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Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone

Introduction

EnergyCo is in the early stages of planning a Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) in the Hunter and Central Coast regions on the lands of the Awabakal, Bahtabah, Biraban, Darkinjung, Mindaribba, Wanaruah and Worimi people.

 

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Why the region was chosen

The Hunter and Central Coast regions have unique features which make them ideal locations for a REZ. These regions have excellent renewable energy resources and can utilise existing power stations, rehabilitated mining land, electricity network infrastructure, port and transport infrastructure and a skilled workforce.

The Hunter-Central Coast REZ will ensure these regions have a key role in a renewable energy future, powering existing industries and supporting economic growth, including emerging technology in green hydrogen, ammonia and metal production, offshore wind, electric vehicle fleet operators and electrification of industrial processes.

Beginning in 2021, EnergyCo undertook a geospatial mapping analysis investigation of the Hunter and Central Coast regions to identify a nominal boundary for the REZ. Read more about the methodology for defining the geographical area here.

Consultation with the community

EnergyCo will work closely with local community and regional stakeholders on the design, location and delivery of the Hunter-Central Coast REZ.

Planning, designing and building new electricity network infrastructure in the Hunter and Central Coast regions requires a detailed understanding of the regions’ future large energy users and renewable energy projects. By increasing manufacturing, agriculture and export opportunities, this REZ will also provide significant opportunities and benefits to the Hunter and Central Coast regions.

Registration of Interest (ROI)

Between December 2021 and February 2022, EnergyCo ran a Registration of Interest (ROI) process for the Hunter-Central Coast REZ. This was the first step in engaging with industry on the design of the REZ.

The Hunter-Central Coast REZ attracted a significant response with commercial interest in renewable generation and storage projects representing almost 40 gigawatts and more than $100 billion of potential investment.

In summary, these commercial parties registered interest in:

  • 24 solar energy projects,
  • 13 onshore and seven offshore wind energy projects,
  • 35 large-scale batteries, and
  • eight pumped hydro projects.

In addition to this investment in clean energy generation and storage, the Hunter-Central Coast REZ will underpin the growth of new low carbon industries such as green hydrogen, ammonia and metals production, which could service both domestic and export markets as the world decarbonises and shifts towards increased green manufacturing.

Declaration

The Hunter-Central Coast REZ was formally declared by the Minister for Energy under section 19(1) of the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020 (the Act) and published in the NSW Gazette on 9 December 2022. View the REZ (Hunter-Central Coast) Declaration Order here.

The REZ declaration is the first step in formalising the REZ under the Act and establishes EnergyCo as the Infrastructure Planner responsible for coordinating the development of the REZ. It also sets out the intended network capacity (size), geographical area (location) and infrastructure that will make up the REZ, and enables and sets the scope of key legislative functions under the Act, including access schemes and REZ network solutions (referred to in the Act as ‘REZ network infrastructure projects’). 

As the Infrastructure Planner for the Hunter-Central Coast REZ, EnergyCo will work with network operators to deliver any required augmentations to transmission infrastructure. 

The modernisation of the Hunter-Central Coast electricity system will assist industries to decarbonise and access cleaner, cheaper and more reliable renewable energy by connecting new renewable energy and storage projects. 

The declaration follows an assessment of feedback received during the draft declaration exhibition held between 28 September and 26 October 2022. All consultation feedback was addressed and did not result in any changes being made to the geographical area, network capacity or specified network infrastructure in the (final) declaration order.

A stylised map of the geographical area of the REZ is included above for reference. It includes the existing 132 kV, 330 kV and 500 kV transmission infrastructure near and in the REZ as a geographical reference. You can download the GIS file of the Hunter-Central Coast geographical area boundary here.

In the future, the Minister may amend the declaration to expand the specified geographical area of the REZ, increase the intended network capacity, specify additional generation, storage and network infrastructure, provide further details and specifications or correct a minor error.

Intended network capacity

The declaration sets out the intended network capacity for network infrastructure in the Hunter-Central Coast REZ of 1 gigawatt.

The ROI for the Hunter-Central Coast REZ identified over 2 gigawatts of generation from onshore wind and solar generation projects located in the Upper Hunter near Muswellbrook. The initial intended network capacity of 1 gigawatt would be sufficient to cater for the expected generation in this area given the variable nature of wind and solar energy generation.

Importantly, the capacity of the Hunter-Central Coast REZ is likely to increase over time with the retirement of coal-fired power stations, re-purposing of mining land and the growth of offshore wind.

The Hunter-Central Coast REZ intended network capacity of 1 gigawatt does not include the Hunter Transmission Project which would deliver up to 8 gigawatts of additional transfer capacity from inland REZs to support the decarbonisation of existing industries (such as Tomago Aluminium) and the growth of emerging technologies (such as hydrogen).

Network infrastructure

We have consulted with network planners, including the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), Transgrid and Ausgrid to specify the network infrastructure that makes up the REZ.

In summary, this is:

  1. Planned, new and existing network infrastructure in the specified geographical area.
  2. The Sydney Ring transmission network infrastructure project is not specified network infrastructure for the purposes of this declaration. The northern part of the Sydney Ring project is named the Hunter Transmission Project and may include the Waratah Super Battery and related upgrades.

The above is a summary only. Interested parties should consult the full text in the declaration.

Further specified network, generation and storage infrastructure may be added to the declaration later. EnergyCo will update this website as further information and engagement opportunities become available.

Next steps

Like all REZs, planning, designing and building the Hunter-Central Coast REZ will be complex, taking some years to design and build. EnergyCo will continue to engage closely with the local community, industry, local government and other stakeholders as the design and delivery of the REZ progresses.