A renewable energy company planning to build a wind farm on the Northern Tablelands says only projects that already have planning approval are likely to proceed, under a reduced Renewable Energy Target.
The Chief Operating Officer at One Wind Australia, the company behind the Glen Innes Wind Farm, said the RET agreed to by the Federal Government and Opposition will not foster the development of new renewable energy projects.
The agreement follows 14 months of uncertainty and several reviews of the Target, previously 41,000 gigawatt hours.
Paul Stangroom said there are already enough wind projects with planning approval to meet the target of 33,000 gigawatt hours by 2020.
“What we’re going to see is projects that are ready to build in the next 12 months, those are the projects that are going to be built and those are the projects that are probably going to use up most of the 33,000 target that remains,” he said.
“By our calculations 33,000 gigawatt hours means the country needs somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 megawatts of initial capacity to be put in place and there’s roughly that amount of wind power ready to go, as far as we can work out.”
Mr Stangroom said the Glen Innes Wind Farm will proceed to construction soon.
“What we’ll see is that those projects that are already developed, those projects that already have planning approval, those are the projects that we’ll see going into construction,” he said.
“What I think the number will do is prevent any new green field developments, and it will also make projects in the solar industry struggle that little bit more.”
Country Manager for Fotowatio Renewable Ventures Andrea Fontana said construction of the Moree Solar Farm will continue.
But he said the solar industry will not fare as well as the wind industry, as solar is more expensive to build than wind.
“Wind is currently the cheapest renewable technology and with a lower target level emerging technology such as solar would not get an opportunity to emerge,” Mr Fontana said.
Mr Fontana said another factor that will limit the viability of solar projects is the inclusion of native forest waste in the RET.
“We have been surprised by the attempts of the Government to include the native forest wood waste in the RET, we think that this will only serve to reduce the Target further and there will be no environmental or consumer benefit,” he said.
“That will enhance the uncertainty that has been going on for the last four years so we’d definitely recommend to not have that included in the RET.”
Both the wind and solar industries have raised concerns with the ongoing two-yearly reviews of the Target, with the next review set down for 2016.
Andrea Fontana from Fotowatio Renewable Ventures said the Target should not be reviewed again until 2020.
He said it’s difficult for the industry to make long-term plans when the target is not locked in for any longer than two years.
“Considering that we are now in 2015 and the scheme is set up to go until 2020, one suggestion would be that there be no other reviews until 2020,” Mr Fontana said.
“That would allow the industry to forecast and plan until that date.”
Paul Stangroom from One Wind Australia said the review timeframe is not necessarily a bad thing.
He said reviews will be conducted by the Climate Change Authority, a group that has traditionally recommended keeping the target at a higher level.
“On one hand the Climate Change Authority is supportive and the reviews they provide have traditionally been very good for us and don’t indicate that any changes would be required,” he said.
“That said, in any renewable industry globally, whenever there’s a review or a requirement for the Target to be checked we always see a slow down in investment.
“Investors are very shy, particularly where we’ve had an industry on hold for so long.”
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