Interesting news item on this morning’s Saturday Extra with Geraldine Doogue about 18 new large scale renewable projects that are about to get underway (being finalised or are in the pipeline) in north Queensland. According to John Grimes Chief Executive, Australian Solar Council these projects will involve over 2700 jobs of which many will be ongoing. An exciting part of this morning’s conversation was the quoted cost of $40-60/MWh for generating electricity from these projects. This is getting very close to the marginal cost of generating power from an existing coal station which is less than $40/MWh. And remember, that the cost of generation from these renewable renewables includes the build costs whereas, the generation cost from coal is a marginal cost (the build costs have already been recovered).
Whilst the debate about the cost of different energy generation technologies is interesting and the fact that the cost of power generation from renewables continues to plummet, it is the opportunity it creates for community energy projects thats really exciting. The technological advances, cost reductions, and learning from large scale projects such as the ones in QLD will have beneficial ramifications for small-to-mid scale community energy projects. Simply, community energy projects will become more feasible and in doing so provide many benefits – social, environmental, and financial.
In Gippsland, there are many communities that have expressed an apetite to undertake their own energy project, with the Mirboo North Community Energy Hub (MNCEH) being one such group. The MNCEH has recently completed a feasibilty study into several community energy projects. During the investigation, access and connection to the network (grid) was found to be a large impediment to installing mid-scale projects. Many of the transmission lines and grid infrastructure around the Mirboo North region cannot accommodate mid-scale (>1.5 MW) without significant investment. In Queensland, Rachel Watson, General Manager, Australia, Pacific Hydro said there is commitment by the state government to improving the facilitation that’s needed for network connections. $150M has been allocated to improve the grid infrastructure so that these new large-scale renewable projects can connect to the grid and send power to where it is needed. Is this an opportunity for the Victorian government?
Whilst the recent commitment of Victoria’s Renewable Energy Targets of 20% by 2020, and 40% by 2025 is encouraging, let’s hope we also can get some immediate action on improving the access to our network. If, like in Queensland, we can make connecting to the grid easier for mid-large scale energy projects think of the possiblities it will create for regional communities.
Until next time, cheers.