UTS Solar – aiming to fully offset all energy.

UTS Solar and renewables – the University of Technology Sydney have asked for proposals from large-scale renewable energy projects as they’re hoping to enter into a Power Purchasing Agreement (PPA) in order to fully offset the energy usage of buildings developed under UTS’ $1.3b City Campus Master Plan program.

UTS Solar – City Campus Master Plan

UTS Solar Large Scale PPA Tender
UTS Solar Large Scale PPA Tender (source: Seb Crawford via uts.edu.au)

According to the UTS Newsroom, their goal is for renewable energy purchasing to meet 40-50% of the university’s entire needs by 2019. The energy requirements of the newest buildings at UTS will be fully offset and are a great representation of UTS’s ongoing commitment to sustainable operation. 

UTS Deputy Vice Chancellor (Resources) Patrick Woods was quoted as saying, “UTS has a strong record of innovation in energy, with Australia’s first offsite solar corporate PPA with Singleton Solar farm, followed by another in Orange NSW and Australia’s first district cooling connection contract with Brookfield Central Park.”

According to Vice Chancellor Woods, “Corporate renewable energy PPAs are a method for institutions to secure competitive and firm energy prices whilst contributing to our sustainability objectives. They’ve been particularly successful in the US for corporations seeking the benefits of renewable energy. The ACT and Victorian Governments, and Telstra have had similar success in Australia.” Woods noted that there are already a number of projects with DA, ready to break ground, but need a PPA for the generation so they can secure financing – so hopefully one of them can pair up with UTS and get started! 

UTS could purchase large-scale generation certificates (LGCs) and electricity for a 10-15 year period – and according to the tender, they plan on implementing the PPA within the next two years. As such renewable technology projects of suitable scale and in the correct phase (i.e. already under development/with development approval and awaiting a PPA) are being sought to tender. 

University solar farms are far from a new thing, with the University of Southern Queensland’s innovative solar carpark winning awards and saving USQ over $1m so far. Although UTS isn’t actually installing solar in this circumstance, it’s still fantastic to see them tendering for a PPA – they do have a lot of solar panels on the premises and support many different renewable endeavours – such as the Solar Stand and their Centre for Clean Energy Technology

 

 
 

2017 NSW Tariff-Tracking Report released.

The St Vincent de Paul society has released its fifth NSW Tariff-Tracking report and it shows the huge disparity between deals the retailers are offering – with the best offers saving almost $840 p.a. compared to those on the worst plans. In regional NSW this range is even worse, with the difference reported by the SMH as up to $1230. Australian solar power plans are in need of a shake-up and this week the government have taken the retailers to task by asking them to change the way they deal with discounts and rolling over plans.

2017 NSW Tariff-Tracking Project Report Vinnies
2017 NSW Tariff-Tracking Project Report (source:vinnies.org.au)

NSW Tariff-Tracking

Despite ballooning wholesale energy costs, retailer AGL reported a net profit of $539m for the 2016/17 financial year. The profits of energy retailers have been in the crosshairs of the government over the past few months as their dubious tactics of offering short term discounts and then rolling customers onto more expensive plans without the discounts have been examined.

On Wednesday the government met with eight power companies (Energy Australia, Momentum Energy, Simply Energy, Alinta Energy, Origin Energy, AGL, Australian Energy Council and Snowy Hydro) to discuss the rapidly increasing prices and come up with a solution to the murky short-term ‘discount’ based business model they are employing. After the meeting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull discussed the issue and the government’s fix, saying  “They are on … discounted plans that have run out, and they are now on a standard offer and paying too much for their electricity. The retailers have agreed that they will write to their customers who have reached the end of a discounted plan and outline, in plain English, alternative offers that are available,”

Given that the Energy Market Commission found 50% of households haven’t changed retailer or plan in the last 5 years, there’s a lot of money being left on the table. According to Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) have told the government households could save over $1,000 per year by changing retailer/plan.

In terms of the power companies, they were mostly happy to agree to Turnbull’s plan, but there was ongoing discussion about Canberra’s dilly dallying with regards to the Clean Energy Target. Origin Energy’s chief exec, Frank Calabria, was quoted by the SMH as saying that “to deliver a genuine reduction in prices for Australians, we must also find a way through on energy policy, including a Clean Energy Target. This is necessary to unlock investment in much-needed new supply to replace our ageing coal-fired power stations, and transition us to a cleaner, more modern energy system”.

Click here to view the full report directly from the Vinnies website.

Metz Solar Farm installation in Hillgrove, near Armidale.

The Metz Solar Farm installation, which will generate 100MW of power, has been approved for a property in Hillgrove, which is east of Armidale. The project will be one of the largest in New South Wales.

Metz Solar Farm Installation – Details

The farm will comprise of 400,000 panels and, according to Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall, will power 40,000 homes and produce almost 10% of New South Wales’ solar output.

“This is an enormously exciting project not only for Armidale and the Northern Tablelands, but for all of NSW,” he said.

Metz Solar Farm Armidale Location
Metz Solar Farm – Armidale Location (source: metzsolarfarm.com.au)

The Northern Tablelands already has some large projects in the works, such as the Moree Solar Farm and three wind farms between Glen Innes and Inverell. This means the area currently has 821MW of large scale renewable energy development approved, or in the construction phase. Some great news for New South Wales solar farms and we hope to see a lot more built over the coming years.

The farm, which represents a $130 million investment, will be developed by Infinenergy Pacific and, according to their website, will reduce CO2 emissions by 225,000 tonnes and save 350 mega litres of clean drinking water over its 30 year lifetime. It’s undecided yet whether the PV panels will be mounted in a fixed tilt position or using a single axis tracking system.

According to the Infinenergy Pacific website over 15 different locations in the Armidale area were considered but they ended up with the final site due to the simple grid connection options onsite, the good transporation links and site access, and the ‘low visual impact’ (rolling topography and extensive local shielding) – so it won’t be a pain for residents.

Work on the farm will commence in early 2018 and is expected to finish in early 2019. It will be decommissioned after 30 years. The construction phase of the farm will generate around 150 full time jobs, and another eight ongoing positions will be required for maintenance and upkeep.

Power Price Rises in NSW as Regulator Loses Case

There’s never been a better time to start investigating solar energy in New South Wales – this week a federal court has blocked regulatory efforts to curb power price rises in NSW. Residential bills are set to soar even higher in the face of already over-inflated prices.

Power Price Rises in NSW

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) argued in court that the NSW electricity distribution businesses (pole and wire companies like Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy) were inefficient (the cost of transporting electricity from station to house consists of approximately 40% of your bill). This 40% made up the majority of the AER’s ongoing (since 2015) complaints to the Australian Competition Tribunal and subsequently the Federal Court on appeal.

Power Price Rises in NSW - Paula Conboy
AER Chair Paula Conboy

According to the Australian Financial Review, the loss of this court case means that average households will face an increase of around $100 per year. Ausgrid have advised that average household electricity prices will raise by 1.5% or $11 a year for the next six years. Evidently the actual figure remains to be seen.

Since the 99-year lease for 50.4% of Ausgrid (the electricity infrastructure company which owns, maintains and operates the electrical distribution networks for 1.6m NSW residents) was sold to IFM Investors and AustralianSuper in October 2016, concern about already high energy prices has been growing. This court decision will result in a windfall of billions of dollars for the new investors of Aussgrid and Endeavour Energy. Other companies set to benefit include Jemena (who own ActewAGL) and will set a dangerous precedent for the rest of Australia.

Ramifications for other states

Craig Memery, policy officer with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre was quoted as saying “Not only will NSW households pay more following this decision; the precedent set will affect future decisions by the regulator, impacting households across the country.” However NSW energy minister Don Harwin said the government has ‘guarantees’ in place that mean consumers will pay less to the distributors in 2019 than they did in 2014.

Paula Conboy, chair of the AER, said the decision was “disappointing for NSW and ACT electricity and gas customers overall. Our 2015 decisions set lower revenues than proposed by the network businesses in NSW and ACT, partly because we concluded that costs above efficient levels should be funded by the network owners, not customers.”

Once again we’ll just have to see what this means for the rest of Australia but it’s hard to view it as anything but a growing problem for Australians who are on track to consume almost 200 Terawatt hours in 2017.

 Time to invest in solar?

Despite the outcome of this case prompting Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg to reaffirm his call for a reform of the national electricity market rules (in order to stop companies gaming the price setting system), we don’t have much faith in the government to stop the ridiculous levels power prices have reached. With the cost of solar + storage at an all time low and dropping consistently, it’s definitely reaching a point where you can add value to your residence and decrease energy costs in the medium-long term by investing in solar power. Power price rises in NSW are going to continue at the same rate – take a look at our solar battery comparison chart to learn more about your options and wrest control away from the unmitigated, uncontrolled greed of the power companies and continued incompetence of the government and judicial system.