Interest in $100 billion worth of renewable energy projects registered for Hunter Valley coal region

Offshore wind farms, pumped hydro, and large scale battery storage are among more than $100 billion of private investment interest registered for a Hunter-Central Coast Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).

A wind tower in rural setting
The Hunter-Central Coast REZ will allow for more wind power developments.(Supplied: The Next Economy)
  • The NSW government says interest in 87 renewable energy projects worth more than $100 billion has been registered for the Hunter
  • The region has a long association with the coal industry
  • The local MP says the investment will help create new jobs in the transition away from coal

New South Wales Energy Minister Matt Kean said the region, currently driven by the coal industry, will continue to be the "energy powerhouse of NSW".

It is the fourth of five REZs the government is pursuing with zones in the Central West, New England, and Riverina already well advanced.

But this one targets the resource-rich Hunter region where some farmers and residents are vehemently opposed to the idea of wind farms.

Mr Kean said there was commercial interest in 24 solar energy projects, 13 onshore and seven offshore wind energy projects, as well as 35 large-scale batteries and eight pumped hydro projects.

He said combined the projects have the capacity to deliver more than 100,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy a year — equivalent to the annual output of up to 10 coal fired power stations.

"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," he said.

"These results show that energy investors see the Hunter and Central Coast as some of the best investment destinations anywhere in the country."

Transition jobs

The 87 projects with commercial interest encompass 11 Local Government Areas (LGAs) from the Central Coast to the Upper Hunter.

A coal train.
The Upper Hunter is known as one of the state's most prosperous coal economies.(ABC News: Bridget Murphy)

Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell said the investment would create new jobs in the Hunter Valley to support its transition.

"It's not necessarily like for like, but the opportunities will be there," he said.

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

"This is the future. The future starts here, it starts now."

Coal-reliant valley to pivot

aerial shot of two large coal fired power stations
AGL's coal-fired Liddell Power Station near Muswellbrook will close next year.(ABC News: Anthony Scully)

The Upper Hunter has NSW's highest concentration of coal workers with census data revealing that 15.4 per cent of the Upper Hunter electorate are mine workers.

Read the full article published in ABC News 16th February 2022