5 Minutes With: EDP Renewables’ Simon Franklin

Head and shoulders shot of smiling Simon Franklin, EDP Renewables APAC country director
Simon Franklin

Energy Source & Distribution gets to know EDP Renewables APAC country director Simon Franklin.

Simon, please tell us a bit about yourself:

I come from an engineering background and have always enjoyed breaking down complex problems into manageable pieces. I have spent the past 15 years working in renewable energy both in Australia and internationally. From electrifying remote Pacific Islands to developing some of the largest renewable energy projects in Australia, I am drawn to all aspects of the energy transition.

Related article: EDP Renewables expands Australian ops with acquisition

EDP Renewables (EDPR) recently expanded its Asia Pacific presence into Australia through the acquisition of ITP Development (ITPD). As country director, what can you tell us about the expansion plans and strategic growth?

Australia as a market has strong fundamentals and ample depth in renewables. Leveraging ITPD’s established presence in the Asia Pacific region, EDPR is poised to excel by capitalising on ITPD’s local expertise as well as deploying EDPR’s global scale, technical proficiency, and energy management know-how to Australia.

Currently, EDPR is focused on greenfield development of sizeable wind and solar projects coupled with innovative storage solutions in Australia. We are confident that the Australia team will contribute to EDPR’s vision of leading the energy transition in Asia Pacific.

This market entry into Australia is a strategic step for EDPR that brings over 1.5GW of pipeline of wind and solar projects at various stages of development with options to colocate battery energy storage systems (BESS) in the east of Australia, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland. The portfolio also includes a 480MWp solar photovoltaic system and 200MW BESS project, which is at an advanced stage of development in Queensland.

EDPR is increasingly focused on markets with favourable decarbonisation opportunities, with Australia being one of them. With clear routes-to-market, regulatory stability, and robust climate targets, these core markets enable value maximisation in renewables and are positioned as strategic growth areas for EDPR in the coming years.

What projects are the team currently working?

We are now accelerating work on the development of a large solar plus BESS project in Queensland. This project is on track to be commissioned by 2026 and will contribute towards Queensland’s net zero ambition.

From your perspective as a developer of renewables, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities at the moment in Australia’s energy transition?

Global challenges like permitting, licensing, grid connection are the major obstacles. The energy sector is facing growing pains at unprecedent levels due to CAPEX deviations and as it catches up with grid investments.

In Australia, the biggest challenge recently has been grid connection (both getting grid access and then the unexpected curtailment of existing plants). Development approvals have also been a challenge, particularly for wind projects in New South Wales. Moving forward, grid connection will continue to be the biggest challenge to meeting Australia’s climate targets. There is also significant community opposition to the next transmission projects, and this is further delaying grid expansion and renewables investment.

Yet, Australia’s current political environment is supportive of investments in renewables, so we expect the government to continue pushing for helpful initiatives. For example, the Australian federal government created financial incentives in renewable energy through the large-scale renewable energy target and the small-scale renewable energy scheme which are set to expire in 2030.

In 2022, Australia passed the Climate Change Act, which doubles the target for emissions reductions by 2030 and sets the goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. In the same year, the Australian Government also signed up to the Global Methane Pledge, joining 130 governments who are collectively targeting a reduction in methane emissions of at least 30% by 2030.

We are confident that the main headwinds in Australia when it comes to renewables can be overcome for the deployment of further capital and resources.

If you could change one thing from a regulatory standpoint, what would it be?

Governments play a crucial role in developing the necessary infrastructure for renewable energy, such as grid upgrades and expansion. The challenge of climate change is also an ambitious one, requiring a collective effort to tackle it. Collaboration is key between the private and public sectors. By partnering with private entities, governments can leverage private sector efficiency and innovation.

An instance of frameworks that enable collaboration between the private and public sectors include tender auctions. Tender auctions are key to pursue a long-term contracting strategy, facilitating financing. They allow visibility on the income that the assets will have over majority of their lifespan and thus decrease the risk profile of the investments. Lower costs of capital can be then achieved, and this directly impacts tariffs and prices to consumers.

Related article: Ocean Winds joins Victorian offshore wind tender

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

I spend most of my free time with my family. I enjoy getting out of Canberra and spending time on the South Coast, as I am happiest when in the ocean. I regularly run, swim and play or watch as much sport as possible, particularly AFL.

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