About the REZ transmission project
The Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) requires new transmission network infrastructure to transfer renewable energy to electricity consumers across the State, including new high capacity overhead transmission lines, energy hubs and related infrastructure. This is known as the Central-West Orana REZ transmission project.
The NSW Government previously engaged Transgrid, as the State’s jurisdictional transmission planner, to carry out early development work to guide the planning of new transmission infrastructure for the Central-West Orana REZ in 2020. Transgrid carried out community consultation on a preliminary study corridor up until late 2021.
In November 2021, the Central-West Orana REZ was formally declared by the Minister for Energy and Environment and EnergyCo was appointed as the Infrastructure Planner. At this time, EnergyCo assumed responsibility for engaging local communities and stakeholders to inform the development of new transmission infrastructure in the REZ.
EnergyCo invited community feedback on a revised study corridor for the REZ transmission project in early 2022. This built on previous consultation carried out by Transgrid on the preliminary study corridor in 2021. The feedback received during this consultation is outlined in our June 2022 community feedback report.
In September 2022, EnergyCo submitted a scoping report to the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) for the REZ transmission project. This marked the first major step in the project’s planning approval process. Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements (SEARs) were issued in October 2022.
Since mid-2022 EnergyCo has been engaging with local councils, government agencies and other key stakeholders to understand key local issues and priorities in the REZ. Further consultation was carried out with the wider community between January and March 2023 to inform how community impacts and benefits will be coordinated in the REZ, including through feedback invited via an online community survey. The findings from the survey is outlined in our June 2023 community feedback report.
EnergyCo is carrying out further investigations and engagement with communities and stakeholders to refine the transmission corridor. The final alignment for the REZ transmission project will be presented in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which is planned for public exhibition in Q3 2023.
EnergyCo is the Infrastructure Planner for the Central-West Orana REZ and is responsible for the planning and development of the REZ transmission project. This includes all aspects of the environmental planning and approvals process, as well as the acquisition of any private land and easements needed for the project.
As for the delivery and operation of the network, this will be done by the appointed Network Operator. EnergyCo is currently leading a competitive process to appoint a Network Operator who will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the new transmission infrastructure in the REZ. The successful Network Operator will then work with EnergyCo on the rollout of the project.
In May 2023, EnergyCo selected ACE Energy as the first ranked proponent as Network Operator for the Central-West Orana REZ. ACE Energy is sponsored by Acciona, Cobra and Endeavour Energy.
EnergyCo will now work closely with ACE Energy to finalise and enter into a Commitment Deed in Q3 2023 at which time they will be confirmed as the preferred Central-West Orana REZ Network Operator. Until that time, EnergyCo reserves the right to recommence discussions with the second ranked proponent if appropriate to do so.
The REZ transmission project has been declared a Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI) project by the Minister for Planning as it is considered 'essential for the State for economic, environmental or social reasons'.
Under the NSW Environment Planning and Assessment Act 1979, all CSSI applications are required to go through a comprehensive assessment process with extensive community involvement. This assessment process is outlined on the NSW Planning Portal.
EnergyCo will be the proponent of the EIS for the REZ transmission project. The EIS is expected to be displayed for public exhibition in Q3 2023. All submissions received as part of the exhibition will be reviewed and a response will be made publicly available in a submissions report.
EnergyCo is the proponent for the REZ transmission project only. Developers are responsible for lodging their own development applications and preparing an EIS for each wind, solar and storage project. The timetable for environmental assessments of generation and storage projects will be determined by the individual developers.
Subject to planning approval, construction of the first stage of the REZ transmission project is expected to be completed in 2027.
The Central-West Orana REZ requires new high voltage overhead transmission lines to transfer renewable energy from the REZ to electricity consumers. The backbone of the REZ transmission network will be powered by one or more 500 kV double circuit lines. This is the highest voltage used on the NSW network and has the advantage of reducing the number of circuits and lines required, therefore minimising the land required for easements. Transmission lines which connect to renewable energy generation projects will generally be 330 kV lines and either single or double circuit.
Energy hubs are a modern type of substation that will collect renewable energy from wind, solar and storage projects and transfer it to the broader transmission network. There are two energy hubs proposed for the REZ transmission project at Elong Elong and Merotherie. Additional energy hubs may be identified for future stages of the project.
Once they are built, energy hubs are generally low impact for neighbouring landowners and residents. More information is available in our energy hub fact sheet.
Overhead transmission lines will be supported by steel lattice towers which are between 45 and 70 metres high. The towers will generally be spaced around 400 to 600 metres apart depending on the local geography and other factors. The height of these towers is carefully calculated to provide appropriate insulation for energy being transferred through the high voltage lines and maintain safety clearance from the ground and surrounding vegetation.
Electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) are a natural part of the environment and are produced wherever electricity or electrical equipment is used. According to health authorities, including the World Health Organisation and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, EMFs from electrical transmission lines are not considered a risk to human health. A detailed assessment of the EMFs from the REZ transmission network will be carried out as part of the environmental assessment process. For more information, you can view our EMF fact sheet.
Route selection process
As Infrastructure Planner for the REZ, EnergyCo is responsible for selecting energy hub locations and the route for the new transmission lines. We are considering a number of important factors as part of the route selection process:
- feedback from communities and stakeholders
- the locations of proposed generation projects with planned connections to the REZ network
- existing and planned land use
- natural hazards (e.g. bushfire or flood prone land)
- environmental values
- time and cost of construction.
We are planning the transmission route so it minimises impacts to sensitive land uses and local communities as much as possible. This includes locating the route through mining areas, as well as following existing transmission line easements and generation developments where practical.
Community feedback is an essential part of the project development process to make sure we deliver the best outcomes for communities, energy consumers and the REZ. We welcome feedback or questions from the community and stakeholders at any time as we develop the REZ transmission project.
Ongoing community and stakeholder engagement will be carried out to inform various aspects of the project, including the transmission route selection process and the development of cumulative impact strategies and community benefit funding initiatives.
The final transmission alignment will be presented in the EIS which is planned to be displayed for public exhibition in Q3 2023.
EnergyCo is investigating a possible extension of the REZ transmission network roughly between Elong Elong and Mumbil. An extension of the transmission network in this region would allow for future connections to potential generation projects around Mumbil and Lake Burrendong as well as connect into the existing transmission line south of Wellington. The proposed corridor under investigation was published in EnergyCo’s September 2022 project update.
The southern extension will be subject to a separate planning process and is still in the early development phase. We expect to provide further details later this year on the next steps.
We will keep the community informed of our plans for the southern extension and opportunities to provide feedback.
Working with landowners
EnergyCo is committed to working with potentially affected landowners to minimise impacts on farming, mining and other business activities through the life of the project. During the planning phase, we want to understand farming operations and other possible property impacts or concerns to inform the design and location of the transmission route. This could include avoiding dwellings and high value land, minimising fragmentation of blocks, limiting construction access and other amenity issues.
EnergyCo will need to acquire private land and easement rights to build the REZ transmission project. Easements are when we acquire legal right of access to a section of land for the purposes of building and maintaining transmission lines. You can read our property and easement acquisition fact sheet for further details on how EnergyCo is acquiring easement rights for the REZ transmission project.
We appreciate easements can be a cause of concern for property owners who use their land for agricultural or industrial operations. We’re committed to finding ways to allow these activities to continue with minimal impact. Once commissioned, transmission lines do not generally have a significant impact on farming operations. While there will be some restrictions within the easement, farmers will still be able to grow crops and graze livestock. Some activities may be subject to certain requirements to ensure the safe operation of the transmission network.
Further details are available in our fact sheet about living and working near transmission easements.
We understand the risk of bushfires in the Central-West Orana region and this is a key consideration as we plan the REZ transmission network. The transmission network will be built to withstand most bushfire conditions. Transmission lines are operated remotely and can be shut down quickly in the event of a bushfire.
Transmission lines will not prevent aerial firefighting activities from being carried out. They are generally clearly visible from the air even when there’s smoke, so aerial firefighting can continue.
To support the delivery of a modern electricity grid for NSW that benefits communities and consumers, the NSW Government is establishing a Strategic Benefit Payments Scheme (SBP Scheme) for new major transmission projects in NSW.
Under the SBP Scheme, private landowners in NSW will receive $200,000 per kilometre (in real 2022 dollars) of new transmission infrastructure hosted on their land, paid out in annual instalments over 20 years and subject to CPI. The rate of the payments is calculated in the same way regardless of location in NSW to ensure all landowners are treated equitably under the scheme. These payments are separate, and in addition to, the one-off compensation paid to landowners for the acquisition of transmission easements under the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991.
The payments apply for major transmission projects critical to the energy transformation and future of the electricity grid, including the Central-West Orana REZ transmission project.
The scheme is an acknowledgement of the vital role private landowners in regional NSW play in supporting the delivery of a modern electricity grid for our State.
To get in touch with EnergyCo’s project team for the Central-West Orana REZ, you can email us at [email protected] or by calling 1800 032 101 (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday). We welcome your questions and feedback at any time.
We have locally based team members in the region who are available to chat with you about the project. EnergyCo has an office at 155 Macquarie Street, Dubbo NSW 2830, which is available to visit by appointment.
You can get in touch via our project contact details if you’d like to speak to a team member or schedule a meeting.