26/11/2008 - 22:00

WA well placed on renewables

26/11/2008 - 22:00

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WESTERN Australia is considered the next boom state for renewable energy, according to a new report from Ernst & Young.

WA well placed on renewables

WESTERN Australia is considered the next boom state for renewable energy, according to a new report from Ernst & Young.

WA and Victoria are in pole position to attract major investment in clean technologies, with investment in renewable energy expected to reach $2.3 billion a year by 2020 to meet the federal government's target of 20 per cent, the report says.

WA has several key elements that made it the most attractive state for investment in large-scale renewable energy projects in the short-term, including excellent wind resources along the south-west coastline near population centres, a reasonably good biomass resource base, and recent commitments to invest in upgraded grid capacity.

But the report found some potential barriers to investment in WA, including a complex market structure unfamiliar to many of the major Australian renewable energy developers, and the market's relatively small size and isolation, although this is countered to some extent by its high-level of growth.

Ernst & Young partner and strategic growth markets leader, John Dobell, said WA had strong renewable energy potential, particularly in wind, biomass and solar.

"WA has a good mix of factors; great wind resources, regular strong wind speeds. Combined with predictability, you get better bang for your buck," Mr Dobell said.

"If you take an investor's view of it, that's going to drive investment to the location providing the best and most sustainable commercial return for them over time."

In addition to the mandatory renewable energy target, the solar industry is calling for the introduction of a gross national feed-in tariff to encourage investment in the sector.

A gross feed-in tariff pays a premium rate for each kilowatt produced by a designated renewable electricity grid-connected system, such as a rooftop solar photovoltaic system.

New research undertaken by Access Economics shows a gross feed-in tariff would drive investment in solar PV systems by the commercial and residential sectors of up to $17.9 billion over the next 20 years.

This would result in the deployment of almost 3,000 megawatts of solar PV capacity.

"A gross feed-in tariff is entirely complementary to a CPRS and a 20 per cent MRET, but it's important to note that currently, less than 1 per cent of the MRET comes from solar sources," Clean Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said.

Premier Colin Barnett made a pre-election commitment to introduce a gross feed-in tariff for solar PV.

A number of solar project have been slated for WA, most notably the country's first solar power station to be connected to the main grid, a $12.8 million, 1.77MW facility in Kalgoorlie.

Several other major solar projects are being investigated for feasibility.

A consortium headed by WorleyParsons is currently investigating the feasibility of developing a series of 250MW solar thermal power stations across the country, with the first expected to be located in the Pilbara.

Burrup Fertilisers managing director Pankaj Oswal is understood to be behind plans for a $1 billion, 100MW solar power plant in the Pilbara.

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