GREEN DEALS: PacHydro's bold Moree move

Pacific Hydro takes on the major energy retailers, while AGL prepares to reap a windfall if there's a change of government.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

Pacific Hydro, one of the members of the consortium behind the Moree Solar Farm (MSF), has said it is now in the process of obtaining a retail energy license, a move that is designed to get the MSF project moving forward once more. The news comes as BP Solar exits the consortium, leaving the remaining two members, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) and Pacific Hydro, to take up the minority stake held by BP.

The consortium failed in its bid to reach financial close in December, leading to the government reopening the tender process for $306.5 million of funding through round one of the Solar Flagships program. A key reason for the inability to reach financial close was the absence – thanks in no small part to the limited number of players in the retail energy market – of a power purchase agreement (PPA), which is now no longer a problem as one has now been signed with Pacific Hydro.

“The Australian retail energy market is dominated by a few very large vertically integrated entities, who are not only our potential customers but also competing for funding under the solar flagships program,” Lane Crockett, General Manager Pacific Hydro Australia and spokesperson for the consortium, noted.

The move into retail energy was not a sudden one, according to the company.

“Pacific Hydro has been working on our retail market strategy for some time and we are very confident that it will be a success with projects like the Moree Solar farm part of a future diversified renewable energy portfolio that will include wind and possibly into the future geothermal,” Crockett said.

The MSF consortium, which resubmitted its bid on Friday, also announced that it has entered into an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) agreement with international infrastructure provider Acciona, which will include the provision of high quality solar PV panels.

The three other shortlisted groups vying for the federal funding – AGL, Infigen-Suntech and TRUenergy – are believed to have also resubmitted their bids prior to Friday’s deadline.

AGL Energy

AGL Energy has announced the acquisition of Victoria’s largest power station, Loy Yang A, and the adjacent coal mine for $448 million. The company already owned a 32.54 per cent stake in the power station but with significant shareholder TEPCO under financial stress, AGL took the opportunity to buy it outright.

The brown coal mine is the largest in Australia and is the country's biggest single carbon polluter.

Ironically, the announcement came on the same day that it released its quarterly results, with the company reporting that its development of “Australia’s largest privately owned and operated renewable portfolio and a pipeline of development opportunities” positioned it “to benefit from Australia’s Mandatory Renewable Energy Target.”

While the company is confident in the merit of the purchase in the current regulatory environment, it is also keeping one eye on the next election in the hope a Tony Abbott win could see it reap a financial windfall.

“AGL’s valuation has assumed future carbon prices largely consistent with the Federal Treasury models used in conjunction with the introduction of the Clean Energy Future Act,” the company said in a statement.

“Shareholder value will further increase to the extent actual carbon prices are below those modelled by Federal Treasury or if the Clean Energy Future Act were to be repealed by a future government.”

Discussion will now focus on regulatory clearance by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which investment bank UBS said was “likely, but not certain” in a research note.

Dyesol

Solar panel manufacturer Dyesol has entered a trading halt pending “an announcement … regarding changes to funding and important organisational changes within the company.”

The exact nature of the organisational changes will be interesting to watch with the company’s share price being in free-fall for the better part of a year. It last traded at 20 cents, just one cent above its 52-week low and well off its 52-week high of 88 cents in April last year. In 2007, it reached an all-time high above $2.25.

Ceramic Fuel Cells

Ceramic Fuel Cells has announced a three-fold increase in revenue thanks to some significant European orders. The developer of high efficiency and low emission power products for buildings is bullish about its future growth, with the regulatory environment now more favourable in key European markets.

“The German Parliament has proposed an increased feed in tariff for products like ours, and German states have announced market introduction programs,” Ceramic Fuel Cells Managing Director, Brendan Dow, said.

“Earlier this month we stated that we welcomed the UK Government’s announcement of an increase in the feed in tariff for micro power and heating products (m-CHP), which includes our BlueGen product. There is no doubt that governments the world over are seeing the benefits of distributed generation of electricity, particularly technologies like ours which significantly reduce carbon emissions.”