The state’s fourth Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) is to be established in the Central Coast/Hunter region following legislation passed by State Parliament on November 17.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, said the zone is great news for local jobs, and would underpin the region’s future prosperity.
He said the establishment of the zone was timely with four of the five coal fired power stations in NSW, including Vales Point and Eraring on Lake Macquarie, coming to the end of their operational life in the next 15 years.
REZs are the modern day equivalent of a power station, combining generation, transmission, storage and system strength services to ensure a secure, affordable and reliable energy system.
According to Energy NSW, the REZs are expected to unlock a significant pipeline of large scale renewable energy and storage projects while supporting billions of dollars of private sector investment.
An example is construction of the 80ha solar farm currently underway on rehabilitated land at the ash dam connected to Vales Point Power Station.
It is expected to produce enough renewable energy each year to power about 20,000 homes.
The project is a partnership between the power station operator, Delta Electricity, and Enernet Global.
Delta’s Company Secretary, Steve Gurney, said the solar farm was progressing, following road realignment works at the ash dam entrance on Ruttleys Rd, Mannering Park.
“We are still working through some land issues with the NSW Government but anticipate that these should be finalised soon,” he said.
Power Purchase Agreements are in place for Delta to distribute the electricity generated from the solar farm.
A REZ for the Central Coast and Hunter was a no brainer, Crouch said.
“Our region is home to some of Australia’s best natural resources, we have a skilled workforce and we also have the existing transmission links,” he said.
“I’m thrilled that the legislation to establish a fourth REZ in NSW has been agreed to by both sides of Parliament and the huge investment benefits that it will secure for generations to come,” Crouch said.
The NSW Government will now commence detailed scoping works for the Hunter Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone, including consideration of existing transmission links and generation capacity.
The initial works will also include consultation with community and industry stakeholders to maximise opportunities to support existing supply chains and workforces as the region moves towards becoming a hub of cheap, reliable and renewable energy.
NSW Labor has labelled the move as “long overdue” but a step in the right direction, with local MPs calling on the government to support a set of measures before the Parliament that would guarantee local jobs and local procurement in new major electricity infrastructure projects.
“Now that renewable energy is finally on the agenda, it’s important that we get it right,” said Deputy Labor Leader and Swansea MP, Yasmin Catley.
“We want to see a guarantee, in black and white within the legislation, that the massive investment in renewable energy will be of benefit to local workers and local businesses,” she said.
Shadow Minister for the Central Coast and Wyong MP, David Harris, said the NSW Liberal Government had dragged its feet for 10 years, but he welcomed the news of the Government finally coming on board to recognise the changes that must be implemented.
“I will join my Labor colleagues in pushing for amendments that lock in the Central Coast as a Renewable Energy Zone which will bring new jobs and investment to the region.”
The Entrance MP, David Mehan, said the legislation lacked vision on how workers in the industry would be supported through the opportunities and changes.
“The Central Coast is home to many families who rely on their employment in electricity manufacturing to put food on the table and provide for their children, and it is vital that they are part of the conversation from the start and get access to new well-paying renewable energy jobs,” he said.
Labor will call for a Renewable Energy Sector Plan to maximise local procurement and local jobs, as well as an Electrical Infrastructure Advocate to plan and promote new export opportunities for local industry and develop strategies to encourage investment, expand education and training opportunities for young apprentices, and promote employment in regional areas such as the Central Coast.