By Christina Peebles
Following a proposal by NSW electricity supplier, Pacific Power in 1993, to construct a 132 kV transmission line from Lismore to Mullumbimby on the NSW north coast, a large section of the local community questioned the need for it.
A new community group, the Northern Rivers Energy Action Network argued that inadequate consideration had been given to alternatives including the potential for increased investment in energy efficiency and other "demand management" measures (to reduce the need for construction of the power line) by Pacific Power and the distributor, Northern Rivers Electricity.
The Network has been lobbying for a study of the potential for energy efficiency and demand management in the region. As a result, a major demand management study is being conducted, funded by Pacific Power and the NSW Department of Energy. This study will look at ways in which the community, currently 70% residential electricity users, can save energy.
Concerned resident groups are saying the need for this transmission line is not justified, that the cost to the community far exceeds that stated by Pacific Power and that finding ways to reduce our energy demands through energy efficiency and demand management would be a far cheaper option to building new power lines.
In NSW the electricity industry produces over 40% of the carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuel burning. All Australian governments have adopted an interim planning target to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2000, based on 1988 levels, and to reduce these emissions by 20% by the year 2005. Energy efficiency and demand management are the most cost effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; they can also reduce electricity bills
The NSW electricity industry has a financial interest in selling more electricity. This is exacerbated by the large (over $500 million in 1993-1994) dividend payment to the NSW government. These industry arrangements do not encourage energy conservation. A change is required to enable the industry to see their and the customers' goal as the same — to reduce the demand for electricity, the size of the bills, and greenhouse gas emissions.
A program of efficient lighting, increased substitution of gas for cooking and space heating, improvement of commercial air-conditioning systems, efficiency incentives for new homes and new co-generation opportunities are all measures that could be developed very rapidly in the north coast. These measures would defer, possibly indefinitely, the construction of a 132 kV transmission line.
[Christina Peebles is the spokesperson for the Northern Rivers Energy Action Network.]