The future of the Hunter as a global energy superpower has today taken an important step, with the announcement by the NSW Treasurer that commercial interest in the Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) would convert to projects that could realise more than $100 billion of investment and deliver more than 40 gigawatts of baseload power to the national grid.
Business Hunter CEO, Bob Hawes said that the response was amazing, and shows the confidence displayed by both levels of government in the region is resonating with investors and operators in the energy industry.
“This is an unequivocally strong signal that our region is a target for economic diversification and prosperity in energy markets. What I’m seeing here is jobs, jobs, jobs, and a real appetite to sure up a workforce market that will support transition,” Mr Hawes said.
“The variety of the projects shows the capacity and capability of Hunter and Central Coast to support new energy projects; and we should not underestimate or lose sight of the key factors the regions can boast in attracting the attention of investors,” Mr Hawes said.
Business Hunter understands that the pitch of the proposals to replace coal fired baseload energy generation is at the capacity to exceed current energy demands and they have come from a broad cross-section of renewable energy supply projects from investors keen to play their part in the Hunter’s energy diversification journey.
NSW Government advice shows the mix of registered commercial interest, equating to more than $100 billion in energy projects and energy infrastructure investment across 24 solar energy projects, 13 onshore and seven offshore wind energy projects, 35 large-scale batteries, and eight pumped hydro projects.
“This is an incredible expression of intent by industry to embrace the frontier and developing renewable energy industry at market grades. Having a variety of choice like this will bring competition and scale, and that position is far better than an alternative where we were left not knowing what the future could look like.
Business Hunter acknowledged that the transition will not be a simple task.
“There is still hard work to be done in converting the plans and projects to beyond-feasibility and secure investment that will realise energy generation and use, but we are confident this can be done with ongoing collaboration with government and industry,” he said
“This is a great first step in identifying investment and development pathways, yet we have a long way to go from here to ensure the lights stay on when coal fired baseload power turns off,” Mr Hawes said.
“The closure of coal fired power stations will result in the immediate loss of dispatchable capacity on a 24/7 basis – so we’ll need the scale and gigawatts of replacement renewables being quoted by the Treasurer today, simply because renewable baseload is a different model and system of supply and does not produce power in the way coal fired base load generation does.
“The energy policy infrastructure and commercial interest is clearly strong – now we need to convert these expressions of interest into funded projects beyond feasibility.
“Clearly the market is hearing that the Hunter is a region ready to deliver on the NSW Government’s Energy Roadmap – we are delivering not only on the Government’s agenda which is reflected in the positive on the commercial interest in the REZ; we also have the Hunter Hydrogen Technology Cluster (NewH2) fully engaged and ready to continue its work subject to NSW Government forward budget funding, as well the Hydrogen Hub and a steady, investment-ready pipeline of research and commercial ventures in solar, wind energy and supporting renewable infrastructure ready to go,” Mr Hawes said.