One of Australia’s leading energy companies, EnergyAustralia, announced this week it intends to sign agreements worth AUD$1.5 billion to buy around 500 megawatts (MW) of power from new wind and solar around the country.
EnergyAustralia made the announcement on Wednesday, committing to sign Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) to buy around 500 MW of clean power from new wind and solar energy projects around Australia. The company expects the PPAs to be worth an aggregate AUD$1.5 billion (USD$1.12 billion), and “would underpin significant investment in new renewable energy developments.” The company has already announced the first such PPA, committing to buy all the electricity produced by a 42.6 MW solar farm at Manildra in regional New South Wales.
Interestingly, in a political environment which appears to be swinging ever closer to favoring fossil fuel energies over clean technologies, EnergyAustralia is stepping out of line with the status-quo.
“EnergyAustralia owns two of the largest coal-fired power stations in the country, providing customers with reliable, affordable electricity,” said Catherine Tanna, EnergyAustralia Managing Director. “But our operations also generate more than 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year at a time when the community rightly expects us to play our part in lowering carbon emissions.
“Owning big power plants comes with the responsibility of promoting and leading the development of cleaner forms of energy. That’s why we’re committing to buy 500 MW of power from new solar and wind projects around the country, providing the support they need to get built.
“These are the projects which will come to underpin energy supply in Australia as coal-fired power plants are retired, so customers continue to enjoy reliable, affordable energy.”
The public face of this deal is contrary to much of what is happening in Australia, a point which bears repeated acknowledgement. This is backed up by actual business decisions, with EnergyAustralia so far responsible for underpinning more than $1 billion in capital investment in new renewable generation. EnergyAustralia already has rights to more than 450 MW of electricity from wind farms in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.
The Manildra Solar Farm is being developed by First Solar, and funded in part by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). Construction of the 42.6 MW project is expected to begin in early 2017, with completion expected sometime in 2018.
“Today’s announcement is representative of the widespread support for utility-scale solar as a competitive and bankable energy source in Australia, and we congratulate EnergyAustralia on their leadership and commitment to renewable energy,” said Jack Curtis, First Solar’s Regional Manager for Asia Pacific. “ARENA’s ongoing support for high-quality project deployment has been instrumental in driving the commercial competitiveness of utility-scale solar in this country, and we’re pleased to deliver the Manildra Solar Farm.”