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How Australia will get to 33% renewable electricity by 2020

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Remember just a few years ago when the then Abbott government tried to kill the renewable energy target, declaring that – horror of horrors – that Australia might over-achieve on renewable and end up with more than a 20 per cent share.

They are still complaining, along with some vested interests in the big business lobby groups. But despite their best attempts, it seems that Australia will end up with 33 per cent renewables by 2020, will likely get to 40 per cent by 2030, and has enough in the pipeline to reach 85 per cent.

These estimates were released by Green Energy Markets in their latest Renewable Energy Index, and analyst Tristan Edis points out that it means there is enough renewables being built to meet the targets of the proposed National Energy Guarantee, even before it is put in place.

“Even if contracting and construction commitments to solar farms and wind farms halted from today, ongoing installations of rooftop solar should see renewables share reaching 39% by 2030,” Edis says.

“Given a range of corporate procurement tenders are also underway it is now reasonably likely renewables will exceed 40% share by 2030.

“This substantially exceeds the emission reduction ambition within the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). Modelling for the Energy Security Board estimated the emission target would be achieved with 36% renewables’ share.”

Edis says that the expected level of 33.3 per cent in 2020 represents almost a doubling in renewables share compared to 2015, when it met 17.3 per cent of annual electricity consumption.

Queensland currently leads the country in terms of large scale installations, with more than 2GW under construction, followed by Victoria, which has around 1.75GW under construction.

The most populous state, NSW, has less than half the construction in terms of capacity of Victoria, not surprising given its lack of state-based support. Across the country, wind still outstrips solar by a ratio of around 3:2.

Just in the last month, renewables contributed 19.9 per cent of electricity in May, with about half coming fro hydro and biomass, and the other half coming from wind and large scale solar, as well as rooftop solar.  

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  • Nick Kemp

    As I have said before – the economics stack up so they can complain all they want but I would suggest any business with roof space that isn’t smothered in solar panels by 2030 will be in trouble

    • Climatemonster

      Yes in many ways it’s an indicator of whether a business is well run.

  • Wallace

    17% to 33%. A market share gain of 16% in five years, 2015 to 2020.

    Each year the cost of wind and solar drops and that is likely to continue for sometime into the future.

    Then from 2020 to 2030 only a 6% switch. 0.6% per year as opposed to the 3.2% per year previously.

    Why?

    Is the fossil fuel industry that strong in Australia? Will Australians not fight back against climate change and elect people who don’t work for the fossil fuel industry? Will not your old dog deniers die off and be replaced by people who have grown up understanding climate change and its causes?

    Over the next ten years or so will Australia manage to dodge some extreme events that allows you to sit back and wait?

    • Peter F

      This is an excellent question. Even more starkly between the beginning of 2017 and the end of 2020 wind generation in Victoria will triple just with currently contracted windfarms, solar won’t be far behind. Why will it suddenly stop. Most of the people contracting plants now realise they will get little or nothing for their RECs and yet projects are still going ahead

      • Wallace

        Dale Ross is the Republican mayor of Georgetown, Texas. A ‘red’, conservative place. He’s turned Georgetown’s grid into almost 100% renewable. Very little fossil fuel use left.

        “This was first and foremost a business decision and if you win the business argument, then you’re gonna win the environmental argument,” Ross said.

        “It’s a totally different landscape out there,” he said. “And let me tell you, in the state of Texas, since January 1, four coal plants have closed. This is the economics of the matter. You buy wind and solar for, say, $18 a megawatt. You buy coal for $25. You have that choice. Which one are you gonna buy?”

        https://www.cbsnews.com/news/texas-leader-in-renewable-energy-wind-turbines/

        All the technological advances are not wrung out of wind and solar. It’s very likely they will reach $0.02/kWh (US) in the next few years and some people are talking $0.01/kWh within a decade. If we can do that in the US then you can do it in AU. You’ve pulled the cost of residential solar well under what we are paying.

        At some point it seems like people would object enough to paying more for electricity than necessary and would replace politicians who are forcing them to pay the higher rates.

        ($18/MWh for wind is a subsidized price. The non-subsidized is a bit under $30/MWh. We’re seeing unsubsidized closing on $20/MWh.)

      • Hettie

        Forecasters are timid beasts. They are terrified of abandoning the “safety” of
        conventional linear projections. Even when faced with clear examples of the uptake of a new product in other markets, they are reluctant to suggest that the product could follow the same pattern here. And if such a radical forecast is made, the perpetrator is likely to be punished by the employer for urging provision of stock that could be far in excess of requirements. Then when the forecast is proven accurate, punished again because the company runs out of stock in the first fortnight.
        I know. I was that forecaster, and in 1994, it cost me my job.
        So the conservative projections are understandable despite the fact that they are not rational.
        What we see as a doubling in 5 years, likely to be an accelerating growth CURVE, the cautious see as a growth of 15% in 5 years, and make it linear.
        More fool them.
        Once the IES comes out, the NEG should be thoroughly discredited.
        The critical COAG meeting is set down for August. Time enough for the States to realise that’s the way to go.

        • Peter Campbell

          I would have thought the most reasonable curve shape to expect from many things would be sigmoidal, not linear. The trick, I would have thought, is picking when the things will pick up more rapidly and when the point of inflexion will occur.

          • Hettie

            Indeed. 17% to 33% is essentially a doubling forecast for the next five years, which in the light of the past 3 years is ridiculously slow. To forecast further slowdown in the growth of a disruptive technology is a bit silly.
            Only if NEG is accepted unmodified by the States would this forecast have any show of being proved accurate, and that had better not happen.

        • James Hansen

          Dear Hettie,

          I praise your honesty in recalling your experience. It is often easy for people to admit they were wrong with their forecasts with the benefit of hindsight but we must look ahead and the further the better. Overseas experience in Miami, Florida, for example, shows people unable to obtain insurance because of record high tides. They have found out already about rising sea levels. It is only a matter of time before we have
          similar experiences in Australia. Watch for the outcry when owners of multi-million dollar homes on canal estates on the Gold Coast have their floors regularly washed by sea water, find bull sharks on the lawns and somehow the insurance wants to step aside so that local Councils are forced to accept the burden. How realistic then to forecast that they will demand subsidies instead of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and their hangers-on?

          • Hettie

            Perhaps I was not quite clear. I was roundly abused for my “unrealistic, ridiculous forecast,” but refused to back down from it. Quoted my reasons – experience in *all* other countries based on market share.
            The product manager and marketing manager overruled me, and with a 6 week lead time to get additional stock once the first order was placed, ordered only 20% of what I had forecast.
            Ran out of stock in 2 weeks.
            I lost my job for being correct.
            Well, no. I was blamed for the shortage. The guilty product manager was promoted. She had backed up the marketing mananger.
            Such is life in some big companies.
            And that is why forecasters may be timid.
            Right now, I imagine that forecasters in the solar industry are totally paralysed. They have no logical basis for deciding how many panels to order for the coming months.
            As long as NEG is both on the table and subject to constant, capricious change, the industry is hamstrung. Apart fom working flat out to get as much as possible installed before the August COAG meeting, what can they do?

    • Hettie

      Of course we will fight back. The demand for lower power prices is strong, and fossil fuels are not going to reduce power prices any time soon. Or ever.
      Mainstream media will never tell the truth of this, so it will be social media that gets the message out. And that will take some doing.

    • Rod

      “Will not your old dog deniers die off”
      No doubt about it, our current Government relies on the vote of the older demographics. Most of whom are deniers or don’t care.
      We need a super flu to wipe them all out ASAP. Just joking. Or am I….

      • Hettie

        You’d better be joking. Wite a number of older people on these pages. We are the ones with the time to read and write the comments.

        • Rod

          The definition of “old” is anyone older than you.
          Yes, I’m getting up there too but there is no doubt the majority of older voters support the COALition and they do pretty well out of COALition policies.
          A recent article had a photo of an Axe the Tax rally. The predominant age group was early baby boomer.
          I’ve never seen any facts but I would imagine a study of those who believe AGW by age would show deteriorating support by older age groups.

          • Mike Westerman

            Rod in the US there is a fall off with age but not very much in Australia, according to surveys I’ve seen. Most Australians believe climate change is happening but the strongest difference between accepting human induced climate change or “natural” explanations is driven by voting patterns ie attitudes to climate change and VRE are driven by cultural orientation, not knowledge.

          • Rod

            This from 2014. Maybe there are more believers now and less deniers still breathing.

            http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-08/lewis-and-woods-the-generation-gap-on-climate-change/5374618

          • Mike Westerman

            Or maybe a few more have looked at their grandkids and realised what they need to do, quite apart from being the group most hurt by weather extremes and power prices caused by the incompetence and intransigence of LNP policy!

          • Rod

            Unfortunately the same cohort are more likely to read the Mudrake rags and watch Channel 7 news, or Fox, and will believe the bullshit that RE is the cause of their woes.

            Although there is evidence that many are installing PV for predominantly financial reasons. So maybe not a lost cause altogether.

          • Joe

            Channel 9’s ‘Climate Expert’ Chris Uhlmann is rather quiet in his anti RE reports these days. Has he done some real research?

          • Rod

            Last I saw him he was on a mid morning chat show. Still under qualified for that.

    • Rod

      “Is the fossil fuel industry that strong in Australia?”
      The Minerals Council of Australia is the 3rd highest donor to the COALition Govt. and has lobbyists within our parliamentary building!

      “Will Australians not fight back against climate change and elect people who don’t work for the fossil fuel industry?”
      Our mainstream media is dominated by anti RE Murdoch publications and electronic media.
      We have an election coming soon which is still a close thing. I’m not sure what it will take to wake up 50% of Australians.

  • DFA1974

    Am I right in saying that the RET excluded existing hydro? So the 2020 RET target really only includes solar, wind? So the ‘33% by 2020’ doesn’t mean that the RET will reach 33%?

  • Ian

    How much of the hydro figure is once through hydro or primary generation hydro and how much is Pumped hydro? Pumped hydro can be Fossil fuel electricity laundered into renewables:(

    • Mike Westerman

      Ian I would think that until there is a price on carbon or they start to blow tubes, lignite will for a while provide power to pumped hydro sadly. But it will rapidly get squeezed by both wind and solar.

      • Hettie

        Will that not depend on who builds the PHES? If it is built be RE companies, to firm their output, it would surely be fuelled by their installations.
        I beleive Wyvenhoe, so seldom used, uses coal powered pumps, but the new projects?

        • Mike Westerman

          Definitely – and the RE developers are lining up to do so, but have the challenge of getting finance given the current growth and revenue uncertainty, altho the falling midday prices may provide a bit more impetus. Wivenhoe is owned by CS Energy with the overwhelming proportion of their energy delivered from their coal fired assets (Kogan Ck and Callide B), who use it primarily to trim their supply and as reserve for the coalers.

    • David Osmond

      Looks to me that they are predicting hydro to remain unchanged at around 16 TWh/y, which would suggest that it’s almost entirely once through hydro.

  • Cooma Doug

    From what I understand about the wholesale market, by 2030 coal and gas will not be able to function at profit unless the market rules are designed to support them. This will require rules that block many new technology opportunities.
    If a new coal gen was to be built starting now or after the fed election, the incentives would be non market. The market will not accommodate them. I dont think it would be possible for fossils to compete in 2030. There will be coal and gas running in the transition, hopefully with a clear view of the exit and clear market certainty for the owners to change horses.
    If this is corrupted by the LNP, the effect on Australia will make the NBN look like a huge success.

    • Wallace

      Gas is likely to hang on the longest as gas plants are very dispatchable. They can serve as fill-in for wind and solar. Until we figure out a way to store a sizable amount of RE cheaply we’re going to need something to turn to during extended periods of low wind and solar.

      Paid off gas plants that ran only a few days a year might be the workable solution. Perhaps, long term, we could generate enough biogas from sewage and the waste stream to provide most or all the gas.

      • Mike Westerman

        I’m not sure that will be the case. Gas is currently twice the cost of PHES and almost the cost of batteries, but with rising costs while batteries fall. Lignite will be hard to eliminate since SRMC are very low. If you watch dispatch around the NEM black coal is being trimmed by solar and wind, not lignite.

        • Hettie

          Mike, Wallace has blocked his comment history. Never a sign of good faith, I think.

          • Wallace

            Here’s what it’s a sign of.

            A couple years back I acquired an internet stalker who would turn up wherever I made a Disqus comment and start accusing me of all sorts of crap.

            Once he threatened me with physical harm.

            Make what you want of the block.

          • Hettie

            Fair enough.

    • Hettie

      Isn’t this corruption of the market exactly what NEG is designed to achieve?