Australia: 20 MW Solar Auction receives 15 proposals

Utility scale solar in Australia may be lagging behind the strong residential rooftop and emerging commercial rooftop space, but it is continuing to develop. This was evident in the ACT Government’s announcement that it has received 15 proposals for the second stage of its Solar Auction program. The program will see 40 MW of utility scale capacity added to the grid in total, with the second stage amounting to 20 MW.

In announcing the interest in the program from photovoltaic developers, the ACT Government said that program continues to receive strong industry support. "The government has received 15 proposals from companies both in Australia and around the globe who are all keen to be involved in this innovative program," Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell said.

"The second stage of the Solar Auction will award another 20 MW of renewable energy for the Territory," said Corbell, “in addition to the 20 MW awarded in 2012." Australia’s capital city Canberra is located in the ACT.

The first stage of the Auction was awarded to Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), and construction is set begin in the latter half of this year. FRV won the bid for the project at AUD186/MWh, being chosen ahead of nine other applicants.

Meanwhile, a report has been released arguing that Australia’s one million solar households will have a positive impact on electricity prices for consumers. The report indicates that with close to 12.5% of Australian households having installed photovoltaic systems, the 2.3 GW of capacity is helping drive down peak wholesale electricity prices.

The report, Going Solar, was published by the Center for Policy Development and it pointed to the "merit order effect" as having the potential to reduce electricity prices for consumers.

The Going Solar report echoes an argument made by Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) Michael Liebreich at last week’s BNEF summit in New York. Liebreich pointed to a trend whereby energy efficiency measures and rooftop solar is seeing electricity demand trends decoupling from GDP growth for the first time.

Earlier this year BNEF produced research indicating that solar will have arrived at generation competitiveness in Australia with conventional electricity sources by 2020, at the latest.

In releasing the Going Solar report, Laura Eadie, the report’s lead author, said that solar consumers are also far more likely to reduce their electricity consumption. "Powerful interests will resist that change," said Eadie, who is the Sustainable Economy Research Director at the Centre for Policy development. The Going Solar report points out that some utilities from the state of New South Wales have resisted solar take-up, by offering feed in tariffs for solar electricity at below wholesale prices. It also notes that five retailers in the state offer solar households no tariff at all.

On the other side of the equation, the Going Solar reports holds Western Australia’s Horizon power up for praise. The utility, which supplies remote and rural parts of the vast state, offers households in areas where electricity supply is very expensive big incentives to install rooftop photovoltaics; as much as AUD0.50/kWh is offered as a solar feed in tariff in these areas.