Australia’s largest planned renewables zone ‘swamped’ with 34 GW of capacity


From pv magazine Australia

The New England region of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, is set to become a renewable energy powerhouse, with the state government confirming that a renewable energy zone (REZ) planned for the region had been flooded with expressions of interest. Investors have already tabled enough projects to create 34 GW of clean energy.

State Energy Minister Matt Kean said the response to the registration of interest (ROI) process showed huge investor confidence in the state’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, with more than four times the level of interest needed to build out the planned 8 GW REZ.

“The New England REZ is expected to deliver around AUD 10.7 billion ($7.8 billion) in investment and around 830 operational jobs, as well as 1,250 construction jobs each year, all while putting downward pressure on electricity prices and providing landowners with new income streams,” Kean said. “The overwhelming response shows this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to attract enormous investment into regional areas, cementing NSW’s renewable energy future.”

The New England REZ is one of five designated clean energy areas detailed in the NSW government’s electricity roadmap, which will support more than AUD 32 billion of investment in renewable energy generation, storage and transmission in the state. REZs will also be developed in the South-West, Hunter-Central Coast, Illawarra and Central-West Orana regions and are expected to bring 12 GW of renewable energy and 2 GW of storage online.

The Central-West Orana REZ, which is tipped to deliver 3 GW of renewable energy, was the first of the REZs to be launched. The call for registrations of interest last year attracted 113 registrations, for a total of 27 GW, valued at AUD 38 billion.

Kean said the interest in the Central-West Orana REZ had triggered an adjustment from the state government which has committed to investing AUD 78.9 million to support the development of the New England REZ, which is set to become Australia’s largest.

“The nine-fold level of interest in the Central-West Orana REZ was astounding, so it makes absolute sense to go even bigger with the New England REZ,” he said. “The New England REZ will be able to power 3.5 million homes and, when coupled with Central-West Orana REZ, sets the state up to become the No. 1 destination across Australia for renewable energy investment.”

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Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall said the ROI process had netted a much larger catch of potential projects than expected. It has put the local community in the box seat when it came to the final design and planning of the New England REZ, he said.

“With this level of interest, we have the luxury of supporting only the best projects that benefit the community, maintain the highest and strictest development standards and maximise local renewable jobs and investment in the region,” Marshall added. “We won’t be compromising our standards and now we are in the box seat, so we can be even more discerning, which is great. By coordinating REZ development in a strategic way, we can control our own destiny, making sure the projects we host work for our community, not just developers.”

The New England REZ, centered around the Northern Tablelands city of Armidale, will deliver up to 8 GW of new transmission capacity. The region is close to the existing high-voltage power lines that connect the NSW east coast and Queensland, providing opportunities to increase the state’s own energy resilience and to export excess energy to Queensland.

While investor interest is strong, the government said it will take a number of years to plan and deliver the New England REZ, which will be built in stages. The ROI is the first step in engaging industry on the New England REZ and will help inform the next stage of design, including crucial input for the REZ’s staged delivery and network design.

Government-owned EnergyCo will use the information to inform the next stage, with participation in the REZ to be determined through a competitive tender process. The first auctions of capacity and positions in the various REZs are expected to begin in 2022.

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