Callide Legal Action and Regulatory Challenges

Safety worker in hard hat pointing at electrical transmission towers under a colorful sunset sky, highlighting energy infrastructure.

Callide is facing increased scrutiny as the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is taking legal proceedings against Callide Power Trading due to an explosion at Callide C. In May 2021, an explosion at Callide C4 led to the tripping of multiple generators and high-voltage lines in Queensland, leaving nearly half a million homes to lose power.

The AER alleges that Callide Power Trading broke the National Electricity Rules (NER) by not adhering to its own performance standards for Callide C4. According to the allegations, the C4 unit lacked a protection system in place or having sufficient energy supply to suddenly disconnect the unit when the explosion occurred.

Justin Oliver, an AER board member stated that “Failure to comply with these standards can risk power system security, see consumers disconnected from power supply and cause wholesale energy prices to increase during and beyond these events”.

Callide C3 is expected to fully return on March 31st, with C4 following on July 31st. These are revised dates following various delays affecting both units.

In a separate incident, the Federal Court ordered IG Power, who owns 50% of Callide to appoint special administrators with powers to complete a new investigator into the incidents at the power station.

There is currently no date set for the AER’s matter to be heard at Federal Court.

This highlights the immense pressure on the energy industry and regulation to suppress spot prices in the NEM. This pressure has come in various forms including market directions, price caps on underlying fuel sources such as coal and gas, and retailer reliability obligation (RRO) being enacted in SA this summer.

This pressure has been evident in the spot price, as the spot price over the summer has been very soft, particularly in South Australia and Victoria, with prices being far below forecasted and previously traded levels.

This has caused issues for generators leading Engie to announce the early closure of two units in SA, removing 138MW of capacity from July 1, brought forward from an initial closure scheduled for 2028. This is due to financial reasons as losses have been mounting at the plants, unable to make a profit in the spot market.

There is currently a T-3 forecasted in South Australia from December 2025 to February 2026. Following the recent RRO witnessed over the summer in South Australia where spot prices have been low, volatility has been minimal, and there have been few system security issues in the state. Will we see any revisions or changes to RRO in the future?

End of 2023 Energy and Climate News Wrap

There was lots of news that came out during the Christmas break, so please see our wrap of the end of 2023.

European Grid Resilience: Denmark-UK Link Operational

Further underpinning the resilience of the European grid, the 1,400MW DC link from Denmark to the UK came online on 29th December. However the capacity has been restricted to 800MW in the first instance as the electrification of the grid and hunger for power in the Danish region is not high with strong wind output (54% of the Danish grid) and the link into the power hungry Germany is not yet in place.

NSW’s Energy Manoeuvre: Orderly Exit Mechanism

The NSW minister for Energy and Climate Change, Penny Sharpe, gave herself and anyone in her seat the power other states have in their pocket; at the end of last year, she granted the “Orderly Exit Mechanism” power. Which means that with or without the consent of Origin in negotiations she now has the power to order Eraring to stay on as she backdated the powers to 2021. With the deadline to keep Eraring on or not this could shift the scales of negotiations and may be an indication of the noose Origin held around the NSW government loosing.

Queensland’s Ambitious Climate Target

QLD government strengthened its climate targets with a new target of 75% below to the 2005 baseline by 2035. This is due to be legislated in the new year.

Record Power Demand and Prices in December

Friday, 29th December, was indeed a scorcher, with demand topping over 9,750MW over the evening peak and pricing topping out around the $15,000/MWh price over the evening peak and prices averaging $448.97/MWh for the day. Showing how solar penetration can create huge volatility in prices on high demand days.

Coal Seam Gas Regulation: Draft Framework

The Department of Resources released a paper looking into a risk framework for regulation around Coal Seam Gas subsidence. Feedback has closed but the draft proposed legislation is due early 2024.

Queensland Revives Polluter Pays Legislation

Polluter pays legislation is back in the spotlight, with the Queensland government releasing a consultation paper on “Improving the powers and penalties provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1994”

ARENA’s Industrial Emission Reduction Initiative

ARENA has launched a $40m fund called the “National Industrial Transformation (NIT) program” assisting existing plant and industrial facilities to reduce their scope 1 and scope 2 emissions.

COP28 More of a Fizz Rather than a Bang

Logo for COP 28 UAE event featuring a circular design with intricate yellow patterns on a green background, symbolizing sustainability and environmental themes, displayed over a dark brick wall texture.

With just 2 days of negotiations left at the COP28 summit, it is clear that world leaders are not entering into the summit with the same sweeping mandated as seen in Paris in 2015. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clearer that the Paris 1.5-degree target is unlikely, never mind strengthening the resolve on these targets.

Despite this year, 2023, already being declared the warmest on record by November, and having six record breaking months and two record breaking seasons, world leaders as squabbling over texts which will have little to no impact on emissions or targets.

With the head of this year’s COP, Sultan Al Jaber, the head of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) in the position many thought would create a conflict of interest, he is indeed between a rock and a hard place. With over 80 countries, many at the forefront of climate change pushing for an end to the use of fossil fuels, a topic every previous COP has been careful to avoid, the Sultan is now being lobbied from both sides, with OPEC now pressuring members and the chair to reject any deal which targets fossil fuels directly.

Reuters, who broke the news shared a letter from December 6th sent by OPEC Secretary-General Haitham al-Ghais “It seems that the undue and disproportionate pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences, as the draft decision still contains options on fossil fuels phase out … I avail of this opportunity to respectfully urge all esteemed OPEC Member Countries and Non-OPEC Countries participating in the CoC and their distinguished delegations in the COP 28 negotiations to proactively reject any text or formula that targets energy i.e. fossil fuels rather than emissions”.

The Sultan is therefore walking a very fine line, as evident by his calling of the majlis, elders conference, on Sunday. In there, the main focus was two pronged, one the aforementioned fossil fuels phase out or abatement, and the second on financing.

Climate adaptation funds is not a new concept, it was raised pre-the-Paris agreement, and every year since. However, despite UN reports released in November, Adaptation Gap Report 2023, showing 2021 funding fell 15% year on year to a cumulative $24.6bn, but more than $200 – 350bn is needed, and 2023 is likely to only be around the $100bn mark. The idea of now increasing the burden on fossil fuels emissions to be phased out and not abated will leave many countries, especially in the African continent behind. As emerging and expensive technologies, which will allow other countries to continue producing, will not be available to them.

I once again argue, with politicians and special interests lobbying, the value of the COP is diminishing. Energy policy should not be in the hands of those who are worrying about re-election in 1, 2 or 4 years but those who understand the science, industries and financing of the projects required to make the change. We cannot just turn off coal, the Eraring “closure” has shown us that in bright bold lights (or blackouts), so there has to be balance. But that cannot be done by those who are not in that world or influenced by only one side of an argument.

However, with Azerbaijan the COP29 hosts, a country with at least 7bn barrels of commercial oil, and 1.3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas and one of the world’s largest gas fields I am sure will fly the flag for phase out of fossil fuels and strong targets for all nations attending.

With Statements due in the next 48 hours, I may be proven incorrect, and the Sultan is absolutely making the right noises, “I want everyone to come prepared with solutions … I want everyone to come ready to be flexible and to accept compromise. I told everyone not to come with any prepared statements, and no prescribed positions. I really want everyone to rise above self-interests and to start thinking of the common good.” But as always, the proof is in the packages which come out of the talks and with only two days to go and no consensus the clock is absolutely counting down.

Domestic Demand Management: Lessons to be Learned?

Smart energy monitor displaying real-time electricity usage in kilowatts and cost per hour in pounds on a desk with a coffee cup, smartphone, and money.

As the artic blast moves down throughout northern Europe and negative overnight temperatures are expected throughout the UK, including London. The UK’s National Grid, our AEMO, has activated the Energy Blackout scheme.

This was introduced in 2022 during the height of the Russia / Ukraine conflict and the idea was to allow demand side response from domestic participants who have smart meters installed in their properties. Once you have signed up, and 1.6 million households were in the first wave of signups, you receive a notification that states a date and time for the event which will be under the scheme – currently this tends to be around the peak of 17:00 – 18:30 on evenings. Participation provides a buffer for the grid in terms of capacity.

This doesn’t mean those household have to return to the dark ages with candles, you can keep lighting on, but you are encouraged to reduce high demand intensive loads such as washing machines which use high quantities of energy.

In the northern winter 2022 / 2023 period the scheme was so successful it was estimated by the Centre for Net Zero and the National Grid that 3.3GWh of power and 681 tonnes of CO2 were avoided over the 22 activations. Your retailer assesses your average use and the use over the “blackout period” and you are rewarded with a reduction in your bills for the energy not consumed.

Payments totalled £11m, or $21mAUD with one SME business saving $1,726 or $3,298AUD in one event and the average household will save around £100, $191AUD in total.

So, can the Australian grid benefit from these types of events? The answer is an an-doubtable yes, however with reports stating that outside of Victoria uptake of smart meters is at the 30-35% level, which is significantly below the AEMCs target for 100% upgrade by 2030 and a compulsory roll out to begin in 2025 being pushed at the moment, the likely introduction of these schemes is significantly behind those of the UK.

However, with increasing UFE charges, increasing home regulation systems, solar and batteries, and smart appliances the change could come from within consumers rather than via regulation. This would present challenges for retailers though, the traditional view of peak, off-peak and shoulder would need to have a dynamic element to allow these homes and businesses to take advantage of their flexibility and Time Of Use tariffs will need significant refinement.

From a regulatory point of view, ensuring customer protections over those periods are kept, that the metering is fair and that they are fully aware of their responsibilities will no doubt cause some further concerns and delays, yet with numbers like 3.3GWh, $21mAUD and customer engagement on the table this can’t be an idea only for long.

Threats to Gas Supply Deal

Aerial view of an LNG tanker docked at a coastal industrial facility with distinctive spherical storage tanks and infrastructure for natural gas.

Chris Bowen, the Energy and Climate Change minister, announced a plan to address looming supply issues for east coast homes and businesses by securing commitment from two big gas exporters (APLNG and Senex) to divert 300 petajoules of gas into the east coast domestic market by 2023. This amount is equivalent to about half of the annual East Coast domestic market demand or two years’ worth of industrial usage.

However, this new deal is already under threat from the Greens, who plan to challenge the government’s industry code of conduct in parliament. Should the coalition support the Greens’ motion, the deal could fall through, increasing the risk of gas supply shortages in the future.

The deal gives exemptions to APLNG and Senex from the $12/GJ price cap under the code of conduct. Chris Bowen stated that “This supply is critical for households, industry and gas power generation as the Bass Strait fields deplete”.

The gas price cap was introduced by the government last year, which triggered a freeze in new supply investments. After negotiations, the government revised the code of conduct, allowing exemptions for gas developers who committed to selling into the domestic market. Bowen has criticised the Greens for potentially disrupting the deal, highlighting the critical role gas will play in the energy transition and for grid reliability.

In related news, Australia’s annual climate change statement projects emissions to be 42% below 2005 levels by 2030, slightly below Labor’s election commitment of 43%.

Additionally, Chris Bowen has declined to specify the potential financial impact on taxpayers from the newly expanded Capacity Investment Scheme. The scheme involves the Australian government underwriting 32GW of new power generation through two auctions per year.

While industry experts anticipate this could cost billions annually, Bowen stated, “It is quite standard budget treatment to say we will not indicate our pricing expectations as we’re about to enter an auction”. He assured that the government’s strategy aims to maximise taxpayer benefits and maintain competitive bidding.

The scheme does not intend to “subsidising negative pricing”. Instead, it requires project proponents to state their minimum required profit and a maximum price point for sharing profits with the government. The government will retain control over bid acceptance and the total amount of gigawatts allocated.

Egypt’s Gas Woes: Blackouts, Regional Tensions, and Global Market Challenges

Offshore gas drilling platform at sea, visible against the horizon under a hazy sky.

Egypt’s increasing reliance on gas has led to struggles with blackouts as domestic gas consumption soared, particularly during summer when high demand for cooling drained domestic reserves. Despite a strong start earlier in the year due to surging pipelined gas imports from Israel, the recent war between Israel and Hamas has impacted regional gas supplies adversely. The tensions led to a redirection of Israeli gas supplies through Jordan, instead of the direct subsea pipeline to Egypt, causing a temporary halt in gas imports. However, as of early November, gas imports from Israel have resumed, albeit in smaller volumes.

The disruption to supplies came at a time where Egypt had already ceased exports of LNG due to high domestic demand, with abandoned plans to resume exports in early October. Egyptian PM Mostafa Madbouly’s announcement of zero gas imports from Israel was reflective of the harsh reality, as Egypt’s cabinet confirmed a drop in gas imports from 800 million cubic feet per day, contributing to a power generation deficit and prolonged blackouts.

According to Reuters, the attacks by Hamas towards central Israel have caused US owned Chevron to cease operating their Tamar field, which resides close to the Gaza strip. This field produces in the region of 40% of all Israeli gas.

Egypt’s status as an LNG exporter is likely in jeopardy, with its only other gas rich neighbour, Cyprus, without a pipeline to directly supply Egypt. These LNG exports are a crucial supply of foreign currency earnings for Egypt, as their debt to GDP ratio was expected to peak at 97% over the Q2/Q3 period.

With the EU cutting ties to Russian gas, there are few suppliers left outside of the United States to provide crucial energy fuel supplies to the EU. The EU will be forced to reassess its energy diversification strategy should it have shortfalls over winter.

This shortage is likely to drive up LNG prices globally, with the Asian market also having fewer options to choose from. The question remains as to whether Australian LNG suppliers will be able to take advantage of a market with fewer competing sources.

Could We Finally Have a Post-2030 Plan?

Wind turbines at sunset overlooking a coastal landscape

You would be forgiven for missing the nuances released in the multiple papers released by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water in late September. Under the heading of ‘Australian Hydrogen News’ there was a glimmer of hope we may indeed have some post RET certainty on the horizon.

In what was the smallest of the 4 papers, was the Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin (REGO) scheme paper, which is associated with tracking renewable electricity generation.

Following on from the December 2022 paper which set out a framework for the REGO scheme, this paper is seeking views on timing, implementation and design of the scheme which is looking like it will come into effect in January 2025.

But it goes further, it strongly insinuates, that the aim of this new legislation is to provide certainty that the scheme will allow for the creation of renewable energy certificates, as per the current LGC and STC legislation but with additions post 2030. Thus, the REGO scheme will enhance the Renewable Energy Targets (RET) post 2030 when it will supersede the current legislations, but co-exist for the 5 years prior, “noting there are benefits to moving towards a single, enduring certificate creation framework.” and further it confirms the CER will continue to be the body which will administer it.

This news will be welcomed by many as the concerns around a combined “carbon equivalent” scheme both brought back memories of the old carbon taxes as well as concerns for the demand of ACCUs under the safeguard reforms exacerbating that value of carbon. If you were to include the Scope 2 emissions into that demand mix the governments proposed ceiling of $75/certificate (escalating annually) would in no doubt be reached.

Now the REGO scheme will not be changing any requirements under the RET scheme before 2030. But it is likely to remain in place until at least 2050, as such the investment certainty the market has been looking for may soon be in place. The two will co-exist with the RET liability still being required to be met by the LGC / STC component of your liability, but any voluntary surrenders above that level could be met via the REGO scheme. This could be beneficial as the changes could allow many more of these REGO certificates to be produced and thus hold the price at a softer level than the under demand LGC market. With voluntary surrenders also able to be moved out of this LGC market the demand for these certificates could also be reduced, with the hope these additional certificated could bring the value back to pre-social licence demand levels.

The changes being proposed will allow all electricity generation to be eligible to produce a REGO. This would include below baseline generation. It is noted whilst the REGO may be produced under this certain accounting methodologies, such as GreenPower would not use any of these certificates and schemes such as RE100 are likely to make changes which include further exclusion provisions for older generation power stations.

Another interesting inclusion into the REGO scheme is the further information around the inclusion of STC’s. With the increase in aggregated VPPs and orchestrated DERs the likelihood is post 2030, when most STC deeming periods expire, there is an opportunity to include these smaller schemes within the larger REGO scheme which could in turn create further issues. The reason being is a REGO will have a time stamp and the likelihood of us moving to a hourly matching requirement, is becoming much stronger in some industries. As such the consideration that the REGO is produced when 1MW is reached will not ultimately “match” the offtake it is matching which may cause issues for some stakeholders. However, it has to be assumed that if that is such a strong consideration for your internal stakeholders, they will not be matching their offtake from an aggregated small site portfolio?

One throw away comment in the paper but directly linked to this is “once the REGO scheme is in place with locational and temporal attributes, this could be used as the basis for further refinements to the NGERs market-based methodology.” Could we see post 2030 a requirement for NGERs reporting to move to hourly matching and if so at what cost to businesses? This is absolutely one to watch for in future papers.

Another interesting area being discussed is around offshore generation or export of generation which may be outside of Australia’s territorial waters. Whilst the paper defers a decision on this to the future paper “Electricity and Energy Sector Plan” they cannot defer for long as Sun Cables development shows the scenario will be emerging possibly before the legislation.

The one area they did elaborate on in slightly more detail is the position around how storage will have eligibility within the scheme. We are all acutely aware that no renewable grid can exist without significant increases in storage capability but with this comes significant opportunity for the owners of these facilities to participate in schemes such as this. The Department have on a high level proposed that the certificates produced will be “proportional to the certificates surrendered relative to the charging debit”. A fair definition, but as with all things the devil is in the detail, and we will be watching for the subordinate legislation which will outline this more comprehensively.

Overall, the paper offers little additional substance to what we knew in December, it offers slight clarifications but with the anticipated enactment of the legislation in 2024, and commencement on the 1st January 2025 businesses need to be aware of the changes being discussed and that they are not only applicable to the Hydrogen Industry, regardless of where the Department have decided to place them in consultation.

Retailers, Retailers Everywhere, and not a Lesson Learned

In August, AEMO received five registrations for new customer status customers to come into the market as a Market Customer, the latest and most publicised of these being Tesla Energy Ventures Australia Pty Ltd. Now, this wouldn’t be their first foray into the energy markets, they already have their energy arm out of the US and are expanding rapidly within the Australian space.

But Tesla is not alone; the AER has seen 22 new electricity retail licence applications since 2020, including the newly formed Ampol Energy, Smartest, and Telstra.

Now whilst competition is great for any market, I am absolutely not a monopolist, I do view this market penetration with slight concern.

With the UK seeing over 27 Energy Suppliers going under since January 2021, unregulated and “low cost”, usually spot exposed participants, with little to no risk profiling, can cause burden and costs to our market, never mind eroding the confidence of consumers. The UK offers a valuable lesson in this space and is one I fear has not been headed by our regulators.

With the cost of Retailer of Last Resort passed through to consumers who have had no dealings with those companies, but the market operator forced to share the burden, where does the responsibility for the failure sit? I would note the AEMC have released improvements papers to try and address some of these questions, but with the increasing number of these retailers entering the energy markets is it going to be too little too late.

With this summer promising some significant volatility, between RRO in SA, the ESOO stating the risk of shortages in both Victoria and South Australia now exceeds the strictest benchmark this coming summer, an all but certain El Niño bringing heat and reduced wind generation, and AEMO searching for Reserve Energy Markets across the NEM, including TAS for the first time, the volatility could expose some of these participants to more credit calls than their cash flow can handle.

Only time will tell, and luckily most of these retailers do not have a significant market share at this time, but this summer could be the spotlight the regulators need to tighten the requirements for new retailers. Or maybe not.

Strikes at Chevron LNG Plants

Last-minute talks broke down at Chevron’s LNG projects, and Unions have initiated three weeks of strike actions, causing the European gas price to surge. Chevron’s Wheatstone and Gorgon LNG plants contribute approximately 7% of global LNG supplies and 47% of Western Australia’s domestic gas. The strikes are planned to average 10 hours a day until Thursday, at which point the strikes will escalate to two full weeks of 24-hour strikes.

The Dutch TTF gas futures (European benchmark gas prices) jumped 8.2% in the first 15 minutes of market opening; a direct result of the strikes. However, the impact of the strikes in the short term is softened because storage levels across Europe are reportedly at record levels for this time of year. Sources from the Union said there were five days of mediation prior to Friday morning without reaching an agreement. The Union indicated Chevron apparently had demanded “special concessions” in bargaining – “a demand which we have put through the shredding machine”.

An energy analyst indicated that the initial action is of a lower level, causing costs and inefficiencies but not significantly impacting production. However, there would be a major impact should the strike escalate on Thursday.

A spokesman for Chevron said, “Throughout the process to date, we’ve made generous, good faith offers and concessions in an effort to finalise enterprise agreements.” “Unfortunately, following numerous meetings and conciliation sessions with the Fair Work Commission, no agreement has been reached as the unions are asking for terms significantly above the market.” The spokesman also stated that Chevron remains committed to attaining an agreement which will achieve a market-competitive outcome in the interests of both Chevron and its employees.

Edge believes the impact of the strikes won’t significantly affect the Australian gas and electricity market as full-scale shutdowns of the Chevron Wheatstone and Gorgon plants are unlikely. This is because it could trigger a domestic energy crisis in WA, prompting government intervention to end the strikes.

Electricity Grid Faces Challenges Amid El Niño’s Return, Warns AEMO

Australia’s electricity grid is bracing for potential disruptions this summer, particularly in Victoria and South Australia. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has expressed concerns about the imminent El Niño, which is anticipated to bring about a season of extreme heat and wind-less days.

This latest warning from AEMO (2023 ESOO) presents a very concerning picture. The slow pace of transitioning from old coal plants to cleaner energy sources, coupled with potential coal and gas shortages, has heightened the risk of blackouts. AEMO’s annual 10-year outlook emphasizes the urgency of investments. With nearly two-thirds of Australia’s coal power fleet expected to shut down by 2033, the need for swift action to ensure uninterrupted power supply is paramount.

The challenges of transitioning to a greener economy are becoming more evident. The scenario in NSW, following the proposed 2025 closure of the massive Eraring coal generator, is particularly urgent. AEMO strongly recommends postponing such retirements to avoid blackouts. Contrasting their optimistic report from February, the upcoming summer may see Victoria and South Australia facing with power shortages. These shortages can be attributed to a mix of factors, including periods of low wind, recurring generator breakdowns, and the gas plant shutdown.

The latest AEMO report indicates that roughly 3.4GW of new generation and storage capacity is projected by this summer. Furthermore, initiatives like Snowy 2.0 in NSW and the Borumba pumped hydro project in Queensland are aimed to bolster capacity by 2032-33. However, there are concerns as projects like Snowy 2.0 confront delays and rising costs.

With the re-emergence of the El Niño pattern, the electricity grid is anticipated to be under significant stress, especially following three comparatively milder summers due to La Niña. The growing popularity of electric vehicles and electric heating, notably in states like Victoria, will add to the strain on the grid.

Sarah McNamara, the CEO of the Australian Energy Council, perceives this both as a challenge and an opportunity. She is optimistic that the market can overcome these obstacles with the appropriate price signals to stimulate investment.

In conclusion, while the journey to a low-emission economy might be lined with challenges, with the right strategies and investment, Australia can ensure a reliable and sustainable power supply for its citizens.