About the REZ transmission project
The New England 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 17 December 2021. View the Renewable Energy Zone (New England) Declaration Order here.
The declaration was the first step in formalising the REZ under the Act and establishes EnergyCo as the Infrastructure Planner responsible for coordinating its development. It also set 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 Infrastructure Planner, EnergyCo will make decisions such as assessing and recommending REZ network infrastructure projects.
The declaration followed an assessment of feedback received during the draft declaration exhibition period from 15 October to 12 November 2021. Minor adjustments to the geographical area were made which took both community and proponent feedback into account. These amendments improved the delineation between areas captured within the REZ subject to potential future development, and adjacent areas of National Park and World Heritage significance.
A stylised map of the specified geographical area of the REZ is included for reference and accessibility purposes only here. This stylised map does not form part of the declaration. The stylised map includes the existing 132 kV and 330 kV transmission infrastructure near and in the REZ as a geographical reference. You can download the GIS file of the New England REZ geographical area boundary here.
Note: The Minister in future 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.
A range of factors were considered in planning and identification of the five REZs, including:
- potential land uses impacts, including on agricultural land,
- environmental and social values, such as unique and sensitive biodiversity and cultural values,
- population and housing density,
- the location and availability of high-quality wind and solar resources, and
- distance to existing high voltage transmission lines.
The New England REZ has an intended network capacity of up to 8 gigawatts, aligning with the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO's) 2020 Integrated System Plan (ISP).
We received 80 registrations of interest for the New England REZ, representing 34 gigawatts of new energy generation and storage projects, during 2021. This interest significantly exceeds the amount of energy required to deliver the REZ. It will therefore help to ensure a competitive tender process and drive improved outcomes for the community.
For more information, visit Renewable energy generation projects.
EnergyCo is the Infrastructure Planner for the New England REZ and is responsible for the planning and development of transmission infrastructure required for the REZ. 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.
The delivery and operation of the network will be managed by the appointed Network Operator. EnergyCo will lead a competitive process to appoint the Network Operator which 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.
Given the substantial complexities involved in transmission infrastructure planning, there are specific national, state, and regional planning processes enacted that guide, revise and modify projects towards a final design.
Typically, such projects move from a ‘preliminary’ study corridor to a ‘revised’ corridor, and then to a ‘reference design’ corridor which forms the basis of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that is lodged with the relevant approving authority.
EnergyCo will be the proponent of the EIS for the REZ network infrastructure.
The EIS is expected to be displayed for public exhibition in 2024. All submissions received as part of the exhibition will be reviewed, and a response will be made publicly available in a Submissions Report.
While the planning approval processes and construction of the generation projects will be the responsibility of the developers, EnergyCo will have a critical role in coordination to ensure the impacts and opportunities for the community are considered as a whole.
The planning of the REZ Network Infrastructure is currently in the preliminary assessment phase, incorporating the conduct of studies and option analysis considerations. At a high level, the scope of the New England REZ infrastructure includes:
- new transmission lines connecting Bayswater (in the Upper Hunter) to the REZ,
- new energy hubs,
- new transmission lines within the REZ, and
- connection to new generation projects.
Energy hubs are a modern type of substation that act as a connection point between renewable energy projects and the broader transmission network. Energy hubs collect electricity from solar, wind and storage projects and transfer it to the network so it can be distributed to the homes, businesses and essential services that need it. More information is available in our energy hub fact sheet.
High voltage transmission lines will transfer renewable energy from the New England REZ to electricity consumers, with the ‘backbone’ of the new network expected to be rated up to 500 kilovolts (kV).
The towers will be up to 70 metres high and are generally spaced 400 to 600 metres apart. The transmission lines have a minimum clearance of 7.5 metres off the ground to allow farming and other activities to take place safely underneath.
These transmission lines will be located within easements 70 to 80 metres wide and may be co-located within a single easement or be physically separated. Easements will be wider where transmission lines are co-located.
EnergyCo is committed to delivering a safe, reliable and efficient transmission network for the REZ. We understand there is concern in the community about potential health impacts from electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) when living and working near transmission lines.
EMFs are found everywhere, including in the natural environment, and are produced wherever electricity or electrical equipment is used. According to health authorities, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (APRANSA), EMFs from electrical transmission lines are not considered a risk to human health.
A detailed assessment of EMFs from the REZ transmission project will be carried out as part of the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
This assessment will ensure EMFs from transmission infrastructure, including energy hubs and transmission lines, are within the required guidelines. For more information, you can view our EMF fact sheet.
Route selection process
EnergyCo has carried out detailed and extensive planning processes, including consideration of multiple route design options, to develop a preliminary study corridor for the REZ.
The preliminary study corridor reflects the consideration of community and stakeholder feedback received since 2021, together with extensive technical studies and site visits.
The preliminary study corridor delivers an optimal solution for the REZ, with relatively fewer impacts on people, the environment and existing land use practices, and a superior, cost-effective outcome that would achieve faster energy savings for NSW energy consumers.
We will shortly be seeking feedback from landowners and local communities on the preliminary study corridor. We will also be engaging with landholders in or near the preliminary study corridor so their feedback can be considered in our planning process.
There will be formal opportunities for the community to have their say via one-on-one meetings, online engagement, community drop-in sessions, community briefings, emails and phone calls. This feedback will be considered in the design and development of the project.
The NSW Government understands that agricultural activities are essential to our State as well as the livelihood of communities in the New England region and will aim to minimise impacts to these activities wherever possible.
To advance the design of the project, community and stakeholder engagement is required to better inform the decision-making process in a way that reduces impacts and increases benefits.
Environmental and social considerations will be closely investigated to reduce impacts on biodiversity, cultural heritage values and prime agricultural lands.
The transmission route will only be finalised after the completion of the community engagement and consultation program which forms part of the compilation of the EIS for the REZ.
Presently, we are aiming to exhibit the EIS during 2024.
Working with landowners
During the planning phase, we will work with landowners to understand farming and business operations and other possible property impacts or concerns. These in turn will inform the design scope of the infrastructure.
Examples could include avoiding structures and high value agricultural land, minimising fragmentation of blocks, limiting construction access, and respecting landscape.
During construction, EnergyCo will require workers to liaise closely with landowners in accordance with pre-agreed terms for access to properties. Workers will be expected to strictly adhere to rules protecting livestock, securing gates and biosecurity.
Easement acquisition is a common practice in Australia to allow for the construction and operation of transmission lines as well as various other utilities.
When acquiring an easement, EnergyCo will seek to enter into an agreement with the landowner which will set out all the rights and obligations for both parties in relation to the ongoing use and management of the land, including payment of compensation to the landowner for granting the easement, and any other required interests.
Property acquisition in NSW is governed by the Land Acquisition (Just Terms Compensation) Act 1991 (the Act). The Act provides the procedures a government agency must follow to acquire land from a landowner, as well as the principles for determining compensation.
You can read our property and easement acquisition fact sheet for further details on how EnergyCo will acquire easement rights for the REZ transmission project.
EnergyCo understands that agricultural activities are essential to our nation as well as the livelihood of communities in the New England region. We will therefore work closely with landowners as we design the REZ to understand current and future land uses and help minimise interference with agricultural activities.
While there are some restrictions within easements, farmers can still carry out regular activities like growing crops and grazing livestock. Once commissioned, transmission lines do not generally have a significant effect on farming operations.
Further details are available in our fact sheet about living and working near transmission easements.
Under the Strategic Benefits Payment Scheme (SBP), private landowners hosting new high voltage transmission projects critical to the energy transformation and future of the electricity grid will be paid a set rate of $200,000 per kilometre of transmission hosted (in real 2022 dollars), paid out in annual instalments over 20 years.
Payments made under the SBP scheme will be in addition to any compensation paid under the Act to applicable private landowners for transmission easements on their land once the project is energised (ie operational).