Owners and developers of new wind and solar projects in western Victoria and south-west New South Wales are voicing their frustration over new delays for commissioning of projects that they say are otherwise complete and ready to produce.
The Australian Energy Market Operator has advised the owners, developers and contractors that new projects in the West Murray region of Victoria’s grid will only be connected one at a time, as a result of “system strength” issues that have already resulted in the output of five existing solar farms being reduced by half.
The issue affects projects in Victoria and across the border in NSW. Some of those projects that are believed to have been told they will have to queue – one at a time – include Yatpool, Cohuna, Kiamal, Murra Warra and Sunraysia projects.
The latter, Sunraysia, has already caused a dispute between the project owners and contractors because of the failure to obtain a GPS (generator performance standard) – although other issues may be involved.
There is, however, great confusion in the market about who is affected and why, and over the reasons an issue – which had been expected to be solved within weeks – is dragging on and could cause delays of up to a year for some projects who find themselves at the back of the queue.
There are also questions over the role of AEMO – which uniquely in Victoria also acts as Network Planner, a role undertaken in other states by the major transmission companies – Powerlink in Queensland, Transgrid in NSW, and ElectraNet in South Australia – under the supervision of AEMO.
In Victoria, however, AEMO serves both roles. And because of the way the system strength issues have been managed, its decisions are being questioned. And the ruling on a one-by-one routine for new connections has galvanised the industry, as it now affects some 15 different projects where funds have already been committed.
“In every other State in the NEM, the Network Planner can connect new generation while assessing grid studies for potential new plants—all in parallel,” said one senior executive.
“Even in South Australia, with 55% renewable energy penetration, Electranet can successfully do all these things at once—in parallel. Only in Victoria, where AEMO is the Network Planner, will everything slow to a crawl as AEMO has taken the unprecedented step of connecting and commissioning each generator on a sequential basis—completely finishing one registration process, before starting another.
“As a consequence, some renewable generators will lose millions of dollars—if not tens of millions.”
The executive spoke on condition of anonymity, as did all others, because of the sensitivity of the topic and because they all have to deal with AEMO in its multiple roles of network planner, market operator, and because it also negotiates and gives final clearance on connections and commissioning.
RenewEconomy understands that representatives of 15 of the most affected projects are due to meet this week to discuss the issue and what can be done to resolve it.