Local communities would be consulted sooner about major transmission projects in their area with changes to the rules for new transmission projects proposed by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC). 
The AEMC has today published its draft requirements for community engagement that would form part of the process for securing approvals on transmission projects, to help accelerate the multi-billion-dollar expansion of the grid that is critical to a cleaner, affordable energy future. 

AEMC Chair Anna Collyer said as Australia’s traditional energy assets are retired the physical build of transmission infrastructure to deliver power from renewable generation to consumers is having flow-on effects for communities. 

“‘Social licence’ is a term that is used a lot when we talk about infrastructure delivery, but behind the term are individuals and communities who deserve timely access to transparent information and clarity about their rights,” Ms Collyer said. 

“The draft rules released today aim to provide greater transparency and reduce uncertainty, by stipulating when transmission businesses are required to engage, who they must engage with and how it needs to occur. 

“With more than 10,000 kilometres of transmission lines to be built to support the national electricity market, these “rules for engagement” are an important step in improving the community engagement process on major projects.”

The AEMC’s draft conditions would formally require transmission businesses to engage early in the transmission planning process and continue throughout the regulatory investment test or

Under the conditions, transmission businesses would be required to engage with “stakeholders who are reasonably expected to be affected” by development of major transmission projects including local landowners, local councils, local community members and traditional owners.
Under the draft rules: 

  • stakeholders are to receive information that is clear, accurate, relevant and timely and explains the rationale for the proposed project 
  • engagement consultation materials and methods of communication must be tailored to the needs of different stakeholders  
  • the stakeholders' role in the engagement process must be clearly explained to them, including how their input will be taken into account 
  • stakeholders have sufficient opportunity to consider and respond to the information provided 
  • stakeholder feedback, including potential ways to deliver community benefits, is considered 
  • stakeholders are informed about how stakeholder feedback has been taken into account in decision-making; and 
  • stakeholders are provided the opportunity to be regularly involved throughout the planning of ‘actionable’ or ‘future’ Integrated System Plan (ISP) projects and Renewable Energy Zones (REZs).  

Ms Collyer said the draft determination takes in recommendations from the AEMC’s Transmission Planning and Investment Review completed early this year and follows a rule change request from Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen. 

“Getting the right frameworks in place means conversations between communities and transmission businesses should happen sooner, so that concerns can be identified and addressed by networks earlier in the process,” Ms Collyer said. 

“This work has been informed by multiple rounds of feedback, twice through the Transmission Planning Investment Review, which explored social licence in relation to transmission. 

“Stakeholders will now have another opportunity to provide feedback for consideration in response to these draft rules.” 

Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer, who is leading the recently announced Community Engagement Review for the Australian Government, welcomed news of the draft determination.

"The draft determination provides timely guidance and sets out minimum expectations of the transmission businesses and project developers going forward," Mr Dyer said.  

"These expectations will be a key consideration for the community engagement review, launched recently by Minister Bowen, particularly as we examine industry's ability to deliver and manage proper and effective stakeholder engagement – and identify critical areas for improvement".

The AEMC will hold a forum later this month to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback on the proposed rule change. 

Written stakeholder submissions are being accepted until Thursday 28 September 2023.

For more information and contact details visit the project page.

Media: Nicole Stokes on 0401 826 522, media@aemc.gov.au.