powerlinesCountry Energy’s $70 million plan to upgrade the electricity network between Lismore and Mullumbimby has entered a new phase, with the public being invited to make submissions on the proposal.

Since announcing the project 18 months ago, Country Energy and its consultants have undertaken detailed environmental and social studies, including consultation with landowners and interested community members, to identify and assess the best options.

Included in the proposal are improvements to existing zone sub-stations – with an upgrade planned at Mullumbimby – and construction of new sub-stations near Brunswick Heads and at Skinners Shoot in the Suffolk Park area.

Regional general manager Brian Glawson said a number of options had been investigated, including duplicating existing high-voltage powerlines in existing corridors, modifying existing powerlines to operate at a higher voltage, and constructing new powerlines in new corridors.

“We’ve decided that modifying the existing network will minimise any environmental impact and have the least affect on landowners,” Mr Glawson said.

“Our studies have been comprehensive and aimed at achieving the most efficient and effective operation of the network to deliver essential energy supplies.

“We’ve received valuable feedback from the community, which has helped shape our preferred option.

“For example, at Mullumbimby there was strong opposition to our plan to remove the old hydro power station, so we went back to the drawing board and found a way to retain it, while still achieving our end goal.”

The project’s Environmental Assessment report has now been submitted to the NSW Department of Planning for approval. Once approval has been granted, the work will be staged over several years.

During February Country Energy will hold information sessions at Far North Coast locations to enable members of the public to familiarise themselves with the project and, if they wish, make a submission to the Department of Planning.

“We expect that landowners near the powerlines or the proposed work areas will already be very well-informed, as we’ve been in regular contact during the consultation stage, but this is an opportunity for everyone to have their say,” Mr Glawson said.

The Environmental Assessment will be available for viewing at Lismore City Council, Ballina Shire Council and Byron Shire Council’s administration buildings. It will also be available on the Department of Planning website.

Country Energy will hold information sessions at:

  • Lismore CWA Rooms, 1/115 Molesworth St, 2pm-7pm, February 9
  • Alstonville Bowling Club, 10-14 Deegan Dr, 2.30pm-7pm, February 10
  • Byron Bay Golf Club, 62 Broken Head Dr, 11am-7pm, February 11
  • Ewingsdale Hall, Old Pacific Highway, 1.30pm-5.30pm, February 16
  • Mullumbimby CWA Rooms, Cnr Tincogan and Gordon Sts, 1pm-6pm, February 17.

Information on the project is also available at www.countryenergy.com.au/upgrades then follow the links to the Far North Coast; or by telephoning 1800 651 704.

Mr Glawson said the proposed upgrade would secure the region’s power supply for at least the next 25 years and ensure the electricity network was capable of meeting existing and future energy needs.

“The Far North Coast is marked for major residential and commercial growth, which is why in 2008-09 alone, Country Energy will invest more than $80 million maintaining and improving the electricity network locally,” he said.

“We recently completed a new $20 million zone sub-station near Southern Cross University in East Lismore, a $12 million sub-station at Tweed Heads South and have nearly finished a new $7 million sub-station at Ewingsdale.

“We provide an essential service and these investments, which improve capacity and in the case of Ewingsdale replace ageing infrastructure, are essential to enable us to deliver the best possible electricity supply to our customers – now and in the future.”