On Friday 20 April, the Australian State and Territory Ministers met to consider a draft high level design of the Australian Federal Government’s major energy reform, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). The draft was prepared by the Federal Government’s newly created Energy Security Board (ESB). After last minute talks and lobbying, focusing primarily on the adequacy of the proposed emissions targets, the Federal Government secured the support of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council for the NEG to proceed towards final design stage.
2018年4月20日，澳大利亚国土事务部召开会议审议由澳大利亚联邦政府负责设计实施的国家能源保障计划（下称“保障计划”，National Energy Guarantee，NEG）的顶层设计方案草稿。作为澳大利亚近期最重要的能源改革之一，保障计划相关法案由联邦政府新成立的能源安全委员会（Energy Security Board，ESB)）负责具体起草工作。本次会议主要聚焦于拟议实施的减排目标的充分性。经过最后的讨论和政治游说，澳大利亚政府委员会(Council of Australian Governments，COAG)决定支持当前版本的保障计划继续推进至最终设计阶段。
Below, we present a summary of the two major components of the draft NEG design, the “reliability guarantee” and the “emissions guarantee”, as well as a high level analysis of the ensuing implications for Chinese power developers, who are either already holding power generation assets or are eyeing off dispatchable generation or renewable energy opportunities in the Australian market.
The Reliability Guarantee and the Emission Guarantee at a glance
For over a decade, the Australian energy industry has been dealing with an energy trilemma of how to transition to sources of energy that are affordable, reliable and clean. During this period, household electricity prices have more than doubled, South Australia had a statewide blackout (in 2016) and in 2017 there were load-shedding events in New South Wales. Of course, Australia also committed under the Paris Agreement to reduce its carbon emissions by 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The proposed NEG is designed to deal with this trilemma by ensuring (1) the reliability of the system is maintained; (2) the electricity sector emissions reductions needed to meet Australia’s international commitments are achieved; and (3) the above objectives are met at the lowest overall cost. Under the proposed scheme, the guarantees will be placed upon electricity retailers who will, if a supply shortfall has been forecast by the market operator, be required to purchase a specified proportion of their energy needs from dispatchable sources (such as batteries, pumped hydro, coal, gas and liquid fuel etc) and, at the same time, maintain a specified emissions average emissions per megawatt hour threshold, hence requiring energy from renewable sources. Clearly, the NEG is not a subsidy based scheme.
With respect to non-compliant retailers, the ESB has indicated that the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) may use its discretion in making use of its existing compliance tools, such as imposing of increased prudential requirements, restrictions on accepting new customers, administrative and enforceable undertakings, and revocation of retailer authorizations.
对于违反上述保证的电力零售商，能源安全委员会表示，澳大利亚能源监管局（“Australian Energy Regulator ，AER）将有权使用一些现有的合规手段来予以惩罚，例如提高审慎性要求、限制其接受新客户，令其做出具体可行的行政承诺、以及撤销零售商授权等。
The ESB will consult in May and June this year with the final design to be released in July. If approved by the COAG Council, legislation and rule drafting will commence in August 2018. The intention still appears to be to commence the reliability guarantee in 2019 and the emissions guarantee in 2020.
The initial emissions target will be set for 10 years (2021-2031) and reviewed every 5 years (to align with review cycles under the Paris Agreement) at which time at least a further 5 years of target would be set. All emissions target changes can only occur with 5 year’s notice. As to the reliability targets, a regional-based forecast of reliability will be published in each region (each of which corresponds with an Australian State) for the next 10 years. The reliability forecast will be updated annually to reflect any material changes to the supply/demand outlook such as major generator retirements.
Practical implications for power generators/demand response providers
The implementation of the new reliability and emissions standards may open up new markets for Chinese power developers of interest. For example, wind and solar (with storage capacity), pumped hydro, gas or any other power supply with generation capacity reserve function that allows rapid dispatch at short notice. In the meantime, renewable energy sources such as wind and solar (with or without storage capacity), hydro and bio-energy will be needed to meet the emissions guarantee. Of course, demands for frequency control, network support and demand management services will also be increased as a result. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has recently identified grid scale batteries as providing excellent network support and control services, and is considering opening up a new market for this high performance support.
新的可靠性和排放标准计划的实施为中国电力开发者提供了新的市场机遇。例如，具备电力存储能力的风电和光伏发电、抽水蓄能电站、天然气发电和其他具备电力储备功能的、且能在短时间内经通知后可以立即发电的供电需求将会增长。同时，对可再生能源发电，例如风能和光伏发电（不论是否具备电力储备能力），水电及生物能源发电，的需求也将增长以满足排放保证。此外，对频率控制、电力网络支持以及需求管理服务也会相应增长。最近，澳大利亚能源市场运营机构（Australian Energy Market Operator，AEMO）已确定电网级别的蓄电池储能系统具备提供优良网络支持和控制服务的能力，并正在考虑为该种高性能支持设备开辟新的市场。
We are already seeing substantial interest in these new opportunities, particularly from Chinese developers.
Under the NEG scheme, in order for a retailer to be in compliant with the NEG requirements, it could choose to, among other options, enter into contracts with generators for low or zero emissions generation or for dispatchable capacity, at the lowest possible cost.
Due to the limited visibility of the reliability target at this point, we discuss here a couple of scenarios to illustrate how the emissions target will influence retailer behavior, which in turn will impact the electricity supply side. First, when the reliability target is properly set, or if the long-term forecasts show a possible insufficiency of dispatchable capacity to meet peak demand, retailers should be incentivized to write longer term contracts which will encourage investment in new power plant. On the other hand, if the reliability target does not look like being invoked (if the long-term forecasts are showing that there is sufficient dispatchable capacity to meet peak demand) or if it is invoked, but not substantially above retailer’s existing contracted positions, a retailer that owns generation assets may be able to press on their existing portfolio of assets to meet near term obligations meaning less new investment stimulation. But overall, we consider that implementation of the reliability guarantee and emissions guarantee should provide policy certainty to developers and operators of energy generation plant in Australia, which is clearly advantageous.
Impact of the NEG on the Renewable Energy Target scheme
Historically, most of the new investment in renewable energy generation is being guided by the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and financed by Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs), an intangible tradable asset created for the purpose of the RET scheme. By contrast, the deals which are currently being done are effectively valuing income from LGCs at very low levels, especially for years after 2022, when the targets under the RET will have been fully met and the market is forecast to be saturated with LGCs. The ESB has indicated that the RET scheme will continue in effect until the end of 2030 and electricity contracted for the purposes of the RET scheme would not be treated differently to new generation coming to market after the introduction of the emissions guarantee.
过去，可再生能源目标计划（下称“目标计划”，Renewable Energy Target，RET）作为澳大利亚政府的主要政策工具引导了大多数对当地新能源发电市场的投资。且目标计划下通过对大规模电力供应证书(下称“证书”Large-scale Generation Certificates，LGCs)的交易为投资人提供了必要的投资回报。技术上来讲，证书的实质就是一种可交易的金融类产品。但就目前的实时交易行为来讲，市场对证书交易的预期收入普遍持悲观态度。特别是2022年以后，可再生能源目标将全部达到，这意味着大量证书将充斥市场从而进一步压低交易价格。另一方面，能源安全委员会已经表示，目标计划至2030年都将持续有效，且不会区别对待该计划下供应的电力和在保障计划实施后新进入市场的电力供应。
The ESB has noted in its most recent high-level design document that electricity contracted for the purposes of the RET scheme should not be treated differently to new generation coming to market after the introduction of the emissions guarantee. In other words, both should be able to be counted towards an entity’s compliance with the emissions guarantee. Accordingly, if the emissions guarantee comes into force on 1 January 2020 as planned, there will be 10 years during which power generators and retailers who are also liable entities under the RET (mostly retailers) are required to comply with both schemes until the RET expires in 2030, while, significantly, generation which produces LGCs will also be able to count towards reducing a retailer’s average emissions intensity for the threshold under the NEG.
Certain key differences between the NEG and the RET
While the RET scheme requires the creation and surrender of LGCs, the emissions guarantee will not involve the creation or transfer of any permits or certificates. Rather, the emissions guarantee will involve retailers calculating the average emissions intensity of their load and ensuring this level remains below their mandated threshold. Under the NEG, retailers may also be able to purchase emissions offsets as a way of reducing the emissions intensity of their load in certain circumstances, something that is not permitted under the RET scheme. The Australian Government has yet to make a final decisions on offset, and the Australian renewable industry is very opposed to allowing offsets.
In addition, under the RET scheme, an entity is liable to surrender LGCs if it is the first person to acquire electricity delivered on a grid that has a capacity of 100 MW or more. Under the NEG, a concept of Market Customers is adopted which includes both electricity retailers and large customers registered directly in the National Electricity Market (NEM) and the owners/operators of energy storage facilities which are required to register as both generators and customer in the NEM (hence our mentioning of “retailers” in this article should be broadly construed to include all of the above entities in terms of liable entities under the NEG).
此外，根据目标计划，如果某企业是第一个（向发电商）购买超过或约为100MW上网电量的一方，则该企业将有义务在市场上购买证书并提交给相关监管机构。而保障计划采用的是“市场客户”负责制的概念，市场客户的定义包括了电力零售商和直接在国家电力市场（National Electricity Market，NEM）注册的大客户， 以及需要同时作为上述发电商和大客户在国家电力市场注册的能源储存设备的业主/运营商（因此，就保障计划下的监管对象而言，本文所提及的“零售商”应该广义理解为所有上述企业）。
Next steps and concluding remarks
With the sign off from the COAG Energy Council, the ESB will conduct further consultations as they proceed towards a final NEG design. The ESB will lead the process of further refining the NEG design, with the Commonwealth contributing on some design elements, such as the setting of an emissions target, determining conditions for exemptions for Emissions Intensive Trade Exposed (EITE) activities and determining the eligibility of offsets.
在当前方案获得能源委员会的批准后，能源安全委员会下一步将致力于保障计划最终设计方案的定稿工作。在进一步优化保障计划设计的同时，澳洲联邦政府也将配合能源安全委员会对设计要点提出意见和建议，例如设置排放量目标，确定排放量强度贸易（Emissions Intensive Trade Exposed, EITE)）行为和决定抵销机制的可行性等。
The final NEG design will be accompanied by draft legislation for its implementation. The final design will be presented at and voted on at the next meeting of the COAG Energy Council in August 2018 with legislation to be implemented before the end of the year.
To date, it appears that the Australian Federal Government is well aware of the importance of policy certainty that encourages new investment in the dispatchable and renewable sectors. While the final design of the NEG is still in the making, the general high-level analysis of the power market seems to suggest that the NEG has the potential to deliver energy supply reliability and emissions reductions by increasing dispatchable and renewable sources of generation/storage, which ultimately will curb pressure on energy price rises.
This presents a real opportunity for Chinese power investors to increase their existing portfolio or to develop a new portfolio of dispatchable and renewable assets in the Australian market.