Telecommunications giant Telstra says it is back in the market for more wind and solar projects as it seeks to boost the amount of electricity it sources from wind and solar.
Ben Burge, Telstra’s executive director of energy, says the company – whose electricity consumption is about 1.7 terrawatt hours, or nearly 1 per cent of the country’s total demand – already sources about 35 per cent of its needs from wind and solar, and wants to do more.
“We are in the market for few hundred gigawatt ours per annum, ” Burge told the Smart Energy Summit in Sydney on Tuesday. “If anyone has got a project out there, we are buying.”
Burge said the reasons for more investment in wind and solar were two fold – the company wanted to do its’s part for the environment, but more importantly, it was a good financial deal.
“We like to do stuff for the planet –and that is awesome – but these have been really lucrative deals,” Burge says, noting the savings that have been made through contracting for projects such as the Murra Warra wind farm and others.
“Climate skeptics who ignore theses deals – it’s just sheer stupidity.”
Burge’s comments came as Macquarie Group also confirmed that it was looking to build about 20GW of large scale renewables in the next five years, including around 1GW in Australia itself.
Brian Morris, a division director at Macquarie, said there was a pipeline of about 12 terawatt hours of corporate demand in Australia – around six per cent of the country’s total demand – indicating that Telstra was not the only company in the market for such deals.
“We have moved to an unsubsidised market or very close to it, Morris said. “The cost of going renewable is incredibly cheap.”
Telstra has also been involved in “syndicate” deals that brought in other corporate players, and Burge said the company was looking to do more.
It was also one of the biggest providers of “firming capacity”, courtesy of the generators and storage that Telstra has historically held to ensure that its telecommunications network – its towers and relay stations – have reliable power.
Burge said that is now being liberated to provide services to the grid. “We are now dispatching big chunks of capacity into the market. It brings down price of energy and enables larger propotion of renewables to be brought into the grid,” he said.
Burge said that with the combination of its own direct contracts, syndicated deals and standby capacity that allows more renewables into the market – this would be equivalent to its own demand.
He was particularly enthusiastic about the Sun Cable project – which is proposing the world’s biggest solar farm (10GW) and the biggest battery (22GWh) and the world’s longest cable (4,000kms) to provide power to Singapore, and possibly parts of Australia.
It is backed by billionaires Mike Cannob-Brookes and “Twiggy Forrest” and others. And although Telstra has no interest in the project, Burge said he had no doubts it would succeed.
“We are just marvelling at its greatness,” Burge said. “This idea is so good it gives me the shits I didn’t come up with it,” adding that it was such a “juicy deal” and it was targeting a market that is “so hot right now for global capital desperate for ethical investments.”