Letter to Western Power and Subsequent response

Western Power
Attn: Doug Aberle
GPO L 921
Perth WA 6842

11th September 2007

Dear Sir

The Power Line Upgrade Group (PLUG) have recently received a copy of a letter you sent to Hon Wilson Tuckey dated 21st August 2007, stating you will examine the option of the Kojonup to Albany transmission line down an existing corridor.

Although we are grateful for this reconsideration, we are very disappointed that our correspondence sent to you and your chairman in early August have not been responded to either with an answer or even acknowledgement.

Our letter outlined concerns PLUG and others have with Western Powers ineffective communication with stakeholders on this matter. Your lack of response is further testament that Western Power does not want an open and transparent selection process.

We believe you have now put back the decision making process to allow for proper consultation. Is this correct? If not please provide us with the current information.

Yours sincerely

On behalf of PLUG

Our ref: NCCW-07-03401

Ms Michelle Doherty, Mr Keith Townsend and Mr Bill Hollingworth
Power Line Upgrade Group
310 Healy Road

19 September 2007

Dear Michelle, Keith and Bill

Thank you for your letters of 6 August and 11 September 2007 regarding Western Power's plans to build a new transmission line between Kojonup and Albany. The Chairman of the Board, Mr Peter Mansell, has also asked me to respond on his behalf.

First, I apologise for the delay in answering your first letter. We held back our draft response until after our meeting with Mr Hollingworth, and further delayed it while we re-considered our consultation process and the use of the existing transmission line easement. I am sorry we did not send an interim letter to let you know what was going on.

Although we made a genuine effort to make our consultation process an open and comprehensive one, it is clear from the feedback we have received that a broader exchange of information is necessary.

To this end we intend to hold a further series of public information sessions to discuss key issues of concern and revisit the current corridor options. These sessions will be held at Kojonup, Mount Barker, Redmond and Napier over the coming weeks, and all members of the community will be invited to attend.

In addition to this, we will send a comprehensive information pack to approximately 8,500 landowners in the Great Southern region, with details regarding the transmission line and how the line route will be selected. The pack will also include answers to frequently asked questions and set out the next phase of the process.

Although we advertised our original workshops in the local media, and only 6.5 per cent of letters in our original mail out were returned, some people were not aware of the proposed line. We believe the information pack will ensure all landowners, whether potentially affected by the line or not, are fully informed about the line and will have an opportunity to comment.

Amongst the feedback we have received was the suggestion that we construct the new line along the route of one of the existing 132 kV transmission lines between Kojonup and Albany. We have reviewed this option, but remain of the view that this would not be viable. The main reasons for this view are:

  • It would not be possible to maintain safe electrical clearance between the transmission lines without going outside the easement, and creating new easements over private property.
  • Having two transmission lines together compromises network security. The likelihood of both being taken out of service by, for example, a storm, is significantly higher. This could result in the entire Albany region being without power for extended periods.
  • Our intention is to position the line at least 500 metres from houses, wherever possible. It would not be possible to apply this criterion to a line route along either of the existing 132 kV line routes.

Wherever the line is built, it will have to traverse private properties. This is common practice and it would not be possible to have an effective and efficient electricity network in WA without doing so.

This brings us to the matter of compensation. As you may be aware, all aspects of Western Power's business are regulated, including when and how we pay compensation. We are obliged to abide by the Land Administration Act 1979, which fixes the items under which compensation can be claimed, and the Energy Operators (Powers) Act 1979, which determines how we are to deal with certain items of compensation.

In 2003, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Administration and Finance considered the issue of compensation in some detail and reported to Parliament on its findings. I understand the Committee has concluded its business on the compensation issue, but the Chairman may still be willing to accept submissions from the public. These should be sent to:

The Chairman
Standing Committee on Public Administration and Finance
Legislative Council Committee Office
1110 Hay Street

As you correctly indicated, the disaggregation of Western Power Corporation in 2006 separated the functions of power generation, the transporting and retailing of electricity to allow competition to be brought into the electricity market. Western Power's charter, as the network operator, is to provide network access and infrastructure services to enable the transport of electricity from points of generation to points of demand. Western Power itself does not direct where these generation sources are located, or what methods they use to generate electricity. However, any new transmission line proposal has to pass the necessary regulatory test by the Economic Regulation Authority (ERA) to determine whether other options, such as onsite generation, would be more economical or effective. This particular line proposal will be submitted to the ERA once a line route has been decided.

Unfortunately placing transmission lines underground is extremely expensive, at 10-12 times the cost of overhead lines. Western Power would not be able to justify such expenditure while still meeting its obligations to act in a commercial manner. The only circumstance where transmission lines are placed underground is if there is insufficient space for overhead lines (such as in the Perth CBD), or where a third party covers the cost (such as in residential developments in East Perth and Subiaco).

Only after a precise route centreline of the proposed line has been determined will Western Power seek approval from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). However, general advice from the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) is that any development within any conservation estate or areas with high quality remnant vegetation would be unacceptable to the EPA. This position is maintained to help prevent further salinity and to maintain the biodiversity of the region.

I hope your members will take part in the next phase of the consultation process and make their views known. As you would appreciate, it is not easy to find a line route that meets the social, environmental, technical and economic requirements as well as the different expectations and priorities of community members. However, I assure you that we are making a genuine effort to gather and balance the various views of the community to achieve the most acceptable outcome.

Thank you again for your letter and, once again, my apologies for the lateness of my reply.

Yours sincerely