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Solar industry beats Qld in red tape battle

Solar industry beats Qld in red tape battle

Liam Walsh AFR Jun 25, 2019

The solar industry has won a battle against a Queensland law requiring licensed electricians to install panels on large-scale projects, a regulation they said was not about safety but about placating unions.

Queensland’s Court of Appeal on Tuesday dismissed an application by the government to enforce a new regulation that required the use of licensed electricians on projects such as solar farms.

The Palaszczuk government had introduced the regulation in May this year, arguing that serious risks of electrical shock loomed for people installing panels at large-scale facilities.

Businesses had argued that the work could be safely conducted by trained labourers. Then in that same month, Brigalow Solar Farm – a proposed 34 megawatt project in southern Queensland designed to power the equivalent of 11,300 homes – successfully challenged the new regulation in Queensland’s Supreme Court.

The government subsequently appealed that ruling, only for that challenge to be dismissed with costs by the Court of Appeal on Tuesday.

The decision partly flowed around definitions of “electrical work”. The Electrical Safety Act in defining “work” carved out activities such as fixing equipment in place if the task did not involve connecting the device to an electricity supply.

“The act comprehensively defines the work for which an electrical licence is required such as to leave no room for modification by delegated legislation,” Justice Hugh Fraser wrote in a decision backed by Justice Philip McMurdo and Justice David Boddice.

The new regulation “would involve ‘a new step in policy’ which cuts across that aspect of the act by requiring a licence for work that is not ‘electrical work’”, the ruling said.

Brigalow Solar Farm’s Lane Crockett described the decision as a “relief”, with panels able to be installed by trained labourers and licensed electricians still doing the electricity connections.

“This gives us the certainty we need to move forward, hiring the workers we need to keep building this solar farm,” he said. Mr Crockett is head of renewables for Impact Investment Group, which manages the fund that owns Brigalow Solar Farm.

Jack Hooper of electrical services provider Gem Energy also welcomed the decision.

“It will … decrease the bottleneck the industry faces with quality tradespeople,” he told The Australian Financial Review. “Our biggest challenge right now is to find skilled subcontractors.”

Mr Hooper argued one problem had been that a shortage of qualified electricians existed, so requiring only such people to do installations would lead to a slowdown in projects.

He also said costs would have increased between 10 per cent and 20 per cent on solar panel installations for commercial rooftops – such as for shopping centres. A 200 kilowatt system for instance, could cost an additional $30,000 on a $300,000 job, he estimated.

“Our business would have been massively impacted,” he said.

Mr Hooper also argued that it was unnecessary red tape and trained labourers could do the work safely. “It was never about safety,” he said.

Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said industry “should never have had to go through the courts to resolve something that could easily have been worked out with a full and proper consultation process”.

Some industry figures suspect the regulation was a move to placate unions.

But the Queensland government has been adamant safety was the driving concern.

“We introduced these regulations following advice from an expert safety panel,” Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said in announcing the appeal last month. “When it comes to electrical safety there are no second chances.”

Electrical Safety Commissioner Greg Skyring also said at the time that “contrary to some of the commentary I’ve seen … these risks are very real and very serious”.

Ms Grace’s office is preparing an announcement to respond to the latest setback.

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Small Commercial, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems. Energy Stuff is a Clean Energy Council Member and only uses CEC accredited installers. We fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program and we are supporting clients in their applications to the new scheme starting July 1st 2019.

For further information please call us on 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Electricity demand in WA set to fall for first time, AEMO forecasts, as solar power takes over

By Daniel Mercer – ABC News – 23 June 2019

The body that runs the national wholesale electricity market is forecasting demand for electricity from households and businesses in WA will fall for the first time as the extraordinary uptake of solar panels reshapes the power system.

In its latest report on the south-west wholesale electricity market, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said it was no longer expecting the use of power drawn from the grid to increase as the state’s population grew.

Instead, AEMO said it was forecasting demand — or “operational consumption” — to fall almost 4 per cent between 2019–20 and 2027–28, bucking long-held assumptions that link power use to an economy’s size.

At the heart of the operator’s latest forecast is the “extraordinary” take-up of rooftop solar power, with more than one in four homes in the south-west grid now having a solar system.

PHOTO: More than 50 per cent of households are expected to have solar power by 2028. (Reuters: Mike Blake)

AEMO said the proportion of households expected to have a solar panel installation would exceed 50 per cent within a decade, while the amount of rooftop solar capacity would rocket from about 1100 megawatts to 2500MW.

This would make rooftop, or distributed, solar the biggest source of capacity in the grid by far when taken in combination.

By contrast, the system’s biggest stand-alone generator, the Muja coal-fired power plant in Collie, has a nameplate capacity of 810MW.

The forecast of a fall in consumption comes after years of softness in demand driven by households and businesses using increasingly efficient appliances and installing solar panels.

AEMO said since 2010–11, “total operational consumption” had risen by an average of just 0.1 per cent.

Crucially, consumption among residential and business customers had been falling over the same period at an annual rate of 1.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively.

The agency said that with demand set to fall among large industrial users — the only segment of the market to have grown over the past eight years — overall consumption would be dragged down.

PHOTO: WA is reaching a power tipping point, with overall consumption forecast to drop for the first time. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Call for shake-up as Synergy ‘caught in a bind’

Scott Davis, who represents electricity generators and retailers as the WA head of the Australian Energy Council (AEC), said the report brought into sharp relief the changing nature of the state’s power system.

Mr Davis said the trend of falling demand for grid-drawn power and the increasing self-reliance of customers with solar panels also served to highlight many of the problems facing state-owned power retailer Synergy.

It emerged last week that Synergy was facing losses of almost $200 million over the next four years, while it would also have to borrow up to $140 million to fund capital spending.

Mr Davis said Synergy was caught in a bind because consumers with solar installations were using less of the power it generated but its costs — for running its plant and accessing the power grid — were high and largely fixed.

“It links into Synergy’s forecast losses,” Mr Davis said.

“Synergy has a whole lot of fixed costs they’re trying to recover from less sales because of rooftop solar.”

Making matters worse for Synergy, Mr Davis said AEMO had consistently underestimated the rate at which solar panels were being added to the mix, suggesting the utility’s revenues were likely to be hollowed out even faster in coming years.

“Forecasters tend to be conservative,” he said.

“If you look at the forecast historically, I think you’ll find they always under-predict the amount of rooftop solar that goes on each year.”

Mr Davis said the system needed to be shaken up to ensure the costs of generating and supplying electricity at any one time were better reflected in the prices people paid for the service.

PHOTO: The shift in power sources is placing pressure on electricity suppliers. (AAP: Joe Castro)

Key to this was better accounting for the costs and the benefits of distributed energy resources (DER) such as solar panels, which Mr Davis said offered significant upside if accommodated properly.

But he said current incentives for solar panels were leading to perverse situations.

Power stations forced to pay to stay online

The most notable incentive was the renewable energy buyback scheme, which was administered by Synergy and regional provider Horizon Power and paid eligible customers 7.13 cents for every surplus unit of electricity their solar panels pumped back into the grid.

Mr Davis said customers were paid the same rate for their surplus power regardless of how much or how little it was needed at various times of the day.

PHOTO: Solar panels are a regular sight at newly established suburbs such as Alkimos Beach in Perth’s north. (ABC News: Briana Shepherd)

An example of where this caused problems was the middle of the day, when solar output was at its highest but demand for electricity was often relatively low, especially in mild and sunny conditions in spring and autumn.

In this scenario, Mr Davis said wholesale electricity prices were sometimes being driven into negative territory, meaning big fossil fuel-fired power stations were having to pay to stay online.

Although he said broader reforms were necessary, Mr Davis suggested the buyback scheme should be overhauled to make sure it aligned with the economic value of any surplus power at the time it was produced.

Such a scenario raised the risk of system reliability and security, he said, given conventional power plants were currently essential to maintaining frequency and voltage levels on the network.

“I think the other interesting thing that ties into this is you’ve still got a lot of subsidies over-incentivising things like rooftop solar,” he said.

“We’re spending a whole lot of money giving these cross-subsidies to solar customers on the demand side and then we’re spending a whole lot of money on the market side to try to change everything to accommodate that.

“Are the signals to DER efficient?

“I think DER does have its place in the market and can add real value to the market, but at the moment I think some of the settings aver over-compensating.”

AEMO confident solutions on the way

AEMO’s executive general manager in WA, Cameron Parrotte, said the rapid pace of change in the state’s biggest grid was creating challenges, but he was more sanguine about dealing with them than he had been in recent years.

He said for all the upheaval being caused in the wholesale market by the boom in renewable energy, WA’s grid had plenty of capacity as a buffer for any supply shocks.

PHOTO: Power companies are working through how to deal with changes the solar uptake has forced on the network. (ABC News: James Carmody)

Underpinning this was the state’s so-called capacity market, which is a form of insurance that pays generators for every megawatt of power that can notionally provide at times of peak demand.

But Mr Parrotte said there was also a growing recognition by the State Government that changes needed to be made to the market’s structure to cope with evolving mix of generation types and demand patterns.

Energy Minister Bill Johnston has outlined the Government’s plans to lay out a roadmap for the industry through the Energy Transformation Taskforce, which aimed to bring together the old and the new strands of electricity generation and use in WA.

“I’m feeling a lot more confident in terms of the state’s ability to work through this,” Mr Parrotte said.

“They’re not small changes but I’ve got a lot of faith that the technical solutions — if we don’t already have them then we’ll get them.

“What we’ve got to work through is how to do we optimise that so that we actually can incentivise the investments in the right things that ultimately result in the lowest cost outcome for consumers.”

Energy Stuff Solar

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Small Commercial, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems. Energy Stuff is a Clean Energy Council Member and only uses CEC accredited installers. We fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program and we are supporting clients in their applications to the new scheme starting July 1st 2019.

For further information please call us on 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Cheap wind and solar and “people-powered” revolution to kick out coal

By Giles Parkinson – RenewEconomy – 19 June 2019

The latest analysis from Bloomberg NEF dismisses talk of a new coal-fired power generator in Australia, and says that cheap wind and solar, supported by flexible technologies such as storage, and driven by a “people-powered revolution” in rooftop installations, will kick coal out of the generation mix in Australia.

BNEF says its annual set piece analysis, the highly regarded New Energy Outlook (NEO), shows that the share of renewable energy in Australia’s grid will be 57 per cent by 2030, and 84 per cent by 2050.

“This year’s NEO confirms that Australia’s coal generators are on their way out. The only remaining question is when, not if, they exit,” said Leonard Quong, the head of BNEF in Australia.

“The economics of Australia’s electricity system are already re-orientating towards renewables, a trend that’s expected to accelerate.

“The future grid will be underpinned by cheap wind and solar, with batteries and pumped hydro to smooth variability, while gas and long-duration storage will provide additional backup to the market.”

This has been the broad conclusion of numerous other bodies, scientific organisations and independent analysts, even if the very idea that Australia could get to 50 per cent renewable share by 2030 – as targeted by Labor ahead of the recent federal election – is resisted by the Coalition government and the Murdoch media.

The 50 per cent renewables target was demonised by the Coalition and the main business lobbies as reckless and economy wrecking, but it is considered to be the minimum that will be achieved – even under business as usual – by most analysts because of the cheap cost of renewables and the plunging cost of storage and other new enabling technologies.

Consumers will play a key role in this transformation because the economic advantage to households and businesses of installing rooftop solar, batteries and then electric vehicles will be overwhelming.

Quong speaks of an “economic tidal wave” that will re-shape the market.

The NEO is a serious piece of work, resulting from eight months of analysis and modelling by a 65-strong team at BNEF. It is based on real-life events, on announced project pipelines and power system dynamics. It assumes that current subsidies expire and that energy policies around the world remain on their current bearing.

In Australia – and despite all the talk of extending the life of coal plants and even investing in a new one in Collinsville, Queensland – that coal capacity will drop by one-third to 18GW by 2030 and then to just 6GW in 2040.

This will be replaced by a “people powered revolution” that will see the amount of rooftop solar jumping from around 10GW at the end of 2019 to more than 38GW by 2030 – which means that the current record levels of installation of around 2GW a year will continue for another decade.

By 2050, rooftop solar capacity will increase to 61GW, enough to supply nearly one-quarter of the country’s electricity demand, BNEF suggests.

Rooftop solar will be supported by behind-the-meter storage and demand response and together this will represent 39 per cent of all capacity in Australia by 2050.

In total, BNEF sees utility- and small-scale PV surge to 115GW by 2050, and wind to 27GW. Battery storage capacity grows to at least 26GW in 2050, with the vast majority (19GW) installed by households and businesses behind-the-meter.

Gas capacity will also need to increase, from 18GW today to 29GW in 2050, to assist with seasonality and rare periods of extremely low renewable production. Almost all coal capacity will close by 2050.

This amounts to total investment of around $A150 billion into renewable energy generation, of which nearly half will come from households and businesses. “Coal will receive almost no new capital,” it says.

The abundance of cheap renewables will be supported by flexible technologies such as pumped hydro, batteries, gas and demand response that will provide the system with reliable supply.

And BNEF notes that this will be driven by simple economics, and not ideology.

Solar and wind are already less than half the price of a refurbished coal plant, and by 2030 the cost of new solar and wind will be one-third of the price.

Electric vehicles will also make their mark, making up 28 per cent of all new car sales by 2030, and increasing to 61 per cent by 2050.

Energy Stuff Solar

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Small Commercial, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems. Energy Stuff is a Clean Energy Council Member and only uses CEC accredited installers. We fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program and we are supporting clients in their applications to the new scheme starting July 1st 2019.

For further information please call us on 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Victoria’s coal-fired power plants the least reliable in the country

By Adam Carey – The Sydney Morning Herald – 16 June 2019

Main image: Loy Yang A is the most breakdown-prone power station in the country.CREDIT:SIMON O’DWYER

Victoria’s brown coal-fired power stations are the most unreliable in the country, breaking down far more often than power plants in the rest of Australia and putting the stability of the state’s energy supply at risk.

New data reveals that in the past 18 months, the Loy Yang A power station in the Latrobe Valley has suffered more outages than any other power plant in the National Energy Market, followed closely by nearby Yallourn.

Energy market analysts said the relative unreliability of those two stations had been exposed by the sudden closure of Hazelwood in 2017, which stripped most of Victoria’s spare capacity out of the grid.

But they also pointed to a rush of wind and solar projects due to connect to the grid in the next two years that will replace the capacity that was lost when Hazelwood was shuttered.

Loy Yang A has experienced an outage 29 times since the start of last year, including a breakdown of one of its four units on May 18 that is expected to take seven months to repair.

Yallourn W has had 26 unit outages in that time. Queensland’s Gladstone plant was the third-worst performer with 18 outages.

Combined, Loy Yang A and Yallourn W provide more than half of Victoria’s electricity. Faults and planned outages at both of those stations in January led to load shedding that affected more than 200,000 customers.

By comparison, Australia’s biggest power station, the black coal-powered Eraring plant in NSW, has had a unit breakdown just eight times in the past 18 months, while Liddell, which is run down and due to close in 2022, has had 13 outages.

The data was compiled by the Australia Institute, a progressive think tank that has been monitoring outages at all of the nation’s coal and gas plants since December 2017.

Sixty-four of 183 breakdowns in that time were in Victoria.

Richie Merzian, the institute’s climate and energy program director, said Victoria’s brown coal-fired power plants were already struggling to provide consistently reliable energy to the state and predicted their performance would deteriorate with age, hotter weather and increasing demand.

“Across the national grid, Victoria’s ageing coal-fired power stations are the most likely to fail and Victorians felt this firsthand in January this year when many were forced into blackout,” Mr Merzian said.

Coal remains Victoria’s biggest source of power by far. In the past year, Victoria’s three brown coal-fired power plants generated 72 per cent of the state’s energy. Wind, the second largest source, generated 9.5 per cent, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator.

But Victoria’s energy market is about to go through a renewables surge as a number of large-scale wind and solar projects come online in the next two years.

In total, 2834 megawatts of new wind power and 1072 megawatts of solar is scheduled to enter the grid between 2018 and 2020, according to analysis by Green Energy Markets.

Tristan Edis, a director at Green Energy Markets, said the influx of renewables into the Victorian grid would help to lower energy prices but would not necessarily push coal out of the market.

There has been speculation Yallourn, which was built in the 1970s, will wind up before its scheduled closure date of 2032, but Mr Edis said the fact its brown coal is cheap to mine and burn, in a time of high energy prices, could keep it operating.

“Yallourn has much lower operating costs than NSW black coal,” he said. “Yallourn’s operating cost is $14 a megawatt hour; Vales Point [in NSW] is $29 per megawatt hour.”

Danny Price, an expert in energy economics and director of Frontier Economics, said the higher number of outages in Victoria compared with other states did not mean the state’s coal-powered plants were becoming less reliable.

“They are getting older and you would expect them to become more unreliable and I think they will become more unreliable, but at the moment there is no evidence to suggest that,” Mr Price said.

Plant shutdowns in Victoria and South Australia had increased the strain on those that remain, he said.

“The big difference though is that because you’ve got much less spare capacity, every time a plant has fallen over it’s now felt right throughout the eastern seaboard, which is something we’ve never seen before, because we’ve always had lots of spare capacity.”

New laws have been created to prevent a repeat of the rapid exit of Hazelwood from the market that caused capacity shortfalls in Victoria and South Australia.

From September, generators will be required to provide at least three years’ advance notice of their intention to close, unless the Australian Energy Regulator grants an exemption.

Energy Stuff Solar

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Small Commercial, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems. Energy Stuff is a Clean Energy Council Member and only uses CEC accredited installers. We fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program and we are supporting clients in their applications to the new scheme starting July 1st 2019.

For further information please call us on 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Solar rebates to return on July 1 with first-in best-dressed system

By Michael Fowler – The Age – 18 June 2019

Victoria’s solar rebate scheme will be capped to about 3000 homes a month from July 1, in a revamped, first-in best-dressed system.

The state government has changed its solar rebate scheme so that it is now similar to buying concert tickets, and will be available to renters for the first time.

Each month, a total of 3333 rebates for rooftop solar panels will be available through an online portal for homeowners, while 166 will be available for landlords and renters.

Once those subsidies are exhausted, homeowners and renters will have to wait until the next month to apply for a rebate.

The $1.3 billion solar program, which aims to subsidise 770,000 Victorian homes to install solar power within 10 years, was a major promise by the Andrews government before last year’s state election, but has been stifled by cost blowouts, unexpected demand and shonky solar operators.

The new monthly cap comes after 600 homeowners were left high and dry after they paid to install solar equipment but were unable to claim the rebate when the government suddenly halted the program in April due to huge demand.

The government originally expected to provide 24,000 rebates between September last year, when the scheme started, and April.

But it accepted 32,000 applications in that period.

And six solar providers, which exploited vulnerable customers and exposed workers to unsafe conditions, were referred to Consumer Affairs Victoria for prosecution.

The rollout from July 1 will cover close to 40,000 rooftop solar systems over the next year.

In addition to that 2000 rebates will be available for solar panels on rental properties over the year, 6000 for solar hot water systems and 1000 for solar battery systems.

The monthly supply of 3333 homeowner rebates is expected to be snapped up within days – possibly hours – of the first day of the coming months.

Premier Daniel Andrews said his government “fully expected” over-demand, but described it as “a good problem to have”.

Under the changes to the scheme, customers will be required to go through a retailer and get a tick of approval on the rebate before solar panels are installed.

Mr Andrews said his government made “no apology for putting safety first” in the more measured approach.

“I’d prefer to be perhaps criticised for the fact we’ve done this in a careful, methodical way rather than rushing it out and potentially having problems,” he said.

Mr Andrews also promised a more rigorous auditing program of providers and installers from next month. “We will check and double check to make sure this is done properly,” he said.

Mick Harris, the managing director of Melbourne-based solar company EnviroGroup, praised the new scheme because “the floodgates aren’t being completely opened” and backed it to “remove the shonky operators”.

“We in the industry have been crying out for good quality control for a long, long time, and this is delivering that, so we’re very happy with that,” he said.

The rebate amount and conditions will remain the same until December 31 this year – up to $2225 is available to households with a combined income of below $180,000.

The maximum rebate amount will drop to $1888 from January 1, and again to $1850 for the 2020-21 financial year.

Director of smart energy at the Clean Energy Council, Darren Gladman, said the scheme, including the rebate decreases, was the “best the government could do in the circumstances they were in”.

“I think the issue they are dealing with is they want to keep their election promises on a limited budget. The program was a lot more popular than they anticipated, and that causes budget issues, so your options are a bit restricted,” he said.

Mr Gladman said the industry would be watching the first-time rental property scheme “really closely”.

“The rental part of the market is the biggest part of the untapped solar market in Australia … the landlord often thinks the renter will get all the benefit, and the renter says ‘why would I invest if I’m not going to be here later?’.

“The feedback we’ve had from real estate agents is rental properties with solar on the roof are a lot easier to rent. No government has really been able to crack it yet, so full marks to the Victorian government. It really needs landlords to show interest now.”

Energy Stuff Solar

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Small Commercial, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems. Energy Stuff is a Clean Energy Council Member and only uses CEC accredited installers. We are registered with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program and we are currently supporting clients in their applications to the new scheme starting July 1st 2019.

For further information please call us on 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Australia’s largest solar and battery farm opens in Kerang, improves energy security

By Beth Gibson – ABC News – 14 June 2019

PHOTO: The battery stores 100 per cent renewable energy generated from the solar panels. (Supplied: Edify Energy)

Australia’s largest integrated battery and solar farm was officially opened in Victoria’s north on Friday.

The 50-megawatt battery system just outside of Kerang stores 100 per cent renewable energy and feeds directly into the state’s electricity grid.

It is Tesla’s second biggest battery in Australia, after its 100-megawatt lithium ion battery in South Australia, with the capacity to power 16,000 homes.

Victoria’s Energy Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, said it was a huge step towards the government’s renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2030.

“It’s producing clean, renewable energy from a really important natural resource that exists in north-western Victoria, and that is the sun,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Last year the Victorian Government and the Federal Government each gave $25 million to fund two 50-megawatt batteries in Victoria — one in Kerang and in Ballarat.

The integrated system has been running since the end of last year and Minister D’Ambrosio said it was crucial during Victoria’s heatwave when a lot of the older energy sources, like the Loy Yang power station in the Latrobe Valley, struggled to function.

“Everyone will remember that in January we had record extreme temperatures, especially in north-western Victoria where there were temperatures of 49 degrees,” she said.

“This battery was still be producing and providing electricity during those really extreme heat temperatures.”

Chief executive of Edify Energy, John Cole, described the battery as a sophisticated piece of equipment that was unlike anything else in Victoria’s energy network.

“The battery can be used to provide strengthening to the network when required, it can store power, and it responds to network issues in milliseconds rather than minutes,” he said.

Boost to small regional economy

Manager for economic development at the Gannawarra Shire Council, Roger Griffith, said the project was great for the small town of about 4,000 people.

“If you look at the positive profile of renewable energy around Kerang, it’s probably a much more positive profile than the town had 25 years ago,” he said.

During the construction phase of the project about 180 people were employed for 10 to 12 months.

“Just the food and provision that the workers consumed while they were working on site, it was in the tens of millions of dollars,” Mr Cole said.

“I think I’ve probably seen it 100 times and every time I see it it still amazes me as to the scale and complexity of the project,” Mr Griffith said.

In addition, the project has attracted a number of other businesses to the region.

“We have planning permits in pace for eight large-scale solar farms,” Mr Griffith said.

“This is the first, the second one is under construction, and the other six are at various stages of development.

“Once all of those projects hit the ground that’s when we will start to see the real benefit.”

While most of the community were onboard, Mr Griffith said that there was some local opposition to the farm.

“It’s part of change,” he said.

“The world’s changing, the world will continue to change, we can either sit back and watch it change or try and jump in and try and benefit our local economy and community.”

Energy Stuff Solar

Energy Stuff provides a full range of new smart solar systems which can include battery ready inverters or systems with integrated battery storage. All our systems come with smart energy management to provide real time monitoring and energy efficiencies. Finance options are available, simply ask our knowledgeable staff for details.

For further information call 1300 656 205 or go to our website at

https://ongrid.energystuff.com.au/new-solar-system/

Electric cars and renewable energy could drive new outback mining boom

By Emilia Terzon – ABC News – 11 June 2019

Main image: PHOTO: Parts needed to make electric cars could be dug up in the NT. (ABC News: Leah MacLennan)

Electric cars and wind turbines could be pivotal to fuelling the next outback mining boom, with resource companies and start-ups worried Australia is not making the most of a new wave of mining activity across the nation.

As scientist Ray Wooldridge tells it from his laboratory in Pine Creek, two hours south of Darwin, “lithium is one of the flavours of the moment”.

Mr Wooldridge spends his time analysing minerals being dug out of the ground by resource companies, and recently he has been studying a lot of this soft, silvery-white metal.

“It’s pretty substantial. It’s really been building up the last few years,” Mr Wooldridge said.

Lithium is piquing the interest of mining companies due to it being a key component in batteries for renewable energy storage and electric vehicles.

There are no active lithium mines in the Territory but an ASX-listed company is hoping to open the first next year.

In Western Australia, lithium is booming. In the past decade the state has gone from having just one lithium mine to seven, turning Australia into the world’s biggest exporter of the mineral.

And it is not just lithium that has seen this interest, said Gavin Mudd, an associate professor of engineering at RMIT University in Melbourne.

“There’s been an increasing demand for a lot of metals we call critical,” he said.

PHOTO: In Mr Wooldridge’s laboratory, he tests the quality of minerals being pulled out of the ground by mining companies. (ABC News: Emilia Terzon)

“That’s been driven by a lot of these rapid changes in technology we’re seeing, whether that be the uptake of renewable energy, energy storage batteries, and this new exponential growth in electric vehicles.

“It’s not boom times yet but certainly we’re seeing an evolution. Some of the traditional elements like coal are being challenged.”

But just like coal mining, many of the elements that are being dug out of the ground in Australia are being exported as a raw product to overseas markets — mostly China.

“Australia has a long history of just shipping out the raw concentrates and material and not taking advantage of value-adding,” Mr Mudd said.

“I think it would be really great to see Australia break that historical trend.”

Australia needs to ‘lift its game’

When it comes to lithium, there are already several processing plants turning the mineral into a more developed chemical to use inside batteries, and another huge one in the works in Western Australia.

But Mr Mudd says Australia is lagging behind when it comes to adding value to other things it is pulling out the ground.

He says the reasons for this are complex, but that China has emerged as a powerplay manufacturer in this sector, which makes it difficult for smaller markets to compete with.

“It’s one of those things where governments need to think longer term than shorter term. We need to realise these industries and sectors could potentially be very, very big,” he said.

“We really have to up our game.”

PHOTO: There’s hope that the NT’s first lithium mine could be set up in 2020. (Supplied: Galaxy Resources)

Companies facing barriers

On the border of WA and the Northern Territory, east of Halls Creek in the Kimberley, one resources company is trying to do just that.

Northern Minerals has been digging up a heavy rare earth dysprosium since 2017, which is used inside permanent magnets in electric vehicles, hybrid cards, wind turbines and even mobile phones.

At the moment, all of the company’s dysprosium is being exported as a raw product.

The company wants to change that by doing separation at a refinery, which would open but its market to South East Asia, Germany and the US.

Yet its director, George Bauk, says they have struggled to get funding and they have also been put off by flagged changes to Federal Government rules about research and development tax incentives.

“One of our problems is the industry is being driven by get to revenue as quick as possible. Dig it up and get it to market ASAP,” he said.

“But we’ve really got to encourage people to go downstream and create the next industry.”

The Resources Minister have been contacted about the flagged changes to research and development tax incentives, which were put on ice earlier this year.

In a statement, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said a Senate committee found that reform was needed with research and development tax incentives.

“We agreed with the committee’s recommendations regarding technical refinements, and that work is underway,” he said.

PHOTO: Lithium could create a new boom time for the mining industry. (Supplied: Tawana Resources)

No site locked in for firm in NT

For the past few years, a start-up company called Energy Renaissance has been pitching to build the first factory in Australia that will turn lithium into batteries specifically suited to the tropics.

The company’s chair, Su McCluskey, says the lithium ion batteries can be used to store power in remote communities, mines, hospitals, aged care homes and for larger-scale electric vehicles like travelators and forklifts.

“We’ve been looking for a number of locations [for our factory] and we’re looking for the most suitable,” she said.

The company was hoping to build that factory in Darwin, but Ms McCluskey says three years after first approaching the NT Government, a site has not yet been locked in.

“We hear all levels of government talk about wanting to be able to support and encourage and provide incentives for start-ups,” Ms McCluskey said.

“We’ve seen first-hand that not only is it challenging in terms of raising the funds and doing the work, it’s also quite challenging navigating across the bureaucratic processes.”

But she is staying positive on the question of Australia capitalising on new opportunities.

“In terms of manufacturing, we’ve seen a whole amount of industries here in the past die or leave Australia. We now have the opportunity with high-tech digital manufacturing to bring that back here,” she said.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the Government was “very interested in the idea of building batteries” in the Territory but that there was a limit to what support it could offer the company.

“This is one of those ones where it’s almost fallen to commercial negotiations about what the Government would be prepared to buy from that factory,” he said.

“We’re absolutely supportive of a battery factory being built here, but there’s a commercial dispute and I’ve been very clear with the company about the extent to which government would come in and give them taxpayer money.”

Energy Stuff provides a full range of new solar systems which can include battery ready inverters or systems with integrated battery storage. We also provide smart energy management systems which will continue to deliver energy saving benefits into the future. We only use CEC accredited installers and we fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program.

For further information call 1300 656 205 or go to our website at https://ongrid.energystuff.com.au/new-solar-system/

NSW quietly cancels 200MW virtual power plant, redirects funds to solar loans

By Michael Mazengarb – RenewEconomy – 11 June 2019

The NSW government has quietly cancelled a $50 million program to establish a 200MW virtual power plant, to cover the costs of an election promise to provide interest-free loans to households for solar and batteries.

The now canned Smart Energy for Homes and Businesses program, announced in late 2018, was to provide rebates for households and businesses of up to $1000 to connect household appliances, including batteries and smart air-conditioners, to demand response and virtual power plant systems.

Through the program, the NSW government hoped to gain the ability to control up to 200MW of demand response and virtual power plant systems to manage times of peak demand.

Previous energy minister Don Harwin launched the program in December last year, announcing that the state Coalition government was seeking expressions of interest for providers of demand response and VPP services.

However, in the lead up to the NSW election, the Berejiklian government promised it would provide interest-free loans to up to 300,000 households installing rooftop solar and batteries, dubbed the “Empowering Homes Program.”

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment has now confirmed it will cancel the $50 million demand response and VPP program and use the funds to pay for the interest-free loan program instead.

The Coalition’s election policy costings, published by Parliamentary Budget Office, for the Empowering Homes program showed the government’s intention to re-allocate the $50 million of funding from the Smart Energy for Homes and Businesses program to cover the costs of the interest-free loans.

The policy details were published just five days before the NSW election.

Expressions of interest for the cancelled virtual power plant program closed on 14 December and RenewEconomy understands that applicants have yet to hear any news directly from the NSW government about the future of the program since that time.

The Department indicated that an update would be provided “in early 2019”, but information about the program has since been removed from its website.

Enquiries posed to the office of new energy minister Matt Kean were referred to the Department of Planning and Environment, who confirmed the cancellation of the VPP program.

“No agreements will be entered into under the Smart Energy for Homes and Businesses program, but its funding will still be committed to supporting investment in clean and renewable energy,” a spokesperson told RenewEconomy.

“Expressions of interest received for Smart Energy have been of great value and will inform the development of Empowering Homes.

“The Department appreciates the time and effort put into these EOIs and will be in touch with all interested parties as we finalise details, and to keep them informed of future opportunities.“

NSW Labor energy spokesperson Adam Searle told RenewEconomy that it was troubling that while the Government has announced two different energy policies, that there has been no progress since the election in March.

“They one policy, which they’ve now scraped for a new policy,” Searle said.

“It has been three months since the election, and we have no sign of either of these policies. This is symptomatic of the mess they have made of energy policy in this state”

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said that the shifting of funds was a clear sign that the NSW Government needs to introduce a dedicated target for renewable energy uptake.

“With no state wide renewable target the only thing the State Government has is a series of ad hoc programs, and now one of those appears to be heading to the scrap bin,” Shoebridge said.

“This was a $50 million program that was designed to save additional capital expenditure to meet peak energy demand. This is demand that happens on only a handful of afternoons and evenings a year.”

“We need strong binding state targets and real commitment to programs that will reduce demand and deliver new renewable energy, to save household budgets and the environment.”

Loans of up to $9000 per battery system and up to $14,000 per solar-battery system will be available under the new Empowering Homes program, but it is unclear when the program will be launched, or whether there will be a requirement for system owners to participate in a VPP program.

Reposit Power, who has developed an energy management system that supports the integration of solar and battery systems into virtual power plants, was disappointed to see the cancellation of the NSW Government program, but was hopeful that lessons could be applied to future programs.

“It is sad to see the program being wound down, and we hope the learnings from the program to date can be retained by the NSW Government”, Reposit’s head of business relations Alan Reid said.

“We see consumers getting more involved in managing their energy use and asking more questions of their retailers. Any program that seeks to incentivise increased adoption of innovative technologies by households needs to consider both affordability and greater choice for consumers.”

“It has been heartening to see Governments looking to get on the front foot to support grid management services, which are ultimately to the benefit of both the grid and for consumers”.

The government hopes to support the installation of up to 3,000MWh of storage capacity to be added to the NSW energy system under the Empowering Homes program.

The interest-free loans will only be made available to own-occupier households, and will be means capped for households with combined annual household income of up to $180,000.

The $50 million in funding has been drawn from the NSW government’s $1.4 billion Climate Change Fund.

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Small Commercial, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems. Energy Stuff is a Clean Energy Council Member and only uses CEC accredited installers. We fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program and we are supporting clients in their applications to the new scheme starting July 1st 2019.

For further information please call us on 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Victoria Police add all-electric Tesla Model X to highway patrol

By Sophie Vorrath – The Driven – 3 June 2019

Electric vehicles could be the norm for road policing in Australia within just 10 years’ time, Victoria Police has said, after revealing on Monday it had welcomed a Tesla Model X into the fold of its highway patrol operational fleet.

The use of the all-electric five-seater SUV marks a first for an Australian police organisation, and makes Victoria one of the first jurisdictions in the world to use an EV for operational duties.

In a statement on Monday, Victoria Police said the “one-off procurement” of the US-made luxury EV was part of a feasibility study into developing fully integrated electric, IT-based police vehicles for fleet use.

VicPol said it would be collaborating with Tesla engineers, emergency equipment manufacturers, and its own vehicle installation contractor and IT and communications technicians in integrating police equipment and software into the Model X’s on-board system.

The SUV – which can go from 0-100km/h in under five seconds, and features Tesla’s iconic “falcon wing doors” – will be a fully fitted and functioning Highway Patrol vehicle and will be trialled across various regions in consultation with the Road Policing Command, a statement said.

“This is the future, there’s no doubt about it,” said Inspector Stuart Bailey from State Highway Patrol in a Victoria Police video posted on Twitter.

“This is a fully electric car that’s going to change our fleet in Victoria Police. I can see in 10 years time that every one of our cars will be electric cars.”

In Victoria, as in most of the country’s other states and territories, police patrol vehicles and unmarked cars traditionally have been either Ford or Holden high performance (gas guzzling) ICE cars.

Recently, in New South Wales, the police force there changed it up a bit by rolling out some turbo-diesel BMWs and V8-powered Chrysler sedans will be rolled out across the state from next month.

So the adoption of an electric car as a police squad car – and one of Elon Musk’s hugely popular creations, no less – is quite a big deal.

“This vehicle is unlike any other Victoria Police has ever had in its fleet and could well be the future of road policing in this state, country and the world,” Road Policing Command Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane said.

“This car gives us the opportunity to investigate having these technologies in a fully integrated in-car system which has the potential of streamlining the road policing effort.

On top of the speed, performance and high-tech capabilities of the Tesla, Victoria Police names “great environmental benefits” as one of the key reasons it is trialling the use of electric vehicles.

“Considering our State Highway Patrol vehicles travel thousands of kilometres on the road per year, we should always be looking at ways we can lessen our impact on the environment,” AC Leane said.

But while this might be a first for Australia, the switch to electric vehicles by law enforcement organisations is happening all around the world.

Just last week, AutoBlog reported that the police department in the Swiss canton of St. Gallen had ordered up 13 2019 Hyundai Kona Electric, after the EV met the criteria of costing less than $US50,000, having over 100kW (134 horsepower), and having a range of more than 400km.

Five of those Konas will be used as patrol cars, Autblog said, and the other eight will be left unmodified and used for non-patrol duties.

Germany, which last year introduced a number of hybrid Mercedes EVs into its police fleet, could not be far off introducing all-electric models, considering the plans of parent company, Daimler, to be producing 25 per cent battery electric vehicles by 2025, and the country’s new ambitious EV target.

In in the US, the Hyattsville Police Department in the state of Maryland last year integrated a Chevy Bolt EV into its patrol fleet. And last but not least, in the home town of Tesla – Fremont, California – the police department there has, predictably, converted a Model S to a patrol vehicle.

In Victoria, meanwhile, the police department is keen to stress that the use of the fully electric Model X for highway patrols is still firmly in the feasibility stage.

“It is important to remember this is a concept vehicle for Victoria Police and we acknowledge that it will produce a number of unique circumstances and will continue to evolve as police software is integrated,” AC Leane said.

“Vehicles are obviously critical to the work we do as they represent the mobile office for many of our frontline police and projects such as these mean that when the switch does inevitably happen, our job of keeping Victorians safe will not be compromised.”

Inspector Bailey seems confident, however, that EVs like the Model X are the way to go – based on performance and safety alone.

“This has been independently tested, and this has been determined as the best car in our fleet,” he said in the video.

“In performance, braking and handling, it is the best car, it is the most stable car we have on our road at the present time.

“We just want to see it working in its natural environment, if you like, for police to go through their normal road policing enforcement duties,” he said.

Keen-eyed motorists can look for it mostly in the state’s south-east, on the roads of the Bass Coast, the Latrobe Valley, and in Casey and Dandenong.

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Small Commercial, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems. Energy Stuff is a Clean Energy Council Member and only uses CEC accredited installers. We fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program and we are supporting clients in their applications to the new scheme starting July 1st 2019.

For further information please call us on 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au

Networks want to hit household solar exports with extra grid charges

By Giles Parkinson – RenewEconomy – 4th June 2019

The main lobby group representing Australia’s electricity and gas networks has renewed its push to hit households exporting solar back to the grid with additional grid charges – to the horror of some consumer groups and industry experts.

Energy Networks Australia on Monday circulated an “opinion” piece written last week claiming that the lack of specific network tariffs on solar exports from homes back into the grid amounted to an unfair “ban” on charging.

This relates to a rule, 6.1.4, introduced in 2007 as rooftop solar started to become a thing in the Australian market. It was designed to avoid the double billing of solar power and was consistent with market rules that charges the customer for network usage, not the generator.

But the networks lobby has been keen to have the role reversed as rooftop solar grew far beyond its expectations. It is not the first time a “solar tax” has been canvassed, the main rule maker discussed such an idea back in 2017.

In its latest missive, Is the sun setting on the electricity export charging ban”, the ENA claims that leading consumer groups such as Renew (formerly the Alternative Technology Association and no relation to this publication) and the Total Environment Centre are sympathetic to the idea, quoting a paper they published in December last year.

Not so, say the authors of that report.

They say they argued for a wholesale rethink of market rules, to make them truly “cost reflective”, and insist that, taken in isolation, hitting solar exports with network tariffs is a money grab by the networks, in much the same way as the huge hike in fixed costs that has seen some consumers pay as much as $600 a year for the network, even before they switch the lights on.

“If you have fully cost reflective pricing, then you get rid of the issue,” says Craig Memery, formerly of Renew and now with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Sydney, and a contributor to the report.

“But the cost reflective pricing proposals have not been fully implemented. If you put a tax on exports before we have cost reflective pricing on imports, you are putting cart before the horse.

“It has got to be symmetrical. There are times of day where rooftop solar clearly produces a net benefit, so the network need to be prepared to pay people for that benefit. You have got to have nuance,  and that is what the ENA is probably lacking.”

Mark Byrne, from the TEC, also took issue with the ENA’s claims that: “At present some people, often those least able to afford it, end up paying more than those who can take advantage of new and exciting technologies to reduce their bills.”

Byrne says the networks and other groups being encouraged by the networks to pursue such a rule change have done little about this issue.

“If they are genuinely interested in equity, ENA should be focused on improving access to solar and batteries for renters, apartment residents and low income households.

“That’s where the real challenge lies; not in clipping the rooftop solar ticket and sending yet another signal that the the incumbent industry is more interested in maximising revenue than changing its business model.”

Byrne also disputed the ENA’s assertion that solar penetration was causing network problems, and its statement that the only two solutions – apart from charging for exports – were either building more network or banning exports for new solar connections altogether.

“These are not the only options available to networks,” Byrne says. “Others include managing the existing network better (eg by changing the voltage settings in transformers to prevent overvoltage) and communicating with smart inverters to reduce the output during periods of very high demand (as South Australia Power Networks has proposed).

“Finally, there is a flipside to this argument: that if networks want to charge solar households to export to the grid, they need to be prepared to also reward solar owners for the savings they create for networks. As the AEMC recently recognised, rooftop solar can reduce peak demand and support the reliability and security of the system.”

He also noted that SAPN -which operates the network with the highest penetration of rooftop solar in Australia, and likely the world – had priced its extra spending needs for PV related costs from 2020 to 2025 at $36 million. That’s under $20 per year, per customer.

Other experts also pointed to the fact that the ENA’s proposal also ignores the fact that solar households exporting into the grid are paid substantially less by utilities for their exports, and yet these same electrons are then sold to other customers at the normal retail rate, which includes the network charges. Charging the seller for the export would be double counting.

“In effect they are already paying for exporting to the grid (i.e. the substantial difference between what they sell their elec to the retailer for and what the retailer then onsells that electricity for),” says Rob Passey, a solar and regulatory export who is a Postdoctoral Fellow at UNSW’s Faculty of Engineering..

“They are offsetting the spot price, and that is all they are paid for. This ‘need to pay’ argument completely ignores the benefits that distributed PV/batteries is providing in terms of grid support, reduction in wholesale prices and reduction in GHG emissions.”

Muriel Watt, a solar and regulatory expert who works for ITP Renewables, says if customers were charged for exporting their electricity to the grid, then maybe large generators should be too.

“If we go down this route, it has to be applied to large generators sending power down transmission lines as well, otherwise we will be discriminating between large and small generators and customers.

“On the face of it, it would of course encourage batteries and grid defection and hence may be counterproductive with regard to the equity and cross-subsidy argument.”

(Mind you, the networks have also toyed with the idea of compulsory charges for all consumers, including grid defectors).

Byrne also took issue with the ENA’s claims that: “At present some people, often those least able to afford it, end up paying more than those who can take advantage of new and exciting technologies to reduce their bills.”

Byrne says the networks and other groups have done little to deal with this issue.

“If they are genuinely interested in equity, ENA should be focused on improving access to solar and batteries for renters, apartment residents and low income households.

“That’s where the real challenge lies; not in clipping the rooftop solar ticket and sending yet another signal that the the incumbent industry is more interested in maximising revenue than changing its business model.”

Energy Stuff specialises in Residential Solar with emphasis on Repairs, Replacements and upgrades. We also provide new systems, battery storage, Small Commercial, Off-Grid systems and smart monitoring systems. Energy Stuff is a Clean Energy Council Member and only uses CEC accredited installers. We fully comply with the Victorian Govt. Solar Rebate Program and we are supporting clients in their applications to the new scheme starting July 1st 2019.

For further information please call us on 1300 656 205 or go to our website at http://www.energystuff.com.au