Surge of interest as battery, energy projects clamour for $1b SEC boost

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Victoria’s revived State Electricity Commission has received more than 100 registrations from energy and battery projects hoping to receive up to a $1 billion from its investment fund.

Bringing back the SEC was one of the Andrews government’s key re-election policies, with Labor pledging that return of the agency would lower household power bills and encourage the transition to renewable energy.

Bringing back the SEC was a key plank in Daniel Andrews’ third consecutive election win.Credit: Jason South

The government has provided little detail about how the SEC will bring down energy prices, except for pointing out that more renewable generation will increase supply in the market and lower wholesale costs.

But it did make an early commitment to kick off the SEC’s revival with a “pioneer investment” of $1 billion that would go towards generating 4.5 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2035. That is enough to replace Loy Yang A, the state’s largest power station that is expected to progressively shut down between 2028 and 2030.

The government intends to use its balance sheet to buy a major share in new projects that could eventually see the state collect some revenue from selling electricity to the National Energy Market. Proceeds from this process could then be reinvested into local projects.

In figures provided to The Sunday Age, the Andrews government confirmed it had received more than 100 registrations from projects interested in the state’s $1 billion investment.

The closure of coal power plants is straining the electricity grid.Credit: The Age

A significant share of these are battery projects – with more than 30 gigawatts of storage capacity represented across all applications.

Another 24 gigawatts of generation projects have shown interest in the scheme, including wind, solar and “emerging technologies” that were not detailed.

The SEC is now in the final stage of choosing where it will spend the money, including detailed discussions with individual projects.

The Andrews government will announce the successful project and detail a 10-year plan for the SEC by the end of the year.

Stockyard Hill Wind Farm located about 35 km west of Ballarat, Victoria.

It would be the first major demonstration of the election promise being delivered.

In February, The Age revealed internal Labor polling had shown energy costs were a bigger concern than any other cost of living issue at the time.

SEC Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the commission would be a “renewable energy powerhouse” led by Victorians.

“The response to this Pioneer Investment market search is a resounding vote of confidence in Victoria’s energy transition and the role the SEC will play in accelerating private sector investment.”

Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.Credit: Eddie Jim

Projects that are not picked in the first round of funding could also be eligible over the next decade, as the SEC looks for a “pipeline” of investment opportunities.

An Expert Advisory Panel was appointed this year to oversee the government’s new vision for the SEC, including providing advice about where to invest first.

Former chief scientist Alan Finkel left the panel in June citing personal reasons.

Prior to his departure, he said the SEC would need to be careful in how it funded projects so that it did not discourage private sector investment.

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