Renewable energy sector on track to power half of Australia by 2030

A spike of investment in wind and solar farms has Australia poised to breeze past the federal government’s renewable energy target (RET).

The latest report by Green Energy Markets – November’s Australian Renewable Energy Index – projected that the RET’s 33-gigawatt mark will easily be exceeded by the 2020 deadline.

Green Energy Markets, a Victorian-based research and advisory business focusing on greenhouse gas emission reduction, said that renewable sector is already cranking out enough energy to power 75% of Australian homes

If the trend continues – and the government puts its long-term Paris agreement commitments into a legally enforceable policy – the index predicts that renewables will account for half of all of Australia’s electricity output by 2030.

The news comes as rooftop solar installations reached a record in November 2017, 120 megawatts of capacity installed to surpass the previous peak in June 2012 when subsidies were two to three times higher.

Renewables, which made up just 7% of national electricity output a decade ago, accounted for 17% of the total output in November 2017. That’s a power sector carbon-saving equivalent to taking 7.7 million cars off the road.

The biggest single-source of renewable power remained hydro-electricity, followed by wind and rooftop solar, the index found.

Less than 2% came from large solar farms, suggesting the best is yet to come from this sector, which has an array of large-scale projects underway, reports The Guardian.

More than 12,000MW of wind farm sites and 15,000MW of solar farm sites have been proposed for development across Australia, of which more than half already have planning approvals in place.

The 3,923 megawatts of projects currently under construction in Australia will create enough jobs to employ 13,443 people full-time, said the latest report. Queensland (5834) will deliver most of those roles, followed by NSW/ACT (3422), and Victoria (2459), which recently legislated for a 40% renewable target by 2025.

However, Green Energy Markets founder Tristan Edis also told The Australian that meeting the RET target could also herald the collapse in the value of the large-scale generation certificates – which wind and solar farm operators sell to retailers to boost the returns from clean generation – and with it investment in new capacity.

“Once the Queensland and Victoria schemes are filled we will have met the RET so the price of (certificates) could fall to zero or very low,’’ Mr Edis warned.

In its first report to state and federal governments in December 2017, the Energy Security Board said that the market was “not in the best of health”, with unaffordable energy bills, reliability risks increasing, and uncertainty over future carbon-emissions policy.

Established to co-ordinate the three main energy regulators, the board warned that the market operator was unable to dispatch the lowest priced power as needed and there were increasing incidents of high-priced power being ordered to ensure security.

A few weeks earlier, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnball had hoped to restore confidence in the power sector by introducing a National Energy Guarantee (NEG), designed to produce cheaper and more reliable electricity, while cutting carbon emissions.

The plan requires retailers to use a percentage of electricity from so-called dispatchable sources such as coal and gas, batteries or pumped hydro, for reliability purposes. They would also be required to buy power that is efficient enough to ensure Australia is on track to meet its Paris target, reports the ABC.

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