Two bidders for Liddell power station.

Delta Electricity have entered the contest with Alinta Energy to buy the Liddell power station – a coal-fired, ageing plant that still pumps out 1680MW and is owned by AGL, who have advised that they’ll close it by 2022.

Liddell Power Station

Liddell Power Station
Liddell Power Station (source: wikipedia.org)

Following the shutdown of the 1600MW Hazelwood coal-fired power plant last year, customers saw power shortages and a spike in power bills. The government is concerned that the same thing will happen if the Liddell power station is shut by 2022 – with PM Malcolm Turnbull directly telephoning AGL chairman Graeme Hunt this week to talk about the sale.

AGL haven’t allowed Alinta Energy or Delta Electricity to do any due diligence on the plant – with Delta MD Greg Everett telling the Sydney Morning Herald is was a major hindrance for the company who have been shut out from performing any in the past, as AGL advised they weren’t willing to sell:

“Would we be interested? If it was for sale we would definitely be interested in doing due diligence on it,” Mr Everett said.

“So we’d be in the same position as Alinta.”

Everett and Delta already operate the Vales Point coal-fired generator in NSW and the company was previously owned by the NSW government. Everett has been quoted as saying there is a ‘reasonable’ chance of extending the life of the program past 2022.

Alinta chief executive Jeff Dimery made a statement this morning confirming that their company are interested in Liddell, and if they sign a deal they aren’t going to apply for any government subsidies. Dimery advised that Alinta are willing to invest ~$1 billion AUD to buy the plant and extend its life by five to seven years. This would see the plant shutting down around 2027-2029 instead of 2022. 

AGL are keeping fairly taciturn about the situation:

“AGL is relying on Liddell to generate power for our customers until 2022 and we will require its infrastructure for our replacement plans into the future,” an AGL spokesman told Fairfax Media.

“AGL received an approach from Alinta last night expressing an interest in entering negotiations to acquire the Liddell Power Station. No formal offer has been received.

“Should a formal offer for Liddell be received, it would be given consideration in order to meet our obligations to customers and shareholders.”

There’s no doubt that Australia are moving towards renewable, clean energy and this is a good thing. The transition, however, needs to be done in an intelligent way – it’s be great to be totally renewably powered as soon as possible but it’s going to be a patience game as the technology increases and we work on reliable baseload power while we invest as much in renewable energy generation as we can. Where will we be in 2022, RET wise? It’s hard to say. We’ll keep you updated with any news about the plant’s potential sale. 

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No-interest solar loans being considered by QLD

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palasczuk and the Queensland Government are considering adding no-interest solar loans to their arsenal of weapons against the rising cost of living in the Sunshine State. Despite the rapid advent of solar energy in Queensland prices are still high and consumer sentiment is at an all-time low.

No-Interest Solar Loans

QLD Treasurer Curtis Pitt advised that the government will offer no-interest solar loans for Queenslanders unable to raise the relatively high cost of investing in solar and battery tech.

“Solar panels and batteries are a great way for households and small businesses to cut their electricity bills, but for some the upfront cost can be a challenge,” Mr Pitt said.

Electricity saving scheme in QLD

Annastacia Palaszczuk - No-interest solar loans in QLD
Annastacia Palaszczuk – No-interest solar loans in QLD (source: queenslandlabor.org)

Earlier this week Ms Palaszczuk threatened to re-enter the retail energy market in Queensland if the Government’s saving scheme isn’t passed on to customers. She vowed to cut $50 from Queenslanders’ energy bills for the next two years and has also introduced a rebate of up to $300 for residents that want to purchase approved energy-efficient appliances.

“The time for action in Queensland is now,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“I’m the only Premier across Australia that can take this action and the reason I can do that is because Queenslanders own their assets.
“They’re our assets, they’re our dividends and now we’re going to use those dividends to help ease the pressures facing families across Queensland.

“Over this term we have used that money to pay down debt and restore frontlines services and now we’re moving to the next phase.”

The Government are giving over a dozen retailers until the end of the week to sign an “energy pledge”, which commits them to a public pledge to reduce bills (in lockstep with the Government’s attempts to reduce the wholesale costs of electricity).

According to the ABC, Origin and Alinta have “immediately said yes” and the rest of the companies have been asked to reply by close of business today. 

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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.

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Musk slams SA energy security target.

Despite the Tesla South Australia battery partnership currently being undertaken, Elon Musk’s Tesla has rubbished the South Australian government’s planned SA energy security target, saying it will “hold back technology innovation whilst incentivising incumbent technology … imposing barriers on innovation by excluding rapidly evolving fast response technologies”.

Tesla’s Mark Twidell wrote a submission to the government where Tesla expressed their dissatisfaction with the target, saying “We do not feel that the draft regulations and supporting consultation paper are representative of the current South Australian position as leaders and innovators in the renewable energy space”.

SA Energy Security Target Musk Weatherill
Happier times: Jay Weatherill and Elon Musk before the SA Energy Security Target was announced.(source:theadvertiser.com.au)

SA Energy Security Target

Multiple major organisations have harshly lambasted the SA energy security target, which is planned to commence on January 1 and will require retailers to buy 36% of their power from South Australian sources. This number will rise to 50% by 2025 and, according to Nyrstar, who made a submission to the government about the target, “given the generation market structure and in particular the high concentration of generation in South Australia and the high underlying cost of the predominant fuel (gas), it is debatable whether the scheme will be effective at reducing pricing due to these factors”.

As per an article from the ABC, other submissions range from urging caution because it may not lower wholesale prices, to killing off plans for a new interconnector which was slated to feed power into the state. Momentum Energy said implementation of this energy security target is “unlikely to have any downward pressure on prices, and will instead become a pure pass-through to customers”. Origin Energy called the legislation “unclear”, and Alinta Energy posited that such a scheme could add $100 to an average bill.

For their part, the government stood by the legislation, with the Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis advising in parliament on Tuesday that it will lead to “lower wholesale electricity prices”, and will in turn “incentivise more generation”. No word on how exactly that will happen but we’ll undoubtedly hear more from all sides in the coming months. Opposition energy spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan noted that “even” the Greens were critical of the plan, labelled the government’s energy policy as “chaotic” and called for independent economic modelling before “inflicting further pain on long suffering South Australian businesses”.

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