Hareon Solar executive says firm is considering a billion dollar investment in large scale solar within a year but policy stability, not subsidies, is needed
Chinese firm Hareon Solar is “actively” considering a billion dollar investment in large scale solar projects in Australia, but the stability of government climate policy is its major concern, a senior company executive has told Guardian Australia.
Jie Zhang, Hareon’s vice president of global business development said government subsidies were not necessary for the investment decision, to be taken within a year, but policy stability was required.
“Our only wish for government is a stable policy, don’t flip back and forth, of course we are concerned what has happened in the past in Australia with the renewable energy target,” he said in an interview at the Paris climate summit.
“Stability of policy is the number one thing that we look for. We made a very sad investment in Bulgaria, we responded to a call from government together with other companies and then they changed their policies. Solar is a 25 year investment. If a government can’t keep its policy stable for five years how can we inves,” he said.
Hareon solar is a major Chinese solar cell manufacturer and global investor in large scale solar projects, founded by Australian citizen Samuel Yang.
It has invested in solar projects delivering 700 megawatts of power in China as well as big projects in Bulgaria, Romania and the United Kingdom and smaller projects in the US and Japan.
Zhang said investment decisions were driven by government subsidies, but now required strong demand and policy stability.
Australia’s east coast electricity market is oversupplied, but Zhang insists large scale solar could be competitive at peak supply times.
“If you really had oversupply, your electricity price should be dirt cheap, but I don’t see that, your prices are high.
“ Oversupply can mean two things, it can mean over-supplying at the wrong time … our cost per kilowatt hour during peak times will be lower than coal at peak hours,” he said.
“We are very interested in investing in Australia, we are actively looking at this market and the generation and distribution in each state. We could install between 1 and 2 gigawatts of solar in Australia in the near future.”
“We will make a decision within a year. The market has matured for this investment, the cost of solar has come down and the electricity price in Australia remains high – so even without a proactive government strategy it is good to invest – of course we like government incentives, but we do not depend on them.”
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has announced a large-scale solar competitive round, seeking bids from major solar PV project proponents for grants of up to $30 million from a $100mn program. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has announced a complementary $250 million large-scale solar financing program.
Renewable energy investment in Australia froze in the early years of the Abbott government when the renewable energy target was under review. In the end in was wound back, but not abolished.