Tasmanian solar true believers turning to batteries after tariff cut

Updated January 20, 2019 10:18:37

Frustrated Tasmanians whose solar feed-in tariff was cut in half from January 1 are increasingly considering battery storage instead of feeding into the grid.

Key points:

  • The solar feed-in tariff for Tasmanians who invested before September 2013 has dropped to 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour
  • Renewable energy advocates say there is confusion and frustration among early investors
  • The Government is accused of not providing enough incentive or encouragement for Tasmanians to invest in solar

There are about 28,500 Tasmanians with solar installed at their homes.

More than half of them installed their systems prior to September 2013, when the feed-in tariff for excess electricity being fed back into the grid was about 28 cents per kilowatt hour.

They have been on a transitional feed-in rate for five years, but that’s now ended and the rate, set by the Economic Regulator, is about 8.5 cents per kilowatt hour.

The State Government is providing a five cent top-up for one year, but early investors in solar are still frustrated that their feed-in tariff rate is now less than half what they used to get.

Jack Gilding from the Tasmanian Renewable Energy Alliance said the Government was not providing enough incentive for Tasmanians to invest in solar, or enough information for those who already did.

“Confusion I think is the main result,” Mr Gilding said.

“A lack of education from the Government, a lack of explanation and complex interaction between the feed-in tariff, what you’re paying for electricity and the options that you have.”

He said the five cent top-up was only available to Tasmanians who didn’t change their existing solar set-up, meaning it was a disincentive for people to improve their solar set-ups.

“So they need to weigh up the advantages of upgrading versus losing the five cents,” Mr Gilding said.

Mr Gilding said more Tasmanians were asking questions about batteries, in light of the changed tariff.

“A lot of people have been saying well I’m not going to give my electricity away, I’m going to get some batteries and save it up for myself,” he said.

But Mr Gilding said the cost of batteries was prohibitive for many people, and the economics often only made sense for Tasmanians who needed a back-up power supply.

“It’s a disincentive for people to go solar,” he said.

Beth Muller and her husband first invested in solar for their Glenorchy home in 2011.

Ms Muller has multiple sclerosis, and her sensitivity to heat means she runs her air-conditioning all day and all night.

Ms Muller receives a medical cooling allowance but is concerned about how the change to the feed-in tariff will affect her finances.

She said she bought solar panels because she figured they would save her money on her power and medical bills.

“It has reduced our power bills to almost nothing at times, so that counteracts the $6,000 we’ve invested and really, I mean, it’s a wonderful investment.,” she said.

But she said she was concerned about the financial impact of the cut to the feed-in tariff.

“That’s coming out of our finances and in my condition it’s worrying as well, because we’re just going to have to keep (the air conditioning) on, no matter what,” she said.

“It’s a big drop in our finances and we’re going to have to totally rearrange everything that we do to accommodate that.”

Disincentive a worry, early adopter says

Jeff Jennings installed a solar electricity system and a solar hot water system at his home in Bridport in 2012.

“I thought anything that can reduce my power bill — I’m a pensioner and retired — would be a good investment,” he said.

“And they did give that incentive. They were prepared to pay solar producers the same amount for a kilowatt as they were charging people.”

Mr Jennings generates more energy than he uses, and last year made about $650. But he’s calculated that will drop by $180 under the new rate.

“It’s not so much the money that’s the worry for me, it’s that it’s a disincentive for people to go solar. And to me, that’s the future,” he said.

“We were told the 28 cents was only going to last a short time, but reducing it down to eight cents in a year’s time is going to put the brakes on people investing in solar.”

Mr Jennings said he was considering batteries more seriously since the solar feed-in tariff dropped.

Government powers towards 100 per cent renewable energy

Aurora Energy said rooftop solar generation accounted for about one percent of Tasmania’s electricity output, only making a minor contribution to Tasmania’s energy supply needs.

But Mr Gilding said solar was still saving the state power, and money.

“The more solar that’s fed into the grid, the less water we have to run out of the dams and the more water we’ve got in the dams. So that does contribute indirectly to energy security, definitely,” he said.

The state-owned electricity retailer said there was support and information available over the phone and online who needed it, and brochures had been distributed to customers explaining the change to the transitional feed-in tariff rate.

Tasmania’s Energy Minister Guy Barnett said it was up to individuals if they chose to turn to batteries instead of feeding back into the grid, and the primary benefit of solar panels was for customers who offset their own use.

“Any electricity used during daylight hours [and supplied directly from panels] saves the customer 26.431 cent for every kilowatt hour used,” Mr Barnett said.

“Customers who generate more electricity during the day than they use may consider whether battery systems are economic for them.”

The State Government has set a target for Tasmania to be 100 per cent renewable by 2022.

Greens spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said it was concerning that solar producers were increasingly looking to battery storage, and the Government was not offering enough incentive for people to invest in solar.

“The Liberal Government is doing whatever it can to talk as though it’s concerned about renewable energy but actually it’s not putting the incentives in that other states are doing,” she said.

“As a whole state movement, we want people to stay attached to the battery that we have of Hydro, and have a connected system.”

Mr Barnett said Tasmania was “steps away” from achieving that, with two wind farms in development.

Topics: solar-energy, alternative-energy, environment, health, hobart-7000, tas

First posted January 20, 2019 10:09:54

Blackout prone region in SA gets big battery

Posted January 16, 2019 11:08:33

South Australia has received another boost in its battle for improved power security following the completion of a new 30-megawatt battery on the Yorke Peninsula.

Key points:

  • The battery is to provide power to the Yorke Peninsula region of SA
  • It can provide back-up power to 4,500 customers in the region
  • The storage facility took more than 30,000 hours to construct

The battery is set to provide improved power reliability for the region — which is prone to blackouts — and its owners say it is the first certified indoor battery in Australia that is connected to the energy grid.

The indoor battery storage facility may be much smaller than the world’s largest lithium-ion battery built in the state — by tech billionaire Elon Musk — but the projects share a similar purpose.

The ElectraNet project — built at Dalrymple — is a 30-megawatt battery, about a third of the size of Mr Musk’s Tesla battery built near Jamestown.

With South Australia’s battle to prevent blackouts well documented in recent years, the aim of the new SA battery is to further improve power security for the state.

ElectraNet chief executive Steve Masters said the battery was an example of how energy storage could strengthen the country’s power grid and improve reliability.

He said it would serve Yorke Peninsula customers and would help power homes and businesses in the event of an unplanned outage or blackout.

“The South Australian energy mix and landscape has changed significantly in recent years and the introduction of this battery on the network by ElectraNet is part of our support to transition to a low-carbon economy,” he said.

“On average, it can provide back-up power to 4,500 customers in the Dalrymple service area for two to three hours while connection to the grid is being restored.”

‘Good news for households and business’

The battery storage facility took more than 30,000 hours to construct and features 2,268 batteries, six transformers, 12 power stores and more than 28 kilometres of cabling.

It was built by Adelaide company Consolidated Power Projects (CPP), who worked with international company ABB and battery provider Samsung to deliver the project and it will be operated by AGL.

AGL general manager development and construction Dave Johnson said the battery was good news for South Australian households.

“This battery will enhance security in the South Australian system and follows the launch of AGL’s Virtual Power Plant in SA,” Mr Johnson said.

“AGL believes energy storage technologies like this will create a bright future for low-cost power from renewables and that’s good news for households and business.”

The battery will rely on input from AGL’s Wattle Point Wind Farm, as well as rooftop solar.

The project received part funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) with construction completed in April last year.

Topics: energy, solar-energy, alternative-energy, environment, sa, australia

Residents move into their ‘hempire’, WA’s first eco village built using hemp

Updated December 20, 2018 11:11:51

It all began with a concept from a group of West Australian families who wanted to live in a beautiful urban precinct designed to give rise to a community and provide a visual connection with their neighbours.

The dream became reality for residents of Denmark’s ‘hempire’ after moving into their eco-development in September.

The village features 12 dwellings built using a unique product called hempcrete, on a block of land located just a stone’s throw from the centre of town.

Cutting-edge solar technology powers the site which has a design life of more than 100 years and an energy rating of 9.2 stars.

Project manager Paul Llewellyn first had the idea for the community five years ago and was now enjoying life as a resident.

It all started with a vision

The group wanted to combine the resources of different families and build the highest quality homes with an environmental design for their project, in the south coast town 400 kilometres south of Perth.

“This is co-housing or collaborative housing,” Mr Llewellyn said.

“We had the opportunity to design and build from the bottom up so there were a lot of boxes we could tick.

“We also wanted to build with an alternative building material — we didn’t want to use mud brick or rammed earth or some of these insulated structural panels.

“We wanted to look for a totally natural, high-performance material.”

That material turned out to be a product called hempcrete.

The benefits of hemp

Hempcrete is a combination of hemp aggregate, water and a lime-based binder.

According to Mr Llewellyn, the material was very insulating, resistant to fire and even sequestered carbon dioxide for the life of the building.

“We are pretty sure this is the biggest hempcrete construction project in Australia,” he said.

“I’m told from our international connections that it might be the biggest hemp construction built in the southern hemisphere at the moment.

“It’s a material that’s been used for centuries to build homes in Japan and they have rediscovered the construction methods in Europe and in France, where they never banned the growing of industrial hemp.

“Those walls are highly insulating, they protect the timber because of the lime, they don’t get eaten by white ants, they don’t burn and it’s an acoustic material.”

Mr Llewellyn said the material was also very resistant to heat.

“You can put a blowtorch to this material and it doesn’t transfer heat and it doesn’t burn,” Mr Llewellyn said.

“The houses are very well sealed, so you don’t get intrusion of embers into the structure.

“If anyone was going to build a house out of hempcrete on a bush block, I think they would feel very safe in their homes and that’s what we think should be a benchmark in Australia.”

Leading technology

While the hempcrete was a major performance feature of the development, the buildings featured other leading technologies to form a highly sustainable residence.

The entire village block is passive solar in design, using the sun’s energy for heating and cooling.

The windows are uPVC double glazed, making them energy efficient, sound insulating and heat resistant.

“We bank our rainwater and it comes back reticulated to the houses,” Mr Llewellyn said.

“We measure the flow of the water and all data is logged in the central plant room.

“We also have a single Solar PV system with battery storage which is one of the most advanced technical solar systems in WA at the moment.”

Mr Llewellyn said a grey water recycling system would soon be established.

“There is a whole lot of technology here that has been used to push the boundaries of sustainability,” he said.

“It’s not just the thermal performance and the built fabric [of the houses] that is the most important asset.

“What we also have is a beautifully-designed neighbourhood.”

Community and family

From within the kitchen of Mr Llewellyn’s house, he and partner Pam have a good view of the entire neighbourhood. They can see people stopping to chat and children playing.

The oldest neighbour is in her 80s and the youngest is just seven months old.

“Community arises out of really good spatial organisation,” Mr Llewellyn said.

“As soon as we moved in, we immediately had a community.

“There are even three generations of one family living in here and they’ve chosen that.”

Mr Llewellyn described the community as ‘neighbourhood watch on steroids’.

“But the houses are private — they have private courtyards and an alternative exit, so you don’t have to run into anyone all the time.”

Inspired design

Hemp houses are popping up all over the south west of Western Australia, and many builders are taking inspiration from the DecoHousing project in Denmark.

“There is a hempcrete house in construction on the other side of town, there’s one in Torbay and we have been supporting that family,” he said.

“There is also a project happening west of Denmark right now and we’ve been supporting them.

“We’ve demonstrated on a commercial scale that you can do this.”

That was the main challenge for Mr Llewellyn — not to build an individual house in the back woods but build a large project in the centre of town, right in front of everybody.

“Ideally, we should grow our own hemp and set up our own processing facilities,” he said.

“You could set up a fully-integrated hemp industry in WA.

“We can do it — we have the lime, we have the perfect climate for growing hemp and the skill base.

“Now, I’m proud to say, we’ve got the biggest demonstration project showing its possible.”

The project is still not complete. The community is busy transforming what was a flat building site into a lush Garden of Eden.

“We are taking our time,” Mr Llewellyn said.

“It took five years to build from concept, and it’s going to take a few years to landscape this place and turn in back into a productive garden.”

Topics: sustainable-living, lifestyle, building-and-construction, alternative-energy, solar-energy, community-and-society, community-organisations, denmark-6333

First posted December 20, 2018 09:12:38

‘Out of touch’: NSW Energy Minister splits with federal colleagues on climate policy

Updated December 19, 2018 10:38:51

New South Wales Energy Minister Don Harwin has slammed his Federal Coalition colleagues as “out of touch” on energy and climate policies.

Key points:

  • Mr Harwin said the Morrison Government needed to end the “climate wars”
  • He said the State Government would be taking independent action after the National Energy Guarantee was ditched
  • The NSW Opposition said the op-ed was a “lengthy confession of failure” by the Berejiklian Government

Ahead of a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting of state and federal energy ministers in Adelaide today, Mr Harwin wrote an opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review.

In it he claimed the Morrison Government’s policy changes in the area had jeopardised certainty and delayed investment in the sector.

He then told the Financial Review he believed Mr Morrison’s abandonment of carbon emission targets and the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) has inflated power prices.

“The Federal Government is out of touch on energy and climate policy … It’s time for them to change course,” Mr Harwin said.

The NSW Energy Minister urged the Morrison Government to “come to grips” with climate and energy policy.

He noted the State Government was happy with former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to implement the NEG, before it became political poison.

“We need to end the ‘climate wars’ and put science, economics and engineering ahead of ideology,” Mr Harwin said.

“That’s why New South Wales wants a sensible emissions policy to be embedded in the national electricity law, outside the high drama of the ‘Canberra bubble’.

“For that to happen NSW will move at COAG today that the Energy Security Board provide policy options to Ministers on how to achieve our net-zero by 2050 vision.

“This is the circuit-breaker needed.”

A confession of failure

In his op-ed, Mr Harwin also took a swipe at the Labor Party.

“Overly ambitious and uncoordinated targets set by Labor are as much a recipe for chaos as the absence of any orderly transitions plan,” Mr Harwin said.

The NSW Opposition spokesperson for Climate Change Adam Searle slammed Mr Harwin’s piece.

“What a joke, it is a lengthy confession of failure by the Berejiklian Government and its Energy Minister,” Mr Searle said.

“It reveals they clearly have no plan to tackle runaway energy policies, which they created through their mania for privatisation and deregulation of the retail energy market.”

Mr Searle said Mr Harwin’s criticisms of the Federal Government were well-founded, but that Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Government had “sat on their hands” and should have established their own energy targets.

“If the Federal Government lets Australia down, it’s incumbent to the states to act,” Mr Searle said.

Topics: energy, solar-energy, alternative-energy, electricity-energy-and-utilities, business-economics-and-finance, government-and-politics, federal-government, local-government, nsw

First posted December 19, 2018 10:03:49

Renewable energy ‘drives down power prices by more than cost of subsidies’

Posted December 07, 2018 07:06:30

A landmark study has shown that renewable energy has reduced electricity prices by far more than the subsidies paid for it.

Key points:

  • The study’s lead author said the research proved renewables were the key to lower power prices
  • Researchers found South Australians were paying, on average, the highest electricity prices in the world
  • Gas-fired power is pushing prices higher, while wind and solar are placing downward pressure on prices, the study found

The independent study, by the Victoria Energy Policy Centre, focused on the South Australian electricity market and confirmed households in the state have on average the highest electricity prices in the world.

The report comes as the Federal Government attempts to develop a fresh energy policy after the collapse of the National Energy Guarantee earlier this year.

The Government hopes to pass new laws to force energy companies — especially retailers — to offer customers cheaper electricity.

The study’s lead author, Associate Professor Bruce Mountain, said the research provided verifiable evidence that renewables drive down prices.

“I think in the current climate it’s critically important,” he said.

“We have an evidence base that puts this issue on the table for people to engage with.

“What our study finds unequivocally is the route to lower prices lies with cleaner sources.”

Wind and solar reduce prices by more than subsidies

The study used computer modelling to crunch electricity price data from the past five years.

It sampled wholesale market prices every half hour from 2013 to 2018, and calculated the factors that led to those prices.

It found that even though South Australians were paying the highest average bills in the world, wind and solar generation in South Australia actually brought wholesale prices down — and by far more than the subsidies paid for them.

It found that in the 2017–18 financial year, renewables reduced wholesale prices by an average of about 30 per cent, or about $37 per megawatt hour, mostly due to wind generation.

This was far more than the cost of the subsidies paid for them, which the study calculated was $11 per megawatt hour of electricity produced.

Renewable generators have been able to sell electricity on the wholesale market very cheaply, because the ongoing cost of producing electricity from wind and solar is effectively zero.

These cheap offers from renewable generators on the wholesale market displace more expensive offers from gas generators, effectively reducing prices for the entire market.

But gas generation drives up prices

But the study found the reduction in wholesale prices thanks to renewables has not been enough to offset the high price of gas.

The closure of the Northern and Playford coal-fired power stations has left South Australia reliant on expensive generation from gas-fired power stations, which are needed especially when wind and solar are not producing energy.

The study found electricity sourced from gas pushed prices higher by about 40 per cent on average in the 2017–18 financial year, or $56 per megawatt hour of electricity.

“Every additional unit of production you get from the wind or from the sun, that displaces gas generation, and brings your price down,” Associate Professor Mountain said.

“As long as you have so much gas generation with such inefficient and old gas plants … your prices will be high.”

The Grattan Institute’s energy program director, Tony Wood, said the study was a sharp analysis of the South Australian experience.

“Certainly renewables have benefited the system, and we would have had higher prices in South Australia without renewables, fundamentally because of the high price of gas,” Mr Wood said.

“And that’s a conclusion that I think makes sense and this report shows it very clearly.”

Policy vacuum part of the problem

The researchers also compared the average Australian household prices with those in European countries, which have the next highest residential electricity bills, and found other states on the east coast were not far behind.

South Australia was closely followed by Denmark and Germany, countries which pay by far the highest taxes.

The graph showed high prices were also being felt by households in other Australian states — next in line were New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

Mr Wood agreed that South Australia’s current energy mix meant expensive gas generation was setting the price for the whole market.

“What tends to happen is that gas is setting the price so high, so often, that it overwhelms everything else,” he said.

He said an energy policy vacuum at a federal level is part of the problem.

“Because we’ve not had good policy … nationally, we’ve not seen other kinds of generation come in to compete with gas-fired power stations, which set the price so often and keep the price so high.”

Topics: environment, alternative-energy, solar-energy, wind-energy, government-and-politics, sa, vic, nsw, qld

The Williams at their table

Posted December 07, 2018 06:18:11

Topics: solar-energy, electricity-energy-and-utilities, welfare, economic-trends, house-and-home, energy, port-augusta-5700, port-pirie-5540, port-pirie-south-5540, port-pirie-west-5540, risdon-park-5540, risdon-park-south-5540, adelaide-5000

The Williams outside house

Updated December 07, 2018 06:20:58

Gordon and Lorraine Williams say they will use their power bill savings to visit their daughter and have the occasional meal out.

ABC North and West: Gabriella Marchant

Topics: solar-energy, electricity-energy-and-utilities, welfare, economic-trends, house-and-home, energy, port-augusta-5700, port-pirie-5540, port-pirie-south-5540, port-pirie-west-5540, risdon-park-5540, risdon-park-south-5540, adelaide-5000

The town taking energy prices into its own hands

Posted December 07, 2018 06:18:11

Low-income residents of a regional South Australian city are using an innovative solar scheme to shave money off their power bills.

The Port Pirie Regional Council recognised that with more than half of the city’s population on government benefits, its residents could not afford runaway energy prices or a $3,000 solar system on their homes.

As the Federal energy debate raged without resolution, Councillors in Port Pirie, at the foot of SA’s Flinders Ranges, put to tender an ambitious home solar scheme.

Port Pirie Regional Council’s director, James Holyman, said the council was aiming to get a solar power system set up that people could pay off over four years, for no more than $20 a week.

“We wanted to use community collective buying power to get a high-quality product at a great price,” he said.

What was the deal?

The Council’s demands were simple; In return for recruiting hundreds of local customers, a business would deliver specified quality solar panel systems to be repaid over four years for the price of an average electricity bill or lower.

“Our intention was to get a system at that price to help the most vulnerable,” Mr Holyman said.

With a bid offering South-Australian-made panels and batteries at the specified price, South Australian company Cool or Cosy won the tender.

Managing Director Glenn Morelli said 800 community expressions of interest in the program made it doable.

“We priced it very aggressively for the council to meet their brief and we really needed that volume to make it financially viable,” he said.

“The more people, the better for everybody.”

He said residents then installed the solar systems on their roofs, instantly reducing their power bills as they paid it off over four years.

“Then after the four years all that energy is free, and they’re no longer paying for the system anymore,” Mr Morelli said.

Is it working?

Though they installed the panels halfway through their last billing period, Gordon and Lorraine Williams said their electricity bill nearly halved, and they expect the trend to continue.

“The next bill should go down to $100,” Mrs Williams said.

The average weekly income of Port Pirie residents at the latest census was $500, so the savings are a huge relief.

“We never go out for dinner or anything because it’s the extra money,” she said.

“Now I’ve got $200 extra that we can actually go out for dinner or go to Adelaide to see my daughter.”

The system deducts the solar panel repayment directly from the Centrelink user’s fortnightly allowance before it is paid to their bank.

“We don’t even see the money taken out of the bank … paid, everything, done,” Lorraine said.

Home-grown technology

The solar panels used in the project are made in Adelaide and, as of recently, the batteries will be too.

The company running the project has partnered with Sonnen, which has just opened a factory in Adelaide’s northern suburbs at the former Holden site.

Mrs Williams said it was an added bonus that participation in the scheme was supporting South Australian jobs.

“They’re always going to have a job because the panels are guaranteed for 25 years,” she said.

“So in 25 years, we won’t be here, but someone else comes along, they’ll be able to renew them.”

What others can learn

When all — roughly 300 — systems are installed at the beginning of 2019, Port Pirie Council hopes to run data from software that monitors all systems to assist the rollout of similar programs around Australia.

“The aim is once we’ve got the baseline to use this data for the betterment of all Australians,” Mr Holyman said.

“I don’t want to own the model, so Cool or Cosy could take this model to other councils around the state and benefit other communities.”

Through research being conducted at Adelaide University, there are also hopes for a community microgrid, which could leave Port Pirie independent of the state power grid.

Mr Holyman said with the Upper Spencer Gulf and surrounds being the site of multiple large-scale renewable projects, Port Pirie’s independence could benefit the state.

“If we could build the microgrids and take that load off the system, it would provide more for the current infrastructure for those renewables to the main population centres like Adelaide,” he said.

Topics: solar-energy, electricity-energy-and-utilities, welfare, economic-trends, house-and-home, energy, port-augusta-5700, port-pirie-5540, port-pirie-south-5540, port-pirie-west-5540, risdon-park-5540, risdon-park-south-5540, adelaide-5000

Frustrated Carnegie shareholders quiz wave power company on poor performance

Updated November 30, 2018 22:04:50

Long-suffering shareholders in embattled wave power company Carnegie Clean Energy have questioned the company’s ability to remain afloat.

Key Points:

  • Shareholders fear for the future of Carnegie and its planned wave energy farm
  • The company concedes it has failed to live up to shareholder expectations
  • A plan to sell a stake in its solar microgrid company has also fallen over

Carnegie’s annual general meeting in Fremantle on Friday was the first chance for shareholders to quiz management about the company’s poor financial performance.

One shareholder, Greg Benjamin, said he had seen the value of his shares plummet.

“I’ve been coming along to these shareholder meetings now for more than 10 years,” he said.

“We always have a good story, there’s a lot of cause for optimism about wave energy, but we just haven’t seen any results.”

Carnegie concedes shareholders let down

In his address, chairman Terry Stinson conceded the company had failed its shareholders.

“Commercially, it would be an understatement to say that Carnegie failed to deliver on expectations,” he told the gathering.

“On $10 million in revenue, the company lost $63 million, including a $34.9 million write-down of intangibles.

“The losses continue into this year, however not at the same magnitude.”

Mr Stinson blamed the financial problems on budget blowouts, project delays and intense competition in the solar power industry.

But he said the company planned to turnaround its financial performance by focusing on its core business of wave energy.

Sale of solar subsidiary off

Investors also learned on Friday that Carnegie’s plan to sell a majority stake in its solar subsidiary, Energy Made Clean (EMC), at a 75 per cent loss to Sydney-based TAG Pacific Limited had fallen over.

“They needed to raise $4 million for the condition precedent on the deal and they weren’t able to do that,” Carnegie’s new chief executive Jonathan Fievez said.

“They have started the rights issue, but their commitments won’t come in until sometime in the future, I think mid-December, so there’s some uncertainty around whether they can raise that amount.”

Mr Fievez said there was no “single thing” which had gone wrong.

“It’s a combination of project issues, the projects were already stressed when we came on board, we brought on new projects which also ran over budget and had technical difficulties,” he said.

Some shareholders raised their concerns about Carnegie’s decision in 2016 to buy EMC.

As a result of its financial turmoil, Carnegie has been put on notice by the WA Government to show it can fund its $26 million share of a wave energy project in Albany by mid-February.

At least one shareholder at the AGM expressed concern about whether the company would be able to meet that deadline.

We’ll be more transparent, CEO says

Carnegie has also been accused of misleading shareholders over what projects would be delivered.

“I take them on board in as much as we acknowledge we need to be more transparent with our shareholders,” Mr Fievez said.

“But bear in mind we had 100 shareholders here today, and I didn’t hear any questions about [misleading shareholders].

“Our shareholders probably felt like everything was going swimmingly and clearly it wasn’t, we were having trouble with the EMC part of the business, and they felt like that was perhaps a surprise to them when we revealed the extent of that issue.

“So we’re listening to them and we’re planning on being far more transparent in the future, so they understand where we are going.”

Mr Fievez conceded shareholders “should be concerned”.

“We’ve got some big challenges ahead of us, but their concern and their attendance here today shows how passionate they are. They really want this company to work,” he said.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, tidal-energy, alternative-energy, solar-energy, company-news, perth-6000, wa, albany-6330

First posted November 30, 2018 19:55:54

Renewables ‘heading for 80 per cent of electricity market by 2030’

Updated November 30, 2018 08:13:12

Renewable generation installation has accelerated to such an extent it is on track to provide almost 80 per cent of the electricity market by 2030, according to research from consultancy Green Energy Markets.

Key points:

  • Rooftop solar installations are up 76pc on this time last year
  • By end of the year rooftop solar capacity will exceed that of the closed Hazelwood power station
  • Renewable financing faces big challenges from the likely collapse of power prices

GEM director Tristan Edis said the renewable energy industry has built itself up to such a significant scale that even 50 per cent by 2030, the renewables target being pursued by the Federal Labor Party, would involve a significant contraction in activity and employment in the industry.

“I think most of us had thought a while back that 50 per cent by 2030 would be a pretty massive task for the industry to scale-up to meet,” Mr Edis said.

“But given the spectacular level of construction and rooftop solar installation activity since 2017, the industry is now facing a rather massive contraction in activity and employment even if Labor is elected nationally.

“The current scale of construction and installation activity in the renewables sector is actually consistent with achieving something like 78 per cent renewable energy market share.”

In October, renewables were responsible for 22.5 per cent of electricity generation.

Sticking to the Coalition government’s current policy of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to 26 per cent below 2005 levels would slam the brakes on the sector.

On GEM’s figures, the amount of new renewable energy capacity required each year to achieve a 50 per cent target is around 1,850 megawatts.

Between January 2017 and October 2018 the rate of large-scale construction commitments and small-scale rooftop solar installations was 5,150 megawatts per year.

“The Coalition’s 2030 emissions target, as embodied within the proposed National Energy Guarantee, would involve a collapse to 839 megawatts per year,” Mr Edis said.

Renewables already covering coal closures

GEM’s quarterly Renewable Energy Index found October had been a record month for rooftop solar with Australian homes and businesses installing more than 150 megawatts of capacity for the first time.

That pace of installation is 76 per cent greater than the monthly average of last year — which had been a record year.

The report noted the amount of rooftop solar installed so far this year has already passed last year’s total and now stands at 1,243 megawatts.

“This exceeds the Liddell coal power station’s average capacity over last summer’s peak period,” GEM said.

“By the end of the year it’s quite likely the total capacity installed in 2018 will exceed the peak capacity of the recently closed Hazelwood coal power station.”

The report also found the total capacity installed by the end of 2018 was expected to save solar system owners close to $3 billion in energy costs over the next ten years.

Price collapse pressures funding

Mr Edis said even if Labor does not manage to pass the NEG legislation then it is not necessarily plain sailing for the renewables sector.

As renewables — with their low cost base — make gas and black coal less competitive, pushing them out of National Electricity Market’s generation auction, prices received by generators will tumble and margins will be crushed.

“The amount of solar capacity we’re on track to have operational by 2021 will mean competitive conditions in the wholesale market between around 10am to 3pm will be akin to what we tend to experience late at night between 2am and 5am even if you take Liddell out,” Mr Edis said.

Big generator AGL has maintained it will close its aging, black-coal-fired Liddell generator in New South Wales in 2022, despite strong protests from the Federal Government.

“That suggests very low power prices set by the marginal cost of black coal generators — roughly $35-to-$40 per megawatt hour —which are likely to be below the levels required to make a solar farm financially viable,” Mr Edis predicted.

Those low prices, when it is windy or sunny, will put pressure on Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s ability to lend, which is required by law to exercise financial diligence with its investments.

“Without a revenue top-up via the NEG, the CEFC may judge that further finance to renewables projects is inconsistent with its objectives to obtain a financial return at or above the government bond rate,” Mr Edis said.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, electricity-energy-and-utilities, solar-energy, wind-energy, australia

First posted November 30, 2018 05:34:59