This may be as good as it gets for Australian wind energy

May 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

This may be as good as it gets for Australian wind energy

New data released on Monday suggests that Australia in the month of April reached its record level of output for wind energy  —  4.6% of total generation from the national electricity market.

That is a fine and welcome achievement, albeit modest in the global context, and follows a two-year period where the share of black coal generation has also reached record lows — with the added benefit of lower emissions, lower wholesale electricity prices, and more jobs.

But for Australia, this may be about as good as it gets for wind energy in the foreseeable future. A few projects being completed this year might take the total output from Australian wind farms close to 5% of total generation, but on current settings it will be unlikely to get much further.

Policy uncertainty — around the carbon price and the renewable energy target — has effectively brought the development of the Australian wind industry to a halt, and the Abbott government might extend that hiatus for another few years, depending on the outcome of the renewable energy policy review. If, and when, the policy levers or the market conditions change, then large scale solar is likely to displace much of the wind capacity currently in the pipeline.

Right now, there is little optimism in the industry for any positive policy levers to be left in place by the current government. Treasurer Joe Hockey last week caused consternation over his comments that wind turbines near Canberra were “utterly offensive”. This followed Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments last November that those same turbines were “growing like mushrooms”, and were expensive and unreliable.

Abbott’s office, advised by wind-hating business types such as Maurice Newman, is taking charge of the current review of the renewable energy target, appointing yet another climate science skeptic in Dick Warburton, who has said he believes nuclear is the only valid alternative to coal, as its chief.

It all appears to be a massive blow to the ambitions of many international and local wind farm developers. Right now, the biggest project under development is the part-completed 270MW Snowtown 2 project in South Australia. A few wind farms are under construction in NSW — all financed pre-2013 — while Pacific Hydro received funding  from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for a 47MW addition to its Portland project.

The 200MW of wind energy to help meet the ACT government’s ambitious 90% renewable energy target, might be the only other new wind farms added to the market over the next four to five years, apart from an extension to Pacific

New Zealand company TrustPower, which is building Snowtown 2, has another seven wind farms ready to go in Australia, but indicated last month to analysts that few, if any, had a chance to be developed if the RET was severely diluted. A cut in the fixed target from 41,000GWh to 27,000GWh, a widely tipped outcome, could mean that only two of these wind farms will be cost efficient enough to be built by 2019.

Little wonder that industry insiders say staff are either looking for opportunities overseas, or in different technologies.”

RES Australia, a subsidiary of UK-based RES Group, said a $450 million wind farm ready to build — and with strong community and council support — in Victoria, would not go ahead if the RET was changed. RES Australia development manager Daniel Leahy said in a statement on Monday:

We are concerned that the government may be considering a reduction of the RET on a false premise it will save consumers money — when in reality, cutting the RET will demonstrably increase our energy bills in the long term.”

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  1. Just as large scale wind projects are being cruelled by the deranged right* and their fellow travellers in the Abbott govt, so small scale renewables are set to suffer the same fate. (*Deranged right – people of a conservative political persuasion who refuse to believe scientific truths even when the evidence is staring them in the face and at the risk of the well being of themselves and their children.)

    However, small scale renewables (mostly solar pv) have a trump card yet to play.

    Solar pv systems are owned by a million plus ordinary Australians who have forked out billions of their own hard earned but who are yet to organise themselves so that they can exercise the political clout that such numbers warrant.

    Solar Citizens is hoping to be that trump card to counter balance the lobbying power of the big dirty end of town and the deranged right currently occupying the highest offices in the country.

    Solar Citizens planned public meeting for June this year provide the opportunity for solar owners and supporters to get together and get organised.

    Check it out at

    by Sir Leigh Curmudgeon on May 7, 2014 at 1:40 pm

  2. Yeah, why would we ever want our power source for free FOREVER when we can pay to have it dug up out of our soil until it runs out?

    Are wind turbines and solar panels are more of a blight on the landscape than open cut coal mines and coal fired power stations?

    by Stuart Coyle on May 7, 2014 at 3:49 pm

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