A community meeting hosted by the Circular Head Coastal Awareness Network (CHCAN) at the Smithton Recreation attracted 150 locals keen to learn both sides of the narrative in regards to the Robbins Island Renewable Energy Park application set to be tabled early this year.
Emcee Leanne Minshull was joined by Michael Anderson, Craig Garland and Ben Marshall on the panel, as well as Birdlife expert Eric Woehler joining the meeting via Zoom.
The group touched on a wealth of concerns, namely the environmental impact of the transmission line, the impact of putting a bridge across Robbins Passage, the impact on birdlife, the lack of benefits to the local community, the Marinus Link and concerns about jobs being outsourced to fly in fly out workers among other things.
After each speaker had said their piece the floor was opened for community questions, with many locals using the opportunity to seek clarification about some of the project’s finer details.
Leanne rebutted UPC\AC Renewables claim that the project would put downward pressure on electricity prices for Tasmanians, stating that the cost of generation is less than half of what Tasmanians are currently paying for power.
“More wind does not equal less cost of generation for Hydro,” she said, referring to Tasmania’s existing hydroelectric power generation facilities.
Currently, the price of generation makes up less than half of what Tasmanian’s are paying for electricity. According to Leanne, it costs three to four cents to produce one kilowatt hour of electricity. Tasmanians pay roughly 23 to 24 cents per kilowatt hour.
Leanne also expressed her concern about the Marinus Link, citing that the implementation of the Basslink had no positive impact on the cost of electricity in Tasmania as well as going way over budget.
“When Basslink was first conceived the cost was going to be 400 million dollars, it ended up costing 780 million,” she said.
She went on to say that the foreign owners of the cable receive a 100 million dollar profit each year. over 25 years, that’s a 2.5 billion dollar return on a 780 million dollar investment.
TasNetworks are yet to release modelling on how electricity prices will fall in Tasmania following its implementation. Without the Marinus Link, the renewable energy park on Robbins Island not be developed to capacity, should it be approved.
Ben Marshall, of SOLVE Tasmania, has been campaigning against the transmission line for the project, currently set to go through the Loongana Valley.
“We’re here to support the Circular Head Network because we share the same fight,” he said in his presentation.
The transmission line will connect the Robbins Island wind farm, and all future wind farm projects in the north west to the grid, principally to ship power to the mainland via Basslink and Marinus.
Ben was concerned about the current route of the transmission line and made mention of impacts to every resident of Loongana Valley, water catchments, and forests.
He says if the transmission line goes ahead that weeds and feral cats will pour into the community and that property value will dive, as well as fire risk increasing.
“Our small tourism businesses will suffer, beautiful places which bring people from around the world will be trashed by power lines.”
Ben is concerned about the basis of some of the information he has received about the project.
“When we realised UPC and TasNetworks weren’t being straight with us, and we couldn’t find any benefits to Tasmania from their proposals, we formed a community group to do our own digging to find out if there was any real planning to back what they and the state government were saying,” he said.
“Long story short, there isn’t. It’s just corporate PR and political spin.”
Ben says that the Renewable Energy Action Plan leaves decision making to the private sector, trashing the region, with no long term benefits to Tasmania.
“With the playing field tilted to help foreign investors, two thirds of Tassie will be designated renewable energy zones. The power and profits will all go offshore, so the reality here is that the Marinus project is a plan to export jobs, while we get nothing and pay the economic, social and environmental costs.”