October CER roundup

The renewable energy sector continues to demonstrate it is largely COVID-proof with continuing growth in the pipeline of projects, based on the latest data from the Clean Energy Regulator (CER). In the longer term the recently launched NSW electricity infrastructure roadmap will stimulate many more projects, but the newest utility-scale plants are in Victoria and Western Australia.

Total Eren’s Kiamal solar farm came online at 256MW, underwritten largely by PPAs with retailer Powershop and confectionery maker Mars.

WA’s latest addition is 186MW Warradarge wind farm, owned by Bright Edge Investments. This is an investment vehicle set up by government power company Synergy (also the offtaker) with Dutch Infrastructure Fund and super fund CBUS. It’s been a big year for the Perth grid, the South West Integrated System (SWIS), which has also seen the addition of Yandin wind farm and Merredin solar plus an expansion of Greenough solar for a total of 522MW. Given the SWIS is much smaller than the NEM, this is a big addition, almost doubling the utility-scale renewables on the grid. The SWIS has no pumped hydro and is yet to add much by way of big batteries, so the existing coal and gas fleet have to do the balancing. For coal, especially this is causing a financial strain, with the 50 per cent owners of the Bluewaters plant reporting a heavy write down of their stake.

Meanwhile, back east, two solar farms have been moved from CER’s “probable” list to “committed”: Sebastopol, owned by FRV and Neoen’s Western Downs. Two government entities have signed PPAs with these solar farms: Snowy Hydro and CleanCo respectively.

New “probables” are Blue grass solar, owned by X-Elio and contracted to Salesforce and Neoen’s Kaban wind farm, both in Queensland. As noted in our September roundup, Neoen also has Goyder wind farm that it has contracted output to the ACT, but the CER has yet to add this to their list.

Despite these signs of progress, commissioning is slower than expected, with the CER estimating 500,000 fewer large-scale certificates will be created this year due to delays, as shown in figure 1 below.

Figure 1: March versus September LGC supply expectation for 2020

Source: CER Quarterly carbon market report

Of course, rooftop PV just keeps going. Apart from a dip in Victoria due to COVID restrictions, installations continue apace all around Australia. Indeed, it is neck and neck between rooftop solar and utility scale renewables for which will deliver the most new capacity in 2020. The former is on track for 2.9GW for the year, while the latter is on around 2.8GW with two months to go.