Uralla and its neighbouring shires sit within the New England Renewable Energy Zone (NE REZ), an area (like four others in the state) that has been identified as being optimal in terms of renewable energy generation, storage and transportation.
The NSW Government has designed the NE REZ to deliver 8GW of renewable energy, or 11% of the state’s power needs, as we transition away from using unsustainable (non-renewable) coal.
New England Renewable Energy Zone
The NE REZ was formally declared on Dec 17 2021.
A call for registrations of interest (ROI) in 2020 attracted more than 80 potential new solar, wind and energy storage projects, totalling a massive 34 GW.
The Development and Approval Process
Large Scale Renewable Energy projects – those with a build cost of over $30 million – are reviewed and approved by an arm of the NSW Department of Planning, rather than the local council, as these are classed as ‘State Significant’.
These steps require companies to address any ecology and biodiversity, land use, historic and cultural heritage, visual amenity, noise, decommissioning, waste, social and community benefit.
What role can communities play?
Renewable energy must be implemented if we are to lower carbon emissions, survive worsening climate conditions, and maintain a regular supply of energy on which we have come to depend. However, as we face the future, it’s important we learn from the past and do things differently. Finding the balance between renewables, communities, social, economic and environmental needs is the best pathway forward. To achieve this, communities, businesses and councils need to be actively involved at each step of the development process, building a collaborative relationship with developers so that local knowledge plays a significant role in project design and implementation.
Working with other stakeholder groups in the NE REZ, and referencing the important work already done by organisations such as Community Power Agency and Re-Alliance, ZNET Uralla is helping to identify and support a best practice model for renewable energy development in the NE REZ.
The benefits of such a model would be a swifter process for companies as they worked their way through the steps of their development application.
Communities would have clear parameters for discussion and reassurance that certain criteria of importance would be met, and a more equitable sharing of benefits and protection of environmental and community assets would be achieved.
To help with this research, we invite you to complete this survey.
A guide for councils to enable energy sharing communities: https://www.landcom.com.au/assets/Sustainability/Creating-a-spark/Creating-A-Spark-report_LR.pdf
Renewables & Rural Australia: https://australiainstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/P1176-Renewables-and-Rural-Australia-WEB-1.pdf
Community energy by the Community Power Agency: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/communities/cpa-community-energy-how-to.pdf
Declaration of the NE REZ: (https://www.pv-magazine-australia.com/2022/01/31/nsw-declares-massive-8-gw-renewable-energy-zone)