The New South Wales (NSW) government’s plan to bring at least 12 GW of renewable energy and 2 GW of energy storage online by 2030 to replace the state’s ageing coal-fired power generators has received a significant boost with the formal declaration of the state’s fourth coordinated renewable energy zone (REZ).
The Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo), which has been tasked with implementing the government’s REZs, has confirmed that the Hunter-Central Coast REZ has been formally declared, paving the way for a huge pipeline of large-scale renewable energy generation and storage projects to come online.
The declaration is the first step in formalising the REZ under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020. It sets out the intended size, location and infrastructure that will make up the Hunter-Central Coast REZ which includes areas of the Upper Hunter, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Dungog, Cessnock, Maitland, Port Stephens, Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and the Central Coast.
EnergyCo Executive Director Mike Young said the newly declared REZ is a resource-rich region offering great renewable energy resources, with significant port and transport infrastructure, a skilled workforce and the capability to repurpose existing power stations and rehabilitated mining land.
“The Hunter-Central Coast REZ will ensure these regions play a key role in a renewable energy future, powering existing industries and supporting economic growth including emerging technology in green hydrogen, ammonia and metal production, offshore wind, electric vehicle fleet operators as well as electrification of industrial processes,” he said.
An initial expressions of interest process for the Hunter-Central Coast REZ attracted almost 40 GW of large-scale solar, wind and hydro generation and energy storage projects, which collectively would deliver more than 100,000 GWh of renewable energy a year and represents more than $100 billion (USD 67.6 billion) of potential investment.
The state received commercial interest to develop 24 large-scale solar projects, 35 utility-scale battery energy storage systems and eight pumped hydro projects in the Hunter-Central Coast REZ. Investors have also proposed 13 onshore and seven offshore wind energy projects.
Energy Minister Matt Kean said at the time that the overwhelming result shows the Hunter and Central Coast, home to four of NSW’s five coal-fired power stations, will continue to serve as the state’s energy powerhouse long into the future.
“These results show that energy investors see the Hunter and Central Coast as some of the best investment destinations anywhere in the country, which will translate into jobs and prosperity for the region,” he said.
EnergyCo, which will oversee the coordination of transmission, generation, firming and storage projects within the Hunter-Central Coast REZ, said it will continue to engage closely with industry, local government, local communities and other stakeholders as it progresses the design and delivery of the REZ.
The formal declaration of the Hunter-Central Coast REZ comes after the declarations for the Central-West Orana, New England and South-West zones which have attracted a combined 95 GW of interest. A REZ will also be developed in the Illawarra region.
The zones, are a key part of the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap which the state has adopted as it looks to systematically transition from coal-fired power generation to renewables-based electricity.