure?
There are a number of proposed renewable energy projects to the east of the Latrobe Valley. Currently, there are no transmission lines that extend this far east.
We need to build a new transmission line to connect renewable energy developments east of the Latrobe Valley into the National Electricity Market (NEM). G-REZ will act as the extension cord for renewable energy developments in Gippsland, connecting them to the electricity grid through existing infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley.
Will you be providing a community benefit sharing program?
AusNet will be establishing a community benefit sharing program. The program is intended to enhance the outcomes of G-REZ by delivering and funding initiatives that the Gippsland community feels are important for the region’s long-term growth, sustainability, and wellbeing.
AusNet will work with the community to identify priority initiatives and projects and, based on the projects or initiatives identified, will support or lead their implementation.
Will the jobs created be local jobs?
G-REZ will create local employment opportunities during the development phase, and AusNet has already employed a number of Gippsland locals to work on the project full time. During the peak construction period, G-REZ and the associated new energy generation projects will create about 2,100 jobs. About 140 long term jobs will also be created from new energy generation projects in Gippsland. Where appropriate, jobs will go to people who live locally.
In addition, the project is expected to deliver local jobs indirectly, as benefits extend through the local supply chain to hospitality businesses, mechanics, equipment suppliers, cleaners, caterers, petrol stations and a range of other businesses.
How will the broader community be engaged?
AusNet is engaging with landowners proposed to host G-REZ infrastructure, neighbours, the broader community and other key stakeholders as it works through the G-REZ transmission project and this will continue for the life of the project.
provide multiple opportunities and channels for the community to provide
feedback on the project and will undertake investigations and assessments to
better understand the project’s impact.
Since launching the project in July 2022, we have delivered 10
community pop ups in locations along the route to provide an opportunity for
anyone interested to learn more about the project. We’ve also hosted an online
webinar about our environmental referrals, and met individually and in small
groups with a range of stakeholders including landowners and neighbours,
community interest groups and environmental and advocacy groups.
A Community Advisory Group has also been established to provide
advice to the project.
To keep up to
date, please visit grez.com.au, phone 1300 360 795 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I find out more or stay updated?
AusNet will provide numerous opportunities and channels, across all project stages, for the community to have their say on the project.
If you or anyone within the community is interested in receiving project updates, please call 1300 360 795 or email email@example.com and we’ll add you to our mailing list for project updates.
How will you manage environmental impacts?
AusNet will undertake a range of environmental studies as part of project planning to help us identify areas of environmental significance and ensure these are appropriately managed throughout the project. These studies will include flora and fauna, groundwater and surface water, geology and contaminated land.
In April 2023, the Victorian Minister for Planning advised AusNet Services that G-REZ would require an Environment Effects Statement (EES).
The EES process involves an assessment of the potential environmental, economic, heritage and social effects of the project, including how these effects can be avoided, minimised and managed, and the evaluation of feasible project alternatives.
What planning and environmental approvals will be required to progress G-REZ?
AusNet has referred G-REZ to the state and federal governments for assessment. This includes:
- A referral under the Victorian Environment Effects Act 1978 to determine if an Environment Effects Statement (EES) is required. An EES assesses the potential environmental, economic, heritage and social effects of the project, including how these effects can be avoided, minimised and managed, and the evaluation of feasible project alternatives. The Victorian Minister for Planning advised AusNet in April 2023 that an EES would be required for the G-REZ transmission project.
- A referral under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to assess nationally and internationally important flora, fauna, ecological communities and heritage places. The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water advised AusNet in March 2023 that G-REZ is a controlled action under the EPBC Act. ‘Controlled actions’ are actions that the federal Minister for the Environment decides have, will have or are likely to have a significant impact on one or more protected matters listed within the EPBC Act and therefore require assessment and approval under the Act.
- Development of a Cultural Heritage Management Plan in conjunction with the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation to outline what measures need to be in place to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.
- Planning approval under the Planning and Environment Act 1987 via a planning permit or planning scheme amendment to change the land use and enable activities such as the removal of native vegetation
What environmental referrals have been submitted for the project?
AusNet submitted its environmental referrals for the G-REZ transmission project to the state and federal governments in early September 2022.
These referrals are an important first step in defining the requirements AusNet will need to meet to receive state and federal government approvals for the project.
A referral was submitted to the Victorian Government under the Environment Effects Act 1978 to determine if an Environment Effects Statement (EES) is required for the G-REZ transmission project.
An EES will give statutory decision-makers (ministers, local government and statutory authorities) the information they need to determine whether approval of G-REZ should be granted and what conditions should apply. It will provide information on the potential environmental impacts, and an opportunity for the community to review and provide feedback on the project as it develops
The Victorian Minister for Planning advised AusNet in April 2023 that the G-REZ transmission project would require an EES. Further information about the reasons for the Minister’s decision to require an EES are available online here.
In addition, AusNet submitted a referral to the Federal Government which identifies and outlines how it will assess nationally and internationally important flora and fauna, ecological communities and heritage places under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
In March 2023, the federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) advised AusNet that G-REZ is a controlled action under the EPBC Act.
‘Controlled actions’ are actions that the federal Minister for Environment decides have, will have or are likely to have a significant impact on one or more protected matters listed within the EPBC Act and therefore require assessment and approval under the Act.
The EPBC Act referral is available on DCCEEW's website and can be viewed here.
Are there opportunities for community members and other stakeholders to provide feedback on these referrals?
The period for public comment on the EPBC Act referral is now closed. The referral can be viewed here.
The EES referral does not have a public comment period, however as the Minister for Planning has determined that an EES is required, there will be several opportunities for the community and other key stakeholders to provide feedback through this process and this feedback will be taken into consideration as part of decision-making. The G-REZ team is committed to notifying key stakeholders of opportunities to have their say on the project throughout the EES process.
In addition, AusNet is committed to ongoing engagement through the life of the G-REZ transmission project with landowners, neighbours, the broader community and other key stakeholders.
Will a new transmission line pose a bushfire risk?
The Victorian transmission system, which AusNet owns and operates, transports electricity long distances at extra high voltages from large-scale generators and is made up of terminal stations, transmission lines and towers.
In the 96-year history of the transmission network in Victoria it has never been the cause of a bushfire.
AusNet regularly patrols and maintains transmission easements which can offer important protections by acting as a fire break. In addition, AusNet is required to comply with stringent requirements set by Victoria’s energy safety regulator, Energy Safe Victoria, regarding vegetation levels and clearance within easements as well as regular vegetation inspections. We also work to design and construct transmission infrastructure in a way that reduces the fire risk as much as possible.
Design standards and operation and maintenance of transmission assets mitigate risk and enable assets to withstand bushfire conditions. The same would be true of any new overhead or underground transmission line developed as part of G-REZ.
For more information about how AusNet manages fire risk, view the Managing Fire Risk – Electricity Transmission Network fact sheet on the AusNet’s Regulatory Publications webpage, under the Bushfire mitigation plan section - ausnetservices.com.au/About/Network-Regulation/Regulatory-Publications
Will a new transmission line pose an Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMF) risk?
AusNet closely monitors high quality scientific research in relation to EMFs and operates its transmission system within Australian health guidelines.
Energy Networks Australia, the national industry body representing Australia's electricity transmission and distribution networks, states that “correctly functioning electrical distribution and transmission equipment is low risk and should emit low level magnetic fields. The EMF emitted by this equipment is often lower than that of common household appliances such as hair dryers and food processors.”
For more information about electric and magnetic fields see:
Energy Network Australia's webpage on Electric and Magnetic Fields (EMFs) - www.energynetworks.com.au/electric-and-magnetic-fields/
Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)'s webpage on powerlines - www.arpansa.gov.au/understanding-radiation/radiation-sources/powerlines
World Health Organization's webpage on Electromagnetic fields - www.who.int/health-topics/electromagnetic-fields
How will you manage Aboriginal cultural heritage impacts?
AusNet will work with the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) to identify areas of Aboriginal cultural significance and ensure these are appropriately managed throughout the project.
AusNet will develop a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) in conjunction with GLaWAC and in accordance with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. The CHMP will outline what measures need to be in place to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage.
What impact will there be to existing vegetation? Is this different for underground and overhead transmission lines?
Generally, vegetation within an overhead transmission line easement can remain. For an underground easement, all vegetation must be removed, except in instances where trenchless construction methods are used.
While underground construction has less visual and landscape impact compared to an overhead transmission line, the ground disturbance and easement restrictions of underground construction typically have a higher impact on vegetation, biodiversity, Aboriginal cultural heritage, and agriculture and other land uses along the length of the transmission line
Further information about vegetation management on overhead and underground easements is provided in the table below.
Vegetation up to 3m in height can remain within the easement. Taller vegetation permitted where the minimum clearance and fuel load densities are maintained.
Native grasslands and associated habitat can be avoided in design.
Trees outside the easement are maintained so that they are below the fall zone of the transmission line.
Overhead transmission lines can be a hazard to some bird species.
The partially cleared overhead transmission line easement can affect some native species by creating a barrier to movement between adjacent native vegetation.
All vegetation is cleared in the underground construction area along the length of the route, except where trenchless construction methods are used.
Less opportunity for trenches to avoid native grasslands and associated habitat.
Only grasses or shallow rooted vegetation is permitted to grow on the underground easement.
Underground cables pose no risk to bird species.
The cleared underground cable easement may affect some native species by creating a barrier to movement between adjacent native vegetation.
Will landowners who host the transmission line be paid?
Payments will be made to landowners where an easement is acquired.
For transmission lines, an easement refers to the land that the transmission towers or lines are located on or under. Easements vary depending on the design of the infrastructure, the operating voltage and the site-specific conditions.
An easement does not change who owns the land. It provides AusNet with rights to access, install infrastructure and use part of the land owned by another party.
Once a final route for the transmission line is determined, AusNet will seek to negotiate an option for easement with each landowner along that route. An option for easement will give AusNet a right to acquire an easement at a later date, usually once the design is finalised and project approvals have been granted.
We generally pay 80% of the easement compensation at the time the option is exercised, with the balance paid at the time the easement is registered on the land title, which will be detailed in the option for easement.
Additional compensation may also be payable based on the length of transmission infrastructure the property hosts and to cover reasonable additional expenses (such as legal expenses) that may be incurred as a result.
How is the payment amount determined?
The exact amount of the total package and the amount each landholder will receive will not be known until we have determined if we have a viable project and at the end of the negotiations with landholders.
AusNet uses independent, qualified valuers to value each land parcel to ensure offers of payment are fair and fully consider the impact of the easement on the land. The independent valuation, along with the total amount of land subject to an easement, how the property is used and how many transmission towers may be proposed are all taken into account in determining the compensation payable. Given this, it’s not possible to provide a general payment figure on a per kilometre of transmission line basis.
Landowners will have the opportunity to discuss with the valuer the impacts of any proposed easement related to G-REZ on their property and provide information to assist in determining the amount payable.
By working with the appointed valuer, the landowner can provide a clear understanding of their individual property characteristics and land use and ensure the payment reflects this. There may be things about the landowner’s property that the valuer needs to be made aware of.
If the landowner wants to obtain their own independent valuation, the valuations by both valuers will be considered to assist the negotiation process.
AusNet will also work with near neighbours to explore and understand the benefits they are looking for from this project and how it might be able to best deliver them.
Will near neighbours of the project receive payment?
AusNet is committed to working with near neighbours to explore and understand the benefits they are looking for from this project and how it might be able to best deliver them.
Will you compulsorily acquire land?
For the G-REZ transmission project, AusNet does not currently have the power to compulsorily acquire land.
We will work with landowners and the community to determine the preferred the route.
What is AusNet doing to manage the risks associated with Foot and Mouth Disease when undertaking field surveys on agricultural properties?
AusNet recognises that foot and mouth disease (FMD) is currently an issue of significant concern to livestock farmers.
AusNet will comply with all relevant legislation and guidance from both the federal and state governments to ensure we minimise as much as possible biosecurity risks when carrying out surveying and field work on farming or agricultural properties.
In addition, we will be engaging an experienced agricultural consultant to develop a dedicated FMD procedure that all G-REZ staff (including consultants and contractors to the G-REZ transmission project) must adhere to when undertaking field work.
We are always happy to discuss biosecurity measures with landowners to ensure our processes meet their expectations when undertaking fieldwork.