Reporting on the release of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's report into the energy sector, the InDaily news website said today that, "[h]ouseholds could save more than $400 a year on power bills under a major shake-up of Australia’s “broken” electricity market, proposed by the consumer watchdog".

InDaily’s Matt Coughlan reported that:

"The ACCC’s wide-ranging investigation into retail energy found the current situation is unacceptable and unsustainable.

The consumer watchdog wants the Australian Energy Regulator to be given more powers to target market manipulation.

Customers should be able to compare discounts from a default or benchmark rate set by the regulator."

Read Matt Coughlan’s full report here.

AuthorRay Dennis

Prepared by Brian Attwood for Consumers SA. 

The AER (Australian Energy Regulator) has just published its new rules for retailer comparisons posted on the Energy Made Easy website.  They are contained in the following documents: 

Both of these documents will help consumers to better understand retail offers on power and gas. They are now available on the AER website (click on the links above to access them).

The AER says that the “[g]uidelines play an important role in educating consumers and empowering them to engage in the retail energy market and make more informed and efficient decisions. By specifying the manner and form in which information is presented by retailers, [the AER] aims to create a clear and consistent form of presenting important information to customers, giving them confidence in the accuracy and comparability of this information".

Standard terminology has been mandated for the Energy Made Easy website.  All offers will be initially entered by retailers but formulated by the Energy Made Easy system.  This should ensure that enough information is available to enable consumers to make an informed choice between competing offers. 

The same format will be required in advertising - but it is only recommended for energy bills "where possible".

Dates for implementation are: 

  • plans that meet new definition of generally available: 1 October 2018.
  • all generally available plans: 1 January 2019.

It will be interesting to see how this all works out in practice.

AuthorRay Dennis

Weighing up the SA Government concessions energy discount offer - a personal experience.

Compiled for Consumers SA by Executive Committee member, Brian Attwood.

People will be aware that the SA Government is currently putting out discount energy offers for local concession holders. I have checked my own energy supplier's offer with the Government offer and found that my supplier is giving me a better deal, but in doing so I encountered a number of difficulties that made it hard for me - and therefore all consumers - to assess whether I was really being offered a better deal. 

NOTE: Some consumers have a combined electricity and gas bill with their retailer.  These comments are directed solely at electricity bills.  If a consumer has a retailer supplying electricity and gas on the one bill, they should contact Origin Energy on 1300 791 465 for further information on what price they would supply gas and any discount that may apply. 

I will  go through each stage to help consumers to understand how to make an accurate comparison of the recent Government electricity offer. There are problems with: the terminology used in bills, the discount structure of bills and the different components that make up the total cost of each bill. 


Terms used by retailers on the same bill may not be the same - even in different places on the same bill. This is because there are no regulations to control terminology on bills at this time. Examples I have found are :

  • Peak or Peak Consumption Block 1, relating to the same charge
  • Generation or Peak Consumption Block 2, relating to the same charge
  • Controlled Load or Dedicated Circuit Consumption, relating to the same charge.

Other retailers may use different terminology.

Discount structure                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

The government offer is 18% on both electricity usage and their separate supply charge. This discount is valid at least until June 2019. Some retailers only offer discount on electricity usage. If you are unsure of this, contact your retailer and ask for confirmation of your plan discount structure and check your next bill to see that it is applied. 

The separate components of each bill

Electricity usage charges

If you only have one meter its number is listed in the line showing: bill days, meter readings and total usage. If your bill has more than one block of pricing there will be two or more charges shown for the one meter number, recorded as Block 1 and Block 2. Block 2 will have a different charge for the power used above the Block 1 power usage limit. 

Off-peak hot water

If you have a Controlled Load or Dedicated Consumption meter (off-peak hot water service)  it will have a different number and will be shown under the above information on your bill.

Supply charge

Under all of this information on your bill will be a supply charge, expressed as: a daily charge and the number of days charged.

Solar Feed-in

Solar is not shown on the government offer but if you are entitled to a solar government rebate this should be the same for any retailer. However some retailers offer their own buy-back rebate over and  above the government scheme. If you have such an offer on your bill, this needs to be considered when assessing the government offer.

How to use this information to see if the Government offer is better for you.  

You now have the information necessary to assess if the Government offer is better than your current retailer’s deal. There are many offers around and you can only see if the Government offer is better for you by making an accurate comparison.  There are many ways to deceive the consumer into believing a deal is better, if all components of the bill are not considered.

First, look at Block 1 of your bill. 

The Government offer for the first 10.9589 Kwh/day is 33.149 cents with discount. Take your bill and look at the Block 1 and check the Kwh/day charge. See if it is more or less on your bill.  Apply the discount your retailer allows to your Kwh/Day charge in Block 1 and compare with the Government 33.149 Kwh/Day figure.

Then look at Block 2 and compare your charge with the Government offer - after applying your retailer discount as above.

Next, check any off-peak charges.  If you have a hot water meter it will have a different meter number. The bills are confusing. In my case the hot water meter is listed in one place on my bill as a ‘Controlled load’ and in the next a ‘Dedicated circuit consumption meter’.  Retailers at this stage are not compelled to use the same terminology for easy comparison by consumers. Check your own bill charges after applying your retailer discount.

Then check the Supply Charge.  

This charge is NOT just the actual cost of providing power to your home as most would expect.  It also includes additional charges that vary between retailers.  It is a very important cost as it is charged daily.

You should now be able to understand the four major charges that make up your bill and, applying all relevant discounts, you now can assess if your retailer’s offer or the Government offer is best for you.

With this information you can also speak to your retailer and ask for a better deal. They will put you through to a specialist negotiator to discuss your own situation.  When contacting your retailer they may suggest a better plan for you and, by understanding your bill, you can properly assess if it really is better for you.

Summary: my experience

You may find, as I did, that it is not easy to see if you are better off. 

Taking my last bill as my starting point, I found that the costs of Block 1 and 2 usage were both slightly higher than the Government offer.  I calculated the difference in my actual usage at my higher Block 1 and 2 rates and found that I would save $9.23 a quarter under the Government offer.

However, the retailer’s discount on both my energy usage and my supply charge is 20%. In addition, my dedicated circuit consumption (off-peak hot water) charge is $105.58 cheaper than the Government offer and my supply charge is $14.60 cheaper. The bonus solar feed-in rate from my retailer was $52.65 above the government rebate. My total savings over the Government scheme was therefore $172.83.

So I calculated that I would be $163.60 a quarter better off with my current retailer. 



AuthorRay Dennis


The "world's largest" lithium ion battery was launched in SA last week. Will its storage capacity and versatility be a game-changer for Australia's energy market? Many are now watching on in anticipation to see what impact the battery has on the SA electricity market, and whether it could be a game-changer nationally.

In an article originally published on The Conversationenergy researcher Dylan McConnell assesses the battery's impact and concludes that, “size matters but role matters more, [explaining:] the South Australian battery is truly a historic moment for both South Australia, and for Australia’s future energy security. While the size, of the battery might be decried as being small in the context of the National Energy Market, it is important to remember it’s capabilities and role. It may well be a game changer, by delivering services not previously provided by wind and solar PV."

Dylan McConnell is a researcher at the Australian German Climate and Energy College at the University of Melbourne.

His article was reprinted recently on Adelaide's InDaily website.  Click here to read the original article.

AuthorRay Dennis

Consumers SA’s Brian Attwood attended a Frontier Impact Group meeting held at the Adelaide Hilton on 24 November 2017. Brian reports that any group looking at setting up a Community Power Generation cooperative would benefit from the work of the Victorian-based Frontier Impact Group: which is now being shared with the wider Australian community.  

The group's Community Energy Funding Toolkit  is designed to, "up-skill the financial literacy of community energy developers and increase the likelihood that projects can be funded”.  A Frontier Impact Group steering group decided to develop the toolkit when it, "discovered that funding was one of the key barriers for Community Energy project developers and there was a need to improve financial literacy around renewable energy projects”. The steering group consisted of the Australian Renewable Energy Association (ARENA), the NSW Government, and Community for Clean Energy (C4CE), Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Community Power Agency, and Embark.

The toolkit currently consists of two guidebooks: the Funding Basics Guidebook and a Behind the Meter Solar PV guidebook

The Behind the Meter guidebook focuses on demonstrating the steps needed to develop, and successfully fund, community solar PV projects. This guidebook is the first to be released as the group identified Behind the Meter solar projects as having the highest likelihood of becoming commercially viable and a strong potential for replication.  A large proportion of the successful projects developed to date are Behind the Meter solar PV projects. Subject to funding, the next guidebooks will cover Grid Connected Solar PV and wind projects followed by energy storage projects.

The Adelaide meeting was also shown (and very successfully trialled) a computer package called Sunulator, described as: 

“...a simulation tool that can help you plan for grid-connected solar power. Unlike most other solar calculators, Sunulator uses half-hourly consumption and generation data over a whole year to estimate how much solar generation will be consumed onsite versus exported. Based on electricity tariff information, it then calculates the impact on your electricity bill and projects the savings over a 30-year time frame. Financial results include payback period, net present value and return on investment.

Sunulator allows you to compare the results for several scenarios, e.g different sizes of solar array or panel orientations, or different amounts of battery storage.
In Australia most solar systems are owned directly by the electricity consumer, usually a homeowner. Sunulator can also assist community organisations to install solar systems via additional investment options:

  • A community organisation installs a system and sells electricity to the host site
  • A solar system is installed through a loan from a community organisation
  • A community organisation acts as an electricity retailer.

Economic returns are estimated both for investors and the host site".

To get the Alternative Technology Association Sunulator go to:  

Brian says that, “[Sunulator] is invaluable and would greatly reduce costs of deciding whether an energy project is viable or not, in a relatively simple computer program, for such a complex subject". 


AuthorRay Dennis

Read all about the metering changes that came in to effect on 1 December - including a fact sheet for consumers regarding smart meters by clicking here.  (Information provided by SA Power Networks)

AuthorRay Dennis


Power Club Limited granted electricity retailer authorisation

On 27 November 2017, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) approved an electricity retailer authorisation application from Power Club Limited (Power Club) under the National Energy Retail Law (Retail Law). Power Club is now authorised to retail electricity as an when the Retail Law is adopted in each participating jurisdiction.

Read more

Power Club Limited - authorised electricity retailer

On 27 November 2017, the AER approved an electricity retailer authorisation application from Power Club Limited (Power Club) under the National Energy Retail Law (Retail Law).

Read more

AER publishes information to help consumers understand their rights when getting a smart meter

The AER has today published a factsheet to help consumers understand the circumstances in which they will get a smart meter when new rules to expand competition in metering commence in December 2017.

Read more

AER invites further expressions of interest to join its consumer reference group

To assist in our review of the rate of return guideline, we have appointed a consumer reference group. Our rate of return guideline (Guideline) sets out the approach by which we will estimate the rate of return, and comprises the return on debt and the return on equity, as well as the value of imputation credits.

Read more

AER invites expressions of interest to join its investor reference group

To assist in the AER’s review of our rate of return guideline, we encourage interested investors to participate in our planned investor reference group (IRG).

Read more

AER invites expressions of interest to join its retailer reference group

To assist in the AER’s review of our rate of return guideline, we encourage interested retailers to participate in our planned retailer reference group (RRG).

Read more

AER finalises its position on the process for reviewing the rate of return guidelines

On 28 November 2017, we released our positions paper on the process for reviewing the rate of return guideline (Guideline). In particular, it describes how we will implement: The independent panel review of our draft guideline; the concurrent expert evidence sessions and the consumer reference group.

Read more

Review of rate of return guideline

On 28 November 2017, we released our positions paper on the process for reviewing the rate of return guideline (Guideline).

Read more

Electricity report 5 - 11 November 2017

The AER continuously monitors the wholesale gas and electricity markets. The AER has published an Electricity Weekly Report. It covers activity in the wholesale market in the National Electricity Market and relevant financial markets.

Read more

Apex Energy Holdings Pty Ltd - application for electricity retailer authorisation

Submissions on Apex Energy's application closed 21 November 2017. One submission was received and is now available on our website.

Read more

Access to dispute resolution services for exempt customers - June 2017

After considering stakeholder submissions to our June 2017 issues paper, we have finalised our policy position on this issue. We explain our position to expand energy ombudsman access to residential exempt customers in the Notice of Draft Instrument: AER (Retail) Exempt Selling Guideline - Version 5. The Draft AER (Retail) Exempt Selling Guideline was published on 6 November 2017 and is currently open for consultation.

Read more

AuthorRay Dennis

The attached article by Consumers Federation of Australia Standards representative Dr Martin Gill argues that retailers should be required to provide sufficient information on bills (and tariff contracts) to ensure consumers can easily compare tariffs.  Dr Gill participates on a number of energy technical committees including EL-011 Electricity metering systems, EL-054 Remote demand management of electrical products and EL-042 Renewable energy supply systems. 

His article also recommends that a review be undertaken to determine how to simplify consumer access to their historical electricity use. Read the article here:

AuthorRay Dennis


Andrew Spence reports on yesterday’s INDAILY website:

South Australian energy storage company 1414 Degrees has opened a new factory and will begin building its first commercial system next month before listing on the Australian Stock Exchange in early 2018.

Kevin Moriarty from 1414 Degrees. Supplied image 

The company has spent almost a decade developing its Thermal Energy Storage System (TESS) technology to store electricity as thermal energy by heating and melting containers full of silicon at a cost estimated to be up to 10 times cheaper than lithium batteries.

1414 Degrees has moved into a 3000sq m factory on the site of the former Mitsubishi engine plant in the southern Adelaide suburb of Lonsdale where it will build its first 10MWh TESS-IND system and the first 13.3MWh test cell for a 200MWh TESS-GRID system.

The company is also planning to initially build two grid scale 1GWh systems in South Australia, which would be comprised of five 200MWh units and potentially play a significant role in stabilising the state’s renewable energy-dependent electricity network.

1414 Degrees has submitted three applications to the South Australian Government’s $150 million Renewable Technology Fund, which has already allocated up to $20 million towards Tesla’s ‘world’s biggest’ lithium-ion battery being built in the state’s Mid North.

Executive Chairman Dr Kevin Moriarty said 1414 Degrees was aiming to list on the Australian Stock Exchange in March or April after it had learned the outcome of its funding applications, which require matching funding.

He said the IPO would plan to raise at least $30 million to support the development of the technology.

“It hasn’t been difficult to raise money but we do need to offer liquidity to shareholders so we are planning to list at the earliest opportunity rather than continuing to raise privately,” Moriarty said.

A tonne of silicon can store enough energy to power 28 houses for a day.

Its high latent heat capacity and melting temperature of 1414 C make silicon ideal for storing large amounts of energy.

The process also generates clean useable heat, which can easily be utilised for district heating or industrial purposes.

The 10MWh systems would use about 20 tonnes of silicon and be targeted at industries that required electricity and heat. It is likely the first units will be sent to New South Wales and used in large greenhouses.

“We can extract about half of the energy as electricity and the rest is available as heat. If we can use that heat, which is required by industries and households around the world, we can achieve 90 per cent or more efficiency from the renewable sources,” Moriarty said.

“Our target is industry seeking to reduce energy costs or emissions.

“We allow them to do all of that by putting in their own solar or buying energy when it’s cheap and then releasing it when it’s expensive.”

South Australia leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and rooftop solar with renewable sources accounting for more than 40 per cent of the electricity generated in the state.

However, the intermittent nature of renewable energy has been the cause of intense debate in Australia in the past 12 months.

“There’s a number of solutions out there from batteries to pumped hydro but the one thing missing is something that’s proven, scalable and is going to provide a low-cost solution that can be adopted everywhere,” Moriarty said.

“If we are going to solve the issues around renewable energy we have to solve the issues around storage.

“South Australia is a particularly good laboratory because it’s one of the first places in the world where a very large proportion of renewable energy is exposing the issues around incorporating these technologies into the electricity grid.”

The proposed 1GWh systems include one near the 1414 Degrees factory in Adelaide. It would be connected to the electricity grid and purchase electricity when prices are low, store it and sell it back at times of peak demand and higher prices.

Moriarty said the second system would likely be connected to a solar farm and would store the excess energy it couldn’t sell directly to the grid. He said ideally it would be co-located with industries that were looking for a lot of heat such as poultry producers, food manufacturers and greenhouses.

“These industries all currently use gas and this will mean that solar will effectively be displacing gas and therefore reducing emissions,” he said.

“Once you generate the electricity the heat that’s coming off is anything from 400 to 600 degrees and that’s ideal for driving steam and other processes.”

The first 10MWh “off the shelf” unit is expected to be commissioned in January.

1414 Degrees has been approached by distributors in Australia, South Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe to sell the 10MWh systems as part of a renewable energy technology solution.

“We expect to draw up our first agreements very soon. This will mean the company can use its workforce to manufacture the machines and the distributors will take care of the assessment of sites and sales,” Moriarty said.

“Once we get a production line going it will be quite fast – it’s just a question of building a supply chain.

“This technology is going to have major growth and it’s going to be manufacturing intensive because the market is huge.

“That means there’s going to be thousands of the smaller 10MWh units and hundreds at least of the large units required in Australia and around the world.”

See the full report here.

AuthorRay Dennis

Executive Committee member Brian Attwood represented Consumers SA at the Energy Consumers Australia Board Stakeholder Forum held on 8 November 2017.

The meeting was told of a pilot program to use excess wind power generation to make hydrogen and put it into the gas pipes at no more than 10% volume thus giving us added fuel to fire the gas turbines for generation of electricity at peak times. Hopefully this will lower gas and electricity prices.

In follow-up correspondence to Brian, Australian Gas Networks provided this extra detail about the scheme and related activities:

In response to your question please see Gas Vision 2050, available to download via this link, associated media release available here.

Gas Vision 2050 was released in March 2017 and was jointly developed by all parts of the gas sector from gas exploration and production, to transmission and distribution networks, to gas appliance manufacturers. 

Gas Vision 2050 provides a conceptual outline of how the gas sector can work collaboratively with the electricity sector to provide Australian homes and businesses with reliable base load energy, whilst ensuring Australia can achieve its emissions reductions goals. In particular, the document details the decarbonisation journey of gas networks and the policies that are required in order to facilitate this journey.

It is a qualitative document that:

  • highlights the importance of gas to Australia today;
  • explains the low-emission transformational technologies of biogas, carbon capture and storage and hydrogen production; and
  • describes an aspirational and attainable future for gas across Australia in which renewables and gas (including hydrogen and biogas) can support each other to achieve a near zero-carbon energy sector by 2050.

As mentioned above, the document outlines that hydrogen can be produced in multiple ways, most commonly though electrolysis (splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity) and steam methane reforming or coal gasification with carbon capture and storage. The former (electrolysis), has great potential in an Australian context, where we can use excess renewable electricity (wind at night and solar during the day) to produce hydrogen which can be stored in the networks – essentially using networks as a battery and using this clean gas in homes, business and to generate electricity at a later date.

This approach:

  • assists to decarbonise direct use gas (through the use of zero carbon hydrogen in the networks);
  • assists the decarbonisation of the electricity sector through facilitating investment in more large scale renewables); and
  • utilises existing infrastructure as a battery.

We, and the sector more generally, consider this to be an exciting way forward for the energy sector (electricity and gas) as a whole. Networks are actively pursuing pilot biogas and hydrogen projects – for example AGIG is partnering with Wollongong-based AquaHydrex to develop a pilot electrolysis facility at our South Australian depot and we have had initial discussions with SA Power Networks regarding how we could work together and utilise electrolysis to ensure electricity and networks are utilised in the most efficient manner – to the benefit of customers. Energy Networks Australia are also continuing work in the area, having engaged Deloitte to develop a follow on report from Gas Vision 2050, detailing how hydrogen and biogas might be deployed in an Australian context. This report is due for release in the coming weeks.

The use of hydrogen in this way is being actively pursued overseas. For example the H21 Leeds City Gate project is studying the feasibility, from both a technical and economic viewpoint, of converting the existing natural gas network in Leeds, one of the largest UK cities, to 100% hydrogen. The work carried out to date indicates that they can significantly decarbonise parts of the existing gas network at minimal additional cost to consumers. This is coupled with a program to encourage consumers to move to gas for heating and cooking. More information regarding this project is available online at:

Brian also reports that:

 Andrew McKenna of Business South Australia spoke of the high costs of power to small businesses, noting that while costs have come down for businesses, household consumers are yet to see this.

Andrew Nance spoke of the impact of rising prices in the essentials of housing, health and energy on low income families, explaining that their income is not covering costs. There was much discussion about cost reduction but how this could be achieved was very difficult.

Energy Consumers Australia ran the meeting, which saw many interstate people attending - along with ESCOSA , other consumer groups, South Australian Financial Counsellors Association and SAPN staff - but no energy retailers. 


AuthorRay Dennis

Detailed statistics recently released by SA Power Networks, in a September 2017 presentation to its Business Reference Group, shows that small to medium businesses in this State are suffering the same price increases as domestic consumers.

Click here for details.

AuthorRay Dennis

The following tables, produced by SA Power Networks, show how the total cost of the electricity supplied to SA consumers is calculated. - and how the mix of various contributing factors has changed over the last two decades.

In brief,  while SA Power Network’s distribution costs to individual households have steadily reduced and Electranet’s transmission costs have remained much the same, "energy retail” costs, which include generators and retailers, have increased significantly in recent years.

SAPN Household Bills 1.jpg
SAPN Bills 2.jpg
AuthorRay Dennis

Yesterday (5 September 2017) the Coalition for Community Energy (C4CE) with the support of Environment Victoria launched a revised Small-scale Community Solar Guide.

Introducing the Guide, C4CE said: 

"This Guide is perhaps one of the most useful resources available to community energy groups looking to develop their first project.  The Guide is filled with practical tips, case-studies and the key information you need to know to get started talking to potential host-sites. 

The first version of the Small-scaled Community Solar Guide (originally called the Behind the Meter Solar Guide) was developed and launched in 2015 as part of the National Community Energy Strategy.  Unfortunately, the Guide got lost in all the great content so many community energy groups are unaware of its existence.

That’s why C4CE has prioritised revamping and re-releasing this great resource. 

The Small-Scale Community Solar Guide includes:

  • 10 case-studies of successful community solar models,
  • An overview to the key technical, financial and legal factors that make small-scale projects the most successful approach to community energy in Australia so far,
  • An introduction to a common legal framework, showing how the different case-studies are similar and different legally and sign-posting the different types of legal agreements that you are likely to need,
  • Tips for engaging with potential host-sites, and finally
  • A decision tree that your group can work through to decide which approach you should take.
To find out more you can download the Guide here
C4CE would like to thank all the community energy groups that contributed to this guide, as well as Sustainability Victoria for providing the funding needed to update and get this Guide out into the world.

This is Version 2 of the Guide, we have no doubt there will be a Version 3, so if you have suggestions or tips for making the Guide even more useful please email"
AuthorRay Dennis


From the “Australia's Science Channel” website, posted on August 17, 2017:

The world’s largest solar thermal power plant will be coming to South Australia – big plans lead to big reactions. Read what the experts have to say. 

Plans to build the world’s largest solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta, South Australia, were announced by Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia, today. Solar Thermal Power is generated by using a large array of mirrors (heliostats) to reflect and concentrate energy from the sun to heating molten salt. This is then able to generate steam to drive electricity generating turbines. Solar thermal is one way that solar power can be stored and used at night.

The plant is scheduled to be in operation by 2020, and is estimated to produce 495 gigawatt hours of power annually, or enough to power more than 90,000 homes. The 150 mega-watt system will be completely emission free.

Here are reactions from researchers around Australia.

Dr Ariel Liebman is the Deputy Director for Monash Energy Materials and Systems Institute (MEMSI), at Monash University

“The Port Augusta Solar Thermal plant will be a great complement to the range of new technologies now in South Australia and the rest of the nation such as wind, solar PV and electric battery such as the Neoen/Tesla battery announced last month. Solar thermal with storage is an ideal partner to the other new technologies whose growing deployment is now unstoppable. Being able to store its own energy output in a thermal way (not electrically such as in the case of lithium ion) makes this a truly dispatchable renewable technology.

While this particular project appears to be uneconomic without the state government subsidy, de-risking early stage investment is the government’s role and as more deployment of new technologies will bring the cost down as industry learns how to manufacture and deploy at scale. We need the most diverse mix of technologies possible if we are to ensure we limit climate change based temperature rises to two degrees if not 1.5 degrees.

It will add to the downward pressure on wholesale energy prices although at the size of 150 MW, the impact will be quite small and it is unlikely to be felt in the end-consumer bill, particularly as the majority of the retail electricity price rises seen over the past ten years have little to do with the cost of energy generation but more to do with failures in retail competition as well and wholesale market ownership concentration and insufficient transmission inter-connector capacity in the National Electricity Market.”

Dr Mark Diesendorf is Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales

“An excellent decision! Port Augusta’s concentrated solar thermal power station with thermal storage will be a dispatchable source of renewable power.

In other words, it will supply power on demand. Along with the Tesla battery and open-cycle gas turbines, it will balance the fluctuations of the variable renewable energy sources, wind and solar PV.

Wasim Saman is a Professor of Sustainable Energy Engineering at the University of South Australia

“This is first large scale application of solar thermal generation in Australia which has been operating successfully in Europe, USA and Africa. The significance of solar thermal generation lies in its ability to provide energy virtually on demand through the use of thermal energy storage to store heat for running the power turbines.

This is a substantially more economical way of storing energy than using batteries. While this technology is perhaps a decade behind solar PV generation, many future world energy forecasts include a considerable proportion of this technology in tomorrow’s energy mix.”

Dr Matthew Stocks is a Research Fellow in the Research School of Engineering at The Australian National University

“We have lots to learn about how solar thermal can contribute to a stable, low cost, low emission electrical system, and the announced system will be an important step in understanding the potential of solar thermal.

One of the big challenges for solar thermal as a storage tool is that it can only store heat. If there is an excess of electricity in the system because the wind is blowing strong, it cannot efficiently use it to store electrical power to shift the energy to times of shortage, unlike batteries and pumped hydro.

It is not yet clear whether it will deliver a better outcome than wind and solar with electrical storage.”

Honorary Associate Professor Hugh Saddler is a Research Associate at the Centre for Climate Economy and Policy, at The Australian National University

“This concentrating solar thermal power station will be Australia’s first major solar thermal power station.  This will make it one of the most important milestones along Australia’s transition to a low emission electricity system.

The project will deliver both direct generation of electricity when the sun is shining plus up to eight hours of molten salt thermal energy storage.

The storage will allow the power station to keep supplying electricity at full capacity for some hours after the sun has set and peak evening demand for electricity has passed. It will thus combine both generation and storage in the one plant, greatly enhancing the reliability and security of the electricity grid in SA.

At a reported 125 MW it will be large enough to supply 5 per cent of the state’s current total daily electricity consumption.

The reported contract price to the state government of $78 per MWh is not much higher than recent contract wind generation prices and at or below prices for electricity from current solar photovoltaic power stations, neither of which include energy storage. It is also well below the estimated cost of any new coal fired power station in Australia, and well below the spot wholesale price of electricity in the SA market region, which has averaged between $110 and $120 per MWh since March this year.”

AuthorRay Dennis

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia has issued an electricity generation licence to HWF 3 Pty Ltd (HWF 3), authorising it to operate 35 wind turbines at a maximum capacity of 112 MW. 

HWF 3 will be required to comply with stronger licence conditions, consistent with those set out in the Commission's Inquiry into the licensing arrangements for generators in South Australia, demonstrating that new technologies can and should contribute to a secure and resilient power system. 

The Commission assessed HWF 3’s application for an electricity generation licence against the relevant provisions of the Electricity Act 1996 and the Essential Services Commission Act 2002 and determined that, with the inclusion of the additional technical licence conditions, all relevant criteria under those Acts have been satisfied. 

A copy of the HWF 3 licence may be accessed here.

AuthorRay Dennis

The Essential Services Commission of South Australia has released the Final Report of its Inquiry into the licensing arrangements for generators in South Australia.

This Inquiry was conducted under Part 7 of the Essential Services Commission Act 2002 to determine whether or not there should be any changes to the Commission’s technical licensing conditions for electricity generators connected to the National Electricity Market (NEM).

In June 2016, the Commission commenced an Inquiry into whether or not any changes would be required to the technical licence conditions applying to electricity generators seeking to connect to the South Australian power system. 

Since 2005, the Commission has applied additional conditions in licences for grid-scale, wind-powered generators. The licence conditions apply in the absence of national rules which effectively integrate new generation technologies, and are intended as a transitional arrangement until such time as adequate national rules come into effect.

Through the Inquiry the Commission considered:

  • whether or not the current licence conditions for the grid connection of wind-powered electricity generators be removed, retained or varied, and
  • whether or not any additional or amended technical requirements be imposed on other grid-scale inverter-connected electricity generators (such as solar generation) or other generation technologies and sources (including conventional synchronous generation).

The Commission has found that there is a need for it to continue to impose transitional technical conditions within licences for new electricity generators which are to be connected to the South Australian power system (regardless of generation type) – on the basis that this will protect South Australian consumers’ long-term interests with respect to the price, quality and reliability of essential services.

These transitional technical conditions, which will be consistent with and not duplicate existing national rules and frameworks, will require new generators to be better able to:

  • ride through power system disturbances without prematurely disconnecting and will also be available to assist with remediating contingency events
  • control their energy output to maintain stable operation of the power system (as well as being able to assist with the control of voltage and frequency, if required)
  • manage and control voltages to support the network during disturbances and to efficiently transfer power 
  • be capable of operating in weak system conditions (where limited fault current is available), and
  • assist with power system restoration, should there be a major outage on the power system.

While the new technical conditions will not apply to existing generators at this time, over the coming year,  the Commission will work with the Australian Energy Market Operator, network service providers and existing generators to understand the extent to which additional services could be provided by those generators in a cost-efficient manner.

The Commission will continue to monitor and review developments in this sector, with a particular focus on changes in NEM rules and associated arrangements, with a view to removing its transitional local technical licence conditions should they become redundant in the future.

AuthorRay Dennis

Click here to access an informative analysis of the proposed new solar power plant to be built at Port Augusta. Appearing in yesterday’s InDaily news website, the article was written by Ketan Joshi, a freelance communications consultant and energy writer based in Sydney, with government and NGO clients.

Among the questions answered in the article are: 

  • What is a solar thermal power plant?
  • How does it work?
  • How will its output compare to other South Australian generators?
  • Will it bring down power prices?
  • Has anyone else built it already?
  • Why is South Australia building it?
  • How big is it?
  • How big is that compared to the new Tesla battery (see the stories below)?
  • Is this really baseload?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What’s the capacity factor, compared to wind and solar?
  • Will this save South Australia’s grid?
  • Will it make power bills lower?


AuthorRay Dennis

InDaily’s David Washington also reports today that:

"A long wished-for solar thermal plant for Port Augusta will be built at a cost of $650 million after the State Government awarded the plant's private backers its contract to supply the government's power needs.

Premier Jay Weatherill announced today that Californian company SolarReserve would build a 150MW solar thermal plant near the iron triangle town – the biggest plant of its kind in the world, and able to supply about 5 per cent of the state’s annual energy needs.

SolarReserve said the project would create up to 4000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 50 ongoing positions. The company would open an office in Adelaide at the end of this year, which would become its permanent Australian headquarters.

Work will begin on the plant, to be built about 30km north of Port Augusta, in 2018, with completion expected in 2020.

The SolarReserve bid for the government tender was the lowest-cost option of the shortlisted offers, Weatherill said, with the Government to pay no more than $78/MWh.

The plant – to be called Aurora – will produce synchronous renewable energy that can be dispatched into the grid at any time, including when the sun isn’t shining.

Weatherill said the plant would also improve grid security and stability.

“Renewable technologies are now cheaper and importantly renewables are now providing certainty and stability to the market,” Weatherill said.

“This is a massive game-changer for the energy market in this country.”

The Government has entered into a 20-year agreement with SolarReserve to supply the state with energy.

Earlier this year, South Australian senator Nick Xenophon managed to secure an offer of a $110 million concessional loan for the project from the Federal Government in exchange for his support for company tax cuts.

Xenophon said today the project would be “transformational” for Port Augusta, while strengthening grid security and bringing down power prices in SA.

The plant will use 12,000 billboard sized mirrors to concentrate sunlight on to a central receiver at the top of a 220-metre high tower. That process heats molten salt to 565 degrees celsius with the heat used to generate steam, drive a turbine and produce 150 megawatts of electricity, even when the sun doesn’t shine.

The group that has lobbied for the project for more than five years, Repower Port Augusta, welcomed the announcement, saying it showed what could be achieved when all political parties worked together for a positive outcome.

“Alongside the South Australian Government, the Federal Liberal Government, the SA Liberals, Nick Xenophon, the Greens and the Federal ALP have all supported solar thermal in Port Augusta as a sensible solution for SA,” said Repower’s Dan Spencer.

“This decision shows what can be achieved when our representatives stop using renewables as a political football and get on with making an orderly transition to clean, renewable energy happen for all Australians.”

Weatherill said the plant would enhance SA’s reputation as a leader in renewable energy.

“We are supporting this nation-leading renewable energy project because it will deliver more competition into our energy market and put downward pressure on power prices for households and businesses,” he said.

“The Port Augusta story is a stark example of the transition of the South Australian economy, with the closure of a dirty coal fired power station, and now the commissioning of this world leading renewable energy project.”

SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith said his company’s technology was an excellent fit for the SA electricity system.

“Aurora will provide much-needed capacity and firm energy delivery into the South Australian market to reduce price volatility,” he said.

SA Deputy Opposition Leader Vickie Chapman said the project was welcome and had been pursued for some time by the Liberals.

“The crying shame of this announcement today is that it isn’t with a transition arrangement with the closure of (the coal-fired power station at) Port Augusta,” Chapman said.

– with AAP"

AuthorRay Dennis

InDaily’s David Washington reports today that, "Tesla has contracted an Adelaide-headquartered engineering firm to help build its battery facility in the state's mid-north and connect it to a local wind farm and the power grid.

Consolidated Power Projects (CPP) will be the engineering and construction provider for the “world’s largest battery” – designed to be in place before summer.

The State Government says CPP will employ about 50 South Australian workers on the project, including some who live in the mid north.

It is understood that CPP was part of the Tesla bid, but that the contract has just been signed, with the batteries currently being transported to South Australia.

CPP, which has its head office in the Adelaide CBD and employs about 100 South Australians, was established in 1996 under the ownership of a Mauritius company. It became an independent Australian-owned operation in 2008 and was bought by Texan engineering and construction firm Quanta Services in 2014.

CPP has had a close involvement in the wind industry over its history, including building the first grid-connected wind farm in the eastern states near Goulburn in the late 1990s.

The company also worked on French company Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm near Jamestown, which will be connected to the Tesla battery installation.

The Government said today that CPP would update the local substation and install the batteries and inverters supplied by Tesla. The work would also include integrating the battery’s storage control and metering systems with those run by Neoen and Electranet.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis welcomed CPP’s involvement in the project and the local jobs that would be supported during construction.

“The energy storage sector presents huge opportunities for South Australia and we want to see more local companies looking for ways to tap into this growing industry,” he said in a statement.

CPP President Charles Wright said the company’s experiencing in helping to construct the Hornsdale wind projects would be invaluable to the project’s success.

“The evolving energy storage industry is a new service delivery to add to CPP’s porfolio,” he said. “It will allow ongoing growth of our business and people.”

The Government has not revealed how much it is spending on the battery, but Tesla’s Elon Musk said that failure to meet his guarantee of building it within 100 days or it’s free could cost him more than $50 million.

However, today’s announcement raises questions about the relevance of the 100-day deadline, which will begin once the grid connection agreement is signed with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

That agreement has not yet been signed, but civil works have begun on the site and Koutsantonis has confirmed that construction work can begin before the grid connection agreement is in place.

Koutsantonis told InDaily today that “Neoen, Tesla and the SA Government are working closely with key stakeholders including AEMO and ElectraNet to progress approval of the connection agreement as soon as possible”.

“The batteries are on their way to South Australia and civil works have begun at the site, with the project on track to be operational by December 1,” he said.

The 100MW lithium ion battery facility is designed to provide “stability services” to the South Australian grid, by evening out the intermittent nature of renewable energy."

AuthorRay Dennis

Click here to read an article by Jackson Stiles, Money Editor of the the New Daily online news outlet, appearing on 11 July 2017 and reporting that, "Consumers have been urged to consider switching from ‘standing offers’ to ‘market offers’ to beat rapidly rising power prices."

AuthorRay Dennis