Green Energy: Al Gore backs Origin’s UK energy provider and Victoria’s big battery switches back on after fire
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Former US Vice President Al Gore, of hanging chad and The Inconvenient Truth fame, has doubled down on his support of the energy transition since his iconic slideshow documentary came to life in 2006.
He is now in partnership with Australian generator Origin Energy (ASX:ORG), which like many other Australian power companies has faltered in recent years as energy prices have come off the boil.
It is onto a winner at the moment with its investment in UK green power retailer and tech play Octopus Energy, which banked a £211 million capital injection from Gore-chaired Generation Investment Management for a 7% stake in the firm.
That has been matched by a £36 million investment from Origin that has kept its stake at 20%, as the GIM investment boosted Octopus’ value to £3 billion (around $5.5b Aussie).
GIM has the option to double its stake before the end of the financial year, which would likely prompt Origin to exercise an option to maintain its fifth of the UK-based company.
Origin CEO Frank Calabria said Octopus has tripled in value since Origin entered the green energy play in May last year, highlighting the investment as an important growth avenue.
Octopus holds around £3.4b of renewable power generating assets and is known for releasing Kraken – not the nautically-themed rum (or crypto exchange) but an energy retail tech platform licenced to energy retailers, including Origin.
Origin’s shares were up almost 5% in early trade as energy stocks soared, with Octopus also having snared 580,000 customers in the UK from the recent collapse of energy retailer Avro Energy.
Gas prices have hit an all time high in Europe as energy prices skyrocket ahead of the northern hemisphere winter.
The International Energy Agency’s Fatih Birol has urged countries to stay the course with the transition away from fossil fuels, saying green energy policies were not to blame.
Remember the big fire that shut down the new Tesla battery system near Geelong?
It’s coming back online baby, after regulators told Neoen and Tesla they were all good to resume energisation testing tomorrow.
Two Megapacks caught alight during the commissioning phase in July, and several detailed investigations followed to determine the root cause.
Once the Country Fire Authority (CFA) brought the situation under control, it handed control of the site to Energy Safe Victoria (ESV), who then started an investigation into the incident to prevent a recurrence.
The investigation identified the cause as coinciding short circuits in two locations, which was started by a coolant leak outside the battery compartment.
This occurred while the Megapack was offline in a service mode that removed fault protections, enabling it to go undetected while a fire commenced in the adjacent battery compartment.
Neoen Australia managing director Louis de Sambucy said: “We have taken the time to understand the cause of the incident and we have implemented actions to ensure it will not happen again.
“We are now actively working with all stakeholders to complete commissioning and testing of the project and we look forward to sharing the lessons learnt with the industry in coming weeks.”
Two independent groups, Energy Safety Response Group and Fisher Engineering, are compiling a report with key learnings from the fire, which will be released by November.
Key insights, including lessons for fire management and emergency response, will be shared publicly to support the relevant authorities in the deployment of battery storage technology, the groups said.
Anxiety about the safety of battery storage systems is an important fear to quell for investors in green energy.
A recent overheating incident at the world’s biggest battery in California, in batteries developed by LG, also highlighted this tension as the pace of large-scale battery developments increases.
Neoen and Tesla are continuing to work towards delivering the project in time for the Australian summer.
The Victorian Big Battery will unlock up to 250 MW of additional peak capacity on the existing Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector (VNI) over the next decade, playing a key role in the transition of the electricity sector towards lower emissions.
At the junior end of the green energy spectrum we have a new proponent in large-scale renewable hydrogen proposals on the cards in salt project developer Fin Resources (ASX:FIN).
Its North Onslow Solar Salt Project has been radically upscaled in recent weeks as Fin looks to turn it into a multi-commodity ‘green products’ hub.
Fin says Onslow could be the perfect location for a combined solar salt, SOP, caustic soda, chlorine and hydrogen hub.
That is backed by new investigations which suggest it is perfectly located for wind and solar generation.
Consultants to Fin say its 905km2 tenement package has the potential to host some 60 GW of solar with a total wind resource estimated at 15 GW.
Fin, which is progressing a scoping study on the Onslow salt project, envisions a future two stage development that could see it supply its estimated 358MW of power needs for its solar salt, sulphate of potash and chlor-alkali product initially.
A further 29GW of solar and wind resource is outside the planned development portfolio, meaning that could present a future opportunity to move into desalination and ‘green hydrogen’.