Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Commission (CEFC) says a recently launched lending programme for solar has attracted enough interest to boost the country’s large-scale PV capacity 10-fold.
The body, which invests in clean energy, said it had received over 40 expressions of interest for loans under an AU$250 million (US$177.5 million) lending facility it launched earlier this year.
“We have received very strong interest from project developers clearly looking to further develop Australia’s large-scale solar capacity,” CEFC chief executive Oliver Yates said.
“The total capacity of the proposed projects is more than 2,000MW. If all these projects proceeded to development, we would see a 10-fold increase in Australia’s large-scale solar capacity. There is clearly strong investor interest in the potential of Australia’s renewable energy sector.”
The CEFC programme complements an AU$100 million funding programme launched at the same time by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Yates said the two bodies would now assess the suitability of the proposals for funding from the two bodies.
“As with any commercial transaction, we would not expect all projects to proceed to conclusion. However we are very encouraged by the number and quality of proposals,” he said. “Australia is uniquely placed to meet more of its energy needs from solar power, and the price of solar is falling as technologies improve and developers gain more experience in this area.”
Projects range in size from 15MW to 200MW, with Queensland attracting the largest number of projects bids, totalling 980MW, followed by New South Wales with 620MW. The CEFC programme will offer loans of AU$15 million and above, for projects over 10MW.
“Australia currently has only four large-scale solar PV developments larger than 10MW. Through this financing program, we are looking to accelerate the development of large-scale solar as an important part of our renewable energy capacity,” Yates said.
The news represents an encouraging turnaround for Australia’s large-scale solar market, which all but ground to a halt when the country’s Renewable Energy Target policy found itself the target of political attacks from the former prime minster Tony Abbott’s government. The new government under Malcolm Turnbull has struck a more moderate tone on climate change and clean energy.
Environment minister Greg Hunt said of the CEFC/ARENA joint funding programme: “This cooperation will help to drive down the cost of large-scale solar developments in Australia.”