$70m power plan unveiled
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL
COUNTRY Energy wants to spend $70 million upgrading its electricity network across the Northern Rivers.
The money would be spent on new substations near Brunswick Heads, Ewingsdale and Suffolk Park, as well as duplicating and constructing new powerlines connecting Mullumbimby, Ewingsdale, Ballina, Alstonville and Lismore.
Country Energy Far North Coast general manager Brian Glawson said the upgrade was necessary because of the region's expected population growth.
"The Far North Coast Regional Strategy predicts a population growth of 60,400 people in the region over the next 25 years that's a 26 per cent increase," Mr Glawson said.
"That prediction, coupled with a 25 per cent increase in demand for electricity over the past decade, means we have to start planning ahead."
He said there had been particular increased demand between Ocean Shores and Ballina.
The work proposed by Country Energy would be undertaken over seven years.
The proposal aims to ensure the network is capable of meeting Northern Rivers residents' demands until at least 2030.
The power supply company has commissioned consultants Environmental Resources Management Australia to 'investigate options' for the upgrade.
The options include duplicating 66kV powerlines in existing corridors, modifying powerlines to operate at 132kV, and creating new corridors across the region.
"At this point we're just putting forward our ideas and going through the community consultation process," Mr Glawson said.
Country Energy will use the feedback from the consultation process to select a preferred option for the upgrade.
Mr Glawson said he hoped the final plan would be adopted in September and work would start next year.
He also said it wasn't the first time Country Energy had spent such a large amount of money on a network upgrade. Between 2004 and 2006 the company upgraded the Tweed network at a cost of $50 million.