Access schemes are a key part of the NSW Government’s plan to coordinate and encourage renewable energy and storage investment in Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) and realise the objectives of the NSW Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap (the Roadmap) and the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020 (the Act).
An access scheme is intended to enable efficient investment in generation, storage and transmission infrastructure in the long-term interest of consumers while delivering positive outcomes for local and First Nations communities.
Generation and storage projects that wish to connect to network infrastructure which is subject to an access scheme will need to apply for an access right through a competitive tender. Access right holders will be charged access fees that include components to fund community benefit and employment programs.
REZ access schemes will:
- govern the volume of projects that may be granted access rights to connect to REZ network infrastructure and define the terms and conditions of the access rights
- enable investment in new, low-cost generation and storage projects by providing increased certainty of curtailment risks for access right holders while maintaining an efficient level of utilisation of the REZ scheme infrastructure
- create a streamlined connection process for projects that will improve connection timeframes, provide greater certainty and reduce re-work and costs compared to the open-access connection process.
By managing generation and storage connections in the REZs, the access schemes will enable active coordination of network, generation and storage investment. This will help optimise the network, reduce bills for energy consumers, and improve coordination of outcomes for local communities.
The NSW Government has now published the Guidelines for Access Scheme Declarations available here. The guidelines provide information on how the Minister will exercise the function of declaring access schemes. They build upon feedback received on the REZ access rights and scheme design: Central-West Orana Consultation Paper.
Central-West Orana REZ Access Scheme
The Central-West Orana (CWO) REZ Access Scheme is the first of its kind in the National Electricity Market (NEM). The Central-West Orana REZ was formally declared on 5 November 2021. We are committed to delivering the best outcomes for stakeholders in the Central-West Orana REZ.
The Department published a CWO REZ Access Scheme Issues Paper in March 2021, which received over 50 submissions, and hosted a public webinar in April 2021 with around 300 participants. This Issues Paper canvassed three potential models for the CWO REZ Access Scheme, including a limited physical connection model and two financial compensation models.
Based on this initial consultation process, the Department published the REZ access rights and scheme design: Central-West Orana Consultation Paper in December 2021 for an 8-week consultation period. This paper outlined proposed design concepts, structural and implementation elements of the access right and scheme to gather feedback. Over 300 attendees participated in a public webinar and 41 stakeholders provided written submissions to the Department.
In July 2022, the NSW Government published a CWO REZ Access Rights and Scheme Design Positions Paper alongside a draft CWO REZ Access Scheme Declaration to explain the policy positions and the proposed enabling regulations to facilitate consultation before gazettal of the final CWO REZ Access Scheme Declaration. This included insights into the analysis and considerations behind policy design features and references to the feedback received on the Consultation Paper as relevant.
Following consultation on the draft CWO REZ Access Scheme Declaration from July to August 2022, the CWO REZ Access Scheme was formally declared by the Minister for Energy under section 24(1) of the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020 on 19 December 2022 and published in the NSW Government Gazette on 23 December 2022. The declaration is available here.
The CWO REZ Access Scheme Declaration sets out how generation and storage projects can be granted access rights to new network infrastructure within the CWO REZ and is the primary statutory instrument for the CWO REZ Access Scheme.
Generation and storage projects that wish to connect to the new CWO REZ network infrastructure to which the access scheme applies will need to seek an access right. For further information on the Consumer Trustee's competitive Tender process for access rights see Access right tender updates.
After consulting with key stakeholders, under clause 13(4) of the CWO REZ Access Scheme Declaration, EnergyCo as the Infrastructure Planner, extended the term of the Scheme from 20 years to 33 years by publishing this Notice under the Renewable Energy Zone (Central-West Orana) Access Scheme Order 2022 on the EnergyCo website on 31 August 2023. EnergyCo extended the term to align with the CWO REZ Network Operator’s Concession Period and the typical asset life of major generation projects.
New England REZ Access Scheme
EnergyCo is currently developing an access scheme for the New England REZ and will consider how this access scheme could be applied to the New England REZ. We will consult with industry and other stakeholders as part of this process.
South West REZ Access Scheme
The Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC), including EnergyCo as the infrastructure planner for the South West REZ, has developed a draft South West REZ Access Scheme for consultation. The proposed scheme would apply to significant components of the NSW-side of Project EnergyConnect, including infrastructure between Buronga and Wagga Wagga, and incorporating the planned substation at Dinawan. In its current draft form, the access scheme proposes a requirement that proponents hold an access right to connect their project to this infrastructure.
The scheme has leveraged key components of the Central-West Orana (CWO) REZ Access Scheme which was developed through extensive stakeholder consultation and was the first of its kind in the National Electricity Market (NEM).
The proposed access scheme for the South West REZ is intended to deliver benefits to consumers, host communities and investors, in line with the objectives of the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020 and the Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap.
The proposed scheme would:
- foster community support and regional economic benefits: by delivering outcomes for local communities, including through access fee distribution, mitigation of cumulative impacts and strategically managing land use considerations
- utilise the network efficiently: to promote energy affordability through coordinated and optimised delivery of network and generation infrastructure, ultimately benefiting NSW consumers
- provide investment certainty: to proponents through improved protection against congestion and curtailment within the REZ
- improve certainty of connection timeframes: by facilitating a REZ connection process.
The Draft Renewable Energy Zone (South West) Access Scheme Order 2023 (Draft South West REZ Access Scheme) was placed on exhibition by the Minister for Energy from Thursday 2 March to Monday 15 May 2023. The draft access scheme was supported by a South West REZ Access Scheme Position Paper that provides an explanation of key concepts.
Submissions on the draft access scheme are now closed and the NSW Government is considering submissions.
This public exhibition was conducted in line with the statutory process for the development of access schemes under Section 24 of the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020.
View and download the exhibited documents here.
Stakeholders and interested parties were invited to provide feedback during the exhibition period to help inform the Minister’s decision to declare (or not declare) the South West REZ Access Scheme, including the design of any final scheme and policy.
EnergyCo, together with the Office of Energy and Climate Change (OECC), hosted an online briefing about the Draft South West REZ Access Scheme on Friday 28 April.
A recording of the briefing is now available here.
If you have any questions on the Draft South West REZ Access Scheme, please contact OECC at [email protected].
South West REZ Access Scheme Developer Reference Group
The NSW Government is committed to delivering the best outcomes for stakeholders in the South West REZ, including renewable energy project developers.
This is why a South West REZ Access Scheme Developer Reference Group (DRG) has been formed. This is an important forum for active developers in the South West to contribute to the design and delivery of the South West REZ. If you are a developer in the South West and would like to be part of the group, contact us at [email protected].