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Ian Smith

Ian Smith

Executive Director, NSW Office of Regional Economic Development

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A booming sector with a very bright future

A booming sector with a very bright future

Image credit: Goldwind Australia

Regional NSW’s renewable energy sector is booming, with local demand for wind and solar energy trebling over the last five years.

In 2018, the energy sector in Regional NSW contributed A$2.3 billion to the state economy, of which renewables is a growing proportion. In 2017-18, the renewable energy sector in NSW employed 4,470 people.

NSW has some of the best renewable resources including high average global solar exposure and world class wind along the Great Dividing Range.

The NSW Electricity Strategy is the NSW Government’s plan for a reliable, affordable and sustainable electricity future that supports a growing economy.

We recognise the NSW electricity system must change. Traditional generators are ageing and our transmission system is congested. Electricity prices are putting pressure on households and businesses.

This strategy will respond to these challenges and support a new affordable and reliable energy system – one that meets both our generation needs and our emissions reduction target.

It will do this by:

  • delivering Australia’s first coordinated Renewable Energy Zone
  • saving energy, especially at times of peak demand
  • supporting the development of new electricity generators
  • setting a target to bolster the state’s energy resilience
  • making it easier to do energy business in NSW.

The strategy encourages an estimated $8 billion of new private investment in NSW’s electricity system over the next decade, including $5.6 billion in regional NSW. It will also support an estimated 1,200 jobs, mostly in regional NSW.

Five Renewable Energy Zones (REZ) will be delivered under the strategy in the State’s Central West & Orana, New England, South-West, Hunter Central Coast and Illawarra regions. This builds on the NSW Transmission Infrastructure Strategy and supports the implementation of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan.

The REZ are expected to unlock a significant pipeline of large-scale renewable energy and storage projects, while supporting up to $20.7 billion of private sector investment in our regions and over 5,000 construction jobs at their peak

The REZ 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, and will provide economic development opportunities for regional communities to capitalise on their location within the ‘green’ energy network.

The NSW Government, along with the neighbouring ACT government, has set policy targets to incentivise renewable energy investment. NSW has a net zero carbon emissions by 2050 target, while ACT has a renewable energy target of 100% by 2020. Considerable investment into renewable energy generation is required to meet these targets. Significant international investments from China, the UK and other European clean energy companies have already occurred.

A booming sector with a very bright future

Key projects in Regional NSW

Australia's largest solar project is located at Coleambally delivery 150 megawatts, capable of powering 52,000 homes.

It consists of approximately 560,000 solar panels installed on 550 hectares of land in the Riverina-Murray region. With energy generation expected to start in 2020, the Darlington Point Solar Farm also located in the Riverina-Murray region will become the largest solar project delivering 333 megawatts and capable of powering 115,000 homes.

In the New England and North West region, NSW’s largest wind energy generator, Sapphire Wind Farm, produces 270 megawatts and is capable of powering 115,000 homes. It also displaces 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

The Woodlawn Bioreactor located in the South East and Tablelands region manages around 20 percent of Sydney’s putrescible waste and captures its emissions to generate clean energy for up to 30,000 homes.

Supporting and working in close collaboration with the industry are several leading research and development facilities throughout Regional NSW. The South East Region of Renewable Energy Excellence (SERREE) is an industry cluster near Canberra and is supported by NSW, ACT and Australian governments. Such clusters of research excellence support performance improvements across all major renewable energy sources.

NSW has also set ambitious waste and recycling targets. To achieve these targets, the NSW Government is providing funding to stimulate investment in new processing technologies and capacity across NSW through the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative.

Hydrogen is emerging as a major economic opportunity for Australia to lead in the global transition to low emission sources of energy. Australia has the potential to become a major hydrogen supplier, with production projected to reach 100 million tonnes of oil equivalent of hydrogen which equates to 3% of global gas consumption today. Regional NSW has both the opportunities and capability to ensure NSW and Australia make the most of this global transition. Opportunities include:

  • Development of major export and production hubs for green hydrogen centered on Port Kembla and Port of Newcastle
  • Transitioning to ‘green’ steel production at Port Kembla
  • Production and reticulation of hydrogen through Special Activation Precincts (economic development zones) such as Wagga Wagga
  • Co-locational benefits with user industries including agriculture, manufacturing, mining and waste management.

Between 2017 and 2021 the NSW Government is providing A$168 million worth of grants and programs specifically designed to encourage investment in the waste and resource recovery industries.

Government support for Regional NSW's renewable energy sector

Government support for Regional NSW's renewable energy sector

Image credit: Department of Premier and Cabinet

NSW is home to clean technology business and research institutions that are leading the country in reducing energy consumption, producing clean energy and tackling environmental challenges.

The NSW Government is attracting investment projects and expertise in renewable energy, while building community support from achievements under its Renewable Energy Action Plan.

This plan is supported by the government’s commitment to the national Renewable Energy Target. It is also leading the market through sustainability efforts, including development of a Green Building industry and the adoption of the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS).

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) provide funding and financing opportunities for new clean energy projects. 

For more details, visit the assistance page.

Page image credits: Goldwind Australia & NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet

Annual direct employment in renewable energy activities by state/territory
  2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18 Proportion
New South Wales 3120 3810 2770 3520 4470 25.2%
Victoria 2740 2440 2050 2160 3180 17.9%
Queensland 3870 3270 2710 3530 5080 28.6%
South Australia 1,400 880 720 1400 1560 8.8%
Western Australia 1100 1040 1050 1270 1400 7.9%
Tasmania 1470 1150 1160 1230 1360 7.7%
Northern Territory 90 100 100 120 110 0.6%
Australian Capital Territory 620 510 540 620 580 3.3%
Australia 14,410 13,200 11,100 13,850 17,740 100.0%

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, Employment in Renewable Energy Activities, Australia 2017-18, Cat. No. 4631.0

Established renewable energy companies with operations in Regional NSW

Success stories in Regional NSW's renewable energy sector

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Ian Smith

Executive Director, NSW Office of Regional Economic Development
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Suite 1, Level 1
47-59 Wingewarra Street
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