Planning approval for NSW REZ transmission project

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The Central-West Orana renewable energy zone (REZ) transmission project has received planning approval from the New South Wales (NSW) government to build network infrastructure, including transmission lines and energy hubs.

A consortium of renewable energy developers, including Spain-headquartered Acciona and Cobra Energy, and Australian-headquartered Endeavour Energy, known as ACEREZ are the project’s preferred network operators for the REZ to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the REZ transmission network.

NSW Minister for Climate Change and Energy Penny Sharpe said it is the first REZ transmission project in the country to obtain planning approval, paving the way for a significant boost in renewable energy generation to replace aging coal-fired power stations.

“It’s not just about clean energy. This project will bring long-term financial benefits to both NSW electricity consumers and the local communities which will host the Central-West Orana REZ,” Sharpe said.

“The Minns Labor Government will continue to work closely with communities, the Australian Government and the preferred network operator to finalise the project.”

The project is anticipated to drive up to $20 billion in private investment in solar, wind and energy storage projects.

The Central-West Orana REZ is a key initiative under the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap.The critical state significant infrastructure includes 90 km of double circuit 500 kV transmission lines and a total of 150 km of single, double and twin double circuit 330 kV transmission lines between proposed energy hubs and renewable energy generation projects in the Central-West Orana REZ and region.

Energy hubs will be located at Merotherie and Elong Elong, which will comprise 330 kV and 500 kV switchyards with power transformers, synchronous condensers, and supporting equipment.

A new 500 kV switching station will be built at Wollar, connecting the project to an existing 500 kV network at Transgrid’s Wollar Substation and 14 separate 330 kV switching stations will be built along the secondary infrastructure network.

Also included in the approval are underground fibre optic communication cables, microwave repeater sites, construction compounds, accommodation camps, and concrete batching plants. The project is estimated to take 28 months to complete.

The Environmental Impact Statement was exhibited in late 2023 and included measures to avoid, minimise or mitigate potential environmental and community impacts. Extensive community and stakeholder engagement informed a number of key changes to the project.

As a consequence of the 42 day public exhibition, 366 public submissions, including 351 objecting and two in support, and 21 submissions from special interest groups, including 12 objections and 1 in support.

Prior to approval, the NSW Government assigned nearly 100 approval conditions to support the rollout of the transmission project.

The transmission project planning approval is the first to be granted to a renewable energy zone in Australia.

Image: EnergyCo NSW

Financial close for the project is scheduled for the second half of 2024 and construction works are expected from late 2024, with initial operation anticipated in 2028.

NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said planning approval for the Central-West Orana REZ transmission project is a huge step forward in progressing 12 GW gigawatts of generation under the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap and moving towards our clean energy future.

“The Minns Labor government is accelerating the delivery of renewable energy infrastructure. We also know that if done right, this energy generation transition will develop a wave of new industry and jobs. That means transmission jobs, manufacturing jobs, construction jobs and maintenance jobs.

“Our recent budget invested money into the planning system to support and speed up the NSW Government’s assessment of renewable energy projects and meet our 2050 goal of Net Zero emissions.”

ACEREZ currently has a transmission licence application submitted for approval with the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, which is expected to be finalised by 6 September 2024.

The Central-West Orana REZ is approximately 20,000 square kilometres located in between the regional city of Dubbo and regional towns, Dunedoo and Mudgee.

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