The New South Wales Government has announced two major milestones in the development of the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ), including entering into a Commitment Deed with a consortium to act as the zone’s network operator. 

The consortium – ACEREZ – is comprised of ACCIONA, COBRA and Endeavour Energy has signed on to seek approval to deliver, operate and maintain the REZ transmission network for the next 35 years. This includes new high-capacity transmission lines, energy hubs and related infrastructure.

The new transmission infrastructure will enable generators such as solar and wind farms and energy storage providers in the REZ to connect to the electricity grid at a large scale.

This is expected to provide a reliable supply of clean, affordable electricity for households and businesses across New South Wales while helping to meet the state’s newly legislated net zero targets.

This is the first time the New South Wales Government has competitively procured a new transmission network, with delay and cost overrun risks to be substantially borne by the network operator, rather than passing them straight to electricity consumers.

The second milestone is the amendment of Central-West Orana REZ’s declaration after public consultation, to increase the REZ’s intended network capacity up to 6GW by 2038. The initial network capacity of the transmission infrastructure is expected to be 4.5GW.

This will support the REZ to generate additional renewable energy in the future, which analysis indicates may be required in the late 2030s.

The change will not alter the geographical size of the REZ, which covers an area of about 20,000km² around Dubbo.

The next step for the Central-West Orana REZ is to complete regulatory and planning approvals ahead of the final contract with the Network Operator being awarded and financial close, scheduled  for the second half of 2024.

The Environmental Impact Statement for the REZ was recently placed on public exhibition, allowing stakeholders to have their say on the project. A response to submissions will be released early next year, ahead of state and federal planning approvals, expected in mid-2024.

If approved, construction is expected to start in early 2025, and initial operation in 2027–2028.

The Central-West Orana REZ is expected to generate up to $10 billion in private investment in the region by 2030 and at its peak support around 5,000 construction jobs.

New South Wales Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Penny Sharpe, said that these milestones are an important step forward in the development of the Central-West Orana REZ, taking it from vision to reality.

“It brings us closer to delivering clean, affordable and reliable energy to households and businesses across New South Wales for decades to come, helping to meet newly legislated net zero targets,” Ms Sharpe said. 

“Regional communities are central to delivering our transition to renewables. Those that host new energy infrastructure will share in the benefits of the once-in-a-generation economic opportunity presented by the transition.

“EnergyCo will continue working closely with the community in the planning and delivery of the Central-West Orana REZ.”

ACEREZ Chief Executive, Trevor Armstrong, said that ACEREZ is looking forward to working with EnergyCo to deliver the nation’s first REZ in Central-West Orana.

“We’ll work with each of the potential generators to bring the REZ to life and are committed to consulting with the community every step of the way as we help build a sustainable energy future for New South Wales.”

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