For the opening two months of the year, solar power has dominated the growth in the Australian renewable energy project pipeline. Over 80% of new capacity additions since the start of 2018 are utility scale solar, and in keeping with the recent trend, most of these are at the conceptual stage.
Figure 1: New projects added in January - February 2018
Notably, there were two new entrants to the sector. Both have solar projects under development, and both are focussed on Victoria. But the most noteworthy part is that both are joint ventures with global oil and gas majors, marking the further emergence of upstream energy companies into the local renewables market.
Total Eren is the top company for new capacity additions so far this year. The company is a joint venture between global project developer Eren Renewable Energy, and oil giant Total. Other oil and gas companies have initiated solar project development in Australia - Shell remains front of mind with its 250 MWac Delga solar project in Queensland. But what sets Total apart is both their partnership with a successful developer, which has yielded operating assets overseas, and the fact that they have a power purchase agreement (PPA) for their key Australian asset. The Kiamal solar project in Victoria has a Stage 1 capacity of 200 MWac, which has a PPA with Meridien-owned Powershop for an undisclosed amount of power. The project also has a 150 MWac Stage 2, and a 100 MWac battery storage component.
LightsourceBP emerged from major British solar developer Lightsource Renewables, which sold 43% of the company to BP in December 2017. BP has of course been involved in Australian solar before, but this time it follows Total’s strategy of engaging a successful developer with a track record of over 1 GWac of previous projects. LightsourceBP’s first project in Australia is the 50 MWac Naring solar asset, although we can expect to see more. LightsourceBP also has a strategic partnership in the UK with fund manager BlackRock, which is also active in Australia.
Figure 2: Majority owner by capacity, MWac (new additions)