The New South Wales Government has declared six renewable energy projects Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI), in an effort to help maintain energy security as coal-fired sources close. 

A CSSI declaration means a project is deemed essential to New South Wales for economic, social and environmental reasons, with the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces being the consent authority. 

A comprehensive all-of-government assessment will still need to be undertaken on the projects, including exhibition and an opportunity for submissions from the public.  

The three proposed transmission projects will connect additional renewable energy generators into the National Energy Market (NEM), while the three proposed pumped hydro projects will provide reliable energy generation, capacity and dispatchable power when solar or wind resources are unavailable. 

The six CSSI projects are: 

  • New England Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) Transmission: Electricity transmission infrastructure to connect renewable energy generation and storage projects within the New England REZ to the existing electricity network 
  • Victoria NSW Interconnector: Electricity transmission infrastructure to connect the HumeLink Project in New South Wales with the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project 
  • Mount Piper to Wallerawang Transmission: Electricity transmission infrastructure to strengthen connections between areas of renewable energy generation in the Central West Orana REZ and major electricity demand centres 
  • Stratford Pumped Hydro and Solar: Pumped hydro and solar power facility which will take advantage of existing mine voids and infrastructure associated with Stratford Mining Complex due for closure in 2024 
  • Muswellbrook Pumped Hydro: Pumped hydro facility to use an existing mine void at the closed Muswellbrook Coal Mine site as the lower reservoir and a proposal to use an upper reservoir at Bells Mountain 
  • Lake Lyell Pumped Hydro: Pumped hydro facility which will take advantage of existing infrastructure associated with the Mount Piper Power Station due for decommissioning in 2040 

Following the CSSI declaration, the Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure (DPHI) will issue Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements to the proponent so they can prepare an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) for community feedback. 

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully, said that he has declared these six important projects as CSSI as they are significant to the state’s economy, society and the environment.  

“The substantive increase in renewable energy proposals signals trust from the wider industry in our government’s capacity to move projects through the planning system,” Mr Scully said. 

“These projects will be subject to a comprehensive assessment which will include a period of public exhibition seeking submissions from the community.” 

Since 2023, the New South Wales Government has approved 24 renewable energy State Significant Development assessments with a combined energy capacity to power 1.5 million homes. 

There are currently up to 30 renewable energy projects under assessment. If approved, these projects could produce up to 12.1GW of energy to power about 5.6 million homes. 

A further 87 projects, including solar, wind, battery storage and pumped hydro projects are at various stages in the planning pipeline. 

Industry comments 

AGL and joint venture partner, Idemitsu Australia, welcome the Muswellbrook Pumped Hydro project receiving CSSI status. 

AGL General Manager, Energy Hubs, Travis Hughes, said that project could play an important role in providing long-duration storage for New South Wales. 

“We are pleased the government recognises the critical role this project could play in providing essential long-duration storage for the New South Wales electricity grid,” Mr Hughes said. 

“The 400MW Muswellbrook Pumped Hydro plant is expected to have a 100-year asset life and provide eight hours of energy storage. That’s four times the storage duration and five times the asset life of most current battery storage systems. The project has the potential to create 250 jobs during construction and 20 ongoing jobs during operation.” 

Featured image: Bayswater power station in Muswellbrook. Image: Taras Vyshnya/ 

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