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The New South Wales Government has secured planning approval for the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) transmission project, the first REZ in Australia to achieve this step. 

The New South Wales Government said that the project will pave the way for the construction of essential transmission infrastructure to connect large-scale solar, wind and energy storage projects to the electricity grid. 

The project is expected to drive up to $20 billion in private investment in solar, wind and energy storage projects and support around 5,000 jobs during peak construction. 

The Central-West Orana REZ is a key initiative under the New South Wales Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap to deliver clean, affordable and reliable energy to households and businesses across the state. The project is expected to deliver at least 4.5GW of transmitted electricity, equivalent to powering 1.8 million homes. 

Planning approval of transmission lines will mean work can begin on the construction and operation of around 240km of lines and supporting infrastructure within the Central West Orana REZ.  

This transmission infrastructure will connect multiple major renewable energy projects to the grid to pump cleaner, affordable power to homes and businesses. 

The project’s Environmental Impact Statement was exhibited in 2023 and included measures to avoid, minimise or mitigate potential environmental and community impacts. Extensive community and stakeholder engagement informed a number of key changes to the project. 

In order to proceed with planning approval, the New South Wales Government assigned nearly 100 approval conditions to support the rollout of the transmission project. 

The Central-West Orana REZ is approximately 20,000 km2, and takes in cities and towns including Dubbo, Dunedoo and Mudgee. 

The Central-West Orana REZ is expected to: 

  • Drive economic growth through substantial private investment 
  • Invest in community benefit projects that will leave a lasting legacy 
  • Create local jobs in construction and ongoing maintenance 

Financial close for the project is scheduled for the second half of 2024. Construction works are expected from late 2024, with initial operation anticipated in 2028. 

New South Wales Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Penny Sharpe, said, “This is the first REZ Transmission Project in the country to obtain planning approval, paving the way for a significant boost in renewable energy generation to replace aging coal-fired power stations. 

“It’s not just about clean energy. This project will bring long-term financial benefits to both New South Wales electricity consumers and the local communities which will host the Central-West Orana REZ. 

“The New South Wales Government will continue to work closely with communities, the Federal Government and the preferred network operator to finalise the project,” Ms Sharpe said. 

New South Wales Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Paul Scully, said, “Planning approval for the Central-West Orana REZ transmission project is a huge step forward in progressing 12GW of generation under the New South Wales Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap and moving towards our clean energy future. 

“The New South Wales Government is accelerating the delivery of renewable energy infrastructure. We also know that if done right, this energy generation transition will develop a wave of new industry and jobs. That means transmission jobs, manufacturing jobs, construction jobs and maintenance jobs. 

“Our recent budget invested money into the planning system to support and speed up the New South Wales Government’s assessment of renewable energy projects and meet our 2050 goal of net zero emissions,” Mr Scully said.   

Image: NTshutterth/shutterstock.com

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