03 July 2024

The NSW Government has declared six renewable energy projects Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI) given their potential significance to the NSW economy.

The new projects, if approved, will help maintain the state’s critical energy security and continue the essential energy supply to homes and businesses during peak-demand periods as coal-fire sources close.

A CSSI declaration means a project is deemed essential to NSW for economic, social and environmental reasons with the Minister for Planning and Public Spaces being the consent authority.

A comprehensive all-of-government assessment will still need to be undertaken on the projects including exhibition and an opportunity for submissions from the public.

The three proposed transmission projects will connect additional renewable energy generators into the National Energy Market to attract further investment in NSW, while the three proposed pumped hydro projects will provide reliable energy generation, capacity and dispatchable power when solar or wind resources are unavailable.

The six CSSI projects are:

  1. New England Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) Transmission:  Electricity transmission infrastructure to connect renewable energy generation and storage projects within the New England REZ to the existing electricity network.
  2. Victoria NSW Interconnector:  Electricity transmission infrastructure to connect the HumeLink Project in NSW with the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project.
  3. Mount Piper to Wallerawang Transmission: Electricity transmission infrastructure to strengthen connections between areas of renewable energy generation in the Central West Orana REZ and major electricity demand centres.
  4. Stratford Pumped Hydro and Solar:  Pumped hydro and solar power facility which will take advantage of existing mine voids and infrastructure associated with Stratford Mining Complex due for closure in 2024.
  5. Muswellbrook Pumped Hydro: Pumped hydro facility to use an existing mine void at the closed Muswellbrook Coal Mine site as the lower reservoir and a proposal to use an upper reservoir at Bells Mountain.
  6. Lake Lyell Pumped Hydro:  Pumped hydro facility which will take advantage of existing infrastructure associated with the Mount Piper Power Station due for decommissioning in 2040.

Following the CSSI declaration, the Department of Planning, Housing and Infrastructure (DPHI) will issue Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements to the proponent so they can prepare an Environment Impact Statement (EIS) for community feedback. 

Since 2023, the Minns Government has approved 24 renewable energy State Significant Development assessments with a combined energy capacity to power 1.5 million homes.

There are currently up to 30 renewable energy projects under assessment. If approved, these REZ projects could produce up to 12.1 GW of energy to power about 5.6 million homes.

A further 87 projects, including solar, wind, battery storage and pumped hydro projects are at various stages in the planning pipeline.

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Paul Scully said:

“I have declared these six important projects as Critical State Significant Infrastructure as they are significant to the NSW economy, society and the environment.

“The substantive increase in renewable energy proposals signals trust from the wider industry in our Government’s capacity to move projects through the planning system.

“These projects will be subject to a comprehensive assessment which will include a period of public exhibition seeking submissions from the community.”