Australia Joins India with Delays in RE Projects

If you thought India was the only place hit by extended delays and potential cancellations, think again. Australia, which has had a stop-start relationship of its own with renewable energy, especially utility scale solar and wind, has fallen into the same trap. Of course, there, more than just policy, it has been issues related to infrastructure, especially the transmission network that has caused some of the biggest problems.

From Delays in construction and completion of projects, to delays caused by c extended time taken for commissioning and testing of projects after they’ve been synced to the grid, to curtailment of output due to issues around grid stability- developers in Australia are going through the whole litany of issues that Indian developers are only too familiar with by now.

But by far the biggest issue, grid congestion, is beginning to threaten some of the biggest projects given out for construction recently. With industry still looking for a clear policy direction at a federal level, with states having failed to do enough to settle nerves, it does loo like there is a prolonged period of volatility in the future, yet again.

In states like ‘sunshine’ state Queensland, the ramp up might have been too rapid for the sector’s own good. In Queensland, in just under four years the installed capacity for grid-scale solar in the state has grown from close to nothing to just under 2GW. On top of that, the growth of rooftop solar in the state is also having a sizeable impact on operational demand with middle-of-the-day demand between FY19 to FY20 dropping by up to 300 MW. Australia’s vast size and low population has encouraged it government to push for rooftop solar with storage as an option, as establishing central transmission grids, and maintaining them can prove to be a more expensive option in many regions.

The Australian Energy Market Operator, (AEMO) in its plan for the country has laid out expectations for  distributed energy resources (DER) to double or triple, providing 13-22% of total underlying annual energy consumption; more than 26GW of new variable renewable energy (solar and wind) to replace coal-fired generation, with 63% of coal-fired generation set to retire, and; a surge in “dispatchable resources” between 6-19GW to back up renewables, in the form of pumped hydro, fast-start gas-fired generation, battery storage, demand response and aggregated DER participating as virtual power plants. While it looks good, clearly the situation on the ground is not as simple.

Region experts estimate that projects have faced curtailments of  an order of over 500 MWh equivalent so far, and the system is not even close to stability yet. With a deep pipeline of new projects coming up, the ‘lucky’ country faces a tough task to ensure it doesn’t prove unlucky  for the many solar developers it has attracted recently.

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