One of the pioneers of commercial scale solar uptake in Australia, diversified property owner GPT Group, has pressed pause on plans to install a further 30MW of PV, citing fresh energy policy uncertainty stirred up by the Turnbull government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee.
ASX-listed GPT Group kicked off its portfolio-wide solar roll-out in 2015, with close to 2MW of installations, including a 1.25MW system at its Darwin Casuarina Square shopping centre – at the time, Australia’s largest commercial array.
But in comments to Fairfax media this week, GPT national manager for energy and environment, Steve Ford, said the company’s plans to install another 100,000 solar panels across rooftops in its shopping centres and industrial estates were how on hold, amid concerns over policy changes – in particular, the federal government’s decision not to extend the large-scale Renewable Energy Target.
As we have reported on One Step Off The Grid’s sister site, RenewEconomy, the main concern plaguing big energy users like GPT Group is whether new solar projects of 100kW capacity and larger that are built after the RET is met will be able to generate certificates under the Trunbull government’s National Energy Guarantee.
As former CEFC chief Oliver Yates explained, there is a real risk under the NEG that for projects coming into the market after 2020, the price of RECs will fall to zero.
And GPT’s announcement this week confirms this risk is being felt, with Ford noting that the company would shift its focus to projects of less than 100kW in size, where credits were guaranteed under the small-scale renewable energy scheme.
“GPT is now reviewing all those smaller-scale projects, that were going to be the lower priority until recently, and seeing how we can accelerate those over the coming year,” he told the SMH.
The strategic decision by GPT Group is the first sign that industry-wide concerns – articulated in October by Australian Solar Council chief John Grimes – could be starting to play out.
“It is our assessment that this is about killing investment in renewables leading up to and after 2020,” Grimes said in a webinar to members.
“The impact today, If you are an existing… owner of a large-scale renewable energy project, I think, right now, you’re in the firing line.
“…If you’re about commercial solar, and we have so many members and stakeholders who are doing lots of projects of 100kW and above, you’re in the firing line – not at some point in the future, not necessarily post-2020, but today,” Grimes said.
Whether others follow GPT’s example remains to be seen. But there are plenty of megawatt-scale commercial solar projects in the works, all around the country.
Such projects include the recently inked power purchase deal by one of Australia’s biggest shopping centre owners, SCA Property Group, to power four sites cross NSW and SA with a combined total of 2.9MW of rooftop PV.
And just last week, Todae Solar landed what one of the largest rooftop solar installations in Australia – a 1.87MW expansion of the array on top of the Green Hills shopping centre in Sydney, as part of owner Stockland’s plans for 12.3MW of rooftop solar across its portfolio.