NSW seeks wind, solar and storage proposals for Hunter and Central Coast REZ

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The NSW government has issued a call for new wind, solar and storage project proposals for another renewable energy zone, this time centred around the state’s coal-heavy Hunter Region and the Central Coast.

“This new REZ will ensure the Hunter and Central Coast remain the powerhouse of New South Wales, with 60 per cent of the State’s homes, businesses and industry already powered out of these regions,” Kean said in the announcement, made at the Hunter region’s Tomago aluminium smelter.

“The Hunter-Central Coast REZ will provide cheap, reliable and clean electricity for the homes and businesses of NSW while supporting new job creation as we shift to a low carbon future.”

“The NSW Government has the nation-leading policies and plans in place to deliver on our commitment to halve our State’s emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero by 2050,” Kean added.

The Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone was added to the NSW government’s legislated electricity infrastructure strategy after a push from the Labor opposition and independent MP Greg Piper.

The Hunter region has long been the centre of New South Wales’ coal industries, featuring several coal mines, coal fired power stations and export terminals, but there have been growing calls for the region to diversify into cleaner energy technologies with increasing global momentum to phase out coal use.

Most of the Hunter region’s coal fired generators are expected to close over the next two decades, and the NSW government wants to see at least 12GW of new clean energy generation capacity and 2GW of energy storage projects developed before 2030 to fill the gap.

The creation of a renewable energy zone allows the state government to oversee and coordinate investment in new clean energy generation capacity with complementary investments in supporting network and storage infrastructure.

“The NSW Government is focused on making sure new energy infrastructure is built in places where the community wants it, and the Central Coast is ready to welcome the renewable technology of the future,” parliamentary secretary for the Central Coast Adam Crouch said.

“Extensive and meaningful community engagement is at the core of the NSW Government’s REZ program, with the Hunter-Central Coast REZ expected to take several years to design and develop.”

Previous calls for expressions of interest from prospective projects in other renewable energy zones, including the Central West Orana zone and the New England zone, have been overwhelmed by responses from project developers.

In each case, the government received proposals for substantially more generation capacity than can be hosted, showing the eagerness amongst developers to participate.

NSW parliamentary secretary for the Hunter, Taylor Martin, said the creation of the additional renewable energy zone would allow the Hunter region to share in the significant investment set to be generated by the government’s energy strategy.

“The Hunter-Central Coast REZ is a key part of our State’s
Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, which is expected to deliver $32 billion in private investment, and create 6,300 construction and 2,800 ongoing jobs by 2030,” Martin said.

“The NSW Government is committed to supporting job creation in the regions and is inviting renewable energy operators and large energy users to register their interest in being part of the Hunter-Central Coast REZ.”

The NSW government did not say how much capacity they expect to eventually be developed in the Hunter region but will use the proposals received through the registration of interest process to inform the timing, capacity and design of the Hunter-Central Coast zone.

A formal declaration of the zone outlining the total capacity of projects to be included and the geographical region it will cover is expected to be made in mid-2022.

The state government sought at least 3,000MW of new capacity for its Central West-Orana renewable energy zone and 8,000MW for its New England zone, suggesting the Hunter-Central Coast zone could also support investment in new projects running into the thousands of megawatts.

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