The New South Wales (NSW) Government said almost 40GW of large-scale solar PV, wind and hydro generation and energy storage projects, which collectively would deliver more than 100,000GWh of renewable energy a year, have been received in the registration of interest for the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).
NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean said on Wednesday the state had received commercial interest to develop 24 solar PV projects, 35 large-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.
Kean said the overwhelming result shows that 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.
“Renewable Energy Zones are vital to ensuring the future reliability and affordability of electricity in NSW as traditional coal-fired power stations close down over the coming decades.”
The state government wants to see at least 12GW of renewable energy and 2GW of energy storage projects developed before 2030 to fill the gap created by the planned retirement of the state’s ageing coal-fired generation fleet.
Four of the state’s five existing coal-fired generators are due to close within the next 15 years but there are signs that timeframe could be fast tracked.
Energy giant AGL earlier this month announced it will bring forward the closure of several of its coal-fired power plants, including the Bayswater power station in the Hunter.
AGL said the 2.64GW Bayswater power plant is to be shuttered “no later than” 2033, two years ahead of its previously scheduled closure of 2035, while the 2GW Liddell power station, also in the Hunter, is scheduled to close by April 2023.
The Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo), which was established to oversee the coordination of transmission, generation, firming and storage projects within the state’s REZs, said that at the end of December 2021, there were already 13 distinct large-scale renewable energy and battery storage projects in the Hunter and Central Coast regions that are either approved or progressing through the NSW planning system. These projects have a combined generation capacity of around 1.9GW and represent about $1.85 billion in investment.
Parliamentary secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, said the results of the registration of interest in the REZ showed that the region is set to reap the jobs and investment rewards as the state transitions to renewable energy.
“The REZ will not only attract investment in clean energy, it will also underpin the growth of new low-carbon industries such as green hydrogen, ammonia and metals production which the world is going to need as it decarbonises,” he said.
Member for Upper Hunter Dave Layzell said the REZ would set the state up to be an economic and energy superpower.
“The Hunter-Central Coast region is the perfect location for a new REZ as it has good renewable energy resources, access to transmission, transport and port infrastructure, and most importantly, a highly skilled workforce,” he said.
The Hunter-Central Coast REZ is one of five designated clean energy zones detailed in the NSW Government’s electricity roadmap. REZs will also be developed in the Central-West Orana, New England, South-West and Illawarra regions.
The response to the Hunter-Central Coast REZ continues the huge market interest in the REZs with earlier processes in the Central West Orana, New England and South-West regions attracting a combined 95GW of interest.
EnergyCo, which will oversee the coordination of transmission, generation, firming and storage projects within the state’s REZs, said in a statement it is in the early stages of planning the Hunter-Central Coast REZ and will be using the expressions of interest to inform the timing, capacity and boundaries of the zone.
EnergyCo said it will engage closely with industry, local government, local communities and other stakeholders as it progresses the design and delivery of the REZ.
It is expected that the Hunter-Central Coast REZ will be formally declared under the NSW Government’s Electricity Roadmap legislation by mid-2022.
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