Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen proposes amendment to include Hunter in REZs

FUTURE PLANNING: Michael Johnsen MP is hoping to have the Hunter included in the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020 as a Renewable Energy Zone.
FUTURE PLANNING: Michael Johnsen MP is hoping to have the Hunter included in the Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020 as a Renewable Energy Zone.

THE Hunter could soon be added to NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean's Electricity Infrastructure Investment Bill 2020, under a proposed amendment by local MP Michael Johnsen.

It would see the area added to the Central-West Orana, New England and South West regions who are set to be dubbed Renewable Energy Zones (REZ).

According to the NSW Government website, a REZ "involves the coordinated development of new grid infrastructure in energy rich areas, efficiently connecting multiple generators in the same location. REZs are the modern-day equivalent of a power station, combining generation, transmission, storage and system strength services to ensure a secure, affordable and reliable energy system."

Mr Johnsen believes the Hunter would be an ideal spot to set up one of these zones, given it's existing energy infrastructure.

"The Hunter benefits from some of the strongest energy resources anywhere in the world, including coal, solar wind and pumped hydro," he said.

"The Hunter already has substantial transmission infrastructure given it has powered the state for the past 50 years and more, and we have an opportunity to increase that.

"The mining sector has multiple sites to rehabilitate in the future - and what better way to rehabilitate than with the new generation and storage technologies that will power us into the future."

He also stated it would make sense to include the area in the REZ project because there was already more than $1 billion being spent across 10 projects in the electorate, which would equate to a capacity of more than 1 gigawatt.

Mr Johnsen also cited a study from the Australian National University that found the Hunter had the potential for 51 gigawatt hours of pumped hydro storage across eight disused mine sites.

These points were also made by Member for Newcastle, Tim Crakanthorpe, who spoke about the topic in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.

He questioned why the Hunter had not been included in the first place, accusing Mr Johnsen of backflipping on the issue and referring to comments he made in the Newcastle Herald a day before making the amendment where he said "the Hunter doesn't need a zone to be included in private investment".

At the time of writing, the bill - which was introduced by Mr Kean on November 12 - had been twice been interrupted.

This story Johnsen moves to include Hunter in Renewable Energy Zones first appeared on The Singleton Argus.

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