2023 Federal budget: slight update SA and VIC named for cap scheme

Melbourne, Victoria

Further to Edge’s update on the 2023 federal budget shared last week, more information has become evident from Hon Chris Bowen’s MP office around the actual schemes to be introduced and their allocation of the budget.

There is no doubt Australia, as in much of the world, they are pinning their hopes on a Hydrogen Economy. The governments ‘modernised’ energy economy is being underpinned by a technology which yet is not to scale and is unproven, can anyone say carbon capture and storage (CCS)! Now I do not believe Hydrogen is another CCS boondoggle, but the amount being invested, and the legislation changes to allow it to occur are akin to those of its previous silver bullet government neighbour.

The budget has allocated half of the $4bn green energy package, $2bn, to the Hydrogen Fund. The idea is the investment will assist in the commerciality of these projects and allow for 1GW of capacity to be on the system by 2030. The allocation of this will come in the form of “production credits” and as was later confirmed these will be allocated via a ‘competitive process’ however details of this are scarce. The funding is likely to have come in part to keep up with our European and US counterparts who have signaled similar investment in the industry through their own budgets (the US giving a $3/KG (USD) tax rebate if it relates to H2 production.

This will be supported by the new REGO or Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin scheme which was first floated in the papers released at the end of last year.  $38million has been allocated to the project which will be used to certify the energy and emissions from these projects.

The details around the controversial capacity scheme continues to be scarce. With ‘commercial sensitivities’ being touted as a reason for non-disclosure. However, we do expect these to be run state by state and through auctions, so we hope for more detail to be shared on this in the future, especially given SA and VIC have already been named to lead the charge on this later this year. The choice of these states is unsurprising given the high renewable penetration on those grids.

We have also seen a little more information come out around the function of the “Net Zero Authority” who received $83m on Tuesday. It is anticipated that they will be working with local state and territory governments as well as lobbyists and stakeholders to create a roadmap to net zero in those regions, focus will naturally sit in heavy mining regions such as Queensland, the Hunter Valley and Latrobe Valley. From the 1st July the executive agency will be established and they will be tasked with supporting those in heavy industry to transition into a low carbon economy, assist with policies around this and assist with investment in the regions. No small feat to say the transition is already well underway.

Federal Budget 2023 – A shock to the Gas Industry

Australian Parliament House

Under a tightly embargoed budget speculators and hedgers alike could be forgiven for worrying the 2023 Federal budget hid an unknown shock, on top of a Liddell closure, Bayswater trip and extended outages. Last week’s market uncertainty was definitely not dampened by the little information coming out of Hon Dr Jim Chalmers MP’ office.

However, there was good news to be had, in contrast to the October 2022 budget which forecast a deficit of $36.9bn for this financial year the Hon Dr Jim Chalmers MP was almost giddy to announce a surplus of $4bn, it is the first in 15 years, yet is everything that glimmers actually gold?

Little was made of the fact 20 per cent of the surplus came from increased commodity prices, a nod was made to the Ukraine crisis but little to the other drivers and opportunist behaviour which has been within our market for the past 12 months. There was certainly no mention of the huge windfalls the treasury gained from the commodity industry.

The Gas and Coal caps were mentioned but there has been no discussion of the Coal Cap either being extended or removed in December 2024 when it expires. In contrast, the Gas cap has been confirmed to remain until 2025 and as such the potential for a market move in the summer months is still possible.

Overall, the budget was light on Energy for large business, the most focus was on infrastructure for Electric Cars and cost of living relief for residential and small businesses. The creation of a National Net Zero Authority was predicted under the Chubb review and therefore no shocks were seen.

There was a slight nod to a new Hydrogen head start program, giving $2bn to the scheme and more investment in green industry, which was unsurprising. A curious section was on a Capacity Investment Scheme “unlocking over $10 billion of investment in firmed-up renewable energy projects up and down the east coast” as a throw away comment and I am sure a few more details will emerge over the next few days – this one did pique my curiosity.

Undoubtably in the commodity space the biggest losers this evening were the Gas companies, between the extension of the Gas cap at $12/GJ into 2025, increased taxes due to the extraordinary market conditions would follow, but a second stab at the inflated pie has come in the form of the Petroleum Rent Resource Tax. I think its mention was all of 3 seconds of the budget, yet this piece of legislation will increase the government coffers to the tune of $2.4bn over the forward estimates. On top of the Safeguard mechanism changes and power the greens had in ensuring many new gas projects do not get off the ground easily if at all, this is yet another cost to the industry. Yet in comparison to those enforced overseas, and especially in the UK, this was light touch, and it will be interesting to see if it is strengthened at all by the Greens, whom Labor will need to pass this through the house.

Overall, not a great deal of shock waves this evening, a budget which I am sure will be picked apart and a barrage of “inflationary pressures” will be dissected, yet overall, no real change to the status quo. Looking down the barrel of economic growth slowing to one and a half per cent in the next financial year, coupled with increasing wages it’s not the time to be throwing about cash, however hitting industry for half baked wins for those at the other end of the scale may not be enough to make any new friends and certainly could lose this government more.

Possible extension to the gas caps

Image of Gas Stove

It is likely today that the Climate change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen will announce an extension to the $12/GJ cap on wholesale gas. Currently the gas caps will expire at the end of the year. Following the release of the draft mandatory code of conduct the market will have several weeks of consultation.

Energy producers are likely to be concerned over an extension or possibly permanent changes to the wholesale gas. Energy producers will also be concerned that changes will impact the pricing of long-term deals as it is likely a reasonable pricing clause will be included.

Under the reasonable price provision, gas companies could only charge a price based on the cost of production plus a reasonable margin. The reasonable price does not consider the capital invested during exploration and development of projects. Gas buyers will be able to challenge the price of contracts via a formal dispute process. The dispute process is designed to determine what the ‘reasonable’ price should be.

While the extension to the cap mechanism will provide certainty for energy users, energy producers remain in a holding pattern.

Gas producers are not finalising new gas supply contracts for 2024 until the government confirms what the impact of the code will have on pricing.

The federal government have also set the expectation that the federal budget will include a Petroleum Rent Tax. The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) have shared with its members concerns that changes to the taxing of gas producers will add $100B of tax receipts to the government.

To appease the gas production sector, it is expected the new code will allow for exemptions. New projects that add supply for domestic use may qualify for exemptions from any specific pricing provision.

APPEA said the code “must recognise the importance of gas in a cleaner energy future, and the need to ensure settings which enable investment in new supply to avoid forecast shortfalls and put downward pressure on prices”.

Gas industry developers continues to warn the broader industry that deterring investment in new gas supply will harm the supply to manufacturers and reduce the secure of supplies of electricity across the NEM.

Beach Energy’s chief executive has said that getting the terms of the code wrong could imperil Australia’s transition to low-carbon energy given the role gas plays to support renewable energy.

At the end of the day changes to the industry need to benefit producers, end users and ensure gas and electricity security is achieved. While international cost pressures are impacting the gas and electricity industry. The continued development of gas resources are required to provide gas the opportunity to be the transitional fuel as Australia strives to its Net zero emission targets.

Coal price caps result in high compensation but lower forward prices

Last week reports emerged that one coal fired power station could receive up to $450M in federal compensation as a result of the price cap on coal. Under the new legislation, coal fired generators are compensated for the cost of coal they have locked in at prices above the $125/t cap.

The coal price cap is likely to be higher than the coal currently locked in by many coal fired power stations, however some power stations are exposed to higher priced coal. Under the coal price cap mechanism, generators must bid into the market at a price inline with coal procured below the coal price cap. Generators that are exposed to coal prices above the coal price cap will not be able to dispatch their unit unless generating uneconomically. The compensation is designed to level the playing field allowing the units with fuel costs above the coal cap to continue to supply power and assist in system security.

Based on the current price of coal, compensation for Queensland’s Gladstone power station could reach $450m. The compensation will be split between the Queensland and federal governments on a 50/50 basis while the $125/t coal price cap is in place. The total compensation amount will vary depending on the amount of coal procured at prices above $125/t.

Many may argue that generators with high costs should be forced up the bid stack and not be compensated for high fuel costs. While stations like Gladstone may not have the benefit of low coal prices the station is currently crucial to system security in Queensland. Gladstone is not the only coal fired power station to receive compensation. In NSW, Origin’s Eraring power station will also receive compensation.

The coal cap legislation forbids coal producers from selling coal to domestic generators above the price cap and electricity generators must dispatch into the NEM at costs that reflects the cost of coal procured below the coal cap. The changes in bidding have resulted in the forward market electricity prices dramatically falling with the likelihood of future contract prices to level off in line with new long run marginal costs.

Below is a summary by state of recent activity:

  • QLD prices ranged between -$78.70/MWh and $270.00/MWh for the 2 weeks ending 31st December 2022, averaging $67.59/MWh.
  • QLD Q422 prices ranged between -$122.18/MWh and $15,500.00/MWh , averaging $120.24/MWh.
  • Solar output fluctuated across the period with output peaking close to previous weeks at 2,106MW, during the negative spot period the output was economically curtailed. Cloud cover also reduced output.
  • Apart from Christmas eve, wind generation displayed a consistent negative correlation with solar. Output peaked at 685MW leading up to Christmas then reduced to a normal maximum of 450MW for the remainder of the year.
  • Gas fired generation including Swanbank E, Townsville, Roma and Condamine covered the evening peaks with the exception of Yarwun that operated 24/7.
  • Wivenhoe hydro generation reflected the gas generators by covering the evening peaks and evening while Kareeya continued to generate around the clock.
  • Coal fired availability remained high with Gladstone taking a unit off over the Christmas / New Years break, Kogan creek returned to service on 20th December and remains online. Millmerran 1 came offline on the 30th and remains offline. All other operating as expected.
  • NSW prices ranged between -$69.20MWh and $223.54/MWh for the 2 weeks ending 31st December 2022, averaging $73.60/MWh.
  • NSW Q422 prices ranged between -$120.00/MWh and $15,500.00/MWh, averaging $115.66/MWh.
  • Most price spikes are now being capped below $149/MWh lower than the previous $300/MWh cap, this is likely as a result of the cap on gas.
  • Solar output fluctuated across the period with output peaking close to previous weeks at 2,367MW, during the negative spot period the output was economically curtailed. Cloud cover also reduced output.
  • Wind output dropped as we approached Christmas then increased to peak at 1,436MW at the end of the year.
  • Tallawarra was the only gas turbine to generate over the Christmas break due to relatively low prices.
  • Coal fired availability remained high despite various movement in units, Bayswater returned to service on the 20th but Eraring and Vales Point both took units offline over Christmas. Eraring returned to service on the 2nd January but the Vales point unit remains offline.
  • SA prices ranged between -$605.41/MWh and $4,027.21/MWh for the for the 2 weeks ending 31st December 2022, averaging $41.19/MWh.
  • SA Q422 prices ranged between -$1,000.00/MWh and $15,500.00/MWh , averaging $63.67/MWh.
  • Solar generation peaked at 435MW on the last day of the year but maximums averaged 350MW. Negative spot prices caused units to be constrained.
  • Wind generation was sporadic reaching a high of 1,915MW but also dropped to less than 10MW occasionally. The SA market spiked on two occasions, both times the output from wind generation dropped significantly.
  • Thermal generators continue to operate over the evening peak when spot prices are generally higher, however they are operating during other parts of the day when spot prices are high. Torrens Island is operating all hours of the day, but Quarantine, Barkers inlet, Dry creek and Pelican Point have reduce run times as they focus on higher price periods.
  • VIC prices ranged between -$141.51/MWh and $228.44/MWh for the 2 weeks ending 31st December 2022, averaging $36.17/MWh.
  • VIC Q422 prices ranged between -$996.18/MWh and $584.31/MWh , averaging $62.86/MWh.
  • Solar generation was heavily constrained due to negative prices, solar output peaked at 797MW.
  • Wind generation was sporadic reaching a high of 2,871MW but also dropped to less than 5MW occasionally.
  • Hydro generation continues with its strategy of only operating Murray over the evening peaks, with Dartmouth, Eildon and Bogong adding additional generation when required. Hydro generation continues to increase during the high price periods. Hydro generation across Victoria and NSW has been used to keep a cap on spot prices, however the market is now capping around $140/MWh rather than the traditional $300/MWh cap price.
  • Yallourn continues to have various issues over the Christmas break with unit tripping followed by a fail return to service of unit 1, by the end of the year Yallourn was operating with 3 units. The Loy Yang A & B station operated consistently across the last 2 weeks of the year, continuing with the strategy of reducing generation during low price periods.

At Edge2020 we help our customers navigate the ever-changing energy landscape and to ensure the proactive and accurate delivery of advisory, account, and portfolio management services and associated outcomes. If you could benefit from an expert eye on your energy portfolio, we’d love to meet you. Contact us on: 1800 334 336 or email: info@edge2020.com.au

Federal and State Government agree to power bill

On Friday National cabinet met and agreed on the states introducing a cap on wholesale gas and coal. The temporary cap will be set at $12/GJ for gas and $125/t on coal. The caps will not enforce on export contracts therefore not limiting the opportunities on high international prices.

During the meeting it was agreed that the states would sort out the coal cap and the federal government would change laws to legislate the $12/GJ cap on domestic gas. As the caps are focused on the domestic market, they will only have a small impact on the profitability of producers. It is anticipated that only 4% of gas and 10% of coal will be affected by the cap, the remaining volumes will be exposed to international markets.

As the states have been tasked with implementing the cap it is likely they will go down different routes in achieving the same outcomes. The simplest state to implement the changes will be Queensland as the government still owns and control 80% of the coal fired generation fleet. Queensland will likely use its directive powers and instruct its government owned corporations (GOCs) to dispatch the coal assets below specific prices. NSW will likely use changes in law to cap the price for the state.

In line with the price caps, national cabinet also discussed an assistance package to lower the impact on families and business as a result of high inflation and high commodity prices.

The cap mechanism will be used for uncontracted gas and coal, this may have limited impacts on generators as the majority of coal and gas has already been produced under longer term contracts with strike price below the proposed caps.

At this stage it is unlikely that the mechanism will be in place until February despite federal politicians being recalled to Canberra on Thursday to discuss the issue. While the bill will get the support of the House of representatives it is expected the Greens will put pressure on the Government in the Senate to limit any compensation for the coal producers.

When the futures market opened on Monday morning it was evident the traders expect the caps to flow into the market. Both QLD and NSW futures dropped by $20/MWh for later dated quarters and over $30/MWh for Q123.

Edge2020 have an eye on the energy market, enabling us to support customer supply and demand agreements. Our clients rely on our experts to ensure they are informed, equipped, and ideally positioned to make the right decisions at the right time. If you could benefit from an expert eye on your energy portfolio, we’d love to meet you. Contact us on: 1800 334 336 or email: info@edge2020.com.au