Moorabool Shire Council has revealed an independent report stating the massive Western Victoria Transmission Network Project could feasibly be built underground at a price.
The announcement comes as AusNet, the company tendered to build the powerlines, committed to holding drop-in information sessions across the project's area of interest.
The first one will be at Stawell Bowling Club on Wednesday, between 2pm and 6.30pm.
Another will take place at Beaufort Football Club on Thursday between the same times. Strict COVID-19 protocols will be in place at each.
The project involves building high voltage powerlines and a new terminal station between Bulgana, near Ararat, and Sydenham, and has provoked concerns and anger from landowners.
It's understood the exact path for the powerline has not yet been determined, and the project will be subject to a state government Environmental Effects Statement.
Moorabool Shire's independent consultant compared the costs and approaches for overhead and underground lines, and concluded "(w)hilst this would be approximately ten times more expensive than an overhead line, the overall cost impact could be reduced by placing only the most sensitive sections underground".
"Although using underground cable for a portion of the route is not a simple solution it appears to be technically feasible.
"Underground installation of 500kV cables over a 75 km length has not yet been undertaken elsewhere in the world. Theoretically, an effective length of up to 80 km is achievable with significant reactive compensation is required."
Moorabool Shire recently began a campaign - Green and Unseen - demanding the company investigate putting the lines underground.
Moorabool chief executive Derek Madden said in a statement there was "no reason why" the powerlines could not be installed underground.
"With this independent report to back us, we'll continue to push for this to occur," he said.
In response, AusNet said it "welcomed" the independent report.
"We recognise underground is the preferred option for many people and we welcome the independent report on the Western Victorian Transmission Network Project commissioned by the Moorabool Shire Council," a spokesperson said in a statement.
"It is true that costs are a major driver for use of overhead lines to ensure the project is economically sustainable for Victorian electricity consumers who are funding the project.
"There are also many other factors that need to be considered.
"Overhead transmission lines have additional benefits of limiting impacts on the environment, land use and cultural heritage.
"We are still reviewing the report commissioned by the Moorabool Shire Council in detail, and note several discussion items in the report support our view.
"The report states that undergrounding the lines is technically viable, which is something we have acknowledged in our online community sessions.
"The report also highlights that while its technically possible to place the lines underground, it is 10 times more expensive, significantly more disruptive to the environment and will take up to three times longer to build.
"We will continue to work with landholders, communities and councils to plan and execute the project in a way that will lead to the best outcomes in the short and long-term."
For further information, including a map of the area of interest and details for contacting the Western Victorian Transmission Network Project team, head to www.westvictnp.com.au
To read the Moorabool report, head to the website.