May 10, 2017

Foreign owners dominate Australian wind farm developments

Graham Lloyd | The Australian | May 11, 2017 |

Foreign companies dominate ownership of Australia’s wind farm developments, taking an ­estimated $1.7 billion a year in ­renewable energy subsidies ­offshore.

Sixty per cent of existing wind farms are owned by foreign firms.

This will increase to 69 per cent when four projects now in development are complete.

And it will rise further still when the nation’s biggest wind farm development, Stockyard Hill in Victoria, is built.

The sale by Origin Energy of the Stockyard Hill wind farm project to Chinese company Goldwind Energy this week has put the spotlight on the shift to foreign ownership in Australia’s biggest renewable energy industry.

Origin has agreed to sell the project to Goldwind for $110 million and a guarantee to purchase all of the electricity and renewable energy certificates it generates for less than $60 a megawatt hour.

The sale is still dependent on Goldwind getting changes to the project’s planning approvals but if it goes ahead it will mean that Australia’s four largest wind farms will be foreign owned.

Much of Australia’s coal fired power infrastructure is also in foreign hands.

But Scott Morrison blocked the sale of electricity distribution company Ausgrid to Chinese interests on national security grounds.

An international analysis of Australia’s wind farm developments shows that there are currently 55 wind farms operating around the nation.

Each megawatt hour of ­energy generated by a wind farm receives a large scale generation certificate from the federal government.

Existing payments to foreign owners of Australian wind farm assets are estimated at $1.7bn a year. Foreign companies are from China, Spain, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand, Indonesia, Canada, Britain, France and Thailand.

The fact that more than 60 per cent of Australia’s wind farms were foreign owned was politically important given the rejection of Chinese conglomerate Cheung Kong Infrastructure’s bid for Ausgrid, Australian Power Project chief executive Nathan Vass, said.

“It would appear Canberra has been asleep at the wheel in allowing foreign owned companies to buy up Australian wind farms and take billions in renewables subsidies offshore,” Mr Vass said.

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