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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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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Bulgana Green Power Hub to add 20MW Tesla Battery

French renewable energy company Neoen has purchased the Bulgana Green Power Hub, a huge wind+battery storage facility in western Victoria. It will be receiving a Tesla battery similar to the one in South Australia, but just on a smaller scale (20MW vs 100MW). 

Bulgana Green Power Hub

According to the AFR, the 204MW wind farm and 20MW accompanying Tesla battery will entirely power the Nectar Farms crop at Stawell, in Western Victoria. The majority of energy it generates will be fed into the local grid. The Nectar Farms crop is a new 30HA high tech glasshouse facility which will supply tomatoes and other produce for import and export, contributing more than 600 jobs to the Stawell region. 

The Bulgana Green Power Hub will be Neoen’s largest Australian-based project and will create 1300 jobs during construction and 270 ongoing jobs. Neoen are joint owners of the existing 100MW Tesla South Australia solar battery. They are also the developer of the Hornsdale Wind Farm in South Australia (where the battery is located)

“The performance of the South Australian battery is outstanding,” according to Franck Woitiez, Neoen’s managing director. “The Bulgana battery is primarily going to provide energy to Nectar Farms and may support the grid in the future.”

The South Australian battery was tested late last month and performed admirably, delivering 100MW of power to the grid in 140 milliseconds as the Loy Yang Power station tripped and went offline

Lily D’Ambrosio, Victoria’s energy minister, called the agreement “a major step forward for communities, businesses and the renewable energy industry”.

“This project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while helping meet Victoria’s renewable energy generation targets,” Ms D’Ambrosio said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Bulgana Tesla solar battery is not expected to come online until mid-2019 but we expect to see similar agreements put in place over the coming year. Read more about the Bulgana project by clicking here to visit their website. 

Bulgana Green Power Hub Location
Bulgana Green Power Hub Location (source: bulganawindfarm.com.au)

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Solar Powered Trams in Melbourne / VRETs

Victoria has been working on a plan for solar powered trams over the past year and it looks like the Andrews government has moved one step closer with the project – announcing plans to build two new Victorian solar farms to power Melbourne’s tram networks. If that phrase conjured up the image of a bunch of trams with solar panels on top, unfortunately not yet – but using renewable energy to power public transport is a great step forwards. We already have projects like the Valdora solar farm run by the Sunshine Coast Council to power all their energy needs so it’s very encouraging to see the public sector moving in (some semblance of) lockstep with private innovation and investment. 

Melbourne’s Solar Powered Trams

Premier Daniel Andrews Solar Powered Trams
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announces Solar Powered Trams.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced that Bannerton Solar Park and the Numurkah Solar farm have won tenders to provide renewable energy to power Melbourne’s trams, offering 100MW and 38MW respectively for the network. The $100m Bannerton project will consist of 95,000 solar panels and is expected to reach full completion by July 2018. The Numurkah Solar Farm will output 100MW via 300,000 solar panels on 500 hectares, but only 38MW of this will be going to the government. French solar plant developer Neoen (who will partner with Tesla to create the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in South Australia) will commence construction in early 2018.

In January Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio advised that they would use one solar plant with 75MW of power – and that half of this would go to the tram network as 35MW was sufficient to cover the energy needs of 410 Melbourne trams. Despite opposition energy minister David Southwick decrying it at the time as a ‘media stunt’ and said Andrews’ government should be ‘fighting for the most affordable power deal for Victorians’, the government has forged ahead and have doubled down on their renewable energy plans – announcing Victoria’s Renewable Energy Targets for 2020 and 2025. 

Victorian Renewable Energy Target

Legislation introduced to Parliament (the first time RETs have been enshrined in state legislation in Australia) last week has set Victoria’s RETs (Renewable Energy Targets) to 25% at 2020 and 40% by 2025. According to the Herald Sun, they haven’t released any modelling showing what the figures are based on, but the RET will mean a cut to energy prices of $30 p.a. for an average family. 

According to Andrews, “The VRET will cut the average cost of power for Victorians by around $30 a year for households, $2,500 a year for medium businesses and $140,000 a year for large companies, while driving a 16 per cent reduction in Victoria’s electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions by 2034-35.”

The VRET legislation allows for a competitive reverse auction (i.e. the lowest bidder wins) for up to 650MW of power (enough to power Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley combined) , which Clean Energy Council chief exec Kane Thornton says will ‘turbocharge’ the renewable energy industry in Victoria, calling it a ‘major step forward for communities, businesses and the state’s renewable energy industry’. 

Political grandstanding or a massive step forward for renewable energy in Victoria? Is it necessarily a zero-sum game? We’ll know very soon – watch this space and we’ll keep you updated on how things are going! With the first legally binding state RETs Victoria are certainly putting their money where their mouth is and doing their bit to reduce emissions and move towards a renewable energy future. 

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Newbridge Solar Plant Upgrade Gets Go Ahead

The Victorian state government has given $1 million in funding to upgrading an existing Newbridge solar plant which will create up to 70 local jobs and represents world-class solar technology.

Newbridge Solar and RayGen Resources

Newbridge Solar Plant - RayGen Resources
The Newbridge Solar Plant –
created by RayGen Resources (source: raygen.com)

The plant will be built by Blackburn-based solar technology company RayGen Resources and the funding was announced by Lily D’Ambrosio, the Energy, Envicornment and Climate Change Minister for Victoria. The funding well come from Business Victoria’s New Energy Jobs Fund and will create jobs in manufacturing, sales, product engineering, and software engineering. This represents another boon for Victorian solar which has been moving along in leaps and bounds over the last 12 months.

D’Ambrosio approved the funding this week and was quoted by the Bendigo Advertiser as saying “This is a fantastic opportunity to strengthen the exports for our growing renewables sector and deliver a positive environmental impact”.

John Lasich and Zhen Mu , along with RayGen’s new CEO, Alex Wyatt, are in charge of the Chinese solar project which is based on the pilot plant which supplied power to a Newstead organic mushroom farm. The energy generated by the new Newbridge solar farm will supply the more than enough to power the business. No word yet on when the plant will be completed but we think it will be within the next 12 months and look forward to seeing the PV Ultra technology utilised in the future.

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