Off-grid Hybrid Solar: Market Overview, Business Case & Technical Considerations

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1 Off-grid Hybrid Solar: Market Overview, Business Case & Technical Considerations Craig Chambers AECOM Australia Pty Ltd of 420 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia Keywords : Solar PV, sustainability, business case, hybrid, remote, feasibility With the recent introduction of Australian Renewable Energy Agency s (ARENA) $400m Regional Australia s Renewables (RAR) Program targeted 150MW of installed off-grid and fringe-of-grid renewables over the next five years AECOM has recently completed a page remote renewable market study for the Australian Trade Commission with the support of the Department of Industry, ARENA and CEFC. AECOM is also currently supporting the feasibility and design integration of solar into a variety of remote community and mining applications. Figure 2 Map of Off Grid Market (Source: AECOM) Australia s off-grid market for off-grid and fringe-of-grid renewable generation is a newly emerging clean energy market which has a high potential for growth. The ARENA grant funding is aimed toward two primary sectors in the off-grid clean energy market: - Communities sector, supported via the Network Service Providers (NSP) who currently operate off-grid interconnected systems with renewable project opportunities between 100kW and 1MW; and - Industrial and mining sector, supporting demonstration projects greater than 1MW with an aim to prove the potential and value proposition of renewables in this sector including two or more projects greater than 251

2 10MW in scale. Figure 1 Overview of Off-grid Market Split Australia s Electricity Markets Australia s main electricity markets comprise of the National Electricity Market (NEM) and South West Interconnected System (SWIS). The NEM is the world s longest interconnected power system with an end-to-end distance of more than 4,000 kilometres and services over 9 million consumers across Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia. The SWIS supplies power to 2 million consumers and spans the area surrounding Perth in southern Western Australia. The main source of electricity generation in the SWIS and NEM is through centralised plant fuelled by coal followed by natural gas. Figure 2 Existing off-grid generation (Source: AECOM) 252

3 With AUD $4.2 billion invested in renewable and energy smart technologies in 2012 in Australia, the renewable industry currently employs approximately 24,300 people. The Clean Energy Council has estimated that over 13 per cent of Australia s electricity generation was produced by renewable sources in Energy Market Overview Only 2 per cent of Australia s population live in the off-grid electricity market, which currently consumes over 6 per cent of the country s total electricity demand. The off-grid electricity market sources 74 per cent of its energy from natural gas and the remainder mostly from diesel fuel. It is the most costly supplied electricity yet however, the lowest average emission intensity of all of Australia s electricity markets even though only 1 per cent of electricity is currently generated from renewable sources. Figure 3 Australia s electricity markets overview (Source: AECOM, AEMO, IMO, Department of Climate Change and BREE) Electricity Markets Capacity Consumption Emissions GW Share TWh Share CO2- e/mwh NEM % % 0.93 SWIS (WA) 5.5 9% % 0.82 Off- grid Mining Market 3.9 6% 12.4* 5% Off- grid Community Market 1.0 2% 3.4* 1% * Excludes NSW, ACT, VIC and external territories of Australia for confidentiality reasons 0.61 It is estimated that 15,812 GWh of electricity was produced by off-grid generation in Australia in 2012 from a total installed capacity of approximately 5GW (BREE 2013). Off-grid energy consumers include agricultural processing facilities, outstations, off-grid mines, small communities, and off-grid infrastructure such as telecommunication and desalination facilities and are currently supplied electricity from both off-grid interconnected systems and islanded power stations. Off-grid Electricity Market The off-grid industrial sector consumes approximately 12.4TWh per annum or 79 per cent of the total off-grid electricity produced, of which the majority is consumed by the mining industry. As of April 2013, there were 73 mining projects in Australia at a committed stage, including nine with a positive Financial Investment Decision and 174 projects at the Feasibility Stage with a combined value of AUD $268 billion capital expenditure required over their lifetime (BREE, 2013). There has been a recent trend toward higher energy intensity which has risen at an average 2.3 per cent rate per annum between 1990 and 2010 and increasing electricity demand growth associated with rising use of energy for mining exploration activity and the need to exploit deeper and lower grade ores. Australia s mining industry is currently facing rising production costs, global competition and increasing pressure from 253

4 regulators to improve environmental performance which is now motivating many mining companies to focus more on managing operational energy costs. Renewables particularly in off-grid mining and industrial applications is a viable means of providing not only fuel savings but also energy security. The off-grid community energy sector is currently supplied primarily through state and territory owned NSP s such as Horizon Power (WA), Ergon Energy (QLD), Power Water Corporation (NT). The Northern Territory has the largest off-grid community electricity demand, accounting for 59 per cent of Australia s off-grid community electricity consumption (excluding NSW, VIC, ACT and external territories due to confidentiality). Off-grid communities are supplied power through a combination of liquid fuel, gas and hybrid renewable plant on reduced tariffs subsidised through Community Service Obligations and consume approximately 3.4TWh per annum or 21 per cent of the total offgrid electricity demand. Network Service Providers who operate and maintain these off-grid interconnected systems or isolated power plants are likely to seek to minimise the current high costs to supply power to off-grid communities. Renewable energy is commonly understood to be part of the solution. Figure 4 Existing off-grid generation by fuel type (Source: AECOM and BREE) 6,000 5,000 4,000 MWs 3,000 2,000 1,000 - South Australia Queensland Northern Territory Western Australia Total Renewables Liquid Fuels ,222 Natural Gas ,410 3,614 The Business Case Australia is a stable country for investment having experienced over 20 years of uninterrupted economic growth. Australia is currently experiencing continued prosperity despite recent difficult global economic circumstances, driven primarily by its resource rich foundations helping underpin domestic growth, well developed services sector and its proximity to expanding Asian growth markets. 254

5 Figure 5 Historical comparison of electricity generation cost from solar PV and diesel (Source: AECOM) The viability of exploring renewables as a future fuel security and price off-set option has now become a more attractive proposition in off-grid Australia. The modular nature of many renewable technologies (such as wind and solar photovoltaics) and the recent expansion of these industries with associated reductions in cost, means new opportunities are emerging for developing offgrid clean electricity supplies. Currently there is over 1.2GW of diesel generation capacity installed in off-grid Australia which supplies electricity to mines and communities at a cost of $220/MWh to over $300/MWh in fuel and carbon price only (excluding capital costs). These costs are expected to rise over time and are vulnerable to price shock events or supply chain interruptions in international markets. All sites will have different characteristics. In particular, the case for renewable hybrid systems depends upon the delivered cost of diesel fuel at your sites the higher the cost of fuel or greater the energy intensity, the more savings can be gained by integrating renewable energy. There currently is a strong business case for fuel off-setting through hybridising mature renewable technologies with existing off-grid generation systems such as liquid fuels or gas. It is currently cheaper to source electricity from a hybridised solar photovoltaic-diesel or wind turbine-diesel system than with existing diesel-fired generation alone in many off-grid regions of Australia. In the medium to longer term, volatility is expected in Australia s domestic gas markets as local producers are induced to service the Asian market demands through export LNG. This will likely further strengthen the viability of integrating renewables particularly as further technology cost reductions are expected and energy storage devices evolve. 255

6 Estimated Market Size AECOM has estimated the market size potential for integrating renewables into Australia s existing off-grid electricity market through a forecasted high and low penetration potential. The establishment of ARENA s RAR and other Government support programs were taken into consideration in addition to future renewable technology development which will further enable uptake. The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics Australian Technology Energy Assessment developed in 2012, assumed that solar photovoltaics and on-shore wind are expected to continue to have the lowest levelised cost of electricity of all of the renewable options up to 2030 in Australia. Of note are the costs of solar photovoltaic technologies, which have dropped dramatically in recent years as a result of a rapid increase in global production of photovoltaic modules. The ability of wind and solar to integrate into existing off-grid power stations will likely result in these technologies obtaining the majority of the future off-grid clean energy market share. In the short to medium term, it is forecasted that hybridising renewables will begin at a low penetration in remote regions of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland with up to a possible 213 MW or approximately AUD $600 million in capital value of project opportunities available. As confidence and demand for more remote energy grows and technology costs fall and develop over time, there may be a higher penetration potential and an additional 854 MW or a total of over 1 GW of additional installed off-grid renewables, at a capital value of approximately AUD $2 billion, may be available. Conclusion The largely untapped off-grid clean energy market and funding support available from the Australian Government, creates an attractive opportunity for overseas companies to enter at the start of this emerging market, in the areas such as: - Renewable hybridised generation systems which represent the greatest potential area for investment particularly when associated with existing diesel-fired power plants; - Industrial/Mining growth regions of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory; - Community growth regions where aggregation of smaller projects particularly in growing mining towns such as Roxby Downs (SA), Weipa (Qld), in addition to Karratha, Newman and the greater Pilbara which have shown significant electricity demand growth as a result of fly-in-fly-out and permanent population expansion in recent years. - Off-grid interconnected systems such as the North West Interconnected Systems (NWIS) in Western Australia operated by 256

7 Horizon Energy, Darwin to Katherine System in the Northern Territory operated by Power and Water Corporation and, Mount Isa Grid in Queensland operated by Ergon Energy. - System integration expertise and remote training programs will be essential to ensure reliability to and confidence of end-users is sustained; and - Deployment of cost effective enabling technologies will support greater renewable energy integration and uptake. - For market entrants looking to establish or expand investment in the Australian off-grid clean energy market, a long term approach to understanding the Australian market and development of collaborative domestic partnerships with the local industry, end users and finance sector is advised. 257

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