Buying renewable energy via a Power Purchase Agreement, Part 2, PPA options [includes infographics]

In part one of this series, we introduced buying renewable energy via a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). In this article – part two, we are looking at the main PPA options.

PPA contract models

A number of PPA models have been developed to enable the purchase of renewables in recent years, including sleeved PPAs, direct or sell-side PPA, and virtual or finance PPAs. Sleeved and direct PPA involve the physical delivery of power, whereas a virtual PPA is just a financial contract.

Sleeved PPA

A sleeved PPA is similar to a regular grid power agreement, except that a portion of the underlying electricity generation is from a specific renewable energy project.

Under this model, you will not have a direct agreement with a renewable energy project developer. Instead, your retailer has a direct agreement with a specific renewable energy project and will sleeve the PPA through your electricity retail agreement.

You will either pay a rate for all power purchased or separate rates for renewably generated electricity and regular grid power.

Your retailer will manage the risk in price fluctuation by obtaining the electricity at a fixed rate from the renewable energy project, or by using a contract for difference.

Sleeved PPA Option, Infographic
Figure 1: Sleeved PPA option, infographic

The duration for the renewable component of the sleeved PPA usually is between ten and 15 years, whereas the duration of the retail agreement (where this is separate) will usually be shorter. The retail agreement is subject to wholesale market pricing, whereas the pricing for the renewable component will reflect the developer’s costs and may be fixed or variable over the term of the PPA.

An example of a sleeved PPAs is the Melbourne Renewable Energy Project.

Direct (sell-side) PPA

A direct PPA involves an agreement between your organisation and a renewable energy project developer. The final price of the delivered energy is a combination of the offtake price of the renewables project plus transmission and distribution costs, as well as billing, reconciliation and risk management costs from your retailer.

Typically, your organisation will buy the renewable electricity at a fixed price over a term of 7, 10 or 15 years. Even though you have a direct agreement with a renewable energy project, you still require a retailer to pass through the terms of the agreement.

Your retail electricity agreement will incorporate the PPA price and most likely include a ‘firming’ clause (performance guarantee) that reduces overall risk for the retailer. The retailer needs to risk-manage any fluctuations in generation against your required amount of electricity.

Direct PPA Option, Infographic
Figure 2: Direct PPA option, infographic

In the past, retailers have agreed to this type of PPA where the volume of renewable energy is only a small portion of your overall electricity load. This is because the retailer is receiving no margin on the small amount of renewable energy but is still making a margin on most of the overall load supplied by regular grid power.

To mitigate against the risk of not finding a willing retailer, one of the PPA project requirements could be to incorporate a retailer offer.

Examples for direct PPAs are Sun Metals, Nectar Farms and Westpork.

LGC-only PPA

An LGC-only PPA is the simplest form of renewables procurement other than purchasing GreenPower®. In an LGC-only PPA, you would only purchase the LGCs and not the electricity from a renewable energy plant. Purchasing LGCS only can be compared to purchasing carbon offsets, except that LGCs are currently more expensive than carbon offsets, and they enable you to claim 100% renewable energy.

With an LGC-only PPA, you are only purchasing the green attributes of renewable energy generation, and you are not concerned with balancing energy demand with the output from a renewable energy generator. There is little risk in matching the number of LGCs purchased to the electricity consumed in any given year.

LGC-only PPA Option, Infographic
Figure 3: LGC-only PPA option, infographic

It also means that there will be little or no change to your retail electricity agreement. However, you may be able to achieve a better price through a bundled PPA and striking a deal with a renewable energy generator for LGCs-only may not be sufficient for a new renewable energy project to get off the ground.

Virtual/finance/synthetic PPA (CFD model)

Virtual PPAs are an effective hedge against rising electricity prices. Like with the Direct PPA, your organisation will have an agreement with a renewable energy project developer. However, the important difference is that no physical electricity is being delivered. A virtual PPA is a financial contract and not a contract for power.

You also you don’t need a retailer for a virtual PPA. Instead, you will enter into a contract for difference (CFD) with the renewable energy developer.

Under the CFD model, you and the developer agree on a strike price, which guarantees a fixed price return for the developer. Contracts for difference were adopted by the Australian Capital Territory and Victorian Governments in their recent renewable energy reverse auctions.

A virtual PPA is a stand-alone financial derivative agreement, which not all organisations can enter into. For instance, due to a Ministerial Order, local governments in NSW cannot directly invest in financial derivatives.

Virtual PPA Option Infographic
Figure 4: Virtual PPA option, infographic

The costs for a virtual PPA are the difference between the strike price and market price (when the strike price is above market price) multiplied by the consumption. This means that if the spot market price is low, you will lose money. On the flip slide, you will benefit financially where the strike price is below market price. In the best case, you have an income opportunity of up to the market cap of $14,200 per megawatt hour, less the strike price value.

The contract for difference approach may suit customers with large energy portfolios and sophisticated energy management teams, or who already have hedging arrangements in place (such as for vehicle fuel) or other forms of derivative contracts.

Organisations that have entered this type of contract are UNSW and UTS.

If you intend on using a virtual PPA to meet a 100% renewable energy target, you will need to undertake an additional PPA for LGCs, which is a separate agreement that could be bundled into the virtual PPA agreement.

Conclusion

There are many different ways to enter into a PPA. If you need help with navigating these different options, please contact Barbara or Patrick.

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