Sunday, 17 June 2012

Solar win for AGL is loss for Moree
11 Jun 2012

THE federal government has switched its support for large-scale solar power away from a Spanish-backed venture, deciding to grant $130 million to rival AGL Energy venture. The Australian Financial Review reported Resources Minister Martin Ferguson announced the grant to AGL Energy and partner FirstSolar on Saturday in the revised tender for the government's $1.5 billion Solar Flagships Program. The partners are planning to build a $450 million,159 MW solar photovoltaic project at two NSW sites in Broken Hill and Nyngan. The decision means the future is highly uncertain for the $923 million solar project at Moree in northern NSW, which was to receive $306 million of federal funding.

Mr Ferguson reopened the grant tender in February after the Moree venture, led by Spain's Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV) and Pacific Hydro, missed a deadline. FRV resubmitted its bid, as did the three other shortlisted projects, by AGL Energy, TRUEnergy and an Infigen Energy Suntech Power consortium. But Mr Ferguson said the AGL Energy project "had the highest level of merit" in terms of value for money, low risk and commercial viability, which is assured by AGL Energy's binding contract to buy the power. The revised grant means Canberra has slashed its spending in this round of the Solar Flagship program. Mr Ferguson said the sharp drop in the cost of solar cells meant taxpayers' money could be spread further.