Australia officially met its 2020 renewable energy target in late January, passing the revised target of 33,000GWh – despite long delays in several major projects.
Clean Energy Regulator’s Mark Williamson said the country fell a “fraction short” of the target in 2020, when some 32,300GWh of “new renewables” was produced, and the 33,000GWh target was passed on a “rolling 12 months basis” by the end of January.
“The first thing I can do, and it’s great to do this in face to face, is to officially declare that the large scale renewable energy target or 33,000 gigawatt hours, has been met,” Williamson said.
If you think you have heard the “RET is met” line before, you are right. But as Williamson explained, and can be seen in the graph below, while enough capacity to deliver the target was built by September, 2019, and celebrated at the time, it took another two years or more – due to delayed commissioning and other factors – to actually produce the targeted amount.
And Williamson says the pipeline of projects still being built and awaiting registration means that the production level will jump again this year – to between 37,000GWh and 40,000GWh.
And those estimates do not necessarily include delayed projects such as the 530MW Stockyard Hill wind farm in Victoria, supposed to be Australia’s biggest, which has been sitting idle for more than six months and is still working through “oscillation” issues that requires re-tuning of inverters among other issues.
That project is not expected to begin production for another few months and, even then, it could take a long time before it reaches full production. Another Goldwind project, the 300MW Moorabool wind farm in Victoria, is also facing issues and has been slow to reach production.
“I know AEMO and Goldwind are working hard to try to get that one (Stockyard Hill) generating, but some of those will be a slow ramp up when it starts sometime this year, so there will be a lot more to come,” Williamson said.
The reaching of the RET target came despite skepticism from conservative commentators. Williamson made mention of Murdoch media columnist Judith Sloane, who wrote back in 2016 – soon after the target had been slashed by the Coalition government – that the country would not get within “cooee” of the target.
But Williamson said the target had proved to be a floor rather than a cap, thanks recently to the increased demand from corporate buyers for long-term power purchase contracts, and a huge amount of new generation would come online in the next few years.
“We are expecting approximately 2GW to 3GW of renewable capacity per annum over the next few years,” he said, not including the estimated 3.5GW to 4GW of rooftop solar that would also be added to the grid in 2021.
And that meant, as Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott and AEMO’s systems boss Alex Wonhas have said in recent weeks, that Australia is ramping up well ahead of the “step change” scenario in the Integrated System Plan that models a 90 per cent renewable energy share by 2040. All it needs now is more infrastructure.