RET fears delay 1GW Aussie wind

Australian utility AGL Energy has further delayed the start of work on its up-to-1GW Silverton wind project, citing uncertainty over the future of the country’s Renewable Energy Target (RET).

AGL has been tendering for EPC contractors for the A$550m ($507m) project in New South Wales, but said it will hold off from making an appointment.

Australia is facing a national election within the next few months, with renewables policy a key differentiator between the two sides.

The opposition Coalition led by Tony Abbott has previously pledged support for the RET – among the world’s most ambitious – but is pledging to review it next year if it seizes power from the incumbent Labor government, and is widely seen as sceptical over renewables.

The independent Climate Change Authority (CCA), which advises Australia’s government on climate issues, has recommended that the RET is reviewed every four year instead of the currently mandated two, to help bolster investor certainty.

An AGL statement said: “The decision to defer the appointment is due to the ongoing uncertainty around the 2020 Renewable Energy Target, with another review of the scheme legislated to occur in 2014.

“AGL has been conducting a tender for the EPC contracts to construct the proposed Silverton Wind Farm over recent months and although a strong field of contenders expressed interest in the project, AGL has decided not to appoint a preferred EPC contractor at this stage.”

The power generator said it will review the position in 2014. An AGL spokeswoman confirmed to Recharge that the planning consent for Silverton requires substantial work to begin by May 2014 – meaning the company will have to make a decision to go ahead early next year or seek an extension.

AGL’s head of power development, Nigel Bean, said: “This decision does not indicate reduced enthusiasm for the project.

“Silverton has a high quality wind resource, and remains one of the most attractive wind development projects in Australia.”

Silverton has development approval for an initial 282 turbines with a maximum capacity of 300MW. This could be expanded to as much as 1GW in later stages.

Silverton – potentially the southern hemisphere’s biggest wind farm – has already been delayed once.

In July 2012 AGL said it would push back construction to allow it to focus on two solar projects, also in NSW, awarded under Australia’s Solar Flagships programme.

Today AGL said it remains committed to the  PV schemes.

AGL is the part-owner and operator of Australia’s largest existing wind farm, the 420MW Macarthur project.

It bought  the project development rights in March 2012 from Germany’s Epuron and Australia’s Macquarie Capital.