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A setback for Genex Power has sparked fears over the future of the NAIF loan approved for the $700 million Kidston pumped storage hydro project.

Labor Senator for Queensland Murray Watt said the renewable energy project’s $610 million Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility loan – the largest ticked off under NAIF so far – was now under a cloud.

It came after electricity retailer EnergyAustralia dashed Genex’s hopes of reaching financial close on the project this quarter.

EA advised Genex last week that it ‘would not be in a position to reach a positive investment decision on the basis of the long-term energy agreement as outlined in the Term Sheet‘.

The Kidston Stage 2 Pumped Storage Hydro Project (K2-Hydro), is part of a proposed $1 billion renewable energy hub based at the former Kidston gold mine south-west of Cairns.

Other elements include the operating 50MW Stage 1 Solar Project (KS1), a multi-staged integrated solar project of up to 270MW (K2-Solar), and the Kidston Stage 3 wind project of up to 150MW.

Hundreds of jobs on the line

More than 500 jobs are expected to be be created during the construction of the pumped hydro project.

Senator Watt, the opposition spokesman for Northern Australia, said Labor was highly supportive of the Genex pumped hydro project.

“It would create hundreds of jobs in North Queensland, and would provide large amounts of cheap, renewable energy to local industry,” he said.

“We are, however, extremely concerned about the status of this $610 million NAIF loan.”

Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said today that NAIF would continue to engage with the proponents ‘to support this important piece of energy infrastructure’.

“This is a matter for Genex. It is not uncommon for large commercial projects to experience delays in development,” he said.

A report in the Financial Review speculated that the State Government’s renewable energy company CleanCo may become involved.

Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the government was in discussions with Genex about the future of the project.

“I note media speculation about Queensland’s Government-owned energy generator becoming involved with the project. All of Queensland’s government-owned corporations, including CleanCo, are required to operate in a commercial manner,” he said.

Dr Lynham said inconsistent Federal energy policy was clearly hampering investment in the renewable energy sector.

Home-straight hurdle for Genex

The final step to lock in funding and commence construction of K2-Hydro was the conversion of the non-binding term sheet with EnergyAustralia into a binding agreement.

As recently as October 28, Genex had said it expected to achieve that step this quarter.

The setback on that front follows a string of major achievements for the project this year including the NAIF approval of a $610 million concessional loan and the announcement in September that Powerlink would build a $132 million transmission line to link the $1 billion Kidston renewables hub to the electricity grid.

In an announcement to the market last week Genex said it no longer expected to reach financial close on the project in 2019.

“Accordingly, Genex anticipates that the NAIF concessional loan offer and the J-Power share subscription agreement will both lapse at or prior to December 2019 (unless extended),” the company stated.

“Genex will continue to work with EA and its other financiers and counterparts, including NAIF and J-Power, to restructure the financing for the transaction to ensure an positive investment decision can be reached and financial close can be achieved.

“This is now anticipated to occur in 2020.”

Funding setback for NQ pumped storage hydro project