UNSW Solar – uni to go fully solar powered

UNSW Solar has taken another huge step forward – the University of New South Wales has signed a 15-year corporate PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Maoneng Australia and Origin Energy to become 100% solar powered, thanks to Maoneng‘s Sunraysia solar plant.

UNSW Solar 

The Sunraysia solar farm, which will be Australia’s biggest solar farm, is planned to commence construction in April or May of this year, at a cost of $275 million. It will generate at least 530,000 megawatt hours of electricity each year, of which UNSW will purchase 124,000 – almost a quarter. They signed an agreement on December 14, 2017, which will run for 15 years. A three year ‘retail firming’ contract was also signed with Origin, as the electricity retailer. This will help manage intermittency of solar production.

UNSW Solar - UNSW President Ian Jacobs (source: newsroom.unsw.edu.au)
UNSW Solar – UNSW President Ian Jacobs (source: newsroom.unsw.edu.au)

UNSW president and vice chancellor Ian Jacobs discussed the partnership with Fairfax, advising that it would comprise a key part of making UNSW’s entire operation energy carbon neutral by 2020.

“Over the past six months, UNSW has collaborated with our contract partners Maoneng and Origin, to develop a Solar PPA model that leads the way in renewable energy procurement and reflects our commitment to global impact outlined in our 2025 strategy,” he said.

Mr Jacobs wouldn’t provide specifics on pricing, but did note that it will be helpful to UNSW in a financial sense:

“It’s a highly competitive agreement financially,” he said.

“The Solar PPA arrangement will allow UNSW to secure carbon emission-free electricity supplies at a cost which is economically and environmentally attractive when compared to fossil fuel-sourced supplies.”

Energy Action, a company who assisted during the tender by with energy market analysis, noted that the PPA would help UNSW have greater clarity on their future electricity spends and not be as vulnerable to electricity price fluctuations:

“This agreement provides UNSW with a direct line of sight over the source of renewables supply, reduced emissions, and greater certainty around prices over the next 15 years,” Energy Action chief executive Ivan Slavich said.

Kelly Davies, Senior Consultant at Norton Rose Fulbright, was quoted on the university press release as saying: “UNSW is a true leader of innovation. The PPA market has been extremely dynamic in the last 12 months and deals like UNSW’s have been critical in driving real change in the way universities and other users procure energy.”

UNSW have also been the recipient of a few solar grants from ARENA over the past years so the idea of them using renewable energy to research and upgrade renewable energy is certainly a palatable one and it’s amazing to see so much energy from the Sunraysia Solar Plant already accounted for! 

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.