National Energy Guarantee approved by Coalition party room

The NEG (National Energy Guarantee) has been passed by the Coalition party room after a strenuous morning of debate – let’s take a look at what happens next. 

Next Steps For National Energy Guarantee

NEG - National Energy Guarantee
NEG – National Energy Guarantee (source: ABC News: Matt Roberts)

We wrote earlier this week about the NEG approval and how Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has a very hard road ahead if he’s to push this policy through parliament:

“The Labor Party has to decide whether they want to support cheaper and more reliability electricity,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We have got to bring an end to the years of ideology and idiocy which have been a curse on energy policy for too long and that is why industry – whether you’re talking about big industrial consumers or small business, consumer groups  – are calling on government, governments, and oppositions to get behind this policy.”

The four issues which we discussed earlier this week are still in a state of flux:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The opposition (federal Labor) are also in favour of the NEG but they want the 2030 emissions reduction target increased from 26% to 45%:

“We are still very keen on trying to find a bipartisan way through the deep energy crisis that has emerged under this Prime Minister,” shadow energy and climate change minister Mark Butler said.

“We will continue to fight for a much more ambitious investment setting for this sector so you do see new renewable energy jobs and investment and you do see downward pressure on power prices.”

According to former PM Tony Abbot, the NEG still needs a lot of work as most of its support is currently ‘conditional’ and at least a dozen members of the Coalition had expressed concern about the NEG. Abbot said that the provided explanations of how the NEG “might theoretically get prices down” sounded “like merchant bankers’ gobbledegook”:

‘We’ve got to be loyal to our electorates and to party members too and not show the unity of lemmings.’,” Mr Abbott continued.

The Australian Financial Review has the numbers at 26 MPs supporting the policy and around 10 yet to be convinced. 

For the next steps, the state ministers will be asked to support a month long public consultation on laws which will affect their constituents. The state legislation should then be finalised by the end of October and we’ll see what sort of shape (if any) the NEG is at that point. Federal legislation tied to the NEG will be introduced within the next 10 days. 

 

 

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Cubbie Solar Farm | Solar Power in Resources

Cubbie Solar Farm – Nasdaw listed company VivoPower said this Monday that its wholly owned Australia subsidiary, Aevitas, has been chosen to build the solar project at Cubbie Station in South West Queensland.

Cubbie Solar Farm

Cubbie Solar Farm
Cubbie Solar Farm (source: cubbie.com.au)

Cubbie Station, located in Dirranbandi in South West Queensland, is the largest irrigation property in the southern hemisphere and as such has very significant power and water requirements. Since January 2013, the Cubbie Ag property group is owned by CS Agriculture Pty Ltd. The major stakeholder of this company is Ruyi Australia Group, who manage Australian operations on behalf of Ruyi Group, a Chinese multinational company.  They’ve been spending this year working on getting a solar farm up which will be able to supply around 40% of the station’s power requirements during its peak season (April to September). 

Stage 1 of the project will involve the creation of  3.5MWDC Solar Farm Non-export generation – to do this ~9,800 solar panels will need to be mounted onto a fixed structure and wired through to the inverter. Aevitas Group Limited was awarded the EPC (Engineering design, Procurement and Construction) contract last week, as per a press release posted on the Nasdaq website

Cubbie Ag have a plan for the future as well – they are aiming to provide power to Dirranbandi and St George as the project grows and generates more renewable energy. According to One Step Off The Grid, their goal is to expand the solar farm to 7.2MW and also add battery storage to it.

Solar power in resources and commercial solar have both been growing in leaps and bounds (and often in conjunction) so it’s exciting to see more of these projects coming to fruition. Solar power for farms and business are popping up very frequently. 

The Cubbie Solar Farm is expected to commence construction in October and will be operable by the end of the year.

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National Energy Guarantee Approval – Next Steps

National Energy Guarantee Approval – the NEG has been approved by the states and territories of Australia ‘in principle’ – allowing it to move to the next step. There’s still plenty of discussion to go before we see anything signed off, but it’s a step in the right direction for those who believe in the NEG and its ostensible goal of cheaper, more reliable power with less carbon emissions.

National Energy Guarantee Approval

National Energy Guarantee Approval - Malcolm Turnbull
National Energy Guarantee Approval – Malcolm Turnbull (source: yourlifechoices.com.au)

As with most political decisions in this country, there is a lot of posturing and point scoring going on – depending on who you ask, it’s either a ‘great step forward’ or the governments ‘withholding support’. Regardless of the case, the Federal Government has now released a draft of the energy bill which will be taken to next week’s party room meeting for approval. If you want to learn more about what happened with the NEG during the week, please click here

The states want to see detailed legislation and some of them have ‘red line’ conditions which must be met before they fit in to the National Energy Guarantee – there’s still a long way before any of this becomes law in Australia.

Victoria were especially strident in their remarks about the NEG. Victoria’s Energy Minister, Labor’s Lily D’Ambrosio, said agreeing to the plan today would be like signing “with a blindfold on”. advising that they won’t support it unless the following four demands are met:

  1. The emission reduction targets can only ever increase and must not decrease.
  2. Targets need to be set in regulation (this one’s going to be a bit of a problem as Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has already rejected it).
  3. Emission reduction targets must be set every three years, three years in advance.
  4. Creation of a registry which is transparent and accessible by regulators and governments.

The emissions reduction target in the NEG is to bring down emissions in the electricity sector by 26 per cent by 2030.

COAG Energy Ministers will have another discussion after the Coalition Party Room meeting on Tuesday. Watch this space! We’ll keep you posted.

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Sunshine Coast Solar Farm saves $1.7m in Year 1

The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm has been live for a year, and, as the second largest solar farm in Queensland, is on track to deliver $22m in savings over the next 30 years. 

Sunshine Coast Solar Farm Savings

Sunshine Coast Solar Farm (Valdora)
Sunshine Coast Solar Farm (Valdora) (source: sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au)

Also known as the Valdora solar farm, the 15MW and $50m Sunshine Coast Solar Farm was opened last year, allowing the Sunshine Coast Council to be the first local governments in Australia to offset 100% of its energy usage from a renewable source. Sunshine Coast acting Mayor Tim Dwyer has made some comments to the Sunshine Coast Daily about its progress:

“The Sunshine Coast Solar Farm has saved council $1.7 million – more than double the amount we’d hoped for in the first year,” Cr Dwyer said.

“We have met our offset goal as well – offsetting more than 100% of council’s energy use across all our facilities and operations.

“We’ve generated more than 26,300 megawatt hours of energy in 12 months. To put that into perspective, the average Australian home uses around six megawatt hours per year.

“We’ve saved more than 20,500 tonnes in carbon emissions – the equivalent of taking about 4300 cars off the road for one year.

“Council’s solar farm project has also received three prestigious awards for boosting productivity through infrastructure, sustainability excellence and planning excellence.

“Our Council is the first local government in the country to deliver a solar farm.

“With projects like the solar farm, we are delivering on our vision to be Australia’s most sustainable region – healthy, smart, creative.”

According to the Sunshine Coast Council website, it’s also the first solar farm in Australia which operates at 1500 volts DC, allowing it to operate more efficiently. 

Mayor Mark Jamieson said farm will allow the local council to take control of its own electricity supply, helping with rising electricity costs and also providing an environmentally friendly way to run their facilities:

“All power consumed at all of council’s facilities, including our administration buildings, aquatic centres, community and performance venues, as well as holiday parks, libraries, art galleries and sporting facilities, will be offset with energy from a renewable source thanks to this nation-leading project,” Mayor Jamieson said.

 

 

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Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

We’ve written about the Beryl Solar Farm reaching a financial close back in May – now the 87MW (108MW according to the AFR) project has a new owner and is continuing construction. 

Beryl Solar Farm Sold To New Energy Solar

Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar
Beryl Solar Farm Sold to New Energy Solar (source: FirstSolar.com.au)

According to PV Magazine, the farm has been purchased by New Energy Solar – who also bought the 50MW Manildra Solar Farm for $113m last month. Both farms were previously owned by First Solar and the Beryl farm will be using their 420W large-format Series 6 thin film PV modules. Beryl also comes with a 15 year PPA with Transport for NSW – who will purchase 134,000 MWh from Beryl Solar Farm each year – using the power for the Sydney Metro Northwest railway. This long PPA with a AAA rated customer (i.e. the government) makes the farm a great buy in its current shape.

The EPC project was estimated at $150m according to Reuters, but it’s now estimated at $187m. Downer Utilities started work on the project in May and hope to have it finished in mid 2019. The farm will produce enough energy to power 25,000 households and doesn’t require any water for its electricity generation.

New Energy Solar said the cost of the farm won’t be announced but it was pegged to a target for five-year annual average gross yield of 8.2%, in comparison with yield on its existing portfolio of about 6.8% p.a, so by those metrics it looks like a canny purchase. 

New Energy Solar’s CEO, John Martin, discussed how the extra-long 15 year PPA helped get the sale of this project over the line:

“Beryl, New’s second investment in Australia, will further enhance the scale and contracted cashflows of our Australian portfolio,” said Martin. “Following the Manildra acquisition last month, we are delighted to be consolidating our relationship with First Solar through this second sizeable transaction in the Australian market.”

Martin continued to say that ~69% of the energy provided by the Beryl project will go to Transport for NSW – with the rest slated to package up with a 20MWh battery and sold to a corporate customer as commercial solar

To learn more about the project from the First Solar website please click here

If you’re interested in solar employment and working at the Beryl Solar Farm, please click here to visit the Downer Group’s careers website.

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Finley solar farm sign contract with BlueScope Steel

BlueScope Steel have signed the largest ever solar power purchasing deal by an industrial energy user in Australia today. They’ll buy around 200 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year – allowing ESCO to commence stage 1 of its 133MW Finley solar farm.

Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel

The seven-year contract signed between the Finley Solar Farm (which will be manufactured by ESCO Pacific in the NSW Riverina area) and BlueScope Steel will represent 20% of BlueScope’s energy requirements. 

Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel
Finley Solar Farm and BlueScope Steel (source: BlueScope.com)

John Nowlan, the head of Australian steel at BlueScope, said the contract will be a step in the right direction while they continue to support the National Energy Guarantee and rely less and less on non-renewable energy:

“(The contract) will help keep downward pressure on our energy costs, and will support the gradual transition to renewable energy,” Mr Nowlan told the Australian Financial Review.

“BlueScope supports Australia’s 2030 emissions target, including the government’s target to reduce electricity sector emissions by 26% on 2005 levels by 2030. By investing in solar energy, we are helping accelerate the decarbonisation of the electricity grid by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by around 300,000 tonnes of CO2e each year. This is comparable to taking 90,000 cars off the road and is enough to power 60,000 homes.” he continued.

This is another great step in the right direction for commercial solar – where we have seen industrial energy users such as Telstra, data centre operator Equinix and Mars Australia sign deals directly with renewable developers. These are known as solar PPAs (Purchase Power Agreements) and can save 20-50% on bills, depending on various factors such as usage and location.

“For any serious corporate off-taker or energy user a solar PPA is a good part of the energy mix,” said ESCO Pacific managing director Steve Rademaker.

“It’s not the only solution but it goes a long way to helping manage costs.”

This is more good news for solar power in resources – it’ll be great to watch companies like BlueScope move from 0%, to 20%, and hopefully eventually to 100% renewable energy. 

Construction on the Finley Solar Farm is set to commence around the end of September, with production scheduled for mid-2019.

If you’d like to read the press release from BlueScope please click here

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Latrobe Valley solar: 30 public buildings to get PV.

Latrobe Valley solar energy is set to get a boost with 30 public buildings in the area to have rooftop installed at no cost, thanks to a bit of help from the state government in Victoria.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme

Energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio was in Moe last week to discuss the scheme and show the Latrobe Valley residents a list of the public buildings in line for free solar upgrades, including in some cases solar hot water and lighting. One such building is the Toongabbie Mechanics Institute – a building where existing solar has already saved $500 on last quarter’s electricity bill. Toongabbie Mechanics Institute treasurer Roger Ries summed it up very succintly:

“It’s made amazing reductions. It’s cheaper for the recreation reserve users and it will make it cheaper for the hall here,” Mr Ries said.

Minister D’Ambrosio spoke about the impact these home solar energy upgrades will have on the lives of lives of 1000 vulnerable Gippslanders.

“The energy upgrades and solar installations will not only help bring down energy prices for the Latrobe Valley, they will create local jobs in the renewable energy sector,” she said.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express, over 1000 households/low incomes earners are also eligible for solar systems as part of the $5 million Latrobe Valley Home Energy Upgrade Program.  Local businesses Gippsland Solar (who are responsible for the fantastic Camberwell Grammar School Solar System), Sunny Afternoons and Rocky’s Electrical will be used for both programs which will create 10 full-time jobs.

Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme
Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme (source: EPA Victoria)

There’s been some great solar news for the Latrobe Valley / Gippsland area with regards to both end-user solutions and large-scale renewable energy production – with a 70MW solar farm on the outskirts of Morwell announced back in April, to be build by ARP Australian Solar who said the plant will be a hybrid solar and battery farm which create “well over 100 jobs [during construction]” for the area. 

“There would also be a number of ongoing jobs … involving security, electrical testing, monitoring and what have you.”, according to ARP Australian solar director George Hughes. 

Mr Hughes elaborated on a potential timeline for the Morwell solar farm: 

“With everything going according to plan, we’re looking to start construction in January or February next year, early 2019.”

We’ll keep you updated on both the Latrobe Valley Solar Scheme and the Morwell solar farm. Exciting times for Gippsland!

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Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017

Solar PV installations in Australia have tripled in the first half of 2018 in comparison to solar uptake in 2017. How will this affect our renewable economy and can we expect this to continue for the rest of the year? Where are all the installs coming from? Let’s take a look. 

Solar PV installations in Australia

Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)
Solar PV installations in Australia Triple From 2017 (source: Canberra Times via Green Energy Markets)

The Canberra Times is reporting that household systems are now, on average, around 5 kilowatts. As the technology improves we’ll see this figure rise and (potentially) prices fall. They’ll certainly fall in terms of per watt pricing but the system uptake has resulted in 44% lower feed-in tariffs in New South Wales already – we’ll have to wait and see how this affects the rest of the country. It certainly doesn’t seem to have curbed the ACT’s appetite for solar systems – with the state leading Australia by a huge margin with a 130.8% uptake in installs over Q1+2 in 2018 vs. the same period. 

Green Energy Markets are also predicting that by 2020 renewable energy will represent around 33% (1/3) of Australia’s energy mix – almost double the 17.3% measured in 2015. Ric Brazzale of Green Energy Markets told the Canberra Times they are expecting to see around 30% higher figures by the end of the year:

“If we continue on at the same rate of installations we will end the year at between 1450 MW to 1500 MW – this will be more than 30 per cent higher than the 1100 MW installed last year,” he said.

It’s important to note that the amazing growth commercial solar (i.e. systems which are more than 15kW) has also seen over the last 12 months is heavily reflected in these figures. Over a quarter of June’s solar system demand is due to companies wanting to insure themselves from rapidly rising electricity prices and take control of their bills back by installing a commercial solar system on their premises. 

If you’re interested in reading all the specifics of their report, please click here to download Green Markets’ Renewable Energy Index for May 2018.

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Fremantle solar farm faces NIMBY opposition.

The proposed Fremantle solar farm, which is going to be the first major (industrial scale) solar farm in urban surroundings and is being championed by a Greens-led council, has been experiencing pushback from local residents. Myriad complaints, most of them vexatious at best, have been put forward and about 350 people have signed a petition calling for the project to face an audit by the Western Australian EPA (Environmental Protection Authority).  

Fremantle solar farm

The farm, which is to be located over 8 hectares and will be built and operated by Epuron, will produce around 4.9MW and can help Fremantle reach its goal of being 100% renewable powered by 2025. 

The problem lies in the fact that it’s going to be built on the site of a former rubbish dump (which is presumably preferable to the farm’s detractors) and, according to the Australian, the “heavily contaminated site contains ash, tyres, car bodies, marine bilge oil, hydrocarbons, ­asbestos, batteries, chemical drums, mercury and lead”. Sounds like a solar farm would be a better alternative, right? Well, some of the residents complaining are concerned about airborne contaminants during the initial land clearing phase, which could be exacerbated by strong beachside winds. There’s also anxiety about the ‘glare’ and even ‘electromagnetic radiation’. It makes sense that residents, especially those with children, want to keep them safe – but their concerns seem a little far-fetched.

Fremantle Solar Farm - Dr Brad Pettitt
Fremantle Solar Farm – Dr Brad Pettitt (source: fremantle.wa.gov.au)

Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettitt is happy with the farm’s initial DA and advised that a site management plan will be prepared by an independent consultant, which they’ll have to strictly adhere to. 

According to The Australian, The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation said it would review an updated site management plan in response to the concerns. 

“We will only do the project if it can be done safely,” Dr Pettitt said.

Solar Farm Opposition

This is far from the first time we’ve seen this sort of reaction from people in proximity to solar farms – however they generally have to lean back on arguments about ‘agricultural land’ being misused. In lieu of this given that the Fremantle solar farm will be urban, they’ve come up with some interesting new reasons to ‘support solar, just not in my backyard’. Here are some of the other solar farms currently facing opposition from residents, if you’re interested in reading more:

  • Shepparton Solar Farm –  “…concerns about the science, about amenity, about the alienation of agricultural land”
  • UQ Solar Farm – it represents “environmental vandalism” to put install solar panels on “good agricultural land”
  • Brewongle Solar Farm – “…people coming into Bathurst will see it from the railway line”
  • The Collie Solar Farm – “eye sore” (sic) which will lead to a “disastrous situation” if the farm is approved.

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Enova’s Community Solar Garden Signups

We wrote last year about the Byron Bay based community solar company Enova who became a generator and a reseller of renewable energy. They’re now launching a community solar garden which is an amazing idea for people who aren’t able to reduce their electricity bill by installing solar power. Let’s learn more about the Enova and their plan to revolutionise solar for people in apartments, renters, and many more…

Enova and the Community Solar Garden

Enova Solar Garden
Enova Solar Garden (source: Enova.com.au)

The official Enova website is currently accepting applications from both ‘hosts’ and ‘members’ – that is to say that if you have plenty of free space on your rooftop you could sign up as a host, or if you’re a renter or live in an apartment or can’t get solar for any other reason becoming a member is a great idea. According to the website, “Enova is set to build a 99kW solar system and “sell” the panels to customers who can’t have solar at home”

For the most part it won’t be a ‘solar garden’ per se – most of the power looks like it’ll be generated from rooftop solar. 

According to Echo Net Daily, a Byron Bay based newspaper, a visit from Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler met with a great response for the Enova team. Mr Butler visited Enova HQ last Tuesday (June 12) and had some positive things to say about the plan:

Mr Butler said he was ‘excited to support innovative projects like Enova’s Solar gardens’.

The gardens will  ‘make an important contribution towards reducing carbon emissions and transition to a clean energy future, in addition to allowing access to the benefits of solar for renters.’ Mr Butler added. 

With regards to the concept of a ‘solar garden’, the more literal of us are in luck. A feasibility study in Eastern Australia is currently doing research into solar gardens for renters and how viable the concept is. According to EnergyMatters, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has given $240,000 to the $555,00 project – which will be undertaken by the Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted on how Enova’s community solar garden goes and also keep an eye on the feasibility study into the ‘real’ solar gardens. Some more great news for community solar!

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