The Clean Energy Council has announced the appointment of its new CEO, with David Green – formerly CEO of the UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy – set to take the reigns from Kane Thornton, who assumed the role of acting CEO after the position was vacated by Matthew Warren at the end of last year. Green was the founding CEO of the UKBCSE, and served in this position from 2001 until the start of 2012. He is also an executive director of the International Business Council for Sustainable Energy, whose members include the Clean Energy Council. And he was the head of the Combined Heat and Power association in the UK, which might encourage the likes of Ceramic Fuel Cells.
The CEC’s chairman, Michael Fraser, said Green would formally commence work “shortly,” and thanked Thornton for his efforts in the interim: “During this period, Kane has done an excellent job in leading the CEC and the board looks forward to his continuing contribution to the future strategy and direction of the CEC,” Fraser said in a statement distributed to CEC members. “The board looks forward to David leading the Clean Energy Council and industry through the exciting next chapter of the industry’s development.”
Private funds set for renewables boost
A new report on the structure of the federal government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation has suggested that the billions of dollars generated by the carbon tax for the development of renewables projects mostly be directed towards private investment firms. The Australian Financial Review reports that the advisory panel behind the report, headed by Reserve Bank board member Jillian Broadbent, has indicated it favours outsourcing investment of the bulk of the $10 billion earmarked for the body – up to 80 per cent – to private fund mangers with expertise in renewable projects, instead of developing a large in-house investment unit. Under the partnership approach, fund managers would invest in projects based on a CEFC investment mandate or aggregate smaller projects in a fund.
Broadbent, along with senior investment sector members David Paradice and Ian Moore, were appointed last October to advise on the CEFC’s structure and investment mandate, ahead of the introduction of legislation to establish the fund being introduced later this year. The panel is also expected to advise on the type of projects the CEFC should finance – another key issue for industry and government. The paper notes that companies like Pacific Hydro have been lobbying for heavy investment in electricity infrastructure, to support the integration of renewable power generation into the grid and to improve grid interconnection. Companies such as AGL have strongly resisted the push, saying it will distort private investment.
Green power cut for ACT households
The Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission has taken an interesting decision and actually lowered the cost of green energy in the retail electricity bills payable by customers in the ACT. Green energy costs are often cited as a principal cause of rising electricity tariffs, even though their contribution is a fraction of that from network upgrades in most states. The ICRC, however, has actually cut the pass-through costs of green energy to customers in the ACT after deciding that energy retailers were getting too much compensation for certificates generated from rooftop installations such as solar PV.
In ACT and other states, retailers were receiving $40 per small scale technology certificate (STC), even though that price has been impossible to achieve in a market flooded from the rapid installation of PV. The ICRC has instead decided to allow the retailers to pass through a cost of $30.50 per STC, significantly reducing the cost of green energy. The solar industry has been lobbying for similar measures to be adopted in other states, arguing that allowing retailers the ability to pass through $40 per STC distorted the cost of solar PV and delivered windfall gains to retailers.
ACT customers face an overall increase in costs of 17.22 per cent from July 1, 2012. The ICRC said more than three quarters of this increase would come from the impact of the carbon price. In the ACT, network upgrades make up only a small fraction of the overall cost increases, unlike in other states where it accounts for well over half of the increase in price tariffs.
China’s solar shift
There has been a changing of the guard among the major China-based solar module manufacturers, with new data from Digitimes Research showing the ranking of the top five companies (measured by module shipments) shifting “significantly” in the fourth-quarter of 2011. Digitimes says Suntech remained the top solar module firm in China, while Canadian Solar took second place. Trina Solar, Yingli Solar and LDK ranked third, fourth and fifth respectively, as the prices of solar products fell sharply, eroding gross margins, which continue to fall in 2012. The research found that fourth-quarter 2011 shipments from most China-based major solar module makers such as Yingli Solar, Suntech, Hanwha SolarOne and Jinko Solar declined. But Trina Solar and Canadian Solar saw fourth-quarter 2011 shipments increase due to strong demand in US and Asian markets.
The research also found that China-based solar firms are mixed about the prospect of 2012, with Suntech being “relatively conservative,” predicting shipment growth to be only 10 per cent; while Yingli Solar and Canadian Solar are more optimistic, predicting solar module shipments to grow by 40 per cent in 2012 from 2011. LDK was the most optimistic, predicting solar module shipments to grow by 117 per cent in 2012. Digitimes says the firms are “unanimously optimistic” about China’s domestic solar market and believe installations will reach 5GW. The firms estimate installations in the US market to hit above 3GW and Germany to decline to 2.5-3.5GW in 2012.