Australian election "threat" to wind

AUSTRALIA: Wind developers are fearful that projects may grind to a halt after Australian prime minister Julia Gillard today made a surprise announcement that the country's next federal election would take place in September.

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Australia's election dates are usually announced just six weeks before they take place, but Gillard today said she was setting the date for 14 September in order to provide clarity and enable "individuals, investors and consumers to plan their year".

"It gives shape and order to their year," added Gillard. "I do this not to start the nation's longest election campaign: quite the opposite. It should be clear to all which are the days of governing and which are the days of campaigning."

However, rather than bringing certainty, wind developers fear the opposite for Australia's wind policy, just a month after the country's Climate Change Authority appeared to have brought stability by confirming the country's renewable energy target (RET) would remain at 41,000GWh by 2020.

On current estimates, this will represent around 23% of Australia's total electricity supply, compared with the less than 10% that currently comes from renewable sources.

Developers now fear that the election will mean few additional power purchase agreements (PPAs) will be  signed before the election, especially as a number of utilities lobbied against a fixed RET, preferring one that fluctuates in line with energy demand.

Conservative state governments have also pushed for a modified RET.

There are currently only four major wind projects under development in Australia with PPAs signed with utilities: AGL and Meridian Energy's 420MW Macarthur wind farm in Victoria; Siemens' 270MW Snowtown II project in South Australia; Epuron's 166MW Gullen Range in New South Wales; and TruEnergy's 108MW Taralga wind farm, also in New South Wales.

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