Category archive: Companies

A $38M Tesla Battery Plant to Run in SA Starting Next May

A $38 million Tesla battery plant in South Australia is on course to be running in May 2019.

The new 25MW/52MWh grid-scale battery will be built by Infigen Energy at the Lake Bonney wind farm with funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the state government.

“This project has had its challenges but it’s actually travelling very well at the moment,” said Igor Brandao, general manager of development at Infigen.

“It’s comprised of 296 battery packs and 48 converters …These are all containers that will be sitting on a bench and connected to the substation which is where the Lake Bonney wind farm connects into.”

Infigen’s CEO Ross Rolfe said the Tesla battery will help Infigen to become an active electricity market participant. “With this capability Infigen will be able to expand its supply contracts from the Lake Bonney Wind Farm to additional commercial and industrial customers in South Australia, which is at the heart of our business strategy,” said Rolfe.

“We will also be able to reduce our exposure to FCAS costs and respond to the impact of the five-minute settlement rule when it is introduced in 2021.”

The plant is expected to last 10 to 15 years.

Tesla has previously built a battery plant in the state’s Hornsdale region, which is now owned and operated by French renewable energy company Neoen.

Since the 100MW/129MWh Hornsdale power reserve went live, South Australia has seen reduced costs in calling for back-up energy, also known as Frequency Controlled Ancillary Service (FCAS). According to AEMO’s first Quarterly Report of 2018, FCAS costs dropped 57 per cent or around $33 million in the plant’s first quarter of operation.

Battery has played an important role in keeping South Australia online, especially after the statewide blackout in September 2016.

H&M Opens First SA Store at Adelaide’s Rundle Mall Plaza

Retail giant H&M has opened its first store in South Australia at Adelaide’s Rundle Mall.

The two-level store spans across 3,000sqm to offer apparel and accessories as well as homewares, curtains, serveware and decorations through the H&M Home concept.

“We are excited to finally be able to announce the opening date for our Rundle Mall Plaza store … and to offer our customers an incredible fashion shopping destination within Adelaide,” said Thomas Coellner, Australian country manager for H&M.

The store opening represents continued strong investment in the real estate Adelaide, said Kate Fuss, acting general manager at Rundle Mall Management Authority.

“We’re very pleased to see such strong investment in the precinct,” said Fuss. “As the longest pedestrian mall in the southern hemisphere, Adelaide’s Rundle Mall is not only South Australia’s top tourist attraction, but also the state’s premier shopping destination, attracting 400,000 visitors each week – a market national and international brands are keen to tap into.”

The Swedish retailer is one of the major tenants at Rundle Mall Plaza, which has been under redevelopment since late 2017. Once completed, the revamped plaza will also have a dining hub, a health and wellbeing precinct and a tech hub.

The $40 million redevelopment will be beneficial not only to Rundle Mall, but also Adelaide in general, said Peter Weinert, executive director at Rundle Mall Plaza owner Weinert Group.

“We have invested strongly in South Australia, creating an enormous amount of work over the past 12 months for our building contractors and for the retail sector,” said Weinert.

“The redevelopment has opened up a wealth of job opportunities, especially for young people in our state. H&M alone will employ nearly about 90 new staff – 95% of which hail from South Australia.”

Phenss

Australian-Based Company to Build Coal Power Plant in PNG

An Australian company’s plan to build a coal-fired power plant in Papua New Guinea is a step closer to reality after a memorandum of agreement was reached with the local governments.

Since at least 2014, Australian-based Mayur Resources has been proposing to build a coal-powered power plant and coal mine in Lae, Morobe province. Now a MOA has been signed by the company, the Lae City Authority and the Morobe Provincial Government for a new 60-megawatt power station.

PNG’s Communications and Energy Minister Sam Basil said the plants will relieve Lae City of its blackouts and generate a K5 million or AU$2.09 million in revenue per year for Lae and Morobe governments, as well as 300 local jobs.

Basil said while PNG is a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement, the country should have the right to use coal power. “Big nations are not reducing [coal emission], therefore, Papua New Guinea needs to be given a quota,” said Basil.

“In PNG, we’ve been denied that right [to burn coal] for a very long time. As mandated leaders from Morobe, we made a decision to make sure we provide cheap power for Lae City to develop into an industrial hub.”

Lae MP John Rosso said coal processing will be significantly more affordable than environmentally friendly alternatives such as hydro power.

“Of course we can utilize hydro power and solar power,” said Rosso. “However, we can’t always wait for this to happen in the next 20 years. We have situations with blackouts to address immediately and thus the coal power option is the way forward.

“When I looked at the facts and figures of how efficient coal power is used in Australia, it was encouraging to back the idea for the coal power plant to be established in Lae.”

PNG’s Conservation and Environment Protection Agency has endorsed the plan following an assessment.

Basil said the power facility will be ready in two years.

Afterpay Shares Hit by Upcoming Senate Inquiry

Afterpay shares dived following news that payday lenders, debt management firms and buy-now-pay-later platforms will be the subject of a new Senate inquiry.

The inquiry, proposed by Labor, is likely to pass the Senate after receiving support from the Greens, independent Derryn Hinch and Centre Alliance senators Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff.

“Financial counsellors are telling us that their clients are coming in with increased debts, as a result of predatory debt-management firms and other unlicensed financial services providers,” said Labor’s Jenny McAllister.

Consumer groups said the “debt vultures” often exploit consumers struggling to get loans from conventional sources, and operate with no regulation. “If you think the banks, insurers and superannuation funds are ripping people off, they are nothing compared with the exploitative conduct of this sector of the marketplace,” said Gerard Brody, chief executive at the Consumer Action Law Centre.

Afterpay shares have performed well this year, soaring 90 percent since January.

Falling 19 percent to $11.35, Afterpay was not the only financial company to get hit with the news. Cash Converters shares were down 12 percent to 26 cents, Money3 dipped 14 percent to $1.7, and Zip Co fell 12 percent to 93 cents.

Amazon Continues Dominating Cloud Infrastructure Market

Amazon Web Services continues to dominate the cloud computing infrastructure market, although Microsoft is catching up with its Azure offering.

A new report by Gartner found that the worldwide market for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) public cloud services grew 29.5 per cent with a revenue of US$23.58 billion in 2017, increasing from 2016’s $18.213 billion. The top four vendors – Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba and Google – represented 73 per cent of the market, with Amazon holding a little more than half of the market share.

“The top four providers have strong IaaS offerings and saw healthy growth as IaaS adoption is being fully embraced by mainstream organisations and as cloud availability expands into new regions and countries,” said Sid Nag, research director at Gartner.

On the second spot, Microsoft took home a $3.13 billion in revenue in 2017, a 98 per cent growth from the previous year’s $1.579 billion. This growth is expected to continue after the company’s latest quarter, which saw the revenue from Azure public cloud service increasing by 85 per cent from the same period a year ago.

Alibaba and Google also saw a significant growth of 63 per cent and 56 per cent respectively. Gartner attributed Alibaba’s rise to its investment in research and development.

“This reflects a fundamental change in what and how organisations are consuming technology,” said Nag.

“Some legacy infrastructure offerings, such as IUS, are seeing lower and slower uptake that impacts the combined IaaS and IUS market… Additionally, a groundswell of demand for cloud-skilled personnel is forcing technology providers to change how they compete to meet this exploding demand.”

AGL Announces Power Price Drops

AGL has announced price drops for power in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, following competitor Origin’s similar move this week.

Residential electricity prices will be cut by 0.3 percent in NSW, 1.5 percent in Queensland and 0.4 percent in SA, much lower than what market analysts predicted.

“While these price cuts are slight, they’re part of a downward trend that is emerging as more investment in new sources of supply comes into the market,” said AGL’s chief customer officer Melissa Reynolds, referencing the increasing network and green costs.

“We understand power prices have been high and that has put pressure on many households.”

On Tuesday, Origin announced that it will cut residential electricity prices in south-east Queensland and SA by 1.3 percent and 1 percent respectively, while maintaining the same prices for NSW and the ACT.

Origin’s Power Price Changes. Source: Origin/ABC

Both drops are far lower than the Australian Energy Markets Commission’s (AEMC) forecast, which expected 5.8 percent fall in NSW, 7 percent in south-east Queensland and 6.9 percent in SA in 2018-19.

Julian Meehan Adani

Queensland Government Considers Using Public Funds for Adani Road Project

The Queensland government is considering covering the $100 million cost of road access for Adani coal mine, despite promising that no taxpayers fund would go to the project.

The ABC said documents obtained under a right to information revealed the Palaszczuk government is still in negotiations with Adani and Isaac Regional Council about upgrading access to the proposed Carmichael mine site in central Queensland.

However, the Department of Transport and Main Roads said no decision has been made yet.

In November, Palaszczuk said she would not rule out helping the local council fund the access road. A spokesman for the government said it would cooperate with local councils in regard to their infrastructure needs. “Significant projects can impact on local road networks and improvements to those networks can benefit the greater community,” he said. “Costs associated with major projects are recovered by the state on a commercial basis.”

The ongoing negotiations have received backlash. “Annastacia Palaszczuk has lied to Queenslanders and has broken yet another election promise,” said Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington.

The Mackay Conservation Group said the government must rule out funding the road project. “The Queensland Coordinator General recommended Adani be responsible for road upgrades and Adani said it would pay for the upgrade,” said the group’s spokeswoman Maggie McKeown. “Why then would the premier spend public funds on this project?”

Ricoh Becomes Australia’s First Carbon-Neutral IT Services Company

Ricoh has become the first IT services company in Australia to achieve carbon-neutral status.

Following its achievement as the first tech services organisation in the country to achieve a carboNZero certification, Ricoh went further in its efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. The company worked closely with not-for-profit Enviro-Mark Solutions to develop a multi-pronged GHG reduction strategy.

The strategy covered a number of areas, including a reduction in electricity consumption, freight and fuel usage, staff air travel and waste to landfill.

“Every aspect of our national operations was put under the microscope so we could understand the sources of all our existing GHG emissions,” said Tori Starkey, general manager – marketing at Ricoh Australia. “Taking such a holistic approach meant we would be well placed to make our subsequent activities as effective as possible.

“Far from being a set-and-forget exercise, these strategies will continue to be evaluated and improved over time. At the same time, customers are enjoying more efficient service and product deliveries while also being able to achieve their own footprint improvements … With increasing attention being paid to achieving a reduced corporate environmental footprint, many businesses have set a goal of making their operations carbon neutral. For Ricoh Australia, this goal has become a reality.”

AGL to Build $400 Million Gas-Fired Power Plant in NSW

AGL will build a $400 million gas-fired power plant near Newcastle, NSW to replace the ageing Liddell coal-fired station.

The energy company said it is assessing sites for a 252-megawatt facility development, due for completion in the end of 2022.

“AGL is committed to supporting the orderly transition of Australia’s electricity generation capability to modern, clean and reliable energy supply,” said AGL chief executive Andy Vesey.

“That’s why we gave seven years’ notice of when we intend to close the Liddell power station at the end of 2022 and we are pleased to commit today to build the power station near Newcastle.”

AGL also said there were plans to “assess the potential” to develop a further 500 megawatts of gas-fired generation capacity, pending commercial and industrial demand.

The company’s announcement to the Australian stock exchange followed pressures from the federal government to sell Liddell power plant instead of closing it. Rivalling company Alinta has expressed interest in acquiring the power plant to keep it open until 2029.

Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said Liddell’s closure would still bring blackout risk, even with the replacement plan. “That’s why it’s really important that the executives of AGL consider on its merits this offer that comes from Alinta,” Frydenberg said.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said there would be a potential shortfall in capacity of 850 megawatts if Liddell was to be closed, but it also said AGL’s replacement plan “would deliver sufficient dispatchable resources to fill the identified 850MW resource gap”.

Will Rio Tinto’s Bid to Escape from Its Contracts with Rusal Succeed?

Mark Giancaspro, University of Adelaide

Mining giant Rio Tinto is attempting to use new American sanctions on Russia to walk away from an agreement with a Russian aluminium company, Rusal. But if the contract is not worded precisely, the law may actually work to Rio’s detriment.

Many companies have successfully ended contracts when war has broken out or the government has changed the law in ways that significantly impacted the contract. However, the fact a government’s actions have made a contract harder or more expensive to complete does not automatically mean it will be terminated.

Rio Tinto’s case depends on whether it can invoke a “force majeure” clause in its contracts with Rusal. This kind of clause allows parties to suspend or end a contract when unique and unforeseen events beyond their control occur.

Under the new sanctions, companies and individuals within the United States have until May 7 to divest or transfer any debt, equity or other holdings in Rusal. Rusal is controlled by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has previously been investigated for money laundering, extortion, bribery and alleged links to organised crime groups.

Rio Tinto has a joint venture with Rusal that could be affected by the US sanctions.

The effect of force majeure

Typically, when unique or unforeseen events occur, the contract may be legally “frustrated” and end automatically. Frustration is the legal term for a contract being so radically affected by unforeseeable events outside the control of the parties that it is terminated.

A force majeure clause generally prevents this happening because the inclusion of the clause is regarded as “foresight” of the event. However, force majeure clauses typically allow parties to end the contract if the event lasts for a given time, and don’t always require “radical change” like the frustration doctrine does.

It all turns upon the wording of the particular clause in the Rio Tinto contracts.

Force majeure through history

A successful claim of force majeure was made in the American case of Eastern Airlines v McDonnell Douglas Corp. In this case aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas argued that US government policy during the Vietnam War (occurring at the time) caused the government to prioritise military contracts over civilian ones.

As a result, McDonnell Douglas’s contract with Eastern Airlines was delayed. It invoked a force majeure clause covering “acts of government” to avoid liability for the airline’s lost profits.

The court ruled that McDonnell Douglas was entitled to rely upon the force majeure clause and walk away from the agreement due to the government’s policy.

Importantly, just because a contract has a force majeure clause, this does not mean it can be used freely. Some English cases suggest that parties must still make reasonable efforts to keep the contract alive before resorting to force majeure. Evidence of attempts to preserve its contracts with Rusal would likely work in Rio Tinto’s favour.

The courts have also stressed that force majeure cannot be relied upon where there were reasonable alternative ways to complete the contract.

In the Australian case of European Bank Ltd v Citibank Ltd, Citibank was unsuccessful in claiming force majeure when it transferred European Bank’s deposit to a New York account and the funds were seized by the United States Marshal. The force majeure clause allowed Citibank to escape liability if it could not perform due to “reasons beyond its reasonable control”.

The court held that Citibank could have refunded European Bank’s deposit from other accounts or made other arrangements, so the situation could have been avoided.

In Rio Tinto’s case, its efforts to make alternative arrangements will be of critical importance. If there are no feasible options other than to cancel the Rusal contracts, force majeure will likely apply.

When force majeure doesn’t work

But there are plenty of examples where force majeure events such as government intervention have not been regarded as sufficient grounds to end a contract.

In 1962, a court in the United Kingdom found that the closure of the Suez Canal was not sufficient to end a contract requiring 300 tonnes of Sudanese nuts to be shipped between Port Sudan and Hamburg.

The Suez Canal would have been the cheapest and fastest shipping route. However, it was still possible to deliver the nuts by sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, even if this increased the cost for the seller and took more time.

Inadequate wording in a force majeure clause can also backfire, as in the Kriti Rex case. Here a force majeure clause covering ‘“events beyond the control of the parties” was deemed inapplicable because the courier hired by the purchaser (which damaged the goods) was regarded as being within the purchaser’s control.

So what for Rio Tinto?

Ultimately, the success of Rio Tinto’s attempt to invoke force majeure depends entirely upon the wording of the clauses and whether these account for events such as sanctions being imposed.

But it is highly unlikely the clauses would be this specific as the circumstances are unique. Traditional inclusions in force majeure clauses are things like natural disasters, labour strikes or war, not a foreign government’s political sanction of a company’s controller.

Force majeure clauses are also interpreted quite narrowly by courts, so cannot just be stretched to cover every situation.

If the clauses in Rio’s contracts are deemed not to account for the US sanctions, Rio must rely on the doctrine of frustration. It would need to demonstrate that contracting with a company controlled by a Russian oligarch who has been subsequently sanctioned by the US was a reasonably unforeseeable event when the contract was made, and this event radically altered the contract.

It would not be enough for Rio Tinto to argue it might lose money or be inconvenienced. Though the US government’s actions might have been unexpected, the broader effects of Rusal’s suspension upon Rio Tinto’s operations remain to be seen.

The ConversationIf the consequences are purely financial or inconvenient, Rio Tinto’s legal mettle might be tested.

Mark Giancaspro, Lecturer in Law, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.