If electricity consumers were not already being squeezed by the closure of Victoria’s coal burning Hazelwood power station, an extraordinary lack of wind in the past few months has certainly compounded the problem.
The large wind-focussed generator, Infigen Energy has been forced to downgrade its full-year profit forecast due to what it says has been the least windy period it has endured put its current capacity together in 2012.
“Production for the 4th quarter is expected to be … approximately 40 per cent below the previous corresponding period and 30 per cent below the historical 4th quarter average,” it told investors in a statement to the ASX.
“The current quarter is expected to include two of the lowest production months for Infigen’s current Australian operating assets.”
Infigen’s 4th quarter started on April 1, a few days after Hazelwood closed.
Principal at energy consultants ITK, David Leitch says he is not surprised given the recent weather pattern on the east coast.
“Unfortunately, it has played a part in the recent spike in wholesale power prices,” Mr Leitch said.
“Prices are currently around $90 per kilowatt hour (kwh) when they would be typically be around $75kwh,” Mr Leitch observed.
With wind power operating well below its capacity, more expensive open cycle gas has been setting the prices in times of shortage on the east coast and South Australia.
Infigen noted some of its lower production would be offset by higher prices, particularly in South Australia, and from large-scale energy certificates.
Overall, Infigen said its full-year pre-tax earnings would be down around $10 million – or 7 per cent – from the $147 million guidance it gave in April when the doldrums set in.
Longer-term power prices are falling
Infigen said its guidance was given on the basis of past production and analysis of weather forecasts.
“Infigen had expected its east coast wind farms to benefit from weather patterns that typically result in high wind speeds and solid production in the second half of June,” the company said.
“These customary seasonal weather patterns have passed to the south of mainland Australia, resulting in below average wind conditions at Infigen’s wind farms in South Australia and New South Wales.”
Mr Leitch says longer term, a lot of new renewable energy capacity would come on line, with futures pricing pointing to easing of prices in coming years.
“The downtrend is now firmly established and prices in the out years are significantly lower than in 2018, particularly in Victoria, Mr Leitch says.
Infigen owns 557 megawatts of generation capacity in wind farms in New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, or roughly a third of what was Hazelwood’s 1600 MW capacity.
Investors didn’t take the profit downgrade kindly with Infigen shares down 4.5 per cent to 74.5 cents per share at the close of trade.
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