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)

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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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Solar Power in Australia reaches 3.2% in 2016

The Clean Energy Council released figures on Tuesday that show Australians’ energy needs were powered by renewables to the tune of 17.3% in 2016 – the highest since Snowy Hydro was completed 50 years ago. 3.16% of this 17.3% renewable energy was from solar power in Australia – a massive jump of 29% from 2015. According to RenewEconomy, it’s expected to grow considerably in both small and large scale solar PV production – putting us well on track to reach our Renewable Energy Targets (RET) for 2020.

Solar Power in Australia

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton advised that 10 major wind and solar farm projects were completed in 2016 and there are 20 more in the pipeline; he’s confident that we’ll reach our RETs with time to spare.

“Every month brings new project announcements. While total investment in large-scale renewable energy was $2.56 billion last year, $5.20 billion worth of projects have secured finance in just the first five months of 2017 and have either started construction or will begin this year,” Thornton said.

“Innovation continues right across the renewable energy supply chain and new technologies such as energy storage are beginning to get their time in the sun,” he was also quoted as saying. We assume the pun was intended.

Solar Power in Australia 2017
Solar Power in Australia 2017

The Australian Renewable Energy Target 2020

Some more takeaway statistics from the report:

  • Renewable energy provided 17.3% of all Australia’s energy in 2016 – up from 14.6% in 2015.
  • 6,750 battery systems were installed in 2016, 13 times the number installed in 2015.
  • Hydro is still far and away the biggest contributor to Australia’s renewable energy, comprising 42.3% of the total amount.
  • In 2017, building a renewable energy plant is now cheaper than coal and gas-fired power plants.
  • About half of the projects already underway or set to commence in 2017 are for large-scale solar, due to price per kWh nearly halving in the last two years.
  • Approximately 17,500 GWh of renewable energy was created in 2016 – as the Renewable Energy Target is 33,000GWh we still have a way to go but progress is looking positive.
  • Large scale solar is almost 50% of its cost two years ago and is slated to play a huge part in reaching our RET in 2020.

Click here to read the Clean Energy Australia Report 2016 in full at the CEC website.

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Hazelwood Shutdown – The implications for Australian Power Prices

After over 50 years of service, the Hazelwood shutdown will finally be completed today . Hazelwood, the Engie and Mitsui owned power plant operated at 1600 megawatts and was a brown (‘dirty’ coal) fired plant, is located in Victoria and supplied almost 25% of the state’s energy (and about 5% nationwide).

This has led to a steady surge in energy futures for the April-June quarter (over 300% in the past year) as per data from the AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator)

Melbourne analyst for UBS, Nik Burns, wrote in a report this week that the energy market is “…struggling to absorb the potential impact of the closure on future electricity prices” which is leading to “increased volatility”. As the graph below shows Australia’s already struggling power and energy market have reacted with steadily increasing panic to the situation:

Hazelwood Shutdown
Hazelwood Shutdown (source: smh.com.au)

 

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has previously said that Victoria could import energy from NSW and Tasmania (coal-fired and hydro generated, respectively) – and according to SMH, and Australia’s electricity grid operator over the next two years there is a prediction of 72 days of high demand conditions/possible power supply shortfalls if next summer is even close to as hot as predicted. As previously highlighted, the plant supplied a massive 25% of Victoria’s power and the 72 days of potential power “reserve shortfall” – which doesn’t necessarily mean blackouts, but certainly shows how reliant the state (along with SA who have myriad similar woes) will be on imported power over the coming months following the Hazelwood shutdown.

However, investigating the situation further it may not be as bad as that sounds – these predictions are based on ‘extreme demand scenarios’ – which refers to the assumption of ‘once in a decade’ electricity usage. A scenario like this is possible for days and even weeks over the next couple of years, but 72 days seems extreme at best. Dylan McConnell from the University of Melbourne said “If there’s a 45-degree day, or three 45-degree days in a row, or a generator fails you could have demand at that level and get a shortfall in Victoria, but it’s not going to happen 72 times in two years,”.  Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood agreed that the electricity supply was unlikely to be interrupted in summer 2018/19.

“The most likely outcome at the moment is that we will get through this,” Mr Wood said.

Regardless, Australia’s transition to a clean energy remains fraught with uncertainty (apart from the seemingly inexorable price hikes). With the $2billion Snowy Mountain expansion “Snowy Hydro 2.0” still years away (the feasibility study should be completed by the end of the year) we face a few interesting years as we try to balance reaching our 2030 renewable goals and keep energy on while minimising blackouts and load shedding across the country.

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