The Australian Capital Territory has confirmed its place as the go-to-capital for clean energy in Australia, announcing on Wednesday that 200MW of wind energy will be allocated through a reverse auction later this year.
The announcement is part of the ACT’s plans to source 90 per cent of its electricity needs with renewables by 2020. That will require around 550MW of capacity in that time, including 40MW already allocated, and further auctions will be held in coming years.
The ACT government has already allocated 40MW of utility-scale solar PV, has plans for a 50MW solar park with new technologies such as solar thermal and storage, up to 23MW of waste-to-energy, and has a 1MW community solar facility in mind.
The wind energy auction will be held in a similar manner to last year’s solar auctions. Winning bids will get a guaranteed price for 20 years, with the ACT expecting this to add around $1.30 a week to electricity bills. The ACT government expects two or three projects to make up that capacity.
ACT Minister for the Environment and Sustainable Development, Simon Corbell said the capacity at this next auction would account for around 24 per cent of the ACT’s electricity consumption – which is equivalent to approximately 80,000 Canberra households.
It would deliver around 40 per cent of the required renewable energy investments required to achieve its 90 per cent renewable energy target. The ACT’s latest assessment suggests that a total of around 382MW of wind energy will be needed to meet its overall target.
Corbell said that because of uncertainty about federal policy, the ACT was confident of achieving excellent prices at the auction.
“Because of the Commonwealth Renewable Energy Target review, wind is currently a buyer’s market. By moving quickly, the ACT can expect lower prices now than if we were to defer the required investments to a later time,” he said in a statement.
The wind auction will be open to generators within the Australian Capital Region, but also to generators further afield in circumstances where they demonstrate exceptional local economic development benefits and competitive pricing.
Given that the ACT itself has poor wind conditions, it is expected that the successful bidders will come from locations nearby.
Canberra and surrounding regions have a number of wind farms at different stages of approval, and the ACT auction is considered to be the best chance of bringing these into development, particularly considering the uncertainty over the federal renewable energy target, and the make-up of the panel charged with reviewing the RET.
The Canberra Times noted today that among wind farms ready to go are a 41-turbine extension of the Capital 1 wind farm near Bungendore (Infigen Energy), a 55-turbine wind farm near Collector between the Federal and Hume highways (Ratch), and two wind farms of 46 and 29 turbines at Crookwell (one awaiting approval, Union Fenosa).
Union Fenosa Wind Australia managing director Domingo Asuero told the paper that Corbell was playing ”a very canny hand”. ‘
‘This is an unusual moment where turbines are cheap, and bidders into the reverse auction will be keen – the price that the ACT government will secure for its clean electricity will be a very competitive deal for ACT ratepayers,” he said.
However, numerous objections have been thrown up in nearby council areas on the issue of wind farms. The region surrounding Canberra is one of the hot-beds of opposition to wind energy, with numerous high profile and wealthy opponents – and a few MPs such as Angus Taylor, live.
The auction is expected to be held about mid year and the bids would be assessed by a panel headed by former Pacific Power chief Ross Bunyon.
This auction was “the one industry has been waiting to find out about. We expect excellent prices as a result of this auction. This is the only policy framework that’s delivering any certainty for wind generation in Australia at the moment and as a result we expect very competitive bidding.”
Meanwhile, Australian wind farm developer Windlab on Wednesday announced it would establish the ‘WindScape Institute’ in Canberra to set up a global database on wind energy and to train wind energy engineers and scientists.
The institute will include 7 of Windlab’s existing staff, including co-founders Dr Nathan Steggel and Dr Keith Ayotte, and will train and employ up to 4 local university undergraduate or graduates each year.
“This is an ambitious and important initiative that demonstrates what local companies can achieve by leveraging the readily available, high calibre technical skills in the ‘Creative Capital’, says Institute Director, Dr Steggel.
Ayotte said that while most Australian government’s outside of the ACT look to the past for their future energy policies, the International Energy Agency highlights the rapid transformation of energy technology around the world.
“Their recent report, ‘The Power of Transformation’, had a simple conclusion: Wind and solar energy are being integrated at large scale around the world at little additional long term cost,” he said.