New South Wales receives 34GW of proposals for latest renewable energy zone

A 70MW solar project in New South Wales. Image Nextracker.

A plan to establish Australia’s largest renewable energy zone (REZ) in the state of New South Wales (NSW) has seen an overwhelming level of interest, with projects representing 34GW of capacity submitted.

NSW’s energy ministry said it has been swamped with over 80 registrations, representing a more than four-fold oversubscription, for the 8GW REZ that is planned for the New England region, in the north of the state.

“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,” said the state’s energy minister, Matt Kean.

A registration of interest process for the zone was launched in June, with generation, storage and network developers with proposed or operational assets asked to submit responses.

The information from this process is being used to inform the timescale and design of the zone, which is expected to deliver around AU$10.7 billion (US$7.76 billion) in investment and support 830 operational jobs and 1,250 annual construction jobs.

Participation in the REZ will now be determined through a competitive tender process as the Energy Corporation of NSW, a statutory authority controlled by the state government, analyses data to inform the next steps of the zone’s development.

“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,” said state minister for agriculture, Adam Marshall.

The NSW government will invest AU$78.9 million to support the development of the zone, which is one of five REZs totalling 12GW of capacity that the state intends to create as part of its new Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap. The four other zones are planned for the regions of Central-West and Orana, Illawarra, South-West and Hunter-Central Coast.

The first, Central-West and Orana, also received significant interest last year as the government received 113 proposals, totalling 27GW, looking to connect to the 3GW zone.

It is hoped the REZs will play a vital role in delivering affordable, reliable energy generation to help replace NSW’s existing power stations as they retire.

The state government describes the REZs as modern-day power stations that combine renewables generation, such as solar and wind, with battery storage and high-voltage poles, while capitalising on economies of scale to deliver cheap, clean electricity.

Elsewhere in Australia, Queensland received significant interest last year for its three planned REZs, while the Northern Territory is exploring the development of transmission links that could support the creation of REZs.