ACT minister calls in electricity supply project

ACT Planning Minister Mick Gentleman has called in a major infrastructure project needed to secure the ACT's future electricity supply.

Mr Gentleman on Thursday announced his decision to use his ministerial call-in powers to approve the electricity supply project, which will involve a second substation and associated distribution network in west Belconnen.

Planning minister Mick Gentleman has used his call-in powers to approve a new electricity project for Ginninderry. Photo: Karleen Minney

Planning minister Mick Gentleman has used his call-in powers to approve a new electricity project for Ginninderry. Photo: Karleen Minney

"Canberrans will have a more secure energy supply following the approval of development applications that will allow work to start as soon as possible on new infrastructure and in turn protect against possible future outages," he said.

It is the second time this year Mr Gentleman has used the call-in powers to approve a development, after controversially approving the $7 million media centre at Manuka Oval in January.

The project will ensure electricity supply to the new development will meet the ACT's electricity supply and transmission code, and will involve Transgrid and Evo Energy building a major new substation near the corner of Stockdill and Southern Cross Drive.

It will involve about two kilometres of transmission lines and will be the ACT's second major independent electricity supply, though it will connect to the existing Canberra-Woden transmission.

The ACT planning authority last week also cleared the way for the electricity supply project, approving an environmental impact statement.

As part of the environmental impact statement, the government considered three different options for the substation and alignment of transmission, and preferred a second option partly as it involved shorter transmission lines and less overall environmental impact.

The authority recommended the project go ahead with 11 conditions on its construction and management to minimise or mitigate its potential environmental effects, mainly centred around a construction and environmental management to alleviate concerns.

However, the report shows the project will still result in the loss of about 1.1 hectare of native vegetation, clearing and fragmentation of habitat for some threatened species, edge effects and potential injury and mortality of some native fauna, through bird strikes and road kill.

"The statement notes that the proposal has been refined to avoid and minimise ecological impacts and a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance [MNES] is considered unlikely," the report reads.

"[It] concludes that offsets are not required as the project will not have a residual impact on a MNES given the avoidance and proposed mitigation measures."

The management plans will also create a framework to manage the risks to listed threatened species and ecological communities from the project.

Development applications have been lodged for the new substation and transmission lines, with Mr Gentleman's decision approving the proposal to allow it to go ahead.

Mr Gentleman said he had used his call-in powers to ensue construction could start as soon as possible and that utility providers could meet their obligations under the territory's supply code.

He said the planning authority's advice on its environmental impacts was extensive and he was confident the final alignment of the project had the least impacts of the three options considered.

The project did not need to undergo a federal environmental impacts assessment, as the project was assessed under the controversial bilateral assessment regime set up during former prime minister Tony Abbott's government in 2014.

Correction: This article previously incorrectly reported the project was needed to supply electricity to the Ginninderry development. The project is actually needed to secure electricity supply to the whole of the ACT.