EnergyCo makes move to formalise Illawarra REZ

The New South Wales government has declared the Illawarra region on the state’s south coast is set to become a renewable energy and clean manufacturing powerhouse after outlining plans for a coordinated renewable energy zone that will deliver at least 1 GW of new network capacity as the state transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The New South Wales (NSW) government has published a draft declaration for the Illawarra Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), one of five designated clean energy areas detailed in the state government’s electricity roadmap which aims to bring at least 12 GW of renewable energy and 2 GW of storage online by 2030.

The draft declaration details the intended capacity, geographical area and required network infrastructure that will make up the Illawarra REZ – centred around the steel city of Wollongong, south of Sydney.

The Energy Corporation of NSW (EnergyCo), a government-controlled authority appointed to lead the delivery of the renewable energy zones, said the declaration is the first step in formalising the REZ under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020.

EnergyCo said the capacity of the Illawarra REZ will be no less than 1 GW but said this “may increase over time with the growth of offshore wind and other emerging technologies.”

An initial expressions of interest process for the Illawarra REZ received commercial interest to develop 44 projects, including wind, solar, energy storage, pumped hydro and green hydrogen production totalling 17 GW of capacity and representing more than $43 billion (USD 28.7 billion) of potential investment.

The proposals include five large-scale solar projects, and. 16 energy storage projects including 11 batteries and four pumped-hydro projects. Investors have also proposed eight offshore and two onshore wind energy projects, and three new “load projects” including green steel manufacturing.

Energy Minister Matt Kean said the Illawarra region is an ideal location for the development of a renewable energy zone and will play a critical role in providing reliable and clean electricity to homes and businesses in NSW as coal-fired power stations progressively close over the next 10 to 15 years.

“The Illawarra is well placed to become a renewable energy powerhouse, thanks to its existing energy, port and transport infrastructure, its highly skilled workforce and strong demand from existing industries to decarbonise,” he said.

The Illawarra REZ is one of five renewable energy zones included in the NSW government’s electricity Roadmap. REZs are also being developed in the South-West, Hunter-Central Coast, New England and Central-West Orana regions and are expected to bring at least 12 GW of renewable energy and 2 GW of storage online.

That capacity is likely to be revised with the registration of interest process for all five of the renewable energy zones having been swamped by investors. While the Illawarra REZ attracted interest to develop 17 GW of capacity, the Central West Orana REZ drew 27 GW of interest when it had planned to coordinate 3 GW. The New England REZ attracted 34 GW for a proposed 8 GW of integrated assets, the Hunter-Central Coast REZ received more than 80 clean energy projects totalling almost 40 GW while the South-West REZ attracted 34 GW of potential generation and storage projects.

The draft declaration for the Illawarra REZ will remain on public exhibition until mid-February 2023.

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