Slow growth in renewable energy

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) recently released to its members their quarterly renewable projects report, which showed only one renewable project, Stubbo solar farm, reached financial close in Q3-2022. The 400MW Stubbo solar farm situated in NSW demonstrates the slowing of the renewable industry. Renewable project growth has slowed by almost 30% compared to Q2 -2022 and over 60% slower than Q3 -2021.

While politicians are talking up the prospects of a renewable energy driven industry to reduce the impact of climate change, the reality reaching the 44GW target outlined by the federal government may be hard to achieve at the current rate of growth. To meet the 44GW target by 2030, a significant number of new wind, solar and storage projects need to come online. If these projects do not happen, the retiring coal generators cannot be replaced and may be forced to remain online.

The CEC says investment in renewable is at an all-time low. Quarterly investment has dropped almost 60% to $418M.

As well as the federal announcements, QLD and VIC have also announced ambitious renewable targets linked to the transition from coal fired generation.

Recently the Federal Minster for Climate Change and Energy estimated Australia must install 22,000 500-watt solar panels every day for eight years, along with 40 seven-megawatt wind turbines every month, backed by at least 10,000 kilometres of additional transmission lines to meet its commitment to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. This is what is required for us to reach a target of 82% renewables by 2030.

While only one project reached financial close last quarter, three projects started construction during Q3-2022 with an increase of installed capacity of 902MW. As well as another two projects that completed commissioning during Q3-2022.

The Stubbo solar farm project also included a storage device, being the only storage device to reach financial close.

Currently, there are 247 financially committed renewable projects in Australia, with 221 under construction and 169 undergoing commissioning.

The CEC notes that the desire to build new solar, wind, pumped hydro, and transmission lines are meeting opposition from local communities. For example, projects like the Chalumbin wind farm, situated next to World Heritage-listed rainforests in North Queensland are reducing the number of wind turbines they are installing by half due to the concerns from the local community. Another example being part of the Queensland government’s renewable plan which included the construction of the largest pump storage hydro station near Mackay. Mackay locals later found out one of their towns has the potential to be flooded as part of the mega project.

With ambitious renewable targets being spruced by politicians and businesses actively seeking renewable energy to aid in the decarbonisation of their operations, the question of where and when these projects will be delivered needs to be asked. The majority of people support the transition to renewables but obviously not in their backyard.


Future of Contract Markets and the Baseload Swap

It is no surprise, when I say the National Electricity Market (NEM) is going through a vast transition and transformation, with an ever-increasing penetration of renewable generation, in the form of both utility scale renewable generation and household installations.

The world as we know is also battling the global pandemic that is Coronavirus. This has had a significant impact on people and their livelihoods and health.  along with a significant impact on energy markets around the globe. To top it all off, energy markets have had to endure a supply price war recently, between OPEC’s unelected leader, Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC oil producer, Russia.

With a rapidly evolving and ever-changing energy landscape, what should our contract markets look like? Are the current products fit for purpose or offer value in an energy landscape like the NEM? As a generator, the days of capturing value and running flat out all hours of the day, are indeed starting to dwindle, with quick, nimble, and easily dispatchable fast-start generation likely to excel in the near to longer-term landscape. Take South Australia (SA) as a good example, as to the success of fast-start plant. On the 04/04/2020 at 12:00pm, the 5 minute spot price was down at -$1,000/MWh, which is where it stayed the majority of the morning, due to low demand and strong generation, trying to send megawatts into Victoria (VIC), maxing out the interconnector. Shortly after that, at 12:20pm, prices spiked to above $300/MWh for the next 30 to 40 minutes or so, with fast-start gas generation swooping in and capturing this short-term high price period.

If this type of generation is the key to success in this new look NEM that we operate in, where fast-start, short burst generation is taking its place to complement the intermittent renewable generation in wind and solar, utility or household, that continues to penetrate the market, why are our contract markets continuing to predominantly offer baseload swaps?

A baseload swap is a contract for energy, say 5 MW for $70/MWh, for a defined period, for a month, a quarter, a calendar, or financial year. The way a swap works is the $60/MWh becomes the strike price in which the seller of the swap pays the floating price (the price of the underlying wholesale product which is electricity in this instance) and the buyer pays the fixed $70/MWh.

Say you have contracted a baseload swap for 5 MW for the entire calendar year of 2020, this would mean that for every half hour (with electricity settling every half hour as per the underlying wholesale market settlement regime in the NEM), of the entire 2020 calendar year, the buyer will pay the seller $70/MWh, and the seller will pay the buyer the underlying wholesale or spot price. For example, say this morning the wholesale or spot price for electricity for the half hour ending period of 9:30am was $40/MWh; this would result in the buyer paying the seller $70/MWh for 5 MW, whilst the seller would pay the buyer $40/MWh for 5 MW, resulting in a $30/MWh contract for difference (CFD) payment going from the buyer to the seller.

However, think about this, the baseload swap is exactly that, baseload. So, a contract for calendar year 2020 means you are locked into that same position (unless you sell out of the position) 24 hrs, 365 days.

So, do baseload contracts offer appropriate value anymore, in a market which are short-lived upward volatility and recently longer periods of downward volatility?

Mid last month, Snowy Hydro struck a contract defined as a ‘super-peak’ swap, which will cover what has been defined as the “super peak” periods of the day, generally morning and evening peak usage when solar is ramping up or down. The trade was brokered through an over-the-counter (OTC) trading hub operated by Renewable Energy Hub, and it is believed, similar deals will be a gateway to funding and bringing into the market technology such as batteries and demand-response into the energy markets.

Snowy Hydro has been procuring renewable PPA’s for a while, through wind and solar generation, including the 90 MW it procured from the Sebastopol Solar Farm in NSW. They are looking to use the renewable generation and back it with their significant hydro fleet, to sell a new range of products to its customers.

With wholesale energy prices reducing significantly since September 2019, and the overabundance of generation in states such as QLD and SA, and with the rapid introduction of new technology, it is likely a significant number of customers will choose to take more wholesale/spot price exposure, rather than contracting ahead of time.,

This fuels the argument for the need to have more flexible and robust products, ones that are for particular trading intervals, perhaps in the day, day-ahead products, week-ahead products, or perhaps more products like Snowy’s ‘super peak’ product?

If you have any questions regarding this article or the electricity market in general, call Edge on 07 3905 9220 or 1800 334 336.

Water – a top priority for Tarong Power Station

Current weather conditions are placing an increased reliance on the diminishing water catchments across Australia. These water catchments store water for use by various parts of the local community including drinking water for residents, irrigation and Electricity generation.

Stanwell recently announced water sustainability is a top priority for its Tarong Power stations located within the South Burnett region.

Water is an essential necessity for thermal power stations to make electricity. The water is used for steam production and cooling.

Tarong power station consisting of 4 X 350MW thermal units and a 443MW supercritical unit. These units obtain their water from two sources, the primary source is Lake Boondooma and secondary from a pipeline using water from Lake Wivenhoe or recycled water produced under the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme.

Stanwell corporation is focusing on mitigating the impact on the South Burnett community by reducing the usage of water from Lake Boondooma to ensure the South Burnett community have access to drinking water. Initial initiatives used at the power station to reduce the reliance on Lake Boondooma water include the use of recycled water from the ash dam and stormwater.

Tarong Power Station have access to water from Lake Wivenhoe if Lake Boondooma drops below 34%, currently the Lake Boondooma’s level is 22.95% as of the (Source: SEQWater 2020). Lake Wivenhoe water also comes at an added cost. Water is currently the highest operating cost for Tarong Power Station.

An alternative to using Lake Wivenhoe water is the use of purified recycled water from the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme. The scheme is not currently in operation, however when operating and supplying water to Tarong Power Station it will add significantly to the costs of generation.

Tarong Power Station first used purified recycled water from the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme in June 2008 following a similar water supply limitation brought on by the 2008 drought.

As a result, the increasing marginal cost to generation caused by the higher water cost, Tarong Power Station may change its operation and reduce generation or dispatch its units at higher prices. Under either scenario this may increase the cost of wholesale energy in Queensland.

If you have any questions regarding this article or the electricity market in general, call Edge on 07 3905 9220 or 1800 334 336.

CleanCo Moving Ahead – Part 2

With expectations that CleanCo will be trading in the NEM by mid this year, things are getting into full swing. Last week CleanCo appointed its first two key executives – Miles George and Geoff Dutaillis.

Who are these new executives?

Miles George has been appointed the Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at CleanCo. His role at CleanCo is to secure cleaner, more affordable, sustainable energy and secure supply of electricity for Queensland (QLD). He was previously the CEO and Managing Director of Infigen Energy. After leaving Infigen Energy in 2016, Miles continued as a strategic adviser until December 2017. During and after his time at Infigen, Miles has been the Chairman of the Clean Energy Council, a representative on the AEMC Reliability panel, an Expert panel member for AEMO and Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Geoff Dutaillis has been appointed the General Manager of Transition. Geoff was most recently the CEO (Australia) of Wind Energy Holdings, a leading renewable energy company based in Thailand. The company has interest in various Australian wind farms. Geoff has also held executive positions at Infigen Energy as Chief Operating Officer (COO) from 2009 until 2013 and Lendlease more recently as Head of Sustainability.

 What is the mandate for CleanCo?

CleanCo has the mandate to increase competition in the electricity market at peak times of demand when prices are generally at their highest. CleanCo is expected to transform intermittent renewable generation into firm financial products for customers and retailers while backing QLD’s renewable energy and low emissions generators.

 Which of the existing generators are to be transferred from the current government owned corporations; Stanwell and CS Energy?

Initially, CleanCo’s portfolio will include a range of existing renewable and low emission energy generation assets including:

  1. Wivenhoe pump storage hydro plant,
  2. Swanbank E gas-fired power station, and
  3. Barron Gorge, Kareeya and Koombooloomba hydro power stations.

If you have any questions regarding CleanCo or any other matter relating to energy, please contact Edge Energy Services on 07 3905 9220 or 1800 334 336.

CleanCo moving ahead

In a media statement released 30 August, the Queensland Government confirmed their intention to establish CleanCo, Queensland’s third publicly owned electricity generator. CleanCo will have a strategic portfolio of low and no emission power generations assets, and will build, own and operate new renewable generation. It is understood that CleanCo will take control of assets including Wivenhoe, Barron Gorge and Kareeya hydro power stations and the Swanbank E gas power station, courtesy of a restructure of the two current publicly-owned electricity generators – CS Energy and Stanwell Corporation. CleanCo is expected to be trading by mid-2019.