Brighte – Interest Free Loans for Solar Systems

Energy finance startup Brighte think upfront costs of solar are too high. Their interest free, buy now pay later app aims to increase Australia’s solar uptake

Brighte, Energy Finance and Katherine McConnell

Brighte Solar
The ‘Afterpay of Solar’ (source: Brighte website)

The company was set up by former Macquarie Group senior manager Katherine McConnell in 2015, drawing fundraising from former investment director at Hastings Funds Management (now known as Vantage Infrastructure), Kim Jackson, and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes. The Series B funding round raised $18.5m, with Mr Cannon-Brookes calling it ‘part of the unbundling of banking’ in the AFR.

McConnell shares a lot with Audrey Sizbelman, the head of the Australian Energy Market Operator, who has been warning about the high cost of solar driving a wedge between the ‘haves and the have-not’s’:

“I think the fact that someone can leave the system [the electricity network] because they can rely on their own resources is a good thing for an individual but it isn’t for the rest of us, because it means you have a smaller pot of people to maintain the system,” Ms Zibelman said.

“We do not want to invite an economic bypass,” she said, “creating the haves and the have-nots”.

This is why Brighte has been set up to offer a system similar to the extremely successful Afterpay, but for installing solar and other improvements like air-conditioning or more efficient lighting and heating. 

“(Brighte) is a digital credit platform, sort of an energy-focused Afterpay so you buy now and pay later,” she told Fairfax Media.

“However, it differs to Afterpay as our customers are interacting for longer, as they’re not walking out of a store with their purchases, they can keep buying.

“We had direct feedback from businesses that felt there was a need for something faster and easy to support these transactions.”

According to Ms McConnell, they’re already funded over 7,500 homes and work with over 500 vendors. 

The 0% interest plans are available up to $30,000 and repayment terms are up to 60 months. If you’re interested in learning more or finding a ‘Brighte Vendor’ (i.e. a solar company aligned with them who are happy to help offer the interest free solar) please click here to visit the website.

Read More Solar News:

RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedowns

Australian solar contracting company RCR Tomlinson has taken a $57m write down on the Daydream solar farm and the Hayman solar farm, which are owned by Edify Energy and to be installed in North Queensland.

RCR Tomlinson Solar Farm Writedown

We reported earlieir this year on the Hayman and Daydream solar farms and how First Solar will be handling the installation for Edify – at that time everything looked rosy but it appears that a couple of major factors have led to cost and time delays. Edify have cited “external” delays, bad weather, and local issues like poor ground quality.  Also being blamed are the increasingly stricter requirements being imposed by the Australian Energy Market Operator which are affecting solar farms Australia-wide. 

RCR Tomlinison Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland.
RCR Tomlinson -Daydream solar farm in Collinsville, Queensland. (source: thewest.com.au)

As of last year, RCR have over half a Gigawatt of large-scale solar projects in their order book and over a Gigawatt currently being developed or progressed under early contractor involvement processes, according RCR Managing Director & CEO, Dr Paul Dalgleish (who has since left RCR). As a result of the writedown RCR are now attempting to raise $100m from investors and have had to offer a significant discount on RCR shares on a one-for-1.65 basis at $1 each. This represents a ~65% discount on the stock’s last trade price ($2.80).

According to RenewEconomy, Tomlinson has written down $57 million on the $315 million contract values for both the 150MW Daydream and the 50MW Hayman solar farms owned by Edify Energy. They’re both located in North Queensland and both nearing completion.

A statement to shareholders noted that: 

“These project-specific issues required the Company to continuously revise its execution methodologies to mitigate delays, leading to increases in subcontractor costs (both people and plant) and logistics cost overruns.

“As a result of these cost overruns that arose over the life of the Project, RCR has realised cumulative write- downs of $57 million from the tendered margin on the Project.”

Some bad news for solar farms in Australia but we have no doubt that these projects will end up completed and can start making their investments back. We’ll be watching closely how the AEMO’s ongoing changes to legislation affects the many other solar farms currently in various stages of completion/operation. 

Read More Solar News:

Solar Battery Storage could rise 10x – AEMO

The latest Electricity Statement of Opportunities by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) forecasts a potential 10x increase in solar battery storage uptake. The statement of operations is produced annually by AEMO and helps them plan for projected installation of solar panels, batteries, and their capacity as the technology increases and Australia continues its march towards our Renewable Energy Target for 2030.

Solar Battery Storage and the AEMO

Solar Battery Storage (source: AEMO/RenewEconomy)
Solar Battery Storage (source: AEMO/RenewEconomy)

AEMO’s 2017 Electricity Statement of Opportunities helps us project the next 10 years of energy generation and runs simulations for different scenarios (changes in solar battery technology or peak demand, for example). It’s worth reading the whole thing but here are some interesting tidbits we picked up around the place:

An interesting note that Renew Economy picked up on is that peak demand (with an average of around 3,700MW for the last ten years) was at its second lowest level since 2009 in 2017 – largely in thanks to the high numbers of rooftop solar systems installed throughout the country. Being able to manage peak demand means that infrastructure won’t be as expensive and we simply don’t need as much energy – so it’s a great result!

Cameron Parrotte, the boss of AEMO in Western Australia, discussed the situation and what it means for Aussies:

“While there have been recent retirements of some fossil-fueled generators, new renewable generation capacity is enabling the RCT to be met within the defined reliability standard, and with significantly lower excess capacity than historically recorded”

There’s also some great news for Western Australian solar power, where the grid includes a ‘capacity market’ – making it a bit different than the other states. The report projects that the current amount of live and committed generation resources will meet forecast peak demand in the state’s South West interconnected system (SWIS), despite around 400MW of coal, gas and diesel being replaced by approximately the same amount of rooftop solar, large-scale wind and large-scale solar. If you want to read more about the Wholesale Electricity Market in Western Australia please click here.

Some great news for Australia’s energy future. There’s no doubt that we’ll see more and higher capacity solar batteries installed in houses over the next ten years, let’s see how accurate those projections are!

Read More Solar News:

Self-forecasting trial for solar/wind farms.

A $10m trial funded by ARENA (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency) will allow operators of solar and wind farms to start self-forecasting in order to improve information for the Australian Energy Market Operator and potentially decrease prices.

Self-forecasting – How will it help?

Self-forecasting trial for wind and solar farms
Self-forecasting trial for wind and solar farms (source: aemo.com.au)

The AEMO currently predicts outputs in five minute intervals – but they’re sometimes not completely accurate and as such can require companies to spend extra money so the grid remains stable. These extra costs are then passed onto the consumers by the retailers (by raising power prices). If we were able to have more accurate forecasting of output by solar/wind farms this would decrease prices for everyone.

The new trial will be undertaken by ARENA and the AEMO, and, according to Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, local factors (i.e. weather, geography, operational conditions) will be factored in and result in a complete overhaul of the way renewable production prediction is made across Australia’s National Energy Market.

“If successful, this trial could see wind and solar farms providing their own ‘self-forecasts’ that take into account exactly what’s happened when and where they are located. For example, if a cloud passes over a solar farm or if the wind changes,” Mr Frydenberg said.

 “Self-forecasting at the source will allow wind and solar farms to not only maximise the amount of renewable energy dispatched into the grid but also avoid the need to pay for frequency controls services.”
 
Problems are currently arising when AEMO are over or under-forecasting the amount of energy a farm generates – as it can decrease the stability of the grid which then uses frequency control services to manage the supply and demand. The costs of these services, as always, end up being paid by the end-user. 
 
ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht​ said the trial should help cut down on the costs of grid stabilisation which come from inaccurate forecasting:

“If the forecasts are too high, the wind or solar farm may be obliged to pay for the costs of stabilising, which increases the price of electricity and is ultimately passed on. We are hoping this initiative will change how forecasts for variable renewable energy are used in the electricity market.”

 

Read More Solar News:

Tailem Bend solar farm reaches financial close.

The 127MW Tailem Bend solar project will begin construction later this month. A financial close has been achieved by Singapore energy company Equis Energy and a 22 year purchase power agreement (PPA) has already been signed with Snowy Hydro. There are now plans in the pipeline to create Tailem Bend 2.

Tailem Bend Solar Project

Tailem Bend Solar Farm
Tailem Bend Solar Farm (source: http://equisenergy.com/newsroom/)

The $200m project is 100km south-east of Adelaide and will begin construction in February, according to Equis.

The Australian Financial Review noted that there were initial plans for a 28.8MW diesel generator to support the solar farm, but these were scuppered by the Australian Energy Market Operator who placed “unreasonable technical demands” on the project.  

Equis, who are also planning on building a 1000MW project in Queensland’s part of the Surat Basin (the Wandoan solar farm), said they have a huge amount of projects in the pipeline:

“Australia represents one of the most exciting solar power generation markets globally and Equis expects to build over $1 billion of new projects over the next 24-36 months,” director David Russell said in the press release. 

“As Asia’s largest renewable energy developer, Equis is able to leverage its economies of scale to deliver large scale, low-cost, reliable renewable energy, which Australia needs, as well as providing employment opportunities and supporting economic growth in local communities.” Mr Russell continued. 

According to Deal Street Asia, the project is expected to start generating power and feeding it to the grid in the first quarter of next year. 

The Tailem Bend solar projects will generate around 413,000MWh/year, which is equivalent to 82,600 homes and will save over 200,000 tonnes of CO2 annually compared to the same generation from South Australia’s current non-renewable power plants. 

Equis Energy are also building a  250MW DC solar photovoltaic power plant with energy storage installed in NSW’s Sunraysia region (the Sunraysia solar farm)

Read More Solar News:

WA Electricity Grid Needs Upgrade For Solar

A leading energy export from the Australian Energy Market Operator has warned that the WA Electricity Grid requires upgrades over the next couple of years or else it risks being completely overwhelmed by the influx of solar in the state. 

The WA Electricity Grid & Solar

According to TheWest’s website, solar energy now makes up the majority of the WA Electricity Grid’s energy collection – representing around 700MW of capacity. They interviewed Cameron Parrotte, the head of strategy and innovation at the Australian Energy Market Operator – who noted that measures need to be put into place to manage the influx of solar into the grid before it starts to overload.  Parrotte said the amount of additional solar capacity is currently growing at 35% per year. 

“When you talk about comparison to other States, percentage-wise we are flying,” he said.

“Some people then say ‘you’ll start running out of roof space’.

“What you are tending to find is that some people who were the early adopters, some of their PVs are starting to reach the end of their life.

“Instead of putting up another 1kW to replace the 1kW they had, they’re putting in 5kW.”

Parrotte / The West said they believe solar power could fully displace conventional methods of energy generation (coal/gas fired plants) for short intervals within as few as five years. Initially, these intervals would be restricted to times when electricity demand is low (e.g. mild, sunny days in the middle of the day) but surely sends another message to those trying to delay the death of traditional electricity methods. It’s now up to providers and authorities to upgrade the grid and make sure it’s able to take the excess power solar will provide. 

We’ve previously written about blockchain powered P2P energy trading fintech platforms such as Power Ledger or WePower along with less technologically intense solutions such as community solar – the writing is on the wall here and it’s only a matter of time before renewable energy completely overtakes coal and gas fired plants, so it’s important the government act now to ensure the grid is capable of withstanding the new era of energy generation!

WA Electricity Grid - Sunwise - Ludlow Solar Installation
WA Electricity Grid – Sunwise – Ludlow Solar Installation (source: sunwiseenergy.com.au)

Read More Solar News:

Liddell Power Station To Close in 2022 – AGL Energy

AGL Energy will be closing the Liddell coal-fired power station in 2022, resulting in a 1000MW shortfall of energy. AGL has an exciting plan to cover this missing amount by using a mix of solar power, wind power, pumped hydro, battery storage, and gas peaking plants over a three-stage period leading up to 2022. 

The Closure of Liddell and its implications

The Turnbull government had asked AGL Energy to consider extending the life of the Liddell power station or selling it to someone else, but it doesn’t seem like that plan is on AGL’s radar. According to the SBS, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has asked the AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) have a look at AGL’s idea, advising that it is best to “leave the judgement of (the plan’s) merits to the experts”. 

AGL’s plan for solar/wind/pumped hydro/storage and gas peaking plants will cost $1.3b and is expected to provide electricity at $83/MWh for up to 30 years, in contrast to the much higher cost for Liddell. By keeping it open for just an extra five years the cost would be $920 million and it would cost $106/MWh, according to figures stated on the SBS

“Obviously it’s a significant proposal, there is a host of new technologies and new investments as part of it,” Mr Frydenberg was quoted in Melbourne on Sunday.

“You need all forms of energy in Australia’s future energy mix, there’s a role for coal there’s a role for gas, there is increasingly a role for wind and solar and for battery storage,” he added.

Liddell Power Station - AGL Energy to close it in 2022
Liddell Power Station – AGL Energy to close it in 2022 (source: wikipedia.org)

This news comes hot on the heels of the closing of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station in Victoria in March this year. Numerous other coal-fired power stations across New South Wales and Victoria are nearing the end of their 50 year lifespans – with two of Victoria’s three coal-fired plants having outages during last February’s hot weather. 

Federal opposition energy spokesman Mark Butler was complimentary of the plan – whether 

Read More Solar News:

‘National Energy Guarantee’ a national disgrace.

Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership has been fraught with spineless (or a complete lack of) policy and the Government’s announcement of a National Energy Guarantee yesterday was congruent with what we’ve come to expect. In short, their national energy policy removes the Clean Energy Target, has 0 renewable energy policy after 2020, and defers critical decisions to state Government, the Australian Energy Regulator, and the Australian Energy Market Operator. The ‘National Energy Guarantee’ policy is based on a unanimous recommendation by the independent Energy Security Board, chaired by Dr Kerry Schott.

National Energy Guarantee

As per the official document, the National Energy Guarantee will actually comprise of two separate guarantees, determined and enforced by different bodies: 

The reliability guarantee will be set to deliver the right level of dispatchable energy—from ready-to-use sources such as coal, gas, pumped hydro and batteries—needed in each state. It will be set by the AEMC and AEMO. The goal of this is to help stop blackouts like those seen in South Australia last year and reduce prices by using long-term contracts rather than short-term spot prices. 

The emissions guarantee will be set to contribute to Australia’s international commitments. The level of the guarantee will be determined by the Commonwealth and enforced by the AER. This means that renewable subsidies and incentives have been scrapped completely – retailers will be responsible for ensuring their power is efficient enough to help Australia meet its international obligations (our Renewable Energy Targets signed up during the Paris climate change conference). No word yet on what the penalty would be for those not reaching this target but presumably they’d be able to make up for it the next year or face a light slap on the wrist. 

This is a ‘technology- neutral’ position which does not ‘pick winners’ – so it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. What impact will it have on the myriad Australian solar farms currently in various stages of development? What about future plans? 

Residential Energy Prices

The Government estimates this Guarantee ‘could’ lead to a reduction in residential bills – around $100-115 per year over 2020-2030. They’re hoping to reduce spot price volatility without using subsidies or taxes – which theoretically could help the ballooning cost of electricity in Australia. See the graph below which is labeled ‘% increase’ on the Y axis – which may make it a little more difficult to see that the price has more than doubled every year since 2012. With Australian wages stagnating and underemployment at an all-time high, something needs to be done about these gigantic increases. But is this really the way to go about it? 

National Energy Guarantee - Average Retail Electricity Price Increases 2004-2017
National Energy Guarantee – Average Retail Electricity Price Increases (source:energy.gov.au)

We understand it’s difficult to balance this rapidly increasing price with the subsidisation of new technology which can take time to show results, but this 50c/day saving is hardly the ‘game-changer’ it’s hailed to be – so the myopic choice of ignoring Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s recommended Clean Energy Target in favour of a 50c / day saving Turnbull can’t even guarantee is a perfect metaphor for the endemic, anaemic, short-sighted policy we’ve come to expect from Australian politicians over the past decade or so. How far can we kick the can down the road? I guess we’ll find out. 

It’s becoming increasingly clear that coal-fired generators have no future in Australia. Have renewables reached the point where they don’t need any help from the Government with regards to subsidies or tax breaks? Prima facie this looks like an atrocious plan for renewable energy and Australia’s energy future as a whole.

Read More Solar News:

South Australia Renewable Energy

South Australia Renewable Energy targets are being smashed for 206/17. The SA government’s official target for renewable energy is 50% of demand and they were hoping to reach this by 2025. Recent figures released show that large scale wind power and rooftop solar PV in South Australia has already reached that target easily – measuring at 57% this financial year.

South Australia Renewable Energy –

South Australia Renewable Energy 2017
South Australia Renewable Energy 2017

The Australian Energy Regulator released a report last week that shows wind+solar has reached 57% in the 2016/2017 financial year.

According to the AER, “In the nine months to 31 March 2017, the contribution of wind generation was even greater, supplying 50 per cent of South Australia’s electricity,” – this is as a result of Snowtown Wind Farm (currently 368.7MW) and Hornsdale Wind Farm (currently 315MW) reaching key stages in construction and affecting the output considerably.

Although wind power is currently generating huge numbers of energy for South Australia, The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) expect that the amount of PV solar rooftop will double by 2025 (this will result in over 1500MW). The most important thing at this point is figuring out an intelligent way to organise battery storage of solar energy as this technology continues to evolve. South Australia has had a torrid 12 months with regards to energy blackouts and it’s imperative that we find a way to manage situations where the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. The Bungala Solar Project (220MW, to scale to 300MW) is slated to start supplying power by summer 2018 and reach full capacity (220MW) in August 2018.

Last week we also released information on the Clean Energy Australia Report for 2016 which showed that SA generated 5,508Gwh in renewables, with a penetration of 48%. RenewEconomy have estimated that Bungala and the Lincoln Gap wind farm (212MW) will take the state to 65% renewable – by far the biggest of all the states in Australia. Although South Australia has battled with power issues over the last year it is exciting to see how motivated they are to ensure they generate as much renewable energy as possible. As the state upgrades its ability to manage rapidly evolving technology whilst mitigating the swings in available wind/solar we are sure they’ll continue to lead Australia in the industry and are excited to see what this means for the future of renewable energy in South Australia.

Read More Solar News: