Renewables smash records in 2017, but 2018/19 will be bigger

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CEC report details record-breaking year for solar, wind, batteries in Australia – and “just a glimpse” of unprecedented level activity expected in next two.

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The Clean Energy Council has detailed a year of remarkable deal-making and record-smashing project activity in Australia’s large-scale solar and wind sectors in its latest annual snapshot of the national clean energy market.

The Clean Energy Australia Report 2018, published on Wednesday, looks back at a 2017 where 16 large-scale renewable energy project, totalling around 700MW of new generation capacity, were completed and connected to the National Electricity Market.

Among those, four large-scale solar projects were completed in 2017, taking Australia’s total installed large-scale solar capacity to 450MW at the end of the year, from just 34MW at the end of 2014 (see chart below).

For the wind sector, the 547MW of new capacity added in 2017 was the third highest amount added in the history of the Australian industry, bringing total generation capacity across the country to 4816MW.

Fifteen new wind farms were either under construction or financially committed at the end of 2017, the report said.

In dollar terms, the CEC says this large-scale wind and solar project activity pushed investment in Australia up 150 per cent to a record $US9 billion for the year.

On the smaller scale, almost 1.1GW of solar PV was installed on Australian home and business rooftops in 2017 – another record broken. And perhaps even more exciting is the news that of the 172,000 household PV installations in 2017, 12 per cent included a battery – up from just 5 per cent in 2016.

And while 2017 was a record year, CEC chief Kane Thornton says it is “just a glimpse” of what is shaping up to be an unprecedented level of activity in the next couple of years.

“Perhaps most significantly, the large-scale renewable projects either under construction or which had attracted finance add up to more than seven times the amount of work completed in 2017,” he said in comments at the launch of the 2018 report.

“These 50 projects add up to 5300MW of new capacity and 5750 direct jobs.”

But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine.

As we report here, both the CEC and the Smart Energy Council are deeply concerned that the federal government’s National Energy Guarantee, as it stands,  does nowhere near enough to encourage investment in renewable energy, beyond 2020.

“There are now enough projects in the system to meet the 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET),” said Thornton in comments on Wednesday.

“Given we were only about halfway to the large-scale target at the beginning of 2017, it shows the remarkable level of deal-making and project activity during the year.

“However, it also shows that long-term bipartisan policy has been critical for investment in the energy sector, and that policy certainty beyond 2020 is becoming increasingly urgent.”

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6 Comments
  1. ChrisG 1 year ago

    The number of projects under construction is heartening but comparing this to last year’s report is pretty sombre. Total renewable generation down to 17.0% from 17.3% in 2016 (at least it’s mostly due to hydro), wind generation down slightly despite more capacity, medium scale solar PV is less than half of what it was in 2016 (which I actually think might be a mistake, the size limits for medium scale haven’t changed so how the hell did they lose 200+ GWh of production?)

    Maybe 2016 was just an outlier for wind and hydro generation but considering the mountain we have to climb to cut our emissions going backward in what I imagine is the easiest sector to reduce them in isn’t great…

    Also the 2015 total on the graph for cumulative installed capacity of large scale solar is very obviously wrong, last year’s report puts it at around 200MW for 2015 which is around what the bar shows despite the label saying 302.2MW.

    Hopefully we see more progress next year.

  2. Peter F 1 year ago

    When the above plants are completed that will push renewables up to 25% in 2019/20. Then there is Stockyard Creek, Murra Murra, Bulganna etc etc so by 20/21 we should be 35%

    • Jens Stubbe 1 year ago

      From there on it will be a very rapid transition to RE as the cost trends over 2017 for onshore, offshore and solar was the best ever.

      US onshore wind dropped 30% in cost inside one calendar year.

      Global Offshore wind dropped 20% inside that same year.

      Global solar dropped 17%.

      All three major RE technologies are expected to drop further in cost and hidden in the cost drops there are also phenomenal quality improvements that impact design life and capacity factors.

    • Paul Surguy 1 year ago

      You forgot the Morgan and Roxby solar farms starting this year

  3. neroden 1 year ago

    Come on Tassie, build some solar and wind and get rid of that last 12% of non-renewable energy!

  4. Anne McMenamin 1 year ago

    Add into this Sanjeef Gupta’s dramatically expanded plans for energy production around Whyalla (10GW), and the new SA govt’s decision to go ahead with Weatherill’s agreement with Tesla to install solar with batteries on 50,000 homes – despite having rejected the plan pre-election. Plus they are apparently also going to go ahead with their own pre-election promise of subsidies for 14,000 homes, with batteries. The 50,000 includes 25,000 Housing Trust homes, and so will have significant benefits for tenants, and the whole plan creates a virtual power plant of 1.5 GW (I think).

    Our new Premier obviously recognises that renewables are the way forward, both to provide the state’s energy needs and to attract industry, and is not going along with the coal-fired idiocies of his national party. However, it is a little sad that the Libs will benefit from policies and initiatives of the Weatherill govt.

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