Last month, the Australian state of New South Wales announced the creation of a renewable energy zone northwest of the city of Sydney. The stated goal of the project was 3 gigawatts of clean energy. It got proposals for 27 gigawatts (GW) — 7 times more than expected. Nothing succeeds like success, they say, and so less than a month later, NSW is back with another zero emissions proposal.
This time, the target is 8 GW of clean energy from another renewable energy zone in the New England section of the state west of Port Macquarie and Coff’s Harbor. The new project is expected to cost AU$79 million and attract AU$12.7 billion in investment. It will create 2,000 construction jobs and 1,300 ongoing jobs while lowering energy prices for the region.
Creating a renewable energy zone involves making strategic transmission upgrades to bring multiple new generators online in areas with strong renewable resources and community support. The government of New South Wales says the second REZs will play a “vital role” in delivering affordable energy to help replace the state’s existing power stations as they retire over the coming decades, according to PV Magazine.
“The nine-fold level of interest in the Central-West Orana REZ was astounding, so it makes absolute sense to go even bigger with the New England REZ,” says NSW energy minister Matt Kean. “The New England REZ, when coupled with Central-West Orana REZ, sets the state up to become the number one destination across Australia for renewable energy investment.”
NSW deputy premier John Barilaro says the government is moving ahead aggressively with plans to deliver new energy infrastructure that will lower electricity bills and create jobs. “Regional NSW is the best place in Australia for renewable energy investment and the jobs it creates, and this funding allows us to unlock that potential,” he said.
The Clean Energy Council, Australia’s renewable energy association, has welcomed the news of a second REZ in New South Wales. CEO Kane Thornton, says it makes sense to fast-track the second project.
“Renewable energy proponents are ready to invest, but there is limited spare capacity in the transmission network for new projects. We need new transmission if we want more renewable energy, so we support the NSW government’s focus on delivering strategic transmission upgrades for the REZ.
“These are the initiatives that will drive Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19. A clean recovery with renewable energy infrastructure projects will create jobs, revitalise economic activity, reduce our carbon emissions and drive down power prices.”
A recent study by Ernst & Young found that money for COVID-19 relief would create three times more jobs if it is invested in renewable energy than if it is invested in the fossil fuel industry. So if the objective is to get the most bang for the buck as governments struggle to recover from the economic damage caused by the pandemic, renewables are the sensible way to go. Now if only the Australian government would pull its head out of the sand, the nation as a whole could benefit from the same vision on display in New South Wales.
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