In July 2021, Origin Energy, one of Australia biggest fossil fuel wholesalers and retailers, wrote down the value of its business by $1.5 billion due to the undermining of costs of gas and coal generation as a result of increasing levels of low-cost renewable energy in Australia’s grid.
The following week energy market analyst ITK Services published its report, Origin Energy: Time to leave its origins behind, advised the only way for Origin to turn around its business was to get out of fossil fuels as soon as possible, and channel its funds into a massive solar and wind portfolio.
ITK principal, David Leitch, said in a statement accompanying the report that “there likely is a large market for a pure green electricity retailer”; and Origin is already an investor in such a proven brand, with a 20% stake in Octopus Energy.
Origin appears to be taking Leitch’s advice as the company has adopted a strategy to accelerate the growth of its renewable energy portfolio. And in what looks to be the company’s biggest move yet, it has acquired the 900 MW Yarrabee Solar Farm development project in the Riverina region of New South Wales (NSW).
Big solar buy up
The purchase comes not long after Origin also acquired the 74 MW Carisbrook Solar Farm in central Victoria, which is set to reach commercial operation in 2023.
“Origin aims to lead the energy transition to net zero emissions through cleaner energy and customer solutions,” said Origin executive general manager of energy supply and operations, Greg Jarvis. “And the acquisition of the Yarrabee Solar Farm development project demonstrates further progress on this ambition.”
Co-developed by Reach Solar Energy and PwC Australia, the first stage of the Yarrabee Solar Farm is set to comprise 450 MW, but 900 MW already has planning approval.
The project is situated strategically in the Transgrid transmission network, particularly the South-West Renewable Energy Zone.
“We believe the Yarrabee Solar Farm can play an important role in helping Origin provide cleaner energy to our customers, while also reducing emissions from our generation portfolio,” continued Jarvis.
“More broadly, the team continues to focus on the multi-gigawatt opportunity to grow renewable energy and storage, through developing greenfield sites or acquiring advanced stage pre-construction renewable projects like Yarrabee.”
Of course, Origin still has a long way to go. In February 2022, Greenpeace Australia published its latest Green Electricity Guide, in which Origin sat languishing at the near the bottom of the table in 44th place with one star, only just above other giants like AGL Energy and Energy Australia.
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