20/11/2015 - 13:14

Headwinds buffet power hopefuls

20/11/2015 - 13:14

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Having invested million of dollars over many years in an uncertain regulatory environment, Western Australian private power station developers are now facing further delays due to proposed changes to the electricity market.

Headwinds buffet power hopefuls
POWER PLANT: Up to four wind power stations are understood to be under development in WA.

Having invested million of dollars over many years in an uncertain regulatory environment, Western Australian private power station developers are now facing further delays due to proposed changes to the electricity market.

Business News understands eight power stations seeking connection to the electricity network are currently under assessment – four wind projects, two solar, one biomass and one diesel-fired peaking plant.

One developer (wishing to remain anonymous) told Business News it had invested $1 million since applying to Western Power to join the grid more than four years ago, and was growing increasingly frustrated with delays.

Among the renewable energy proponents are: WestGen, which is developing separate solar and biomass projects in the state’s south; Moonies Hill Energy, which is developing the second stage of its Flat Rocks wind farm near Kojonup; and New-Zealand based Trustpower, which recently bought the Waddi wind farm development site near Dandaragan, about 170 kilometres north of Perth, from Wind Prospect for an undisclosed amount.

It’s believed the other solar developer is Greenough River Solar Farm, which is seeking an expansion of what is currently WA’s only utility scale solar farm.

The company declined to comment for this story.

Infigen Energy, which owns the 89-megawatt wind farm, known variously as the Alinta (its offtaker) or Walkaway wind farm, near Geraldton, told Business News while it was interested in expanding this asset, it was not currently being assessed as one of the eight developments.

It’s understood the eight projects under consideration could add about 500MW of power to WA’s electricity industry, with the majority of the projects offering state-owned Synergy the opportunity to meet its federally mandated large-scale renewable generation obligations from 2018.

Synergy recently put out expressions of interest to procure a total of 500,000 renewable generation certificates (equivalent to 500,000MWh) per annum from 2018.

These certificates do not necessarily have to come from renewable energy power stations within WA, but it’s expected there would be a backlash from the local renewable energy industry if Synergy turned to providers from outside WA.

Western Power, which runs the Competing Applications Group process, known as CAG, for power station developers wishing to join the grid said it understood that some customers were frustrated with the time being taking to carry out the process.

Western Power executive manager corporate services Simon Walsh said the state-owned operator of WA’s electricity network had a responsibility to ensure proposed connections to the grid were safe, reliable, and maintained the security of the state’s electricity supply.

He said the current review of WA’s electricity market, in particular transferring the management of the electricity system to the national body the Australian Energy Market Operator, while positive, meant Western Power was reassessing the impact this would have on bringing new power stations online.

He said whether a project used renewable energy or not was not a factor in determining if it was allowed to connect to the grid.

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