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Zen Energy gets retail licence to launch “baseload” renewable product

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solar_storage_battery_620x448_310_224South Australia based Zen Energy has obtained its electricity retailer licence that it will allow it offer what it has described as a “baseload renewable energy” product to big energy users, as well as proceed with the massive 1GW solar and storage facility at the Whyalla Steelworks.

Zen is now majority owned by the new owners of the Whyalla Steelworks, Liberty OneSteel, and will be used as the vehicle to push ahead with the bold plans to install 1GW of solar, pumped hydro and battery storage that it expects will slash the costs of power to the facility by around 40 per cent.

The retail licence will also allow what is now known as SIMEC Zen to sign up other  business users, who will be key to the second stage of the project, which will involve some 480MW of large scale solar.

Zen’s emergence as a potential major player – with strong financial backing and investments in large scale renewables and storage – mean that business customers will likely get easier options to source renewable power.

Newcrest this week revealed it had abandoned – at least for the next 5 years – plans to build a major solar farm to help power its Cadia gold mine in NSW, because it was given a small reduction in the cost of coal power by EnergyAustralia.

Industry observers say it highlights the difficulty in signing a contract for a renewable energy source and then seeking to make up the difference with conventional power. Zen Energy hopes its storage facilities will enable it to circumvent that problem.

Zen’s retail licence is for all states in the National Electricity market except Victoria, which means it can take its product to big energy users in those states, including NSW, where it intends to use renewables to power the bulk of its needs for its electric arc furnaces.

In its licence application, Zen Energy said it concentrate only on the business market, targeting users with demand of more than 160MWh per annum.

It applied for the retail electricity licence a day before the purchase of a majority stake by Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance was announced.

It said following the announcement that SIMEC ZEN Energy would project-manage the development of  new large-scale energy projects, including solar PV, battery storage and pumped hydro facilities.

Ross Garnaut, the former chairman of Zen Energy and now a minority shareholder, said in Septeber that Zen had spent years looking to introduce new solutions to Australia’s energy problems of weak competition, high costs, low reliability and unnecessary pollution.

“We’re happy for the skeptics to watch what we do, and learn what is possible,” he said in an interview on  ABC TV.

   

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  • Joe

    …”baseload renewable energy” product …making the steel from Solar power….oooooooh these are gunna inflict some pain upon the ‘Coaler Champions’ in The COALition. But then again we know that ‘Baseload Coal & Gas’ is a myth when they clapped out in the February heatwave and the blackouts were so very close. I’m with Ross Garnaut, let the skeptics watch and feel the pain!

    • Hettie

      But Joe, isn’t baseload the power the fossils produce overnight rather than power down? The reason for off peak overnight water heating?
      As coal is phased out, and renewables are phased in, why not phase water heating from overnight to midday. By adjusting the timing of all units to have some overnight, but increasing daytime heating.
      I don’t understand why, if overnight water heating is so good at mopping up excess fossil power, midday water heating would not be equally effective at mopping up excess solar power.
      Or am I being simple minded?

      • Craig Allen

        Ideally water heating would be dynamic — mopping up wind at night if there is surplus, solar when there is surplus, and intelligently factoring in weather forecasts. This will require new internet connected controls to be installed on hot water systems, possibly being brought in progressively as old systems are replaced.

        • Hettie

          But but but every new solar system involves modifications to the meter. Is that not the time to install smart controls for electric storage water heaters?? And not all water heaters are electric, or indeed storage. Instantaneous gas has its advantages, although banking excess solar power is not one of them.
          Not enough knowledge to speculate on the possibility, feasibility, economics of converting to electric storage….
          Perhaps someone who knows about such things might share.
          My first thought is that a changeover would cost rather less than a battery, but then I haven’t costed water heaters recently.

          • Peter F

            A grid controlled 400L resistance heating hot water service with a mixing valve would cost about $2,000 all up and store a useful 20 kWhr and effectively 3-4 days of hot water usage. i.e. it costs about 1/8th of the cost of a battery per kWhr stored.

          • Hettie

            thank you Peter for a clear and concise answer.
            400 litres of hot water is great for a family, but there are huge numbers of one person households like mine where nearly all that heat energy would be lost unless some means were found to use it. Perhaps not an issue in winter, but in summer, what to do?

          • Peter F

            Then in smaller households you can put in a smaller HWS. You can also put an inline heat exchanger is ducted heating systems and in winter syphon off some of the heat for space heating. In a new house or major renovation a hydronic heating system with storage would be worth considering

          • brucelee

            Ice batteries

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            True, but for those who don’t have the money to install, solar panels and batteries, getting solar power, from the solar power plant, with a smart meter, remains a cheap enough option.

      • Joe

        Young Hettie, you’ve nailed it again. Simple minded…no…I call it common sense.

      • Ian

        Either way, soaking up spilled solar or O/P generation, a transition to renewable heat, with hot water heat pumps- will create just a fraction of the load of even solar hot water backup and of course can work shade or night and down to minus 20.

        I noticed the other day that the Sanden HP has upgraded its COP to 5.

        • Hettie

          Wot?
          I have no idea what you mean.

          • neroden

            Ah. I’ll explain heat pumps.

            Instead of just using an old-fashioned “resistance” electrical heater, a heat pump is a reversable airconditioner, used to *heat*. You can use it to heat hot water, pumping heat from the air into the water.

            The amazing thing is this: electrical resistance heat converts 100% of electrical energy into heat. But a heat pump can take 1 unit of electrical energy and use it to move *more* than one unit of heat. COP, or Coefficient of Power, tells you how much more.

            For 1 unit of electrical energy, COP 5 means that the heat pump can put *5 units of heat energy* into the water.

            This is a pretty big deal. If you replace an old-fashioned electric water heater with a COP 5 heat pump, you cut your energy use to 1/5 (20%) of what you were using before.

            (They’re not magic: the COP drops when it’s really cold outside. They move heat from the outside air, so they don’t work as well when there’s very little heat outside. This is not really a problem anywhere in Australia, but is a problem in Canada.)

          • neroden

            For information, I have hot water heating in my house and I’m replacing the gas boiler with a heat pump.

            I’m not replacing my domestic hot water (tap water) with a heat pump because I honestly don’t use it very often (we don’t take hot showers) so I’m putting in on-demand heating instead (why heat up a tank so that it can get cold again later?)

          • Hettie

            Ah. Thank you. Same principle as rc air con. Because of the high efficiency, not as good for mopping up excess power as direct heating and big tanks… And having read the second of your comments, I was for a moment baffled by the differentiation between domestic hot water and water heating. But now I have it. Hydronic heating for the house, domestic hot water for ablutions, laundry etc.
            And I quite agree about the foolishness of heating vast volumes of water, only to let it cool down. Easpecially as washing machines and dishwashers heat their own water. Here in Aus, most people shower at least once a day, many twice.
            As the shower is about my only hot water use, in a one person household, an instantaneous system set to 42 C is clearly the best system. Gas bill in summer is about $8 per month. No point spending on a new system.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            I found when I had gas, the service charges, were much greater than the usage fees, about 4 times as much, wished I didn’t have gas, back then.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf

            Well it might be a problem, in some parts of Tasmania, in some parts of the year, a simple back up resistance heater, would suffice for those times, whilst saving power 87% of the time.

    • solarguy

      It’s they pain they have to have for being greedy and stupid. Plus, being bad corporate citizens.

  • Steve159

    Seems to be an ideal marketing opportunity for Greens / Labor in the lead up to the next election: LNP Whyalla wipeout scaremungering “you can’t run a steel works on renewables” then switch to scenes of the Whyalla’s fully renewable energy powered installation..

    Voice over “don’t trust these fools with your energy”, or similar

    • neroden

      When designing that ad, best to have a short video quote from the head of Whyalla saying “We are going to run this steel works entirely with renewables”.

      Actually, this is a simple enough ad any individual could assemble it with public footage of the LNP and a quick interview with a Whyalla representative. DO suggest it to your local party… it’s an ad you can make on a shoestring.

  • Jon

    There is a big/easy way of storing energy/demand management as Hettie and others have pointed out.
    Qld has hassle Ripple Control of off peak for years, a ripple signal is transmitted down the power line to turn off peak meters as the power company sees fit.
    If all electric powered HWS and pool pumps were installed on ripple controlled off peak the power companies could easily shift the off peak around as required and still meet the contracted 8 hours a day of off peak supply.
    I don’t know what other states have but adopting technologies like this has to be cheaper than batteries to cover off some of the generation/consumption imbalances over a 24 hour period.