Race for NSW renewable energy zone role trimmed to three


The New South Wales (NSW) government on Wednesday announced a shortlist of three groups it is considering for the network operator role for the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone that will host at least 3GW of solar, wind and storage.

Australia’s first coordinated renewable energy zone (REZ) is to be centred around the town of Dubbo in the NSW central west. The Central-West Orana REZ is planned to unlock at least 3GW of new network capacity by the mid-2020s, enough to power 1.4 million homes.

The network operator will be responsible for designing, financing, building, operating and maintaining the network infrastructure for the clean energy zone. The new grid connections will include energy hubs and new high-capacity transmission lines.

The short-listed tenderers for the Central-West Orana REZ transmission network include ACE Energy, comprising Spanish renewable energy company Acciona, Cobra and electricity distributor Endeavour Energy.

The Central-West Orana REZ declared area.

Image: EnergyCo

Also making the shortlist is Network REZolution, which comprises CIMIC Group companies Pacific Partnerships, UGL and CPB Contractors, along with APA Group, Australia’s largest natural gas infrastructure business.

The third of the short-listed tenderers is NewGen Networks, comprising infrastructure investor Plenary Group, Spanish infrastructure giant Elecnor, SecureEnergy (the joint venture of Elecnor and Australian engineering and construction company Clough), and the NSW Government-owned network operator Essential Energy.

The Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo), which has been tasked with implementing the government’s REZs, said it will soon invite the shortlisted tenderers to respond to a Request for Proposal, with the contract to be awarded next year.

Deputy Premier Paul Toole said the announcement of the shortlist was an exciting milestone for what he described as a “modern-day power station”.

“The network operator will play a critical role in the REZ by connecting power from energy suppliers, including wind and solar farms, and distributing it to energy consumers across the state,” he said.

The Central-West Orana REZ is the first of five designated clean energy zones detailed in the NSW Government’s Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap, which it expects will support more than $32 billion of investment in renewable energy generation, storage and transmission in the state. REZs will also be developed in the New England, Hunter-Central Coast, South-West and Illawarra regions.

The revised transmission line will boost capacity of the Central-West Orana REZ.NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean said the Central-West Orana REZ will play a pivotal role in the state’s plans to deliver a cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy sector ahead of the planned retirement of the state’s aging thermal-generation fleet.

“Combining generation and storage with poles and wires, the REZ will capitalise on economies of scale to deliver energy to homes and businesses in NSW,” he said.

The Central-West Orana REZ was originally expected to deliver 3GW of new solar, wind and storage capacity but that appears certain to be revised.

A call for registrations of interest in the Central-West Orana REZ last year attracted 113 registrations, totalling 27GW and valued at $38 billion, a response that Kean labelled “astounding”.

Since then, the government has announced a revised transmission corridor that could help it almost quadruple the size of the planned clean energy zone.

“As the new route can accommodate additional transmission lines, it gives us options to deliver nearly four times the amount of renewable power to the grid with the same infrastructure,” Kean said.

This content is protected by copyright and may not be reused. If you want to cooperate with us and would like to reuse some of our content, please contact: editors@pv-magazine.com.