New England Renewable Energy Zone draft declaration
The New England draft declaration exhibition period has now closed. EnergyCo will review and consider any feedback received during the exhibition period before the Minister declares the New England REZ. More information on the draft declaration process and what it means for stakeholders is below.
The REZ declaration is the first step in formalising the REZ under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020 (the Act). It sets out the intended network capacity (size), geographical area (location) and infrastructure that will make up the REZ. This 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’).
The declaration will also note that EnergyCo NSW will be the Infrastructure Planner for the New England REZ. As Infrastructure Planner, EnergyCo NSW will make decisions such as assessing and recommending REZ network infrastructure projects and, if needed to maintain community support for the REZ, preventing generation or storage projects from connecting in a specified area within the REZ (if those projects have not received development consent).
EnergyCo NSW worked with a range of stakeholders to prepare the draft declaration in a way that considers local priorities and values, land use planning, investor interest and the legislative requirements.
The draft declaration was prepared for public exhibition and feedback only. It is not a declaration under the Act, has no legal effect and is not intended to be relied upon. The actual declaration will be made by the Minister for Energy and Environment under section 19(1) of the Act and published in the NSW Gazette. The Minister may decide to make the actual declaration different to the draft declaration.
Once the actual declaration is made, the Minister may amend it 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.
Setting the intended network capacity (size)
The Act sets out that the New England REZ has an intended network capacity of 8 gigawatts. This aligns with the Australian Energy Market Operator’s 2020 Integrated System Plan.
Refining the specified geographical area of the REZ (location)
The indicative location of the New England REZ was first published in 2018 following a detailed State-wide geospatial mapping exercise overlaying 25 data layers, including renewable energy resources, proximity to the existing electricity network, agricultural land (including BSAL) and biodiversity.
Since then, EnergyCo NSW has worked through a significant process to refine the geographical area of the REZ. This has involved:
- Collaborating with a range of NSW Government agencies to get the most up-to-date data layers and undertake strategic land use planning
- Establishing a Regional Reference Group, made up of local councils, Members of Parliament, Aboriginal Land Councils, relevant NSW Government agencies and network planners to ground-truth our analysis
- Consulting with key stakeholders and peak bodies representing the regional development, primary industries and agriculture sectors, to ensure the REZ area considers potential impacts on communities and important land within the REZ
- Running an industry Registration of Interest process which identified 34 gigawatts of potential renewable energy projects
- Consulting with technical experts including the Australian Energy Market Operator
The draft specified geographical area of the REZ is identified in Schedule 1 of the draft declaration here. You can also view the methodology for refining the geographical area for the New England REZ here.
A stylised map of the draft specified geographical area of the REZ is included below for reference and accessibility purposes only. This stylised map does not form part of the draft declaration. The stylised map includes the existing 132kV and 330kV transmission infrastructure near and in the REZ as a geographical reference.
Specifying the REZ network infrastructure
We have consulted with network planners, including the Australian Energy Market Operator, TransGrid and Essential Energy to specify the network infrastructure that makes up the REZ. In summary, this is planned, new and existing network infrastructure in the specified geographical area.
Interested parties should consult the full text in the draft declaration here.
Further specified network, generation and storage infrastructure may be added to the declaration later – for example, following further technical design and competitive processes for the REZ Access Scheme and Long-term Energy Service Agreements.
Appointing EnergyCo NSW as the Infrastructure Planner
As required by the Act, the Minister will formally appoint EnergyCo NSW as the Infrastructure Planner for the New England REZ and this will be noted in the declaration.
EnergyCo NSW is a NSW Government-controlled statutory corporation that will lead the coordinated delivery of NSW REZs.
For regional communities and landholders
Upfront land use planning and coordinated community consultation are central to the REZ model and will help ensure a strategic approach to electricity infrastructure development. The benefits of the REZ will be shared with communities, including First Nations people, in a coordinated and thoughtful way.
REZ Access Scheme and Access Fees
The Minister can declare an Access Scheme that is to apply in the REZ or part of the REZ. An Access Scheme will be required to follow a declaration process of its own and we will publish more details about this in the coming months.
Generation and storage projects who wish to connect to network infrastructure which is subject to an Access Scheme will need to have the right to do so, in accordance with the Access Scheme. As part of the Access Scheme, projects will be charged fees which will be used to fund community benefit and employment programs.
We will seek further feedback from local communities, including First Nations people, in the REZ about how EnergyCo NSW and the Consumer Trustee can develop and deliver these initiatives.
New network infrastructure
New network infrastructure will be built in the REZ to enable new generation and storage projects to connect and transport their energy to consumers, both in and outside the REZ. Some of this infrastructure will need to be built outside the REZ geographical area to connect the REZ to the main backbone transmission network. We are in the early design stages of network infrastructure planning for the New England REZ.
In its role as the Infrastructure Planner, EnergyCo NSW will assess what network infrastructure should be built and make recommendations about this to the Consumer Trustee. After considering the Infrastructure Planner’s recommendations, the Consumer Trustee can authorise a REZ network infrastructure project, which can then be built, owned and operated in accordance with Part 5 of the Act, including receiving revenue determined by the regulator. Only network infrastructure projects that form part of a REZ can be authorised.
First Nations Guidelines
An important part of delivering the REZ is ensuring there is genuine and meaningful consultation and engagement with local First Nations communities and maximising the economic opportunities the REZ will enable for these communities.
The Minister will issue guidelines about consultation and negotiation with local First Nations communities to support these outcomes (the First Nations Guidelines). The Consumer Trustee is to take these guidelines into account tendering Long-term Energy Service Agreements to projects, including projects in the REZ. The Consumer Trustee may also impose a condition on an authorisation for new REZ network infrastructure projects to ensure that the delivery of this infrastructure gives effect to the guidelines. Find out more about the First Nations Guidelines.
Prohibition to connect to network infrastructure
As the Infrastructure Planner, EnergyCo NSW also has an important role to play in ensuring generation and storage projects connecting to network infrastructure in the specified geographical area of the REZ (set out in the REZ declaration) have the support of the community, and it can prohibit the connection of projects if needed to maintain community support (prior to those projects having received development consent). EnergyCo NSW is developing guidelines to inform these decisions and provide clarity to all stakeholders.
This process is separate and independent from the existing robust planning assessment process any project in NSW must follow.
Negotiation with renewable energy developers
If you have strong commercial opportunities for generation or storage projects on your land, you may be approached by renewable energy developers. To help landholders navigate any approaches or negotiations, the NSW Government funded NSW Farmers to develop the Renewable Energy Landholder Guide.
The guide provides information to assist landholders at all stages of development and operation, particularly:
- the role of landholders in the development process
- landholder rights and responsibilities
- potential impacts (positive and negative) of development
You can view the guide on the NSW Farmers website.
While we have ensured the REZ does not bisect any property Lot, some property holdings may be both within and outside of the REZ. If you believe you may be impacted by this and have any questions, please contact EnergyCo so we can provide information about where the REZ boundary is, and what that means for you.
If you have any feedback, please contact EnergyCo NSW’s REZ team via REZ [at] planning.nsw.gov.au.
For project proponents and industry
Project proponents and industry will benefit from a coordinated approach to REZ development which provides greater investment certainty and reduces project costs. This includes reduced planning fees for projects inside the REZ, reduced risk and uncertainty compared to the current open access framework, and the potential to receive a Long-term Energy Service Agreement.
REZ Access Scheme
The Minister can declare an Access Scheme that is to apply in the REZ or part of the REZ. The infrastructure that an Access Scheme applies to will be set out in an Access Scheme declaration and may be narrower than the network infrastructure specified in the REZ declaration.
Generation and storage projects who wish to connect to network infrastructure which is subject to an Access Scheme will need to have the right to do so, in accordance with the Access Scheme. The Access Scheme will provide projects with greater certainty of access to network capacity. EnergyCo NSW is currently developing an Access Scheme for the Central-West Orana 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.
Long-term Energy Service Agreements
The Consumer Trustee will run competitive tender processes to offer Long-term Energy Service Agreements to project developers.
Long-term Energy Service Agreements will provide revenue certainty for private investment in new renewable energy generation, firming and long-duration storage, which will help secure finance for project construction. Long-term Energy Service Agreements will provide projects with the option to receive an agreed minimum fixed price for their electricity services.
Renewable energy generation projects that are part of a REZ will have an advantage when competing for Long-term Energy Service Agreements against projects that are not part of a REZ. This is because renewable energy generation projects that are not part of a REZ must satisfy the Consumer Trustee that they have ‘outstanding merit’ in their bids for Long-Term Energy Service Agreements.
The draft declaration public exhibition period has now closed. EnergyCo will review and consider any feedback received during the exhibition period before the Minister declares the New England REZ. The Minister may decide to make the actual declaration different to the draft declaration.
To stay across further updates, you can join our mailing list via REZ [at] planning.nsw.gov.au.
We will continue to engage regional communities, First Nations people, industry and other key stakeholders over the coming years to ensure the REZ is delivered in a way that fosters support from local communities while providing essential, affordable, reliable and clean energy for NSW homes and businesses.