New South Wales (NSW)’s ambitions to become a green energy superpower moved one step closer to fruition this week when it emerged that the CEP.Energy green energy fund had agreed to invest $4.2bn in the construction of a 1.2 GW grid-scale mega battery in the Hunter Economic Zone (HEZ), 150km north of Sidney.
Last November, the NSW government announced plans to raise $32bn in private investment to develop the infrastructure required to generate 12 GW of renewable energy over the next decade. Initial analysis suggested that it could increase the share of renewable energy in the state from about 16% today to more than 60% by 2030. The NSW authorities claimed that it could replace most of the state’s increasingly unreliable coal power plants, deliver cheaper energy and lower power prices and create nearly 9,000 jobs while providing new revenue streams for landholders hosting electricity infrastructure. Its environment and energy minister Matt Kean said that it would also position NSW as an energy superpower.
CEP.Energy’s chairman is former New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma who won’t be short of contacts in his old stamping ground. But the company has set its sights much higher than that and envisages the HEZ project as part of a four-strong national network of grid-scale batteries with a combined capacity of 2GW.
Both CEP Energy and New South Wales are part of an Australia-wide green energy movement that is rapidly gathering pace. Many of its leading proponents are, ironically, some of the continent’s most notorious polluters. In January, Origin Energy announced that it was planning to build a 700 MW battery at the site of its Eraring coal generator, also in the HEZ, while AGL Energy is aiming to have created 850 MW of new large-scale battery storage in its portfolio by the end of its 2024 financial year. Perhaps the most spectacular (fanatical?) convert of them all, however, is Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest who last year spent five months last year scouring 47 countries around the world for potential hydropower and geothermal energy sites. A man who has made billions out mining iron ore now believes that the green hydrogen market could be worth as much as $12trn by 2050, and he clearly wants his group to get a slice of the action.