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Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Page: 739

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (21:10): This year the power company SP AusNet undertook at the Brunswick Terminal Station in my electorate works including removal of a dozen or so large heritage trees on the King Street fence line, well away from any buildings, without a permit. They also excavated a six-to-eight metre basement despite being required to obtain a permit to excavate a foundation greater than one metre deep.

Facing possible prosecution from the City of Moreland, they applied to the Victorian Minister for Planning to amend the Moreland planning scheme. I want to commend the City of Moreland for a resolution carried unanimously at a council meeting last week. I understand that the motion needs to be confirmed through the minutes at the December council meeting but the motion was that the mayor write to the Victorian Minister for Planning to question: firstly, the urgency for amendments to the Moreland planning scheme and the Brunswick Terminal Station incorporated document, and the entire upgrade of the Brunswick Terminal Station, in light of 2013 Australian Energy Market Operator energy forecasts that show energy demand is lower than expected; secondly, to request an urgent independent review be undertaken of the Brunswick Terminal Station upgrade given previous issues and concerns related to health impacts of the project; and, thirdly, seek a response as to why the minister has failed to meet with residents after they have been campaigning for the last three years.

The City of Moreland is absolutely right to raise the issue of energy demands being lower than expected. In February 2012 SP AusNet had the Victorian planning minister give them a permit to rebuild the terminal on the grounds that it was urgent having regard to growth in Melbourne's electricity demand. But later on, in June 2012, a report released by the Australian Energy Market Operator forecast reduced energy use across eastern and south-eastern Australia. They said it 'is likely to result in the deferral of new electricity generation or transmission network investment for years'. Their managing director said:

We have not seen electricity use drop this much since the National Electricity Market commenced. Consumers have responded to price increases and taken advantage of government feed-in tariffs by installing rooftop PV systems and adopting energy efficiency measures, and that has reduced the amount of energy supplied by the electricity grid. Investment signals for new large-scale electricity infrastructure are muted when compared to a year ago.'

He concluded by saying that 'average growth in annual energy for the 10-year period is now forecast to be 1.7 per cent, down from 2.3 per cent forecast in 2011'.

But wait, there is more. This year, the report from the Australian Energy Market Operator said that electricity use across the National Electricity Market is forecast to be 2.4 per cent lower for 2013 than estimated in 2012 and that there was slower growth in electricity consumption across eastern and south-eastern Australian as a result of continuing increases in rooftop PV systems, energy efficiency savings and lower-than-expected growth in most industrial sectors. They then decided that the growth scenario for the 10-year outlook is 1.3 per cent, which was lower than the 1.7 per cent forecast in 2012.

So the initial 2.3 per cent has become 1.3 per cent. It was and still is outrageous that Planning Minister Guy in February 2012 overrode the Moreland Council, announced the rezoning of the Brunswick Terminal Station land and gave permission for two new 66kV terminals on that site with 26-metre pylons. The Moreland Council had twice rejected this proposal as an inappropriate development for the site. It was a flagrant disregard for the views of local residents and electricity regulators have failed in their duty to protect consumers from being ripped off by this kind of project. They should have and could still conduct a formal review of this project and see how much of this expansion is really necessary and whether there are cheaper alternatives for the CBD, looking at options such as cogeneration. Why do we not take the chance, step back and have an independent review panel reassess if this project is required at all and have a fair crack at putting a brake on our increasing power prices?