Forget 50% – Australia on track to reach 78% renewables grid by 2030

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New report says Australia is heading to a 78 per cent renewables share by 2030 on current trajectories, and any smaller targets would lead to a huge slump in investment and jobs.

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Australia’s current rate of wind and solar energy development – including what is likely to be a Hazelwood-worth of rooftop PV added in 2018 alone – puts the nation on track for a more than three-quarters renewables powered grid by 2030, a new report has found.

The report, Green Energy Markets’ November edition of its Renewable Energy Index, says that, far from the “reckless” federal Labor Party target of 50 per cent, the current scale of construction and installation activity is consistent with achieving something like 78 per cent renewable energy market share by 2030.

Source: Green Energy Markets RE Index October 2018

“If we maintained over the next decade the record rate of both rooftop solar installations and wind and solar farm construction commitments that have prevailed since 2017 then renewable energy would represent 78 per cent of electricity supply across Australia’s west and east coast main grids,” the report says.

This means that, from a total grid penetration of 22.5 per cent at the end of October, renewables are on track to sail past the federal Labor Party’s 50 per cent by 2030 target, which Bill Shorten formally committed to when he outlined the party’s energy policy earlier this month, and which the Coalition government still likes to deride as reckless and economy-wrecking.

Rather, says the report, sticking to the 50 per cent targets of Federal Labor and several state governments could lead to a major contraction in construction activity and employment in the renewable energy industry.

Source: Green Energy Markets RE Index October 2018

“The amount of megawatts of new renewable energy capacity required each year to achieve a 50 per cent target is around 1,850MW,” Green Energy Markets says.

“By comparison the average rate of construction commitments and rooftop solar installations over January 2017 to October 2018 is running at almost 5,150MW per year.”

“Projects under construction as well as the October rate of solar installations support over 24,000 jobs per annum.

“The rate of installations required to deliver 50 per cent renewable energy would see employment drop by three quarters to just under 5,900 jobs per annum.”

Meanwhile the Coalition’s target, as per the shelved National Energy Guarantee, would involve a market-wide collapse to 839MW per year, and see more than 20,000 jobs lost in the renewable energy industry, with annual jobs dropping to 3,039.

“I think most of us had thought a while back that 50 per cent by 2030 would be a pretty massive task for the industry to scale-up to meet,” said Green Energy Markets director of analysis, Tristan Edis.

“But given the spectacular level of construction and rooftop solar installation activity since 2017, the industry is now facing a rather massive contraction in activity and employment even if Labor are elected nationally.”

That spectacular level of construction and installation is evident throughout the October RE Index, published on Friday – including a record 150MW-plus of rooftop solar installed by homes and businesses for the month.

This, the report notes, is 76 per cent greater than the monthly average of 2017, itself a record year for installations.

“The total amount of rooftop solar installed so far this year has already passed last year’s total and now stands at 1,243MW,” the report says.

“This exceeds the Liddell coal power station’s average capacity over last summer’s peak period,” in notes, and by the end of the year will quite likely exceed the peak capacity of the recently closed Hazelwood coal power station.”

In the large-scale market, there were 412MW of wind and solar farms committed to construction in October, bringing the year to date total to just over 3,200MW.

This follows the total of 3,933 megawatts committed in 2017, the report says.

“The renewable energy industry has built itself up to such a significant scale that even a 50 per cent by 2030 renewables target will involve a significant contraction in activity and employment in the industry,” it says.

“The government’s 2030 target would involve a collapse.”

Sophie Vorrath

Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.

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