Defer substation, says Greens MP
The Keneally government should defer construction of Energy Australia's proposed Empire Bay substation, according to Greens NSW MP Dr John Kaye.
Dr Kaye said a report on reducing or deferring electricity network charges should be properly assessed before work proceeds.
"The report of the inquiry conducted for the government by Mr Tom Parry, the Chair of the Australian Energy Market Operator, was handed to the government in December 2010 but apparently will not be considered until the next cabinet meeting on February 1," Dr Kaye said.
According to spokesperson for Energy Australia, Mr Allyn Hamonet, work on the Empire Bay substation will begin on Monday, January 24, following the completion of consultation and environmental assessments late last year.
"The project's environmental report confirmed the project would protect dedicated bushland zones and not increase the fire risk to the area.
"In addition, about 25 kilometres of new power lines (about 90 per cent) will be underground to further minimise impacts," said Mr Hamonet.
But Dr Kaye believes that Energy Australia and the government have not done enough.
"So far the government has shown a total disregard for the well-being and concerns of residents.
"EnergyAustralia has not implemented the principle of prudent avoidance in relation to the potential health risks from electromagnetic fields from the proposed 66,000 volt overhead power lines near residents' homes in Kincumber," he said.
Mr Hamonet said that Energy Australia has done everything they can in order to reduce the impacts of the substation.
"Since consultation started in March last year, we have answered questions and listened to feedback to do everything possible to reduce impacts from this project.
"Most recently, Energy Australia officers delivered newsletters with project updates to about 250 homes along the Avoca-Empire Bay route before Christmas, and visited 60 homes along Melville St, Kincumber," said Mr Hamonet.
"Work starts following 12 months of community feedback, including resident focus group meetings, three information display sessions and over 2000 project newsletters distributed to local homes and businesses providing information about the project," he said.
Local residents and the Greens are still concerned about the environmental and health impacts of the $50 million Empire Bay substation and associated high voltage transmission lines, said Dr Kaye.
According to Mr Hamonet, the majority of the power line from Avoca to Bensville was constructed in 1976 for 66,000 volt operations, meaning there would be little change to the existing streetscapes in this section.
"Electrical equipment on the existing power poles and lines will be changed to a more compact design, so it will reduce in scale and lower existing EMF levels.
"Independent modelling suggests it could be up to 15 per cent lower.
The Greens, however, are calling on the premier to defer or cancel the project.
"She has an opportunity to both allay the concerns of residents and save public funds.
"The best solution is to invest in energy efficiency and management of the demand for electricity rather than build unnecessary new electricity infrastructure.
"So far the government has shown a total disregard for the well-being and concerns of residents," he said.