How giga will interest in NSW’s latest REZ go?

Overwhelmed by interest in its proposed Central-Orana Renewable Energy Zone and then in the New England REZ, the New South Wales Government has now opened the floodgates to the South-West.

The New South Wales Government has invited registrations of interest (ROIs) from renewable generators, energy storage and network developers, and existing and proposed energy loads, to participate in shaping its third renewable energy zone (REZ), the South-West REZ, which is centred on the inland town of Hay and extends west to Buronga and east to the fringes of Griffith. 

Gigawatts are needed, tens of gigawatts are expected, after the Central West Orana REZ drew 27 GW of interest when it had planned to coordinate 3 GW; and the New England REZ attracted 34 GW for a proposed 8 GW of integrated assets — no hard sell required.

The three REZ’s for which ROIs have so far been requested are the vanguard of five zones identified to date; those yet to begin formalisation are the Illawarra and Hunter-Central Coast REZs.

NSW has a comprehensive energy-transition plan

In November last year, New South Wales legislated to install 12 GW of renewable generation and 2 GW of energy storage over 10 years, to replace retiring coal-plant generation. At the time, commentators put the commitment in perspective by calculating it was equal to the combined electricity consumption of Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

But green hydrogen export ambitions, and the transition of hard-to-abate industries to renewables may well increase demand for clean generation, and investors and developers have so far been eager to participate in REZ ROIs partly because being included in the count helps the government plan appropriate transmission and distribution infrastructure and put in place incentives to drive high-energy-using manufacturers into REZ areas.

The South-West REZ was identified in the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan as an area rich in solar resources. 

Its indicative location was first published as part of the NSW Transmission Infrastructure Strategy in 2018, and its boundaries have since been adjusted to take advantage of developments such as the green-lighting of Project EnergyConnect — the 900-kilometre, 330 kV transmission project dubbed an energy superhighway linking South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria (via an offshoot from Buronga in NSW to Red Cliff across the the Victorian border).

Renewable Energy Zones, once described as mere “blobs on a map”, morph in response to the ever-changing energy landscape; to take the best advantage of renewable generation and storage projects, evolving transmission infrastructure and planned manufacturing.

NSW EnergyCo/AEMO

The area around Buronga was also included because of its strong wind resource. At the same time, the eastern and northern boundaries of the South-West REZ have been retracted, “to balance interactions with existing agricultural land uses, including irrigated cropping, and ensure reasonable connection distances to planned transmission infrastructure”, says the NSW Government website dedicated to registrations of interest in this latest REZ.

The boundaries may be further refined, says EnergyCo, the statutory authority established by the state government to lead the delivery of New South Wales REZs, as it responds to registrations of interest which will inform the “timing, capacity, design and location of the South-West REZ”, explains the site.

2.5 GW accounted for…

There is already a significant pipeline of projects planned for the region as defined to date; they include the proposed 2.5 GW Dinawan Energy Hub — a hybrid of solar PV, wind and battery storage technologies — recently announced by network infrastructure owner Spark Investment.

To be situated on the edge of the South-West REZ, near Jerilderie, Dinawan is in the path of Project EnergyConnect (scheduled for completion in 2024) and will also take advantage of the VNI West Interconnector between North Ballarat in Victoria, and Darlington Point and Wagga Wagga in New South Wales (scheduled for completion in 2027).

NSW EnergyCo emphasises that a registration of interest (ROI) for NSW’s third REZ does not constitute a formal proposal and “will not impact project outcomes in future NSW Government contracting processes”.

Registrations may be submitted here until 24 November.

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