Last week’s meeting of energy ministers fumbled their first chance to do so, leaving business hamstrung. Nowhere is that as painfully clear than in South Australia.
The state has led the country in tapping into rich, renewable resources but when it comes to accessing the benefits business is still missing out. The problem? South Australia must operate within a larger national system that’s designed for a different age.
The wholesale electricity price spikes seen in July, claims of gas market manipulation and barriers preventing the rapid shift to 100 per cent renewable electricity have highlighted the many systematic flaws. At the heart of all this, though, sits an outdated grid that is based on last century’s centralised generation model.
This obsolete system has served us well but is now holding back the state and business community.
The sand is rapidly shifting under the traditional energy market’s feet driven by households and businesses that are no longer just consumers of energy but also producers, particularly through domestic solar panels Continue reading
Turnbull’s plan to defund Australian Renewable Energy Agency will cause loss of 100s of solar energy jobs in Queensland
Queensland solar projects that could create 2,600 jobs at risk in federal cuts
Many schemes may not go ahead if the Australian Renewable Energy Agency is defunded in the government’s omnibus bill, ACF warns, Guardian, Michael Slezak, 25 Aug 16, Thousands of jobs could be created in Queensland if 10 large-scale solar projects were to receive funding, according to analysis by the Australian Conservation Foundation.
The projects, earmarked for funding by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena), would create around 2,695 jobs according to the study.
The figure compared favourably with the 1,400 jobs which the Indian conglomerate Adani estimates its $16bn Carmichael coalmine would bring to the state if it obtains approval for the controversial project, the study claimed.
However, the findings comes as Arena faces defunding by the federal government, placing the projects in jeopardy. Continue reading
Environment Minister Simon Corbell on Tuesday announced what he described as the “final piece” in the government’s plan for 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020. A 91MW $200 million Crookwell wind farm, to be built by Spanish-owned company Union Fenosa Wind Australia, has won the right to be paid feed-in tariff grants under the government’s reverse auction process.
The project, due to be completed in September 2018, will build 28 turbines able to power 41,600 Canberra homes.
Mr Corbell said the Crookwell farm would be paid $86.60/MWh for the energy it feeds into the grid, which he said was a record low for a NSW wind farm. The other successful bidder was the Hornsdale Wind Farm, being built by Neoen International SAS and Megawatt Capital north of Adelaide.
The Hornsdale project has already been successful in the first and second rounds of ACT wind auctions, and is building the capacity for 309MW in total. That means the South Australian project will provide a large chunk of the ACT’s renewable energy by 2020. Continue reading
“Although this is only a particularly small project, what it is is it represents the first community solar lease product in Australia, it represents the first community solar cooperative fund and it represents the first crowdfunded equity community solar project,”
Community Solar Co-Op Shares Sells Out in Minutes https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2016/08/community-solar-co-op-shares-sells-minutes/ Renewable energy organisation Pingala sold out of shares in nine minutes for its first community solar fund. Pingala partnered with the environmentally-conscious Young Henrys brewery in Newtown, Sydney to build a solar farm on its roof, which will save an estimated 127 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year.
The newly launched Pingala Cooperative, which sits alongside the Pingala Not for Profit, allows the organisation to raise funds from member investors to install solar panels on its partner businesses.
“We then lease the solar to the business, so they pay us a fee to be able to use the equipment as though it were their own, and through that we get a revenue stream that allows us to pay our costs and generate a small profit,” Pingala secretary Tom Nockolds told Pro Bono Australia News.
“So we’re offering our investors between 5 and 8 per cent… return on investment. But they’re investing in Pingala on an ongoing basis, so there’s no predetermined timeline for when investors get their money back, it’s totally up to the investors themselves to decide when they want to sell their shares, it’s much like buying shares in a company. Continue reading
A landmark high-rise apartment tower in Southbank whose glass exterior is wrapped in solar cells will provide its residents with “off-the-grid” power stored in Tesla-like batteries, its designers say.
The 60-level building will be the first skyscraper in Australia environmentally engineered to include solar cells in the facade, creating a far greater surface area for catching the sun’s rays.
“We get an enormous area of solar panels by comparison to running them across the roof,” said Peter Brook from Peddle Thorp, the architects behind the design.
The curved exterior of the building has been orientated to deliberately capture the sun’s movement from east to west throughout the day, a feature that had created an “elegant tower”……..http://www.theage.com.au/business/property/first-solarpowered-apartment-skyscraper-to-rise-in-melbourne-20160819-gqwv76.html
Majority of Victorians support urgent shift to renewable energy, poll finds https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/aug/18/majority-of-victorians-support-urgent-shift-to-renewable-energy-poll-finds
A ReachTEL poll commissioned by Friends of the Earth shows 68% of the state, including a majority of Liberal voters, want to see an end to reliance on coal, Guardian, Michael Slezak, 18 Aug 16, The vast majority of people in Victoria – and even a majority of Liberal voters – support the state moving towards 100% renewable energy “as a matter of urgency,” a new poll has found.
The polling comes as the state government works to rewrite the Climate Change Act, including pre-2050 emissions reduction targets.
More than 68% of Victorians said they agreed or strongly agreed that “Victoria needs to transition its energy use from coal to 100% renewables as a matter of urgency”, according to the ReachTEL poll of 1,137 people conducted on 4 August and commissioned by Friends of the Earth.
That was in line with previous national polls. But when the researchers drilled down to the views of people who supported different political parties, they found consistent support for an ambitious state-based renewable energy target. Continue reading
Xenophon calls for SA and Victoria to set up their own electricity emissions trading scheme, ABC News, By Nick Harmsen , 18 Aug 16, The Victorian and South Australian governments should establish their own joint electricity emissions trading scheme if the Federal Government refuses to put a price on carbon, Senator Nick Xenophon says.
The South Australian senator told an industry conference in Port Pirie that such a scheme would drive down prices.
“The sooner that COAG acts, or alternatively the Victorian and South Australian governments, the sooner consumers and businesses will have real relief in power prices with enhanced reliability,” he said.
“It could and should happen this year.”
Senator Xenophon said he had discussed the proposal with South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis, and had written to the federal Minister Josh Frydenberg, urging the issue be discussed at a national meeting of energy ministers this Friday.
Proposal first discussed seven years ago
Rather than advocating a nationwide carbon pricing scheme, Senator Xenophon said the Federal Government should resurrect a scheme first put forward in 2009, during Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s time as opposition leader.
“We, as in Malcolm and me, jointly commissioned Frontier Economics to come up with an alternative emissions trading scheme to [then prime minister Kevin Rudd’s] carbon pollution reduction scheme,” he said.
That scheme would effectively see dirty power generators pay cleaner generators to run more……..
South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said Senator Xenophon’s proposal had already been considered by numerous bodies, including COAG. “I am sure this idea is one of the many things we will discuss on Friday at what is an incredibly important COAG meeting,” he said.
“The main point I agree with Mr Xenophon on is that this is an urgent issue that requires the ministers to take back power in decision making, form a consensus and agree to a reform of the energy market.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-17/electricity-emissions-trading-scheme-plan-for-sa-and-victoria/7751324
Energy companies withholding supply to blame for July price spike, report finds
Analysis of temporary jump in prices in South Australia showed generation capacity far exceeded demand, pointing to market manipulation, Guardian, Michael Slezak, 17 Aug 16 Fossil fuel electricity generators in South Australia withheld their supply to push up prices and reap bigger profits, according to an analysis of the causes behind the extremely high prices there in early July.
The findings suggested some solutions proposed ahead of this week’s Coag energy council meeting for the so-called “energy crisis” like increasing the supply of gas in Australia won’t help the situation at all.
The three things often pointed to as possible causes of the price spikes, especially on 7 July, have been the closure of the Northern power station, the main Victoria-SA interconnector being down and wind farms not producing much power.
But in a report commissioned by GetUp, energy analyst Bruce Mountain showed the generation capacity that was available in the market still far exceeded the demand. However, besides those owned by Origin, all other fossil fuel generators continued to operate far below their capacity, only offering electricity to the market for a very high cost.
In addition, Mountain showed the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) forecasted that low wind and the interconnector maintenance would create high prices, which the generators could have responded to by ramping up supply and making solid profits.
“Yet, they did not respond to that information by making more of their production available to the market,” Mountain said in the report.
“Had this capacity been made available to the market at more reasonable prices, even prices far above production cost, those extreme prices would not have occurred.”
Mountain said Snowy Hydro, Engie, AGL and Energy Australia were exploiting their market power to push up prices. He said they weren’t doing anything illegal, but they were taking advantage of a market that wasn’t functioning properly.
“I think there’s a question of social license –and we’re seeing this in many other industries, where people are expected not just by the letter of the law but by the spirit of the law and maybe there’s scope for some of that to find its way into how we think about these things,” said Mountain.
Miriam Lyons from GetUp said the market is failing to deliver the competition needed to protect consumers’ interests.
“This shows that the answer to South Australia’s problems is not more gas, but more competition. Supporting cleaner suppliers of on-demand energy – like concentrating solar thermal in Port Augusta – would be far better for consumers, and for the planet……..https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/aug/17/energy-companies-withholding-supply-to-blame-for-july-price-spike-report-finds
AGL Energy plans to invest in more large-scale renewables beyond a $2 billion fund it recently set up…..(subscribers only)
Climate Council urges bigger push towards renewables as community energy projects take off, ABC Radio AM By regional affairs reporter Lucy Barbour The Climate Council says a growing trend of rural communities setting up their own wind and solar farms could generate thousands of jobs in regional Australia.
- Community projects will benefit local investors
- Twenty community energy projects are already operating in Australia
- Many communities are working towards 100 per cent renewable energy
The council’s latest report, on the impact of climate change on rural Australia, says rural communities will continue to be affected by worsening extreme weather events such as bushfires and drought.
But the report’s co-author, Will Steffen, said community-owned energy was one way to adapt.
“You have to have some leaders in your community that can actually get on top of the issue and say, ‘look, forget about federal politics or whatever side you’re on, this is good for our community’,” he said.
There are currently 20 community energy projects operating across the country, but Peter Fraser from Goulburn in southern New South Wales, said there was the potential for many more.
Mr Fraser is part of a group trying to build a $2.6 million community solar farm which, he said, would provide investors with a 5 per cent return on investment.
“It will be 1.2 MW. It will have about 4,000 panels of solar voltaic and it will generate enough electricity to power perhaps 300 to 400 homes in Goulburn,” he said.
Mr Fraser said investors would buy the solar equipment, pay for the connections to the grid and then sell the electricity to those who want it……….
The Climate Council’s report points out that many regional communities are working towards 100 per cent renewable energy goals, and estimates 28,000 jobs could be created if half of Australia’s energy came from renewables by 2030.
Professor Steffen said more than half of those would be in regional areas…….http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-09/climate-council-says-community-renewable-energy-on-rise/7702866?section=environment
South Australia signalling the death of base-load generation, REneweconomy,By Giles Parkinson on 8 August 2016 Tuesday marks the three-month anniversary of the closure of the last coal-fired “base-load generator” in the South Australia electricity market, and despite the best efforts of many in the Coalition and the Murdoch media, there is nothing to suggest that other states will not follow suit, in time.
The fossil fuel industry predicted – and possibly hoped for – “armageddon” from the closure of the last coal plant. But all it got was a big jump in wholesale electricity prices, caused not by renewable energy, as federal and local energy ministers have made clear, but by the soaring cost of gas and constraints on the interconnecter.
If anything, the events of the last few weeks have reinforced the point that the electricity market is in the early stages of an unstoppable transition. Coal-fired plants will soon be a thing of the past, and the role of gas-fired generators may all diminish as battery storage and other renewables take more central roles.
The announcement by AGL on Friday of its plans – supported by the South Australian government and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – for an array of 1,000 batteries in homes and businesses to create a “virtual power plant” to address demand peaks and grid stability, is a foretaste of what is to come.
Indeed, South Australia’s experiment – as premier Jay Weatherill has described it – in pursuing the world’ highest level of wind and solar generation is rapidly evolving into a whole bunch of world-leading projects.
These include AGL’s (described the world’s biggest virtual power plant), South Australia Power Networks’ commitment to a second “world leading” battery storage project that will likely reduce the need for grid investment, and various proposals for large-scale solar with storage (from SolarReserve,Lyon Infrastructure and others) and the creation of suburban and remote town micro-grids that will reduce the need for centralised power and distribution.
The withdrawal of base-load coal generation from the South Australian grid has sparked predictions of economic collapse and soaring prices, but these have simply replicated what used to happen when the state relied entirely on gas for the balance on power, even before the arrival of wind and solar. Continue reading
Councillor Arron Wood can understand why more businesses don’t put solar panels on their roof.
It’s not because they don’t want to save money. And it’s not because they don’t want to do the right thing. “The biggest barrier to wider uptake [of solar power] is the complexity of going through the process,” says Cr Wood, the chairman of Melbourne City Council’s environment committee.
Which is why, he says, opening North Melbourne Football Club’s new solar panel bank – 800 panels set across the club’s roof and that of the neighbouring council-run recreation centre – is a major breakthrough.
“There’s this sense that footy speaks to all parts of life in Melbourne, so partnering with … North Melbourne footy club might drive others to think ‘Maybe this is something we can do’,” he says.
The panels on the club’s roof will produce enough electricity per year to run 70 average Melbourne homes. North Melbourne’s chief executive Carl Dilena said the club expected to cut its energy use by almost a quarter as a result of installing the solar panels.
But as many Melbourne home owners know, solar does not always come cheap, at least initially. The system cost almost half a million dollars to install, and was partly financed by the council, via the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The club contributed about $67,000 of the funding, with the rest coming from the city council.
It is the first partnership the council has undertaken with an outside party – all other installations it has done have been on council-owned building rooftops.
The council is working with Sustainability Victoria to find businesses interested in reducing either emissions or energy bills that have previously considered going solar.
“The driver for a lot of businesses isn’t saving the environment, it’s to save dollars and that’s completely fine,” says Cr Wood.
Solar could be game changer for rural communities going off the grid, ABC News By Kathryn Diss , 7 Aug 16 For decades, farmers in Western Australia’s south have put up with the most unreliable electricity supply in the state, now they are about to find out if they can live off-grid, surviving on solar power instead.
- Farmers in Western Australia are investigating using stand-alone solar power systems
- Solar battery technology is making this more easily achieved, and the State Government will pay for it
- Power-supply to south west WA has been unreliable, a problem in other regional areas
Ros and Bernie Giles are part of a handful of farming families giving the technology a crack after living through years of frustration at their farm in West River, 500 kilometres south of Perth.
“Summer is our worst time, we seem to have more fluctuations then,” Ms Giles said……
Power problems span farmland across nation
WA’s south west grid spans more than 250,000 square kilometres, an area the size of the United Kingdom, yet it only services a 50th of the population, making it unreliable and expensive to maintain.
But the power problems faced by the people of West River are hardly unique.
Matthew Warren heads up the Australian Energy Council, which formed earlier this year to respond to the world’s rapidly changing energy market.
He said most edge-of-grid communities around the nation suffered the same problems……….
Renewable energy reaches tipping point
The move by WA’s Liberal-National Government to invest in the technology is seen as a step towards a greener future.
It is not just environmental goals driving the innovation but the financial realities of providing an expensive poles and wires network versus the improving economics of renewables……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-06/solar-could-be-game-changer-for-rural-communities-on-grid-edge/7681398
Adelaide charges ahead with world’s largest ‘virtual power plant’ AGL project to roll out 1,000 battery systems to homes and businesses will operate like a 5MW plant, and optimise energy produced from solar panels, Guardian, Michael Slezak, 5 Aug 16, Adelaide will be home to the world’s largest “virtual power plant” – AGL is rolling out 1,000 battery systems to homes and businesses, with backing from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena).
AGL and Arena say the project will improve network security and dampen a volatile wholesale electricity price in South Australia. However, an energy expert says that at the current size, the system will have a minimal impact on network security or wholesale prices, but might pose a challenge to the revenues of companies that own the poles and wires.
Offered to homes and businesses with solar systems, the $20m AGL project, backed with $5m from Arena, will operate like a 5MW peaking power plant, providing power to homes and businesses during periods at optimal times.
The chief executive of AGL, Andy Vesey, told Guardian Australia: “The beauty of the project is it’s being done over 1,000 batteries, and that’s how we deliver an aggregate benefit to the grid itself.
“But for the consumer, it will have the value of the battery. And it’s being priced at a way that a good investment decision could be made. We’re viewing that the average savings for someone who has rooftop solar right now would be $500 a year. It’s really a way of optimising the energy produced out of their solar panel.”
The system will cost $3,500, and AGL estimates it will take about seven years for solar customers to recover the costs.
Arena’s chief executive, Ivor Frischknecht, said the project would boost grid stability, reduce power price volatility and support the expansion of renewable energy……..
As a demonstration of something that could be bigger, McConnell said one of the biggest impacts of the business model could be on how the networks recover the costs of the poles and wires.
About half the cost of a home energy bill is linked to the network’s cost recovery of its poles and wires. McConnell said that meant a lot of the money being saved by consumers was actually done by avoiding paying the network costs. And that’s what AGL is relying on for its business model.
But this “virtual power plant” isn’t moving people off the grid. Instead, it’s relying on the grid, while avoiding the charges the distributors use to pay for the grid…….https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/05/adelaide-charges-ahead-with-worlds-largest-virtual-power-plant
Combination of solar and wind, with smart analytics and “big data” could cause electricity costs to plummet
Could big data soon make renewable energy storage free?, Independent Australia 2 August 2016, A new report explores the democratising of renewable energies through the advancement of “big data”.RenewEconomy‘s Giles Parkinson reports.
GLOBAL investment bank Citi is predicting that the combination of near zero-variable cost energy sources such as solar and wind, along with smart analytics and “big data”, may deliver what the nuclear industry promised nearly half a century ago — free energy……
Citi is not the only research institution making such forecasts but it is in sharp contrast to the general public discussion in Australia, which is dominated by those who insist that the old centralised energy system – slow, inefficient and expensive – will not and cannot be replaced by new technologies.
South Australia is now the focus of that debate, and the push-back against wind and solar by conservatives and, of course, vested interests, seeking to protect their sunk assets is striking.
But Australia is already well down the path to this transformation, given its high level of rooftop solar and the fact that it is considered to be the world-leading market for household battery storage and smart software. Continue reading