Australian utility invests $1.5bn in renewables

Australian utility EnergyAustralia has agreed to buy around 500 MW of power from new wind and solar projects, an investment totalling $1.5bn.

The company, which operates two of Australia’s largest coal-fired power plants – the 1450 MW Yallourn plant and the 1400 MW Mt Piper plant – cited emissions reduction as a motivating factor in its plan to step up its renewable generation. 

As a first move under the new plan, EnergyAustralia has signed a binding agreement to purchase 100 per cent of the output from the 42.6 MW Manildra solar photovoltaic (PV) plant in New South Wales, with a 13-year power purchase agreement (PPA) expected by the end of the year.

In a statement, EnergyAustralia’s managing director Catherine Tanna said negotiations for further power purchases from solar and wind projects across eastern Australia were “well advanced” and that the utility will also be “providing the support [new renewable projects] need to get built”.

Tanna called her firm’s coal-fired power plants “reliable, affordable electricity,” but said “our operations also generate more than 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year at a time when the community rightly expects us to play our part in lowering carbon emissions”.

She said new solar and wind power plants “will come to underpin energy supply in Australia as coal-fired power plants are retired.”

Australia has been moving toward a plan to close its coal-fired power plants, with various strategies proposed by politicians, environmentalists and trade unions but no clear plan as yet.

In November, France’s Engie decided to close its 1.5 GW Hazelwood plant in Victoria state after a review of its coal-fired fleet, while earlier this month EnergyAustralia said it would keep its Yallourn plant online, citing energy security concerns. 

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