Plans to establish the first of three ‘renewable energy zones’ (REZ) in the Australian state of New South Wales have seen an overwhelming level of interest, with a call for proposals chalking up a nine-fold oversubscription.
NSW deputy premier John Barilaro said yesterday that the state government had received 113 registrations of interest, totalling 27GW, looking to connect to the 3GW REZ in the Central-West and Orana regions of NSW following a two-week proposal window launched in late May.
“The Central-West Orana REZ is expected to generate AU$4.4 billion in investment, create 450 construction jobs, help put downward pressure on electricity prices and allow landowners to diversify their incomes by hosting renewable energy infrastructure,” Barilaro said.
“By coordinating development in a strategic way, REZs also help us get the land use planning right, and renewables built in places that work for the community, not just developers.”
The Central-West REZ is being used as a pilot for the renewable energy zone concept because it already has significant levels of interest from investors and an estimated 4.5GW of projects in the pipeline, the NSW government said.
The government has committed AU$31.6 million to the REZ, taking its total budget to over AU$40 million.
“With this funding locked in, we can bring the Central-West Orana REZ from a vision to a reality,” state energy minister Matt Kean said.
“The Central-West Orana REZ, the first of the state’s three Renewable Energy Zones, will be the modern-day equivalent of a traditional power station, capable of powering 1.3 million homes.
“I want NSW households and businesses to have some of the cheapest and cleanest electricity in the world and this REZ will bring in the low-cost solar and wind to do that.”
Kean said a new body, the Energy Corporation of NSW, will oversee the development of the REZ, using the available funding to coordinate the technical design, planning processes, community engagement and other aspects of the initiative.
In a related announcement, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) said it would direct AU$5 million of funding to the state grid operator, TransGrid, to conduct a detailed feasibility for the Central-West Orana REZ. The study will scope out a viable commercial model for the zone, as well as technical, consumer and community considerations, and is expected to provide a template to allow the REZ concept to be rolled out nationally.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said: “The Australian energy system is transitioning from dispatchable thermal generation to largely variable renewable energy generation. New transmission will be required to connect regions with strong renewable resources to load centres and to reduce network congestion.”
“This study is expected to provide a pathway to achieve Australia’s first true Renewable Energy Zone and provide a blueprint for how others can be created in the future, helping to unlock investment in renewable energy projects, secure new regional jobs and cheaper, emission free energy.