CEFC and Hostplus back billion-dollar Victorian renewable energy park

Brandon How

A billion-dollar renewable energy park will be established in Victoria through a partnership between the federal government’s green bank, a superannuation fund and an investment fund.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), Hostplus and Octopus Australia will contribute significant funding to the Gippsland Renewable Energy Park (GREP), which will focus on wind generation and battery storage.

The multi-billion dollar project will focus on energy production from wind

There will also be some smaller scale solar developments, with the potential for green hydrogen projects too in the longer-term.

The Victorian government has designated the surrounding area as the Gippsland Renewable Energy Zone, and it is hoped that the new park will help to replace the energy generated at the coal-fired Yallourn power station, which will close in 2028.

Hostplus will invest $15 million into the park as part of its commitment to reach net-zero on its portfolio by 2050, which was also announced on Tuesday. This complements the $8.5 million already committed by the federal government’s CEFC.

The Hostplus investment is being made through an Octopus Australia managed platform and will help finance early-stage planning, development, and approval seeking.

Octopus Australia is a subsidiary of the UK-based Octopus Group that has invested $1 billion in renewable infrastructure since it came to Australia in 2018. The group manages $6 billion worth of projects overall.

The CEFC is the federal government’s $10 billion green investment fund.

Hostplus chief executive officer David Elia said the renewables park will create jobs in the region and “aid Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy”.

The proposed 3000-acre site is estimated to be a multi-billion-dollar project with the potential to create several hundred jobs in the region.

Octopus Australia managing Director Sam Reynolds said it was important that the benefits of the project were felt by the local community.

“We want to make sure that the community are brought along the journey with us. Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley are the heart of the coal fired power station area in Victoria. Those communities have had a tough time with coal coming off in addition to bushfires and floods. We’re hoping this [project] will reinvigorate a new industry in the area to breed jobs and other skills,” Mr Reynolds said.

CEFC chief executive officer Ian Learmonth said the project was important to future of energy production in Gippsland.

“Gippsland has been a powerhouse for the National Electricity Market for many years. This development will contribute to the region’s transition to a clean energy future, while continuing to supply the power that helps keep Australia’s lights on,” Mr Learmonth said.

“With the planned construction of both solar and storage at the site, the GREP also offers an exciting opportunity for the Gippsland community to benefit from the clean energy economy.

“We are delighted that Hostplus has come on board, building its future green investment pipeline on behalf of its diverse 1.4 million members, and delivering on the CEFC commitment to attract private sector capital to renewable energy developments.”

Hostplus’ investment adds to the $1.2 billion that the fund has said has been invested in clean technology climate solutions.

Octopus Australia last year acquired another Gippsland solar farm project, the 44MW at Perry Bridge and 80MW at Fulham. Rights to develop both projects were previously owned by Gippsland-based developer Solis Re, which received planning approval for the projects in April 2021.

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