EnergyCo ‘right sizes’ plans for Central-West Orana REZ


It was originally planned the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) would deliver 3 GW of new of large-scale solar, wind and energy storage projects but the New South Wales (NSW) government is proposing to amend the declaration to increase the intended network capacity of the REZ to 6 GW.

The Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo), a government-controlled authority appointed to lead the delivery of the state’s five renewable energy zones, said the proposed amendment reflects the projected size of the Central-West Orana REZ as outlined in the recently published Network Infrastructure Strategy.

Released in May 2023, the strategy proposes network infrastructure options with a total capacity of 14 GW to be delivered “as soon as practicable” over the next decade, allowing more renewable energy from solar, wind and storage projects to be distributed through the NSW transmission network.

Included in the strategy are options to increase the network capacity of the Central-West Orana REZ up to 4.5 GW in the initial first stage and up to 6 GW as part of the second stage to be delivered by 2038.

EnergyCo Chief Executive James Hay said “right sizing” the Central-West Orana REZ network capacity is critical to delivering the clean, affordable and reliable energy required to meet NSW’s net zero targets.

“This will allow the Central-West Orana REZ to cost-effectively accommodate future expansion and provide flexibility to deliver energy reliability and put downward pressure on electricity bills as we transition our economy away from a reliance on fossil fuels,” he said.

Hay said the proposed declaration amendment relates to the intended network capacity only and will not impact the geographical size of the REZ, which encompasses approximately 20,000 square kilometres centred around the town of Dubbo.

“Importantly, stage one would not change the proposed transmission infrastructure that EnergyCo has been consulting on over the past two years,” he said.

“If we need any future expansions to deliver stage two, these will be subject to separate planning and regulatory approval processes including detailed community consultation and environmental assessment under the NSW planning system.”

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 (USD 21.05 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 Central-West Orana REZ is the most advanced of the zones and has sparked strong interest from prospective developers. A registrations of interest process conducted in 2020 attracted more than 100 registrations, totalling 27 GW of renewable energy capacity, valued at an estimated $38 billion.

It is expected the Central-West Orana REZ will generate up to $10 billion in private investment in the region by 2030 and support around 5,000 construction jobs at its peak.

EnergyCo is seeking feedback until 4 September 2023 on the draft declaration amendment.

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