PowAR CEO praises states, laments Canberra's lack or urgency

POWERING Australian Renewables (PowAR) chief Geoff Dutaillis has praised the state government’s efforts to forge ahead with the energy transition in spite of the policy vacuum around energy and climate in Canberra.
PowAR CEO praises states, laments Canberra's lack or urgency PowAR CEO praises states, laments Canberra's lack or urgency PowAR CEO praises states, laments Canberra's lack or urgency PowAR CEO praises states, laments Canberra's lack or urgency PowAR CEO praises states, laments Canberra's lack or urgency

Global energy transition ‘unstoppable’

Mark Tilly

Journalist

Mark Tilly

Speaking to Energy News in the wake of PowAR's acquisition of Tilt Renewables earlier this week, Dutaillis noted there was a range of worthy work the federal government was doing in the hydrogen and exports space, but Canberra needed to act with more urgency.

"We continue to signal that we're doing everything, but the reality is we're not doing enough to live up to the goals of the Paris Agreement, that's where the level of frustration is coming from," he said. 

"We're seeing strong movement in the EU and the US - Australia needs to act in concert with the world or we will miss opportunities."

For PowAR's own part, which has now become Australia's largest renewable energy operator with 1.3GW of generation capacity, Dutaillis noted customers were increasingly vocal about wanting their electricity to come from renewable energy sources. 

The company is currently commissioning the Cooper's Gap Wind Farm in Queensland and looking to make final investment decision on the Rye Park Wind Farm in the coming months, part of a 3GW development pipeline. 

Dutaillis said he could "only be complimentary" about the states pushing for more ambitious renewable energy and emission reduction targets. 

"The states are moving independently of a coordinated plan because there's a vacuum and if you don't have that, the states will move forward because they know they need to act, we've got opportunities in front of us and we can't let those go," he said. 

In June the federal government caught the Western Australian state government off guard by knocking back the proposal for the massive Asian Renewable Energy Hub renewable ammonia export hub in the Pilbara. 

Groups said it would only reinforce the perception that the federal government was favouring fossil-fuel based projects over renewables. 

Dutaillis described the move as a "skirmish", saying while government intervention did rattle investors, the broader macro economic environment along with projects like Sun Cable in the Northern Territory, and the work of FMG chairman Andrew Forrest gave them confidence.   

"Sitting behind that, most importantly are customers, capital businesses, overseas customers, they're voting saying we want this," he said. 

"That's unstoppable, no matter what the government does."

Dutaillis said while the days of people viewing wind farms as eye sores had mostly passed, there were very real social license issues facing the industry regarding the size and scale of new transmission networks that will need to be built to support new wind and solar projects. 

Last month AusNet was met with backlash after a consultation group it set up to provide feedback for the proposed Western Victoria Transmission project resigned, accusing the company of of misrepresenting its feedback and treating it as a box-ticking exercise. 

"The transmission companies haven't had to do these kind of big projects before, the communication on that needs to go along way," Dutaillis said. 

Overall though, he believed the future was bright for renewables in Australia, and PowAR would play a pivotal role thanks to its acquisition of Tilt. 

"PowAR will continue our momentum in the decarbonisation of Australia's energy system with the upcoming commissioning of the Cooper's Gap Wind Farm in Queensland and we are on track to shortly make a final investment decision for the 396MW Rye Park Wind Farm in NSW."