Let's be honest: Australia is well behind on renewables | RenewEconomy

Let’s be honest: Australia is well behind on renewables

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Australia’s fossil fuel share of electricity generation is higher than that of our peers. This chart is ugly for Australians who care about doing our bit in the 21st century.

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Australia’s fossil fuel share of electricity generation is higher than that of our peers.

The following chart is ugly, in my next life I hope to come back with more drawing ability and a better sense of design, but its also ugly for Australians who care about doing our bit in the 21st century.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 2.56.48 PM

The data are for Jan-July 2017 cumulative for selected countries and regions. i.e. it’s basically right up to date. It shows that Australia has the highest share of fossil fuel generation in the selected sample of countries.

Most of the rest of the sample shows a big increase in wind & PV production. For instance in the USA as a whole (not shown) wind & PV cumulative production is up about 35% this year so far.

The graph also shows that our share (which includes rooftop PV) of wind & PV is one of the lowest. To be clear the IEA stats lump other in with wind & PV in their monthly data and so the chart marginally overstates the wind & PV share for the European countries selected. But we don’t think that makes much difference.

None of these other countries or grids seem to feel there is any difficulty, yet, with reliability. However its also fair to say that discussions about dispatchability and other market design related issues in many of these regions is on the increase.

It’s also fair to point out that transmission interconnectors more easily facilitate more renewables. But then we could easily build some more of them. Even the rainy UK is well ahead of Australia

California and Spain at 28% and 24% respectively are more than 3 times bigger in wind & PV than Australia and with comparable grid sizes.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 2.56.40 PM

As the electricity price in virtually every country and region is lower than in Australia and as the renewable energy share is higher in almost all of them, so its clearly not renewables alone that is responsible for high prices. But anyone reading this knew that already.

To be sure I could select some countries in Eastern Europe and in Asia that are worse than Australia, but I like to think we are better than that. We are wealthy country with great renewable resources and we can and will do better.


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  1. Andy Saunders 3 years ago

    All true, especially those horrific graph colours… and I’m colour-blind!

    • Joe 3 years ago

      Australia’s effort is embarrassing. We have all the RE sources available but we are bogged down by The COAlition and their silly political games. To use a fussball analogy…’Red Card’ to Australia….oh, but you are colour blind.

  2. Mike Westerman 3 years ago


  3. Peter F 3 years ago

    You can get the Chinese stats here, https://chinaenergyportal.org/en again far better than us.
    Another number they publish is coal use per MWhr theirs is 310 but that will decline over the next quarter. By my best calculation ours is 500-600kg

  4. Peter F 3 years ago

    California, Italy and the UK import quite a bit of their power, do your numbers include the imports in their mix
    the UK imports would be predominantly low carbon, not all, as about 1/3rd comes from Holland which is high carbon but they are building links to Norway and Denmark which will probably reduce the carbon intensity of imports below local power.
    The situation in California is changing so fast it is hard to track the real numbers. most of italy’s imports come from France

    • Mike Shackleton 3 years ago

      Holland is not high carbon – it has one power station left which is a stranded asset. Also, you would notice we are a country of similar geographric spread to the US and Europe. We should be able to import and export power between states. South Australia is exporting a lot of wind power to Victoria at the moment.

      • Peter F 3 years ago

        It has between 4 and 6GW of coal 3 of the plants opened in 2015, most of the rest of its power comes from gas and one nuclear plant of the renewables 60% is biomass, hydro zero, wind and solar together less than 10%

  5. Coffeeguyzz . 3 years ago

    You Aussie folks are setting a world class example of what to expect by shunning hydrocarbons.
    The huge ramp up of half truths, obfuscation and finger pointing not only belies the weakness of the renewable energy position vis a vis electricity production, the furious backlash is apt to be severe when the social, political and economic costs are properly attributed to carbon free production.
    Sincere best wishes to you all as you overcome these difficult conditions.

    • Mike Westerman 3 years ago

      Heh ever tried tea: the leaves may make more sense than your rant

      • Coffeeguyzz . 3 years ago

        Mr. Westerman
        Stories of elderly Australians having to buy food that does not need heating – since they cannot afford to cook the food – while there are numerous ships off China unloading Aussie coal for the betterment of the Chinese may be sensible – and acceptable – to you, but I would hope not many others feel that way.
        The Australian power situation is being followed by many as a bellwether for what to expect when a society goes fossil free.
        All the charts, all the slanted comparisons one might pose will not disguise the fact that embracing renewables is an unmitigated disaster.
        No amount of spin can can hide these realities.

        • Mike Westerman 3 years ago

          Nothing will help the Chinese dying of respiratory disease other than clean air. Rational heads have realized you can’t shit in your nest and sleep in it. I have waited 40y as a professional engineer for this day when solar power would be cheaper than anything else, so now that is so close my excitement rises.

          It’s a pity that in your mock concern for the elderly you can’t be honest enough to see these realities.

        • Barri Mundee 3 years ago

          Network costs not renewables are responsible for most of the high prices.

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      Your such an overt fossil fool lobbyist, troll. How much are they paying you to spew this bullshit?

      And tell me how does it feel to be on the wrong side of history, the loosing side?

      I’ve heard stupid children make more sense, than wankers like you.

    • Barri Mundee 3 years ago

      Please go forth and multiply unless you have any actual evidence for those opinions.

  6. Deborah Fuller 3 years ago

    Come on Australia you have loads of sunshine and loads of empty land.

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