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Simon Corbell opens bids for second wind auction to power more than 100,000 Canberra homes

Environment Minister Simon Corbell will call for bids today in a second wind auction to power up to 106,000 Canberra homes as the city continues its drive to becoming a city powered by renewable energy.

Mr Corbell said that when the new 200 megawatts of capacity come online in 2018, about 80 per cent of Canberra's energy would come from renewable sources – leaving just 10 per cent to go to reach the government's target of 90 per cent renewables by 2020.

Once the target is reached, the government says Canberrans will be paying an extra $243 a year on average for renewable energy. But Mr Corbell said it would be almost entirely offset by $234 of savings for households that took part in the energy efficiency scheme.

In the wind auction, at least two wind farms will win 20-year contracts to feed electricity into the grid at a guaranteed price.

It follows two previous auctions: in 2013, three solar farms won 20-year feed-in deals, delivering 40 megawatts capacity, and in a wind auction earlier this year three wind farms won similar deals, delivering 200 megawatts between them. To date, one solar farm is operating.

Eighteen wind farms bid in the first auction, showing intense competition among wind companies for a guaranteed funding stream, and Mr Corbell has brought his second auction forward to take advantage of the number of wind farms with planning approval and ready to go.

"We believe there's a very good window of opportunity for the ACT to secure again very competitive prices for renewable energy generation from wind," he said.

He was reluctant to speculate on whether prices could go lower than the last wind auction, widely assessed as delivering very cheap wind energy to the territory.

The three wind farms already signed up are being paid $81.50, $87 and $92 for each megawatt hour. The power from Canberra's solar farms is twice as expensive. The Royalla solar farm, which was hooked up to the grid in September, is being paid $186 a megawatt hour and the other two a similar price.

Mr Corbell said the rules for the second wind auction would be similar to the first – projects of up to 100 megawatts capacity from across the eastern seaboard, with a 20 per cent weighting given to community engagement and community support in assessing the bids. Fifty per cent goes to timely project completion, 10 per cent to reliance on a financial guarantee from Treasury, and 20 per cent to the economic benefits for Canberra.

The bid criteria had been "refined" to make it clear what kinds of economic benefits the government wanted to see for Canberra, Mr Corbell said. In the last bid, a number of nearby wind farms missed out in favour of wind farms in Victoria and South Australia, with the winning projects promising to locate headquarters and operations hubs in Canberra and fund courses in wind farm maintenance and renewables at the Canberra Institute of Technology and the Australian National University.

Mr Corbell said the government would be looking for similar investment in the new round, including research, Canberra headquarters, basing maintenance and operations in the city, or employing local suppliers and contractors.

He aimed to see Canberra become a centre for renewables expertise, so as more wind farms were developed to meet the federal renewable energy target Canberra could take advantage of that, offering expertise to other wind farms.

"It's a double benefit for the ACT. We get the projects that we support directly through the auction process, but we also build a base of knowledge and innovation for other projects that will inevitably come forward because of the revised RET decision," Mr Corbell said.

Bids close on September 30.

Source: The Canberra Times

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