Green certificate split aids Australian wind

AUSTRALIA: The recent enactment of new Australian renewables subsidies looks set to reverse a collapse in the price of green certificates key to the economic viability of wind power.

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The price of a green certificate, which had dropped by about 70% from 2009 levels to A$28.40 ($28.70) by end-2010, is now in the region of A$35-40.

Analysts consider a price in excess of A$35.50 the minimum necessary to attract investment in large-scale wind projects. When green certificates prices plummeted last year, several projects were shelved - prompting the government to act.

Renewed support

Under the new rules, which came into force in January, the support scheme for renewable energy is split into two, one for large-scale projects and one for small-scale installations. This should protect the green certificates issued in respect of large-scale projects from the glut of certificates handed to households installing solar panels.

The support system review has sparked optimism in the wind sector. Matthew Warren, CEO of Australia's Clean Energy Council, says the revamped scheme - and the new policy certainty it brings - should push the price of green certificates up even further.

AGL Energy, Australia's largest retail energy supplier, has already committed to bringing back online around A$1billion of planned investment in wind that it had shelved in early 2010 due to the collapse in the green certificates market. This includes the 420MW Macarthur wind farm which, when completed, will be one of the largest in the southern hemisphere.

Suchitra Sriram, industry analyst at consultancy Frost & Sullivan, says she expects a spike in growth in the wind sector during 2011. With five large-scale wind projects likely to generate market revenues of well over A$2 billion due to come online this year - a marked increase from the A$380 million recorded last year - she says 2011 could finally be the year of wind in Australia's renewables sector.

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