New South Wales powers ahead with REZ

REZ virtual power plants combine renewable generation, storage and transmission. Picture courtesy Edify Energy.

Final go-ahead for 6GW project expected in months

As we reported in our Christmas bulletin, Australia’s transition from coal to low carbon energy is based on fast-tracking the creation of Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) – virtual power stations designed to replace coal plants directly.

In Australia, fast really means fast. Within months of announcing its REZ strategy, the New South Wales government has already contracted a consortium to deliver and run one of the first of them for the next 35 years. It expects all the necessary approvals and finance will be in place by the end of this year. Construction is slated to start in 2025, with operation by 2027-28.

The Central-West Orana REZ will span 20,000 square kilometres (almost the size of Wales itself), including a mix of renewable generation technology hubs, storage and transmission lines. Its initial capacity is expected to be 4.5GW, rising to 6GW by 2038 – an increase resulting from public consultation asking for more green power.

The REZ is expected to generate up to US$6.6 billion of private investment and a peak of around 5,000 construction jobs.

The point of this news is that Australia, subject to the approvals expected within the next few months, will have progressed a major renewables infrastructure initiative, from concept, to spades in the ground, to start generating green energy, in under four years.

The UK government has said it wants to halve the time it takes to get renewable energy projects from proposal to production. Perhaps its starting point should be to study carefully how the Australian Commonwealth and states are working together to get things done – and follow their example.