Despite the federal government seemingly moving further away from policy aimed at reducing carbon emissions and the fact (link – Clean Energy Council) that Australia will meet its RET in 2018, two years earlier than required - renewable energy investment and project development in Australia continues to boom.
Having acted on some of the most significant renewable projects in recent years, we sat down with Roderick Smythe and Shannon Etwell to look at whether the appetite for investment in renewables is set to continue despite political volatility, understand where it is being used, and if renewable energy is now a comparable alternative to conventional energy sources.
Prior to our most recent leadership change, Australia looked to be heading toward an NEG that incorporated a move toward a low-carbon economy via a pricing mechanism. During this time KWM advised QIC on the development on the Powering Australia Renewables Fund (PARF) a first of its kind $3 billion initiative designed to drive investment in large-scale renewable projects. We have since been involved in some of PARF's largest investments including the Silverton and Coopers Gap Wind Farms.
Q: Going forward, do we see the appetite for lending and investment in renewables at levels such as this continuing in light of current political uncertainty or will it decline if more clarity is not provided?
A: KWM advised Lighthouse Solar Infrastructure on the acquisition of the 68MW Emerald Solar Park which also included Australia's first corporate renewable PPA, a long term agreement signed with Telstra. The team also advised [lenders for] Maoneng Australia on a 15 year PPA with AGL Energy for the recently commenced Sunraysia Solar Farm, one of two offtake agreements in place with regard to this asset.
Q: As more of Australia's large energy users (in the case of Telstra 1% of the nation's energy consumption) look toward renewables to offset high energy consumption and take a more carbon-neutral approach will large corporates continue to execute long term PPAs such as these?
A: A few months ago, the Clare Valley Solar Farm held the short-lived mantle of being the largest solar farm in Queensland to connect to the grid, after its acquisition by Lighthouse Infrastructure, on which KWM advised. The first large-scale solar farm to reach financial close without funding from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), it highlights the ramping up of solar projects in Queensland and across Australia. Given that it was quickly overtaken, the Clare Solar Farm is just one of many solar farms being connected in 2018. Others in which KWM have been involved include Origin's Darling Down's Solar Project, Maoneng's Sunraysia and Mugga Lane Solar Parks and the Capital Solar Farm (anymore?).