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Renewable Energy

Northern Territory Energy Industry

Figure 1. NT power system, NT Roadmap to Renewables 2017The Northern Territory has globally significant onshore and offshore energy reserves and a long history as a supplier of oil, gas and uranium worldwide. It is also committed to providing secure, reliable, and affordable power to all Territorians to ensure economic and job development.

The Territory relies on conventional offshore and onshore gas as well as diesel as its primary source of energy input for electricity generation. It currently uses a mix of approximately 96% gas and diesel and 4% of renewable energy supplied primarily by solar energy. 

Community attitudes and expectations towards cleaner, sustainable sources of energy and rapid improvements in renewable energy technology is causing disruption in the way energy is generated, distributed and consumed in the Territory. Industries such as mining, agriculture and transport are integrating renewables into their business models at a rapid pace to cut costs and create efficiencies. 

Reliability is an issue that needs to be overcome for all renewables. Solar is one of the more popular renewables for the Territory due to climate, but it is affected by changes in weather patterns that occur in the wet season. Changes in supply and demand currently hinges on other types of energy like oil and gas providing the critical back-up required for Territorians using solar. Currently not connected to the National Electricity Market (NEM), the Territory does not share the critical secondary source of power some of the other states have, but this creates opportunity for the Territory to be innovative in tapping into evolving renewable technologies like battery storage to supply back-up power at crucial periods. 

 

The Northern Territory Government is focusing on establishing a regulatory environment supporting investment in energy sources balanced with environmental considerations, community values and economic growth by:

  • Setting a target of 50 percent electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions  
  • Planning, building and maintaining safe, cost efficient and reliable local electricity infrastructure for provision of services
  • Managing the purchase, transport and sale of gas to electricity generators and other major gas users, and
  • Future proofing the NT by planning for and building electricity infrastructure to meet future supply and demand.
     
Australia has a substantial renewable energy resource potentially capable of providing 500 times the electricity currently used in Australia. It has been estimated that growth in renewables worldwide would see a corresponding growth in Australia’s economy of 1.7 percent above ‘business as usual’, even when factoring in a decline in coal exports.
NT Roadmap to Renewables Report, NT Government, 2017

NT Renewable Energy Industry

The Northern Territory Government has a target of 50 percent of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030. Renewable energy is energy produced using natural resources that are constantly replaced and never run out and include solar, wind, and wave power.

In 2017, the Government commissioned an independent expert panel to advise and report on viable options to reach its renewable energy target taking into consideration technical, financial, operational and economic issues. The NT Roadmap to Renewables Report 2017 provides 11 recommendations to guide Government to achieve the target including how current infrastructure could be used to support a change-over to more renewable energy sources. The report highlights the numerous attributes that the Territory possesses, including:

  • Considerable knowledge, capability and expertise in renewable energy technology, particularly in the Alice Springs region
  • Ideal location for large-scale solar PV plants due to land and sunlight
  • The impact the Government could achieve towards the target by explicitly encouraging the installation of solar PV on its own buildings; if consumption by rental households and government were combined, some 50 to 60 percent of facilities could potentially benefit from renewable energy, enabling the Territory to reach half of its target for 2030; and
  • Opportunity for renewable energy to replace gas generation assets as they retire or to extend gas generation asset life, by reducing its working load, maintaining the system’s security and reliability.



 

The report also highlighted that two principal barriers typically attributed to renewable energy investment in the Territory were becoming less relevant i.e high capital cost (offset to some extent by the lower cost of operation, generation and maintenance) and reliability:

  • High capital cost - The cost of producing renewable energy electricity has declined significantly over recent years and is still on a rapid downward trajectory. The average investment cost of both wind and solar power has decreased by more than 50 per cent since 1990. It is anticipated the cost of renewable energy will decline even further as markets mature and companies increasingly take advantage of economies of scale.
  • Reliability - Given the very high levels of solar radiation in the Northern Territory, it is the most widely used renewable energy source locally, well suited to the climate and geography. As solar energy is intermittent and only produced when the sun is shining, cloud cover can rapidly reduce energy capture. New enabling technologies like battery-storage, supply prediction and smart grid technologies help to manage renewable energy so it can be produced day and night while strengthening the electricity grid.

The report notes that back up energy storage will likely play an important role in the Northern Territory progressing towards the Government commitment to producing 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 for electricity supplied to Territory households and businesses, while at the same time ensuring secure and reliable electricity at minimal cost to consumers and taxpayers.

NT SETuP (Solar Energy Transformation Program) is a co-funded project by ARENA and Power Water Corporation valued at $59 million. Ultimately, the four-year program will provide 10 megawatts (mw) of solar photovoltaic power into the energy mix of 25 Northern Territory communities. The program is changing the energy supply portfolio of Power Water Corporation, making solar energy an established part of future power station design and will create fuel savings of at least 15 per cent across the 25 communities.
Introduction to ARENA’s Remote and Regional Projects Report, ARENA, 2017 & PowerWater Indigenous Essential Services Annual Report 2016-2017

Types of Renewable Energy

  • Hybrid diesel-solar power stations – In many remote locations of the Northern Territory, hybrid diesel-solar power plants are being established. Containing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, they convert solar energy into electricity reducing the reliance on diesel for energy production. When insufficient solar is available, the diesel generator is used to provide a reliable supply of energy for the local community.

  • Rooftop PV systems – A solar PV power system converts energy from sunlight into electricity. Currently, Territory residents with rooftop PV systems are connected to the power grid. Any excess energy produced is returned to the grid for other users to benefit from. Where solar energy is insufficient due to cloud cover or weather conditions, these residents can source their energy from the grid system, which is supported by conventional energy sources (primarily gas). 

  • Wind turbines – Wind turbines are devices that convert the wind’s kinetic energy into electricity. These large-scale systems generate energy which is injected into the grid system for the benefit of all users. The Northern Territory climate is such that wind turbines are less effective, and therefore less commercially viable, than they are in southern jurisdictions.

  • Landfill gas – Methane gas is continuously generated in landfill sites such as the Shoal Bay site in Darwin as a by-product of waste. This gas can be used as an energy source to generate electricity. The small population of the Northern Territory is such that there isn’t enough waste to support large generation of methane gas from landfill, however this may prove a valuable and environmentally-beneficial source of electricity for small scale operations / production.

  • Hydropower – Flowing water creates energy that can be captured and turned into electricity. The most common type of hydroelectric power plant uses a dam on a river to store water in a reservoir. Water released from the reservoir flows through a turbine, spinning it, which in turn activates a generator to produce electricity. There is also tidal power which uses tides and waves in a similar way.

  • Geothermal – Generated by the natural decay over millions of years of radiogenic elements including uranium, thorium and potassium. Geothermal energy can be drawn from the hot water circulating among rocks below the earth’s surface, or by pumping cold water into the hot rocks and returning the heated water to the surface. This drives steam turbines to produce electricity.

  • Bioenergy – Derived from organic matter of recently living plant or animal material. Research is being done in the Northern Territory to determine its feasibility as a back up storage solution to solar.

The Northern Territory Government has a target of 50 percent of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030. Given the Territory’s natural advantages, solar energy is the most promising way to achieve this…Renewable energy could improve the competitive position of a broad range of businesses if it could be harnessed to deliver lower cost electricity than alternative fuel sources. The sector provides an opportunity for Territory businesses to integrate best-practice technologies in solar power generation, storage and management, and this expertise could be sold by Territory firms to earn income from outside the Northern Territory.
NT Economic Development Framework, NT Government, 2017

The Northern Territory Energy Grid

  • Regulated systems - The Northern Territory is currently made up of scale regulated electricity grid networks: Darwin–Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs. Ninety-six per cent of the fuel used for these networks is natural gas, allowing the Northern Territory to achieve relatively low wholesale electricity prices. There are also minor grid systems at Yulara, Timber Creek, Borroloola, Nhulunbuy and Ti Tree, which are primarily powered by gas, diesel or a mixture of the two.
  • Unregulated systems - Other areas of the Northern Territory are categorised as unregulated systems, where generation is generally provided by diesel or gas fired generators. Increasing portions of renewable energy are being injected throughout the Northern Territory, including within outstations and remote communities. These smaller communities offer significant opportunity for high penetration solar and battery systems as the renewable energy replaces expensive diesel fuel.

Many Territorians have installed solar PV on the roofs of their homes and businesses to save on their electricity bills, reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Northern Territory Energy Service Providers

Three Government Owned Corporations operate the Northern Territory electricity system and provide the majority of services.

  • Territory Generation - (Generator) – TGen operates and maintains a fleet of gas powered generation assets. Supplying the NT with most of its electricity, these assets also provide the necessary support and back-up services to recover quickly from sudden equipment outages.
  • Power and Water Corporation (PWC) - (Regulator/Generator) – PWC manages the reliability of the system by ensuring the right support services are always available where required. PWC also generates electricity in some minor centres and communities serviced by Indigenous Essential Services Pty.
  • Jacana Energy - (Retailer) – The dominant electricity retailer across both the regulated residential and small business customer market and the commercial and industrial customer market. Jacana is one of six licenced electricity retailers in the NT.
Clean Energy Council accreditation: for a small-scale solar PV wind or hydro system to be installed in a Territorian’s home and be eligible for Government rebates, it must be signed off by an individual who is accredited by the CEC. To be accredited, installers must complete a VET or university related qualification and undertake additional relevant training units. They must also regularly participate in continuous professional development (CPD) to maintain their accreditation. CEC also provides training and endorsements in skills such as Storage. The CEC also maintains a list of approved solar modules and inverters that meet Australian standards for use in the design and installation of solar PV systems.
Industry Skills Advisory Council NT (ISACNT)

Latest Industry Intelligence

ISACNT interviewed and conducted workshops (Darwin and Alice Springs) with approximately 22 key stakeholders representing the NT Roadmap to Renewables Industry Expert Panel, large energy generators, small to medium solar providers and installers, industry association representatives, RTOs and local government.

The information collected along with desktop research of key reports has informed this report.

ISACNT would like to thank everyone who took time out to participate in the research and provide their insights and experiences.

The Northern Territory is the nation's stronghold for solar hot water, with
42.3 %
of households having a system installed

(ABS 2014)

Western Australia is next in line with
19.2%
(ABS 2014)

Alice Springs is the top solar postcode for the Northern Territory
1672 installations and
8598 KW Capacity

(Figure Clean Energy Australia Council Report 2018)

NT SMALL GENERATION UNIT-SOLAR

 

 

NT SOLAR WATER HEATER AND AIR SOURCES HEAT PUMP

Current State

Strengths

Geo-political and economic

  • The NT’s proximity to Asian markets is strategically important to energy supply worldwide, to Australia and the NT
  • NT Government has set a 50% renewable energy target by 2030 and corresponding roadmap and recommendations have been produced
  • Renewables are becoming increasingly inexpensive and reliable
  • The NT has a long history of innovation with renewable energy systems
  • The NT is a prime location for large-scale solar PV plants
  • Territorians have a robust uptake of owner occupier solar PV
  • Renewables add value to the property market
  • The NT has expertise integrating renewables with existing diesel and natural gas generation
  • NT has signed up to the Australian Regulator but not the rules, giving room for flexibility and negotiation
  • NT is not connected to the NEM providing opportunity for innovation
  • Local SMEs are knowledgeable in NT specific installation and compliance guidelines and regulations unique to the Territory

Workforce and capability

  • Local SMEs formed Smart Energy NT, advocating Buy Local, funding locally based training, enabling community education programs, and advocating market led investment
  • CEC indicates 58 accredited solar design and installers in the Top End and 15 in Central Australia
  • SMEs say they have the skills for business now, but not for projected growth

Training and skills

  • The NT has robust electrical apprenticeship enrolments which are meeting entry level skill demand
  • Many trade qualifications have transferable skills to renewables
  • Renewable energy industry provides career pathway opportunities for VET and university graduates

Challenges

Geo-political and economic

  • A detailed implementation plan based on the roadmap will be required to ensure the 50/50 target is met by 2030

  • The NT’s lack of a formal energy policy
  • Isolated networks, stand-alone systems and remoteness make economies of scale challenging
  • NT weather and geography makes some renewables unviable
  • High proportion of NT rental property and government owned buildings without renewable energy
  • Ensuring local consumers are educated in NT specific installation and compliance guidelines and regulations
  • Low SME participation in large scale installations and farms
  • Local SMEs challenged to compete on price with interstate competitors due to higher costs of doing business remotely
  • Noncompliance of regulation and guidelines may affect property prices
  • SMEs identify red tape issues:
    • Final connection of commercial installation to grid can be delayed reducing economic benefits
    • Building permit requirement creates additional economic costs
    • NT grant scheme reimbursements may create installation delays

Workforce and capability

  • CEC accreditation sits with an individual, rather than a company creating challenges for SMEs
  • Small-scale solar energy contributes majority of employment among NT renewable energy activity, but the real impact will come from large scale renewables
  • In-house structural engineers with renewable energy experience create a cost savings to NT businesses but those with experience are difficult to recruit
  • SMEs use qualified electricians to provide majority of work when significant proportion is manual labour (70% labour, 20% Electrical, 10% Other)

Training and skills

  • Completion rates continue to be an issue for Electrical apprentices
  • National qualifications covering renewable energy are inadequate for current industry needs and have not kept up with technology changes
  • Inadequate CEC accreditation training or professional development offered in the NT
  • No RTO is currently offering face-to-face renewable energy training in the NT

Case Study

As a passionate business owner in the renewable energy industry, community education is key to the NT meeting its 2030 target. Customers can be blindsided by NT specific building requirements and suburb covenants i.e. restrictions on property use set by developers.

Designing and installing Solar PV that meets appropriate requirements, regulations and guidelines is far more complex than customers think.

It is crucial for customers to educate themselves to avoid common pitfalls that can result in an unsalable property, expensive fixes and/or complex legal issues.

Simple steps and guidelines that we recommend to our customers include:

  • Understand your energy consumption
  • Look local first and make sure installer licenses and accreditations are in place
  • Review Power Water Corporation's website for additional information
  • Check that the installer quote is all-inclusive
  • Book a site visit with the installer and a follow up consultation on monitoring the system
  • Ensure you receive your certificate of occupancy and a copy of the building permit
  • Ensure you understand the terms and conditions of solar system warrantees and you have received all relevant paperwork

Jeremy Hunt, Managing Director, Country Solar NT

Future State

Opportunities

Geo-political and economic

  • Developing an energy market design framework that capitalises on local SME expertise, incorporates the unique qualities of the NT energy grid and links policy, funding and training
  • Establishing an independent NT implementation agency advising Government on policy, ensuring targets are met
  • Developing and implementing an educational consumer campaign addressing the benefits and NT specific requirements for solar installation
  • Developing the NT as a low-cost gas and renewable energy hub, creating local jobs and business growth
  • Exporting opportunities exist for NT businesses throughout the Asia corridor, especially the Indonesian Archipelago islands with a similar tropical climate
  • Establishing renewable hubs to share knowledge and expertise
  • Prioritising the installation of solar PV on NT Government owned properties and creating incentives for property owners
  • Ensuring the Roadmap and Buy Local policy supports growth of NT based businesses

Workforce and capability

  • SMEs partnering with civil construction companies to deliver medium to large scale solar projects
  • SMEs developing innovative practices and Intellectual Property (IP) that capture their unique skills and knowledge for operating in challenging geographic and weather conditions, with export potential
  • Large scale operator suggests reskilling of current workforce will be required

  • Skilling local people to deliver renewable services in their communities can increase participation and engagement at the local level, bringing with it significant economic and social benefits

  • Developing new occupations and career pathways such as Energy System Engineers (whole house and business design), post installation and maintenance of PV systems, and the ability to technically assess and report on the performance of renewable systems
  • Develop expertise in leadership, project management skills, quality assurance (QA), WHS and digital/IT systems for NT renewables industry

Training and skills development

  • Incentivising support to undergraduate electrical and structural engineers to undertake work experience to gain skills in renewables
  • Upskilling current workforce in areas such as civil construction, systems management, smart integration systems and electrical and battery design and storage
  • Encouraging local RTOs to deliver CEC units and regular PD sessions in the NT so electricians don’t need to fly to other jurisdictions to upskill
  • Broader delivery of Certificate II in Electrotechnology to targeted groups such as students from remote communities
  • Incentivising local RTOs to include solar-related units and skill sets into relevant qualifications
  • Encouraging RTOs to invest in current renewables technology and trainers with up-to-date industry experience

Threats

Geo-political and economic

  • Energy market structure design and policy will need to consider and address unique vulnerability and low inertia of NT grid
  • Historic monopoly of few energy providers in the NT is a threat to local SMEs participating in medium to large scale projects
  • Isolated micro-grids and stand-alone systems make economies of scale challenging in the NT
  • NT weather and geography makes some renewables less viable

Workforce and capability

  • CEC accreditation is due for expiration in 2030 with some pressure to expire in 2020
  • 2016/17 (ABS) saw renewable production increased by one-third, creating an additional 14,820 positions in other states and territories; competition for skilled workers is increasing

Training and skills development

  • Few VET qualifications related to energy, electricity and renewables currently meet the needs of the NT renewable industry due to factors such as:
    • Rapid advancements in technology
    • Little room in Certificate III in Electrotechnology qualification for additional renewable units
    • Some qualifications still have technology that is no longer used but must be delivered and assessed
  • While there are suppliers offering training, it is usually based on one issue/system and it is not subsidised or nationally recognised
  • Not addressing current industry needs for accredited/non-accredited storage (battery) training
The Northern Territory Government is committing $5 million in funding over three years for a Centre of Excellence in Renewable Energy, which will be based in Alice Springs. The Centre will be named the Intyalheme Centre for Future Energy. Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA) has been granted permission to use the Arrernte word meaning ‘a fire starting up again’. The Centre will prioritise knowledge sharing, community education and engagement, industry partnerships, and commercialisation as its core functions.  It will build on the existing infrastructure, knowledge and expertise within the Alice Springs community, by concentrating resources and capability as well as by promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing. The Centre will leverage resources through significant co-investment from other parties over time, including research organisations, industry and other Government partners.
Roadmap to Renewables Report, NT Government, 2017

Skills in Demand

Entry Level Skills
in Demand 

  • Working at heights

  • White Card

  • Elevated work platform

  • Power tools use

  • Equipment/supplies handling

Industry Skills
in Demand 

  • Professional trade skills, knowledge, currency and work experience, including Roof Plumbers

  • Project management skills

  • Mechanical or electronic skills

  • Numeracy and literacy proficiency

  • Technical problem-solving skills

  • Documentation and record keeping

  • Reliability and responsibility

  • Safety awareness

  • Effective communication skills
     

Specialised Skills
in Demand 

  • Battery installation/design

  • Quality management systems

  • Building management systems

  • Smart devices

  • Smart integration systems

  • Electrical design

  • ISO accreditation

 

Clean Energy Council Accreditation

Clean Energy Council Solar Accreditation is a qualification that demonstrates competence in the design and/or installation of solar power systems.

Occupations in Demand and Career Pathways

Occupations in demand and qualifications pathways have been identified. These occupations may require additional licences, accreditations, certifications and specialised training.

NT Apprenticeship / Traineeship

Training Delivered in the NT

NO NT Appreticeship / Traineeship

NO Training Delivered in the NT

Electrician (General)

ANZSCO # 341111 Installs, tests, connects, commissions, maintains and modifies electrical equipment, wiring and control systems. Registration or licensing is required.  Skill Level: 3

Certificate II in Electrotechnology Electrician

Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician

Skill Sets post Certificate III:
Installer of Grid Connected Photovoltaic Systems
Designer-Installer of
Grid Connected Photovoltaic Systems
Sustainable - Energy Efficiency Auditor

Specialised units of competencies
Install, maintain and fault find battery storage systems for grid-connected photovoltaic systems
Design battery storage systems for grid-connected

photovoltaic systems

 

Certificate IV in Electrical - Photovoltaic Systems 

Skill Sets:
Energy assessment of residential, office and retail premises
Energy assessment of commercial facilities
Energy Assessment of industrial properties and enterprises

 

Diploma of Electrical Engineering

or  

Diploma of Renewable Energy Engineering

Skill Sets:
Energy Efficiency Systems Designer
Identify Energy Efficiency Strategies
Energy Efficiency Systems Developer
Energy Efficiency Systems Integration

   

Advanced Diploma of Renewable Energy Engineering 

or  

Advanced Diploma of Electrical - Engineering

Electrical or Telecommunications Trades Assistant

Alternative titles: Trades Assistant or Labourer

ANZSCO # 899914 Assists Electrotechnology and Telecommunications Trades Workers to install and maintain electrical and telecommunications systems. Skill Level: 5

Certificate II in Electrotechnology

or  

Certificate II in Construction

Management and Professional Occupations

Management and professional occupations in demand in the NT are listed below. Renewable Energy Industry career pathways have been identified. These occupations may require trade qualifications, additional licences, accreditations, registration, certifications and specialised training.  Identified engineers require university degrees.

NT Apprenticeship / Traineeship

Training Delivered in the NT

NO NT Appreticeship / Traineeship

NO Training Delivered in the NT

 

Engineers

Electrical Engineer

ANZSCO # 233311 Designs, develops and supervises the manufacture, installation, operation and maintenance of equipment, machines and systems for the generation, distribution, utilisation and control of electric power. Registration or licensing may be required. Skill Level: 1

Civil Engineer

ANZSCO # 233211 Plans, designs, organises and oversees the construction and operation of dams, bridges, pipelines, gas and water supply schemes, sewerage systems, airports and other civil engineering projects. Registration or licensing may be required. Skill Level: 1

Structural Engineer

ANZSCO # 233214 Analyses the statistical properties of all types of structures, tests the behaviour and durability of materials used in their construction, and designs and supervises the construction of all types of structures. Registration or licensing may be required. Skill Level: 1

Bachelor of Engineering Science
(Civil and Structural, Electrical and Electronics)

Construction Estimator

Alternative Title: Building Estimator

ANZSCO # 312114 Prepares and delivers estimates and cost plans for construction projects up to the tender settlement stage. Skill Level: 2

Certificate IV Building and Construction (Estimating)

or  

Certificate IV Project Management

Project Manager

ANZSCO # 133211 Plans, organises, directs, controls and coordinates the engineering and technical operations of an organisation. Skill Level: 1

Certificate IV Project Management Practice

Certificate IV in Leadership and Management

Diploma in Project management

Qualifications and Training

Electrotechnology - Enrolments and Completions

Qualification Name 2014 2015 2016
  Enrolments Completions Enrolments Completions Enrolments Completions (Preliminary)
Certificate II in Electrotechnology (Career Start) 16 0 73 3 22 14
Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician 791 77 513 86 518 93
Certificate IV in Electrical - Photovoltaic systems 2 0 0 0 3 0
Diploma of Electrical Engineering 0 0 0 0 1 2
Diploma of Renewable Energy Engineering 3 0 0 0 2 0

Source: NCVER VOCSTATS Years 2014, 2015, 2016
State/Territory of residence of Student: Northern Territory

Construction, Plumbing and Services, and Business Services
Enrolments and Completions

Qualification Name 2014 2015 2016
  Enrolments Completions Enrolments Completions Enrolments Completions (Preliminary)
Certificate IV in Project Management Practice 140 46 133 51 217 59
Diploma of Project Management 170 59 197 23 213 30
Certificate II in Construction Pathways 181 45 279 31 160 42
Certificate II in Construction 259 95 289 90 310 97
Certificate IV in Building and Construction (Estimating) 0 0 3 0 0 0

Source: NCVER VOCSTATS Years 2014, 2015, 2016
State/Territory of residence of Student: Northern Territory