New ZEN Energy launches gigawatt program to support SA industry

30 October

The Board of ZEN Energy has today approved a strategic plan for establishing 1GW of additional dispatchable renewable generation assets to support long-term electricity supply contracts with South Australia’s large industrial users, including the Liberty OneSteel Whyalla Steelworks, to provide access to lower cost, reliable and low emission energy.

ZEN Energy held its first Board meeting in Adelaide this morning, after Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance purchased a 50.1% share in the company. Sanjeev assumed the role of Chairman. Outgoing Chairman Ross Garnaut is retaining an active role on the Board as President of the company, and Raymond Spencer will remain on the Board.

The projects ready for early development endorsed by the Board today include:

  • 200MW of solar PV, comprising 80MW in the Whyalla Council industrial area, expanded by 120MW on adjacent land owned by Liberty OneSteel;
  • 100MW/100MWh battery at Port Augusta;
  • a 100MW of demand response at the Whyalla Steelworks and other SA sites;
  • 120MW/600MWh pumped hydro storage facility at a disused iron ore mine pit in the Middleback Ranges.

An additional 480 MW of solar capacity will be installed in due course to support the expansion of industrial capacity in Whyalla and industrial loads elsewhere in South Australia.

“I am delighted ZEN Energy is able to hit the ground running”, Chairman Sanjeev Gupta said.

“These first steps in SA will improve reliability and greatly reduce costs of electricity in our own steelworks at Whyalla, and provide competitive sources of power for other industrial and commercial users. This will be followed by early steps to lower Liberty OneSteel’s electricity costs in NSW and Victoria, and to provide power at lower cost to other industrial enterprises in these states and Queensland.

“I have been asked whether today’s decision is contingent on how current uncertainty in national electricity policy is resolved. Naturally we are watching developments in policy closely. In the meantime, we are proceeding with the first 520MW of capacity based on positive interactions with relevant stakeholders.

“I believe there is a great future for energy-intensive industries in Australia. I look forward to helping build ZEN Energy to become a major player in the Australian energy transition.”

Source: Zen Energy



Solar Choice/First Solar’s proposed 2000 MW Bulli Creek Solar Farm near Toowoomba in South-east Queensland was given the federal green-light and declared not a controlled action by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy, including for the full 13,000 acres of participating freehold under planning approval since 2015, as well as the connection easement. This decision means “that the proposed action does not require further assessment and approval under the EPBC Act before it can proceed”.

Gympie Regional Shire to recommend approval of SolarQ’s application for Lower Wonga Solar Farm subject to the imposition of appropriate conditions. The application was for a 350 MW solar farm on land at Lower Wonga, comprising eight lots over a total area of 572 hectares. Approximately two million PV panels will cover approximately 240ha of the 572ha site with direct connection to the National Electricity Grid at the Powerlink Woolooga Substation. Panel clusters are to be connected to approximately 140 invertors, each with a 2.5MW capacity.

The development application for Solar Reserve’s Aurora solar thermal project in Port Augusta is under consideration by South Australia’s State Commission Assessment Panel, with the submission period now closed. The proposed development will have a generating capacity of 150MW with the ability to store up to 1,100MWh per day. The project includes up to 13,000 heliostats (tracking mirrors), a central receiving tower, electricity generation plant, associated ancillary infrastructure and a transmission line for connection to the grid.


National Energy Guarantee no guarantee for renewable energy industry

31 October

Big questions remain over the ability of the Federal Government’s new National Energy Guarantee (NEG) to deliver the confidence required for new investment in clean energy, the Clean Energy Council says in a new position paper on the policy.

While the industry remains open-minded and prepared to engage constructively on the NEG, new analysis by the Clean Energy Council suggests that investment in new renewable energy could hit a wall after the Renewable Energy Target (RET) stops encouraging new large-scale projects in 2020.

“Put simply, more renewable energy is under construction this year than what the NEG is expected to deliver over the entire next decade,” said Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton.

“The information currently available suggests that between 250 to 670 MW of large scale renewable projects will be deployed per annum throughout 2020-2030,” Mr Thornton said.

“Compare that to the 4300 MW of projects currently committed or under construction and you can probably understand why the industry has some serious concerns. If the emissions abatement under the scheme is pushed out closer to 2030 as some have suggested, this would make the prospects for renewable energy bleak early in the decade.”

The analysis is based on preliminary information released by the Energy Security Board, and the renewable energy industry is keen to see more detail on the policy.

Currently the focus for the industry is on understanding the risks and benefits of the NEG and informing the design of the core policy architecture.

A national energy policy needs to drive investment in new renewable energy and the lower power prices that all Australians want, but a range of key design questions remain. Currently the lack of guarantee for investors on either an appropriate price signals or long-term confidence, investors are unlikely to outlay the new investment which would place downward pressure on power prices.

Source: Clean Energy Council


Canadian Solar shows how renewables can create a brighter future for regional communities

1 November

Three solar projects currently being built in rural Queensland highlight the fantastic benefits that renewable energy can bring to regional communities.

Canadian Solar Australia is currently constructing three separate solar projects in the rural Queensland towns of Oakey, Normanton and Longreach. The projects, which range in size from 5 MW to 80 MW, will create more than 200 jobs during construction as well as a number of ongoing maintenance jobs once work is complete.

A key feature of the three solar farms is Canadian Solar’s strong desire to work closely with local communities to ensure that local businesses and residents benefit from the projects.

In Oakey, the company conducted a number of community consultation events with residents, businesses and the local university, which generated positive feedback from community stakeholders and resulted in significant interest from residents and businesses in how they could become involved in the project.

In Longreach, Canadian Solar developed a comprehensive community consultation plan to ensure that all relevant stakeholders were informed and had a chance to give input and ask questions about the project. This multi-staged plan allowed for deeper connections to be fostered with the local community and built community interest and excitement in an area that had been adversely affected by a long period of drought.

In addition to the jobs created by the projects, Canadian Solar has looked to engage with the local community wherever possible by utilising local labour, resources and business services. The company has also supported the communities through initiatives such as its sponsorship of the ‘International Legends of League’ NRL tournament in Oakey.

The projects are also putting a new spin on traditional farming in Australia by creating alternative opportunities for present and future generations on the land. Toowoomba Regional Councillor Carol Taylor praised the Oakey Solar Farm as an opportunity to “inspire young people to continue on the land” by providing new ways to utilise farm land and creating new jobs.

This view is echoed by Ian Speed, the owner of the land where the Oakey Solar Farm will be located, who identified the positive impact and opportunities that solar energy can present for local farmers by securing a stable source of income for land and a more productive use for unproductive soil. “We have essentially been farming the sun since we have been here, just turning it into protein or fibre; now we’re turning it into electricity”, Mr Speed said.

Canadian Solar’s three projects in Queensland highlight the potential for solar energy to provide security for communities. Through close partnerships with local residents, businesses and stakeholders, solar farms can bring fresh opportunities and growth to regional areas and foster a brighter future.

Source: Clean Energy Council


Council approves Burdekin Solar Farm

1 November

Burdekin Shire Council has approved CleanGen Projects’ plan to develop the $280 million Burdekin Solar Farm at Clare.

The 140MW solar farm, to be developed on a 227ha site at Ayr Dalbeg Rd, is expected to create up to 400 construction jobs and 10 operational roles.

Burdekin Shire Mayor Lyn McLaughlin said the CleanGen Projects solar farm represented a major investment in the shire and in the Burdekin’s potential as a solar energy powerhouse.

“The Burdekin, with its abundant sunshine and available land, is very well positioned to accommodate this type of new and exciting industry,” she said.

“Our Council is all for growing the Burdekin and diversification will ensure growth in employment and a sustainable economy into the future.”

It is the fifth large-scale solar farm to gain approval in the Burdekin Shire.

CleanGen Projects managing director Koovashni Reddy said the solar farm included battery storage and would connect to the local grid.

“The battery storage will help produce power when the sun doesn’t shine and assist with grid stability services,” Ms Reddy said.

She said the project would offer apprenticeships to train local youth and would also be encouraging employment opportunities for women during the construction and operational phases.

Construction is expected in 2018.

The approval comes just a month after Mareeba Shire Council approved a CleanGen Projects planning application for the 60MW Mareeba Solar Farm south-west of Mareeba, also expected to start construction next year.

CleanGen says that proposal will have numerous benefits for the community and local economy including the creation of 200 construction jobs and up to 10 full-time operational roles.

Source: Industry Queensland

Link to AltEnergy project database: Burdekin Solar Farm


Comments sought on exposure draft amendment regulations

1 November

The Department of the Environment and Energy (the Department) has released an exposure draft of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendments (Exemptions and Other Measures) Regulations 2017. The Department is seeking views on the proposed changes to the regulations from Renewable Energy Target scheme participants and businesses undertaking Emissions Intensity Trade Exposed (EITE) activities.

The period for submissions will run until Friday, 17 November 2017. If you have any questions please call the Department 1800 057 590.

The proposed changes include:

  • a new method for calculating 100% exemptions for EITE activities
  • removal of the 60-day limit to the installation of hot water systems
  • closing option for owners of solar (photovoltaic) systems with a capacity of 10 kW to 100 kW (inclusive) and that generate from 25 MWh to 250 MWh (inclusive) to opt out of the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme and elect to participate in the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target scheme and create large-scale generation certificates.
  • clarification of the requirements for determining whether an electricity grid meets or exceeds the 100 megawatt capacity threshold for liability, in accordance with subsection 31 (3) of the Act.
  • other minor and technical amendments to the Renewable Energy Target.

If you would like to make a submission please use the submission template and send your submission to or mail to:

EITE Submission

Renewable Energy Policy Team

Clean Energy Branch

Department of the Environment and Energy

GPO Box 787

Canberra ACT 2601

Source: Clean Energy Regulator


Accelerating clean energy investment - CEFC Annual Report 2016-17

2 November

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation Annual Report for 2016-17 has been tabled in the Australian Senate, fulfilling an important part of the CEFC's transparency, information sharing and regulatory obligations.

The CEFC achieved a substantial increase in activity in 2016-17, delivering more than $2 billion in new commitments to 35 individual transactions. The increased value and scale of this activity eclipsed prior year commitments, with the breadth and depth of CEFC investments signalling strong business and investor appetite for clean energy assets.

In his Chair's Report, Chair Steven Skala AO commented: "The CEFC has delivered a strong performance in its fourth full year of operation, achieving new highs in the number, impact and value of commitments across the clean energy sector.

"The CEFC was created with a clear charter to stimulate change in Australa's investment in clean energy, as a key pathway to the decarbonisation of the Australian economy. CEFC investments are delivering positive returns to taxpayers, while catalysing or leading to additional private sector finance in the sector and helping reduce Australia's emissions.

"As a specialist and active financier in the clean energy sector, the CEFC is also well placed to work with expert review panels, policy makers, the industry and other investors in understanding the market, as well as the key drivers of carbon emissions and priority areas for investment. During the past year, this has seen the CEFC work closely with the Australian Government and other agencies, including AEMO, ARENA and the Clean Energy Regulator. Our hands-on experience as financiers in the energy market and a range of industry sectors provides the CEFC with an intimate view of market expectations and preferences, allowing us to bring an additional perspective to policy forums which continues to be well received."

In his CEO report on the 2016-17 year, CEO Ian Learmonth said: "Within the year we finalised 35 individual transactions, exceeding the combined transactions of the previous three years. We committed more than $2 billion in CEFC capital, to projects valued at $6.5 billion. Cumulative leverage across the portfolio was more than $2.10 at 30 June 2017, with each $1.00 of CEFC investment since 2013 helping catalyse an additional $2.10 from the private sector. Equally important, our current investments, upon financial close will fund projects that are estimated to achieve annual abatement of almost 7.3 million tonnes CO2-e, or more than 121 million tonnes CO2-e over their lifetimes.

"The CEFC Act makes clear that these investments are to deliver a positive return to the taxpayer. We are pleased to report that, at 30 June 2017, our $3.4 billion portfolio of investment commitments had a forecast lifetime investment yield of more than five per cent."

CEFC commitments in 2016-17 focused on industry sectors with strong potential for decarbonisation, including low carbon electricity, such as solar, wind, battery storage and bioenergy; ambitious energy efficiency, such as property, infrastructure, manufacturing and agribusiness; and electrification and fuel switching, such as vehicles and biofuels.

Changes to the Investment Mandate during the year also saw the CEFC direct investment activities to the following areas:

  • Clean Energy Innovation Fund: $30 million invested across four transactions, with each dollar of CEFC finance attracting an additional $2.16 in private sector investment. The investments have an estimated lifetime abatement of 14,000 tCO2-e.
  • Sustainable Cities Investment Program: $800 million investment in projects with a combined project value of $1.8 billion. The investments have an estimated lifetime abatement of 17 million tCO2-e.
  • Reef Funding Program: $150 million investment in more than 240 large and small-scale projects in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area. The investments have an estimated lifetime abatement of 11 million tCO2-e.  

Mr Learmonth added: "The CEFC is now well established, with a clear investment focus and a substantial and growing portfolio. Our own days as a 'start up' organisation are behind us, as we deepen our exposure across the economy, and seek to apply CEFC capital to areas where we can have the greatest impact on decarbonisation - whether in supporting cleaner electricity, ambitious energy efficiency or electrification and fuel switching of our transport sector in particular. We continue to also seek the best financial return possible for the taxpayer whilst ensuring our portfolio risk is appropriate and continues to be well managed.

"For the future, the organisation will continue to match commercial rigour with our public policy purpose. We anticipate working in even more diverse areas of the energy space. Distributed energy, energy storage, improved grid transmission, network security and demand response management are all areas that require greater investment. They also have a central role to play in reducing carbon emissions, by ensuring the benefits of cleaner generation are delivered across the economy, alongside a much stronger focus on reduced energy consumption."

Mr Skala and Mr Learmonth recognised the contribution of founding board members, Chair Jillian Broadbent AO, Ian Moore, Anna Skarbek and Andrew Stock, whose terms concluded in August 2017.They also acknowledged founding CEO Oliver Yates who resigned from the organisation during the year.

Source: CEFC


Development of the proposed Penshurst Wind Farm site to be discontinued

2 November

RES Australia today announced that following a comprehensive review of the proposed site for a wind farm outside the township of Penshurst, south west Victoria, the project will no longer be considered an ongoing development opportunity and that further work would be discontinued.

A spokesperson for RES said “Since 2008, RES has a invested significant amount of effort, time and money in the Penshurst project and supported various local community events and groups over a number of years.

After a detailed review of the site we no longer consider this project to be an ongoing development opportunity and we intend to focus on other sites in our expanding portfolio. We have a number of exciting development sites in Victoria, including the 420MW Murra Warra Wind Farm in north west Victoria.

We have had very many supporters in the Penshurst area and a loyal group of landowners. We would like to wholeheartedly thank these members of the local community for supporting us.”

About RES Australia: Established in 2004, RES Australia is an industry leading renewable energy developer specialising in wind, solar and battery storage development and asset management across Australia.

With a talented and experienced team, the company has successfully developed over 400MW of new renewable energy projects in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales. RES has a development pipeline of over 2500MW of new wind, solar and energy storage projects across a number of states.

The Murra Warra Wind Farm was approved in November 2016 and when constructed this project is expected to become one of the largest wind farms in the southern hemisphere supplying low carbon energy to nearly 250,000 Victorian households.

Source: RES Australia

Link to AltEnergy project database: Penshurst Wind Farm


Infradebt closes new senior debt facility for Swan Hill Solar Farm

3 November

Infradebt and Impact Investment Group are pleased to announce the close of a A$16.5 million senior debt facility for IIG’s Swan Hill Solar Farm. The project is a 19.3MWdc utility scale solar facility currently under construction south of Swan Hill in Victoria. The project, will deliver around 37,700 MWh of electricity or enough power for around 6,300 homes.

The loan represents the first investment for the Infradebt Ethical Fund since its first close in September, with further transactions expected to close prior to year-end.

Quote attributable to Lane Crockett, Head of Renewable Infrastructure, Impact Investment Group:

“It’s great to have this additional piece of financing in place. Construction is now well underway, and is expected to complete in the second quarter of next year. Swan Hill is another excellent solar asset that will complement our existing portfolio, with a number of other projects expected to complete through calendar 2018.”

Quote attributable to Alexander Austin, CEO, Infradebt:

“Infradebt is pleased to finalise its part in financing Swan Hill, we have worked closely with IIG to provide a highly customised facility that complements the unique attributes of the project. We look forward to working with IIG in the future and assisting them with their future development pipeline.”

Source: Infradebt

Link to AltEnergy project database: Swan Hill Solar Farm

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