Australian news, and some related international items

A Labor win in Queensland will be a win for solar energy

ballot-boxsunQueensland Labor Promises Solar Support January 26, 2015 Queensland Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has committed Labor to boosting the state’s renewable energy sector if it wins the election.

“In office Labor will call for proposals to generate 40-megawatts of base-load renewable energy including solar power. This will be used as a trial for more renewable power plants,” said Ms. Palaszczuk.

Labor would also investigate introducing competition in the power sector by enabling remote area councils to generate electricity from renewables to be sold at a lower cost to consumers.

“We will also initiate a renewable energy study to investigate measures to create an export-orientated renewable energy economy here in Queensland,” said Ms. Palaszczuk; who additionally promised an independent review to determine a fair price for a solar feed-in tariff based on all the benefits it provides, “rather than the requirements of large companies.”

Ms. Palaszczuk accused the LNP of being stuck in the past and pointed out after the last election Campbell Newman reneged on promises on renewable energy; cutting $660 million in related programs.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said while Queensland has seen a huge number of households install solar power systems, the state trails behind others when it comes to new large-scale renewable energy developments.

“The Queensland Opposition’s plan to generate 40 megawatts of power from solar and other renewable sources is a welcome move, particularly in light of the ongoing review of the federal Renewable Energy Target – which has caused investment in the sector to collapse,” said Mr Thornton.

The Australian Solar Council also welcomed Labor’s announcement.

“Labor has released a solar plan for the Sunshine State, which is responsible and affordable and will restore confidence in a battered solar industry,” said Australian Solar Council CEO John Grimes.

“Labor’s solar policy stands in stark contrast to the contempt shown by the Newman and Abbott Governments towards solar families and workers.”

If the Council’s Save Solar Community Forum in Townsville last week is anything to go by, the LNP should be very worried – it was a standing room only event. The next forum is at Springwood on Thursday, January 29.

Last week the Greens also unveiled their solar policy, which would ensure all Queensland solar households are paid a fair price for their electricity exports. The policy would also provide 100,000 extra households the opportunity to control their power bills by installing solar.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | politics, Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Rooftop solar to become the most cost competitive primary source of energy in Australia.

falling manufacturing costs are driving this trend, in turn driven by improving manufacturing techniques. By 2019 it’s likely that manufacturing costs for solar panels will reduce by 30-50% again.
recent study has shown that in five years a solar panel will produce enough energy in six months to pay back all the energy used in manufacturing it. That means after six months the panels will be a net source of energy.
current and future developments will leave solar power from rooftops and grount-mounted plants as likely the most cost competitive primary source of energy in Australia.
 There’s a sunny future ahead for rooftop solar power: here’s why  The Conversation, Bernhard Mitchell, 26 January 2015, Research fellow in Photovoltaics at UNSW Australia Over the past five years the world has seen a dramatic fall in the cost of solar energy, particularly rooftop solar panels or solar photovoltaic power. It is now a real alternative and considerable player in the power markets.

In Australia more than 4 gigawatts (peak generation capacity) of solar panels are mounted on more than a million Australian roofs to date, adding up to about 7% of Australia’s electricity generation capacity.


As solar panels do not always produce all the electricity they possibly can, rooftop solar today contributes around 2% of Australia’s total electricity generation. But in some states during the day, solar’s contribution already reaches double digits. You can watch solar generation live here.

But what’s next for rooftop solar? It’s likely that costs will continue to fall, eventually making solar the dominant source of electricity in many parts of the world including Australia. Here’s the evidence. (graphs) ……… Continue reading

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | 1 Comment

Clean Energy Finance Corporation boosts commercial Solar Energy with Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)

Aust-sunCEFC Provides $20 Million For Solar PPA Programs  January 22, 2015 Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has announced it will provide up to $20 million to accelerate the uptake of commercial solar power systems.

The senior debt finance will be provided to ET Solar Australia to go towards a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) program. A solar PPA is a long term contract to purchase electricity generated by a solar power system installed at a company’s facilities.

There is huge scope to expand and deepen the solar PV market in the commercial sector,” said CEFC CEO Oliver Yates. “We see the PPA finance model as a way to remove the barrier of the upfront capital requirement which should enable many more Australian businesses to benefit from solar, reducing energy costs and lowering emissions.”

The CEFC backed program, already underway with a shopping center solar carport pilot project in Queensland, will see the installation of systems ranging between 30KW and 2MW. The program has an emphasis on major energy users; including shopping centers, mining and manufacturing businesses.

PPA’s provide long-term peace of mind on the price companies pay for the solar component of the power they use – and that electricity is significantly cheaper than the cost of mains grid supplied power. If grid electricity prices increase, overall savings will increase.

The PPA model overcomes the barrier of significant payback periods, enabling customers to achieve immediate savings on their energy bills.

The program isn’t the first time the CEFC has backed a solar leasing type initiative. Last year, the CEFC announced it will provide finance of up to $70 million for SunEdison programs offering long-term leasing and power purchase agreements for commercial and residential solar installations.

The CEFC says the PPA model has proven highly successful elsewhere and more than 75 per cent of new home solar power systems in California are installed under lease financing.

By the end of June last year, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation had contracted investments of over $900 million in projects with a total value of over $3 billion. Its 40 direct investments and 25 projects co-financed under aggregation programs are expected to achieve a positive net benefit Australian taxpayers.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s wonderful achievements in renewable energy, despite the Abbott government

The federal government’s decision to abolish the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is not only a planned demise of a potentially thriving industry but, to use the words of environmentalist David Suzuki, criminal negligence against future generations.

This is especially so in Australia’s rural communities, where renewable energy has always been a means of providing electricity when connecting to the grid is not viable. It is important now in times of prolonged drought that farmers can use some of their land to invest in solar and wind farms to subsidise their income.

Renewable energy rises to power, January 24, 2015  By Lisa Hinde Despite the brutal cuts to leading renewable energy bodies by the Coalition government last year, incredible benchmarks in the field have been achieved.

Last month, a team operating out of the University of NSW recorded the highest level of efficiency for a photovoltaic solar panel, converting 40% of the light into electricity. The average efficiency of rooftop solar panels is about 15-18% so exciting possibilities exist with this huge leap in conversion. As the technology develops, the industry will experience an influx of more compact units capable of using even more of the sun’s energy with less space and equipment required.


September 30 marked the day that South Australia exceeded 100% of their required power using only wind and rooftop solar. This is bad news for fossil fuels in SA, which are effectively priced out of the market by renewables that are able to go as low as necessary to sell their power as it occurs.

The ACT showcased its entrepreneurial talent by securing the development of Australia’s largest solar farm by reverse auction. Switched on late last year, the solar farm generates 20 megawatts with the capacity to power 4500 homes, helping the ACT to achieve its target of 90% renewables by 2020.

On December 23 it was quietly announced that the second year of the carbon tax’s operation led to a 1.4% drop in total emissions (including a 4% drop in electricity). To somehow justify being the only country to abolish a carbon tax, Environment minister Greg Hunt campaigned relentlessly as to its ineffectiveness. Continue reading

January 26, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Australian government snubs International Renewable Energy Agency congress

logo-IRENAAustralia thumbs its nose at global renewable energy market REneweconomy, By  on 23 January 2015  Australia has again courted controversy on the international stage, refusing to send its energy minister to a key meeting of the world’s peak renewable energy body, and sending instead a mere embassy staffer to the annual congress of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

IRENA met in Abu Dhabi last weekend, ahead of the World Energy Future Conference in the same venue. Some 150 members sent delegates and 65 of those countries sent their energy ministers. The heads of numerous energy companies, and financing chiefs also attended.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, perhaps, given the Coalition government’s antipathy to renewables, and its attempts to wind back or even cancel its current renewable energy target. The Abbott government has ensured that the large scale renewable energy industry in Australia has come to a virtual standstill, just as global investment in renewables increases.

The decision to snub IRENA’s annual conference is being seen in the same vein as its decision not to send a minister to the climate change talks in Warsaw in late 2013. It has angered and surprised some here, although the truth is that Australia – as in the climate space where it has also reversed course – is now seen as something of a no-hoper and an outlier in terms of large scale renewable energy.

Having become the first country to dump a carbon price in 2014, Australia has toyed with the idea of becoming the first to dump its renewable energy target. It appointed a pro-nuclear climate denier to head a review of the renewable energy target, and the result has been policy gridlock and virtually no investment in large scale renewables in Australia in 2014.

Financiers have declared Australia to be effectively a “dead” market. It is now ranked last in terms of climate and clean energy policies. Many companies and financiers have turned their attention elsewhere, although some project developers remain in the hope that some policy certainty can return, and some of the $20 billion in projects can be unlocked, along with thousands of jobs.

ARENA director general Adnan Amin said it was disappointing that Australia did not send a senior representative to the Abu Dhabi conference………

Amin said preliminary data from IRENA indicated that global investment in renewable energy jumped 15 per cent in 2014 to more than $US260 billion, despite the austerity of some budgets.

But there was a bigger change taking place.

Amin said it was clear that renewable energy technologies were now competing with fossil fuels in many parts of the world, and seismic shifts were taking place in the structure of the industry, from a centralized to a distributed model……

“The old model is stagnating. Change is coming and it is going to be dramatic,” Amin says.

January 24, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy | Leave a comment

Queensland: McKinlay Shire plans solar panels for business and Council buildings

sunMcKinlay Shire solar levy to help businesses cut power bills ABC News, By Kate Stephens 22 Jan 2015,  A north-west Queensland council says it is moving ahead with an innovate plan to help local businesses reduce their power bills.

The McKinlay Shire has put out an expression of interest for a renewable energy company to install solar panels on 14 local businesses and some council building…..

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Queensland, solar | Leave a comment

Wherever did Epuron get the idea that the Abbott government is against wind energy?

Abbott-destroys-renewablesEpuron claims Abbott Government against wind energy, ABC News By Melinda Hayter 20 Jan 15  Renewable energy company, Epuron, claims federal government inaction on the Renewable Energy Target (RET) has Australians paying more for electricity than they should be.

An independent review into the target, which attracted more than 24,000 submissions, was released in August but the government is yet to release its response.

The New South Wales Greens recently cited a report which showed an 88 per cent reduction in investment in the renewable energy sector nationally last year.

Project Manager with Epuron, Donna Bolton, says banks remain wary of lending money to industry players, despite the review’s findings. “The review found that while there was a marginal increase in the cost of household electricity initially, the RET in its current state would actually bring electricity prices down,” she said.

“Despite this there’s been no action.

Epuron has windfarm interests in a number of areas of New South Wales, including the South West Slopes.

Ms Bolton says the government’s inaction has caused the industry to stall.

“It’s very difficult because it’s all about investment confidence,” she said.


“A bank looking to lend $400m, you need to know that that investment is rock solid, that the mechanisms behind it will stay in place and that your return on investment is reasonably secure.

“That’s not the case apparently, so investment has pretty much stopped.”………Epuron has accused the Newman-Moaurice-climateAbbott Government of being against wind energy.

“For some reason there is a lot of resistance, for particularly wind energy, in the current federal government, Ms Bolton said……“I believe the Abbott Government is firm in its belief that it wants to develop the coal industry to the maximum before that gate closes,” she said…..

January 20, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, wind | Leave a comment

Gunnedah Shire Council takes the solar power plunge

Australia-solar-plugGunnedah moves to solar power ABC News  19 Jan 2015, Gunnedah Shire Council is the latest in a string of local governments across the region to join a movement embracing solar energy to power public buildings.

The council is in the process of installing solar systems across a number of public buildings, including Council’s administration building, Gunnedah Shire Library and the works depot.

Mayor Owen Hasler said the buildings are historically high energy users and transitioning to solar is expected to save council thousands of dollars annually.

“We want to be seen as being proactive in reducing council’s carbon footprint, and secondly of course there’s also the financial implications,” he said.

“It reduces our operational costs and effectively makes savings for our ratepayers.

“For example in the depot, we’re expecting to save over $6,000 per annum and the administration building about $5,500.”……..

January 20, 2015 Posted by | New South Wales, solar | Leave a comment

Australia’s unstoppable solar energy revolution

If you look at what the mainstream analysts are saying now, they are talking about the solar Parkinson-Report-revolution,” said Parkinson. “Even the energy distributors in Australia, they are talking about the end of centralisation and the rise of the micro-grid.” According to Parkinson, solar is now at “grid parity” with traditional sources of electricity.

Milne,-Christine-1“You can’t address climate change using heavily centralised, obsolete, hideously risky fission reactors,” Milne told Al Jazeera. “It’s a humiliating stance. Australia needs to phase out fossil fuels and move to 100 percent renewable energy for the climate – and for our economy.”

Australia’s rising solar power ‘revolution‘, Aljazeera,  After record-breaking solar project, scientists question why coal-dominated nation ignores renewable innovation13 Jan 2015 Adelaide, Australia Australian researchers broke the world’s solar power efficiency record last month with their design of a novel commercial energy system, raising hopes the fossil-fuel dominated country may someday switch off its reliance on coal.

Led by Professor Martin Green, the University of New South Wales team worked with a local company to create a highly efficient solar energy system that uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a central solar panel to generate electricity.

concentrated-photovoltaicsThe method is known as concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), and the end product is a system with an efficiency of 40 percent – meaning 40 percent of the sunlight hitting the solar panels is converted into energy, the highest such level ever achieved.

Most importantly, the design uses readily available materials that makes putting the system into operation easier – and cheaper – than trying to commercialise more experimental designs.

Green, who is also the director for the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics, has a history of this kind of innovation.In 2011, he and his team built a solar cell that operated with 19.3 percent efficiency and soon after pushed this to 19.4 percent, edging out the previous record holder with 18.9 percent efficiency.

Off the grid 

This kind of innovation has become the hallmark of the solar energy industry, and it is only going to grow, according to Green. Continue reading

January 19, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, solar | Leave a comment

Strong interest from South Australia and Victoria in ACT’s wind energy auction

Parkinson-Report-ACT wind energy auction: And the winners are …. REneweconomy, By  on 14 January 2015  The ACT government’s wind energy auction has thrown up some surprising winners, and none of the planned 200MW of wind turbines will be built within a bull’s roar of the nation’s capital, if market intelligence is correct. The ACT government advised the winning tenderers of their success just before Christmas, and have until early February to prove that they have the finance in place to build the projects.

The winners have not been publicly announced, and will be kept confidential. But through a process of elimination – i.e. by crossing out those among the 18 project tenders who concede they didn’t make it, there are three likely winners.

They are the Hornsdale wind project in South Australia – regarded as the country’s most prospective wind project because of its excellent wind resources. Industry estimates suggest that the project could be a go-er with a tariff of around $80/MWh…………

The second winner is thought to the small Coonooer Bridge wind project in Victoria. This is owned by Windlab, a spinoff of CSIRO which is based in Canberra. Coonoer is likely to be just 18MW, but will also likely have a level of community ownership through an innovative structure that we discussed here.

The third project is less certain but is thought to be the Ararat project owned by RES, also based in Victoria. It is also bidding for less than half of its nominated capacity of more than 220MW.

The ACT wind energy auction is important to the wind industry in Australia because the sector has been at a standstill for nearly two years. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, no new wind projects were financed in Australia in 2014 because of the Federal government’s attempts to nobble the renewable energy target.

That helped cause an 88 per cent slump in large scale clean energy investment, and pushed Australia down from 11th position to 39th in the world, below Myanmar and Honduras. For some international investors, the ACT auction was considered to be the last hope in Australia, given the uncertainty that continues around the RET.

Contrary to the federal government, which sees its future in coal, the ACT government hopes to source 90 per cent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2020. It will do this through a series of auctions – 40MW of large scale solar already completed, an initial run of 200MW of wind, and around 50MW of other large scale solar projects including storage, and 23MW of waste-to-energy projects.

The ACT government raised the prospect of winning tenders going to other states if the price was cheaper, although it did profess to have a strong “local content” component of the tender………….

January 16, 2015 Posted by | ACT, South Australia, Victoria, wind | Leave a comment

News South Wales report on Renewable Energy progress in 2014

renewable_energyNSW Gov releases progress report on renewables   Thu, 8 January 2015  The NSW Government has released its annual report, Progressing the Renewable Energy Action Plan for 2014, which confirmed approximately 13 per cent of the state’s energy generation came from renewables in 2013.

The Annual Report, which details the progress of the NSW Government’s Renewable EnergyAction Plan found that the share of renewable energy in NSW’s electricity generation mix has almost doubled in the past 5-6 years.

Other key findings include:

  • There are currently estimated to be more than 13,000 jobs supported by renewable energy in NSW. This includes 4,400 direct renewable energy jobs.
  • Over 2,900 megawatt (MW) of projects with an estimated investment value of $5.9 billion and the potential to support around 14,000 construction jobs and 1,000 operational jobs, currently have development approval. All of these projects are located in regional NSW (August 2014).
  • Total investment in small-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) in NSW has been $1.3 billion. 298,000 households have installed small-scale PV.

The report also identifies the key achievements from the period since implementing the Plan, which include construction commencing on AGL’s $450 million, 155 MW Solar Flagships project in Nyngan and Broken Hill, which the Government has played a key role in supporting and facilitating.

January 10, 2015 Posted by | energy, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Dive in renewable energy investment in Australia, contrasting with global rise

Abbott-destroys-renewablesRenewable investment dives in Australia, bucking global trend, SMH  January 10, 2015 –  Environment Editor, The Sydney Morning Herald Investments in renewable energy rose to record levels globally in 2014 but fell sharply in Australia because of uncertainty triggered by the Abbott government’s review of the industry, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

Worldwide investment in wind farms, solar photovoltaics and other clean energy sources jumped 16 per cent last year to $US310 billion ($383 billion), or more than five times the tally of a decade earlier. Solar investments accounted for almost half the total.

China led the way, with investment soaring almost one-third to $US89.5 billion, while US investment gained 8 per cent to $US51.8 billion, and Brazil’s almost doubled to $US7.9 billion.

Australia, though, went the other way, with investment sinking 35 per cent to $US3.7 billion. BNEF said the amount was the “lowest since 2009, as wind and solar project developers delayed decisions while they awaited the government’s response to its Renewable Energy Target review”.

The Australian tally in fact masks a much steeper dive for large-scale renewable plants as small-scale solar PV largely held its own in 2014 even as state-based support schemes were wound back further.

“Four wind farms are currently under construction, but these signed contracts before the last RET review,” said Darren Gladman, the acting policy director for the Clean Energy Council.

“No more projects in the country have imminent construction plans.

“Australia is not just at risk of falling behind the rest of the world on renewable energy, we have already slipped off the back of the wave. We have some of the best sun, wind and waves in the world, but this new research shows that we are squandering some of our huge natural advantages.”

Fairfax Media sought comment from Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, who has sought to cut the country’s renewable energy target from the current goal of 41 terawatt-hours annually by 2020 to as low as 27tWh.

So far, the Senate has blocked such a move but uncertainty over whether and when the goal will be reset has made it almost impossible to raise financing for new projects………..

January 10, 2015 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, business, energy | Leave a comment

Australian govt policy uncertainty leads to scrapping of Burdekin hydro power project

Burdekin hydro power project scrapped over renewable energy target concerns Guardian, , 12 Dec 14  Meridian Energy puts Queensland project on hold because it says Coalition’s efforts to reduce the RET made long-term investment ‘near impossible’  An energy company has shelved plans to develop a hydro power project in northQueensland, blaming the federal government’s “destabilising” attempts to wind back Australia’s renewable energy target (RET).

Meridian Energy Australia announced on Friday it would not proceed with the Burdekin hydro power generation project, which was intended to “harness the otherwise wasted power of the largest dam in Australia at Burdekin falls”………… Burge said regulatory uncertainty over the RET was the reason for not proceeding with the Burdekin project.

The project would have improved energy security in north Queensland, meeting the growing needs of agricultural and mineral businesses, and provided about 150 jobs during development and construction, the company said.

“Sadly, the decision to undermine the long-term investment signals of the RET makes it more difficult to realise these benefits for Queensland businesses and households,” Burge said.

The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, and the environment spokesman, Mark Butler, said the Meridian decision showed the government’s stance on the RET was costing jobs. Shorten and Butler said Labor would reopen RET negotiations if the government moved away from its position.“Australian families will have Tony Abbott to thank when their power bills rise because of his ideologically destructive approach to renewable energy,” they said in a joint statement.

Meridian is not the first company to cite RET uncertainty as a reason for shelving or cancelling projects. Silex Systems announced in August it was suspending a project to construct a large solar power station in Mildura, Victoria.

Keppel Prince Engineering, a wind turbine manufacturer based in Portland, Victoria, notified workers in October that 100 staff would be made redundant.

Other renewables companies have said the uncertainty has stopped them making long-term investment decisions.

January 10, 2015 Posted by | energy, Queensland | Leave a comment

Canberra’s Majura Valley solar farm will use advanced sun-tracking technology

solar array GerladtonMajura Valley solar farm system tracks sun January 4, 2015   Reporter for The Canberra TimesSun-tracking technology for solar panels will be deployed for the first time in Australia at a new solar farm in the Majura Valley on Canberra’s eastern fringe.

Solar Choice is developing and will operate the $6.5 million solar farm, which will feature a QBotix robotic tracking system, developed in California in 2012. The system is used in the United States, Japan and Europe.

Self-charging, track-mounted robots adjust the tilt and orientation of individual solar arrays throughout the day to gain maximum exposure to the sun.

Solar Choice, a brokerage firm which develops and manages solar projects throughout Australia and Britain, is finalising details for the 2MW first stage of its Canberra venture, which will generate about 3 million kWh of clean energy………

January 5, 2015 Posted by | ACT, solar | Leave a comment

Abbott government must hate Powershop – it’s making renewable sourced electricity cheaper!

a-cat-CANNo wonder that the Abbott government is keen to wreck the Renewable Energy Target.  Clever renewable electricity suppliers like Powershop are providing cheaper electricity – threatening Abbott’s backers – the polluting industries

Burge said that Powershop’s service was challenging the view put forward by major energy retailers that renewable energy would drive power bills up.

Miles George chairman of the Clean Energy Council and managing director Infigen Energy said that second tier generators had captured a “healthy” share of the retail energy market by offering discounts

“If we didn’t have a [target] those businesses wouldn’t be operating the way they are now and likely

Ben Burge, the man hoping to re-ignite the electricity market January 2, 2015 Andrew Colley Meet Ben Burge, the math whiz trying to shake up the staid retail energy market with a smartphone app and a good dose of analytics.

When he is away with the family, his mother-in-law pops by discreetly to do a load of washing. Her only explanation for his seemingly clairvoyant ability to know when to send her thank-you flowers is strategically placed web cams.

It’s a powerful tool and one he wants to put in the hands every Australian in a bid to take on the major energy retailers with cheaper and cleaner electricity.

logo-Powershop-1The truth is far more prosaic. Burge, chief executive of online retail energy challengerPowershop, knows when she’s there because the company’s app on his smartphone registers an unmistakeable spike in his home’s energy consumption.  Burge, once Australia’s youngest CEO of a listed company, eMitch, at 25, and keen skateboarder, has already picked up 30,000 customers in Victoria whilst at the helm of what Powershop claims is the world’s first retail online energy market.

It lets consumers use a smartphone app (on iPhone and Android) or the web to monitor their energy consumption at home and choose the source of their electricity – from alternative energy projects including wind, solar or even sugarcane processing and landfill generation. A move that could help increase demand for renewable energy.

Some time early in 2015 the service will launch in NSW. Continue reading

January 2, 2015 Posted by | energy, New South Wales | Leave a comment


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 652 other followers