Newcastle at the forefront of renewables future

As the country shifts towards a renewables future, Newcastle is poised to be at the forefront of that transition.

Initiatives such as City of Newcastle’s Climate Action Plan and five-megawatt Solar Farm at Summerhill Waste Management Centre, The Port of Newcastle’s ambitious Green Hydrogen Hub project, and the city’s inclusion in the State Government’s proposed Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) are helping to make this vision a reality.

The idea of a REZ is to cluster wind and solar power generation into locations where it can be efficiently stored and transmitted across NSW.

So far, five zones have been identified across NSW – Central-West Orana, New England, South-West, Illawarra, and Hunter-Central Coast.

The Hunter-Central Coast region was chosen due to its ample renewable energy resources, such as offshore wind, existing power stations, port and transport infrastructure, and rehabilitated mining land.

It is anticipated these REZs will help drive down wholesale electricity costs as well as lowering customer bills through increased competition, supporting new local jobs and innovative business opportunities, and lowering carbon emissions through a greater mix of renewable energy delivered to the National Energy Market.

Map of REZ proposed plan

After the State Government announced the Registration of Interest (ROI) phase in December 2021, it was inundated with interest from more than 80 new wind, solar and storage projects wanting to participate in the Hunter-Central Coast REZ.

Combined, these projects have the potential to deliver more than 100,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy a year, which is equivalent to the annual output of 10 coal-fired power stations, as well as injecting $100 billion of potential investment into the region.

“These results show that energy investors see the Hunter and Central Coast as some of the best investment destinations in the country, which will translate into jobs and prosperity for the region,” NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean said.

“Renewable Energy Zones are vital to ensuring the future reliability and affordability of electricity in NSW as traditional coal-fired power stations close down over the coming decades.”

Member for the Upper Hunter, Dave Layzell echoed the sentiment adding the region was an ideal location for a Renewable Energy Zone.

Solar panels at the Summerhill solar farm at sunset

“The Hunter-Central Coast region is the perfect location for a new REZ as it has good renewable energy sources, access to transmission, transport and port infrastructure, and most importantly, a highly skilled workforce,” he said.

A draft declaration – the first step in formalising the REZ under the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Act 2020 – went on public display in September 2022 which Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes said, at the time, was a positive step for the region.

“For business and industry, what’s important is access to firmed, reliable, and affordable energy so they can get on with their core business. Uncertainty increases vulnerability to energy price shocks, which is putting immense pressure on businesses and the community,” he said.

“We are pleased to see that the Government has reached this next milestone in proactively planning a pathway to a new energy future in the Hunter.”

Click here for more information and updates on the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone.