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REGIONS ASIA-PACIFIC


AFAR-SIGHTED ENERGY STRATEGYWOULD INVOLVE FUTURE-PROOFING THEAUSTRALIAN ECONOMYFROMDEPENDENCEONFOSSIL FUELS


Australiaambivalent onrenewables A


DESPITE RICH RENEWABLES POTENTIAL, AUSTRALIA APPEARS TO FAVOUR ITS TRADITIONAL SOURCES, SETH O’FARRELL WRITES


ustralia has caught the eye of many renewable energy com- panies over the past few


years, as its weather conditions and expansive, non-urbanised areas have offered fertile ground for solar and wind development projects. Renewable sources contributed 21% of total electricity generation in


2019, an increase of 12% from the previous year and surpassing the government target of 20%, according to national investment promo- tion agency Austrade.


Project pipeline Spanish energy giant Iberdrola is now poised to take over Australian renewable energy com- pany Infigen; construction has started on sev- eral large-scale energy projects, such as the Asian Renewable Energy Hub and Tennant Creek solar farm;and theNewSouthWales gov- ernment has set out plans to establishthe coun- try’s first renewable energy zone. In May, EY’s Renewable Energy Country


Attractiveness Index ranked Australia as the fourth most investment attractive destination in the world. Yet beneath some of these broad strokes of


optimism, project numbers are starting to slow down and since the country’s pro-coal govern- ment has not updated its renewable energy tar- get, the renewable energy buzzmay flatline. A tale of two Australias emerges. On the one


hand, this is a country that has attracted billions of dollars worth of investment in solar, wind, lithiumbatteriesandhydrogen;onthe other,the disconnect between federal and state govern- mentsresults in conflicting policies surrounding the transition to clean energy. Meanwhile, an overcrowdedelectricity grid has drawninvestors’ attention to the possibility of exporting renewa- ble energy capacity elsewhere in the region.


54


Different approaches Peter Kiernan, lead energy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), expects that beyond 2020 there will be “no further push” towards renewable energy at the federal level, despite considerable policy support for renewa- bles in states with conservative governments, such as South Australia. Mr Kiernan attributes the boost of renewa-


ble investment in 2017-18 to the government’s renewable energy target and, as this looked likely to be reached, investment fell to $5.6bn in 2019, from$9.3bn the previous year, according to Bloomberg NewEnergy Finance. Greenfield investmentmonitor fDi Markets


recorded eight project announcements so far this year, compared to 21 in 2019, 25 in 2018 and 25 in 2017. One of these was Acciona’s $1.1bn MacIntyre Wind Farm in Queensland, which is due to commence operations in 2024. Renewable energy generation does not


seem to have lost its appeal entirely, however. As of June 2020, there has been a total of 173 gigawatts (GW) proposed, in construction and in operation in the pipeline, according to Rystad Energy, compared to 144GW at the beginning of 2020 and 88.5GW at the begin- ning of 2019. Within that, France’s Neoen and Germany’s


WIRSOL are the largest solar developers, while Infigen and China’s Goldwind feature as the most prominent wind developers.


Grid challenges According to David Dixon, senior analyst at Rystad Energy, there is considerably more capacity being proposed than can fit on the country’s electricity grids. For instance, the Central West grid has capacity to connect an additional 100 megawatts, while new approved project total almost 3GW. “It’s just an order of magnitude difference,” he adds.


www.fDiIntelligence.com August/September 2020


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