AGL Energy has released an update on the progress of the large-scale solar PV plants it is building in Nyngan and Broken Hill, NSW, in the latest sign Australia’s largest generator of electricity is coming around on solar.
AGL said in a media statement on Monday that the two ARENA-backed plants – Australia’s largest utility-scale PV examples – were progressing on schedule, with first generation expected from the Nyngan plant within the next two months.
Once completed, AGL said, the plants’ combined capacity of 155MW would bolster the gentailer’s “existing credentials as the largest ASX-listed owner, operator and developer of renewable energy generation in Australia.”
AGL – once considered the “greenest” of Australia’s major utilities – had more recently appeared to join other major utilities on the energy “dark side”; calling for the federal government to scrap all support for rooftop solar, and for the dilution or deferral of the large scale renewable energy target (RET).
But a change of CEO and the flagging of a household solar + storage leasing product in the not-too distant future signal a change of focus, – at least in marketing terms – as the utility comes around to the importance and inevitability of distributed solar energy to the future grid – and to increasingly disgruntled customers.
As reported here in November, AGL Energy hired 56-year old American Andrew Vesey to replace the outgoing Michael Fraser with an eye to the future, particularly the evolution of a new business model and the emergence of solar and storage to give the company’s near 4 million consumers more choice about the energy they use.
We also reported in December that AGL is building a 150-strong team in Melbourne to attack the solar leasing market. Although both it and other major retailers continue to attack rooftop solar incentives.
As Deutsche Bank noted at the time of his appointment, Vesey has significant experience in emerging technologies – an important attribute, they said, “given emerging issues such as solar PV, battery storage and smart grids.”
Even more tellingly, on the same day AGL unveiled its pick to lead the company, one of its senior executives, Marc England, made a presentation in Melbourne outlining how AGL intended to tackle the challenge of distributed generation.
England, who stressed that the demise of the centralised grid was a long way off, said AGL estimated 3 million Australian households would be “fully or partially” off grid by 2030.
“Australian energy consumers are in the midst of a transformation from passive and unconscious consumption to empowered and more energy literate consumption,” he told a utilities conference in Melbourne.
“This transformation has no doubt been brought on by disruptive technologies, new policies and fresh competition in our industry that are shaking up the way we source, consume and pay for our energy.”
“We see a future where AGL provides consumers with a home energy ecosystem, providing them with the smarts and insight, to have choice, flexibility and control, at as low a cost as possible,” he said.