Spark reveals plans for 2.5GW renewables hub amid takeover bids

Solar farm (Spark)
Image: Shutterstock

Electricity network owner Spark Investment plans to develop a 2.5GW hybrid wind, solar and battery storage hub near Jerilderie in New South Wales as it continues to move into renewable assets through its offshoot, Spark Renewables.

The site for the proposed Dinawan Energy Hub is on the route of the planned $2.28 billion Project EnergyConnect, the high-voltage electricity transmission interconnector stretching between New South Wales and South Australia and strategically positioned near the proposed HumeLink 500kV transmission upgrade.

Spark says the hub will generate enough electricity to power more than 1 million homes per year and significantly offset the impact of coal-fired power station closures in New South Wales.

Related article: World’s biggest renewables hub planned for WA

While there are no significant commitments in place yet, it is anticipated construction of stage 1 will begin in 2024, with operations to commence in 2025.

Spark Infrastructure managing director Rick Francis says the hub will serve as a cornerstone project in the South-West Renewable Energy Zone (REZ).

“It will unlock significant renewable generation capacity consisting of wind, solar and battery energy storage across (New South Wales) in the coming years, providing resource diversity to renewable generation planned in the other REZs,” he said.

“This proposed major new renewable project further underpins the need for new and expanded high-voltage transmission links within (New South Wales) and to Sydney which are crucial as the energy transition continues to accelerate in our quest for a sustainable energy future for Australia.”

The Dinawan Energy Hub is part of a major shift for Spark, which owns 49 per cent of the major network operators in Victoria and South Australia and a 15 per cent stake in New South Wales transmission network operator TransGrid. The company is now targeting more than AUD 1 billion of investment in renewable energy generation by 2025.

Related article: TransGrid to build EnergyConnect

This news comes as Spark rejected a $4.91 billion takeover bid by a consortium including private equity giant KKR & Co but left open the door to engagement, driving share prices up.

The $2.80 per-share offer was the second made by KKR and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board, topping up their initial one by 10 cents, both of which had not been made public before and were seen as too low.

Spark agreed to provide “limited” information on its business and prospects, but not due diligence, to the consortium once a confidentiality agreement is reached.