The race that stores the nation – world’s largest battery proposed for NSW Hunter


CEP.Energy  the rising star green energy fund that put its name up in lights last year in the C&I renewable-energy space, is now looking to store its name permanently on the face of the sun with the announcement that it intends to build the world’s largest grid-scale battery in New South Wales (NSW); a 1.2 GW megabattery within the Hunter Economic Zone (HEZ). 

According to a company statement, CEP.Energy signed a new 30-year lease agreement with the Hunter Investment Corporation to build a grid-scale battery with capacity up to 1,200 MW within the HEZ precinct at Kurri Kurri. 

The battery would be the largest of four planned utility-scale batteries CEP.Energy is planning throughout Australia. The total planned portfolio reaching a capacity of 2 GW. 

According to CEP.Energy CEO Peter Wright, the proposed Hunter Big Battery is eight times the size of the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia (SA). And if everything goes to plans, and that is a lot of things, CEP.Energy would be well on its way to becoming Australia’s largest battery storage asset owner. 

“CEP’s grid-scale battery network is part of our dual-track strategy to generate and store clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity for Australian businesses,” said Wright, “and make excess power available to the national grid to firm up the increase in renewable generation.”

By 2025, CEP.Energy’s plan is to have 1.5 GW of solar and 1 GW of battery energy storage providing a steady flow of low-cost energy for tenants of some 10 property-portfolio partners via microgrids and virtual power plants distributed across industrial and retail rooftops in SA, NSW, Victoria and Queensland. 

Wright says that the fund has already secured strategic locations with excellent network connectivity infrastructure. Of course, the strategic location of the Hunter battery is the HEZ site, which already holds approvals for major works and is adjacent to existing sub-stations. “It is among the best handful of sites in Australia for reliable and efficient grid connection,” Wright added. 

Chaired by former New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma, the fund’s executives include Marjorie Maydwell (ex Energy Australia and AusGrid) as Head of Embedded Networks, Dan Lowenthal (coming from senior roles in Schletter Australia, DECMIL and SunEdison) as Head of Installations, Jan-Adrian Muller (ex Tesla C&I Project Development in Australia) as Business Development Manager, and Peter Wright, a former executive of Macquarie Bank, as CEO.

Speaking on the planned Hunter megabattery, Iemma said integrated grid-scale battery networks are accelerating Australia’s transition to a clean energy future. 

Iemma stressed the important role big batteries will play in covering the gaps left by coal and gas retirements, such as the nearby Liddell Power Station. 

Indeed, the Energy Security Board’s (ESB) Post 2025 Market Design Directions Paper released last month states that the massive influx of new renewable energy over the next two decades will need to be supported by between 6-19 GW of new flexible and dispatchable resources. 

“The clean energy roadmap laid out by the NSW Government has provided the market with the confidence to invest in renewable generation supported by large battery storage,” continued Iemma. “This project will help ensure the Hunter region of NSW remains true to its heritage as one of the nation’s energy powerhouses as we work towards a cleaner, decarbonised future.”

The race that stores the nation

The CEP.Energy megabattery joins a growing list of megabatteries announced in recent months. There is a race on in the energy industry and unlike the Melbourne Cup it is not a race that stops the nation, but a race that stores the nation. Only last month Origin Energy’s announced that it planned to build a 700 MW battery at the site of its Eraring coal generator also in the NSW Hunter region.  Throw in French renewables giant (and owner of Hornsdale Power Reserve) Neoen filed planned 500 MW / 1000 MWh big battery to be built west of Sydney, in addition to the 300 MW / 450 MWh Victoria Big Battery it is on the verge of constructing outside Geelong, as well as securing a 14-year contract with the Australian Capital Territory.

But let’s not forget AGL, another of Australia’s largest and longest-serving polluters, which is also making rapid headway toward its goal of 850 MW of new large-scale battery storage in its portfolio by FY 2024. AGL has already announced a 200 MW large grid-scale battery project based at Loy Yang in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, and a 250 MW, four-hour duration battery system in development at the site of its Torrens Island Power station in South Australia. 

CEP.Energy’s Chief Strategy Advisor, Mark Stedwell, previously GM Real Time Operations and Systems Capability at the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), has said that the reliable battery storage is a pathway to greater levels of variable renewables. Hence, “There is clearly scope for more big battery projects that stack up in terms of location and a sustainable business model.” 

Big Battery VPP

CEP.Energy has a dual trajectory planned for its battery battery portfolio, what it calls its “dual-track strategy”. Simultaneous with the development of its 2 GW utility-scale storage plans the green fund will also look to progress its aggregated Virtual Power Plant (VPP), the product of 1.5 GW of C&I rooftop solar. 

CEP.Energy will pursue the development of the Hunter Big Battery in stages, with Wright saying that an expression of interest (EOI) period will be issued imminently to find the right battery provider. 

The current estimate is that construction on the project will begin in Q1 2022 with hopes of being operational in 2023. 

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