Renewable energy sources supplied a record amount of Australia’s total electricity generation in 2012, chipping in 13.14 per cent, enough to power the equivalent of more than 4 million Australian homes, according to new figures released by the Clean Energy Council today.
The Clean Energy Australia Report 2012 says the new milestone of passing 10 per cent electricity supply mark for the first time this century was largely attributable to two factors: rising total production of electricity from renewable sources and a drop in electricity demand – illustrated in today’s Graph(s) of the Day, taken from the latest Pitt & Sherry Australian carbon emissions report.
The CEC report is the first industry report to look at renewable energy generation and energy efficiency across both the National Electricity Market and the Western Australian electricity grid over the last calendar year.
One of the rising stars of the report – and a key contributor to both rising renewable energy production and falling electricity demand – was rooftop solar, which, while still only contributing 8 per cent to Australia’s annual renewable energy generation, is growing rapidly.
The report says around approximately 322,000 solar power systems were installed nationwide in 2012, taking the total to almost 937,000 and pushing the amount of residential dwellings with a solar power system installed to around 11 per cent by the end of the year.
“At the end of the year, a cumulative total of almost 937,000 consumers had invested their own money in solar power technology to take the heat out of rising power bills,” says the report, bringing the number of all of the nation’s households fitted with a solar power system to around 10 per cent.
As well as taking the heat out of bills, the CEC says rooftop solar is helping to relieve the strain on electricity grids on hot days when power use goes into overdrive – an impact that has been noted by Queensland government-owned utility Energex, and was demonstrated by a record-breaking hot day in December 2012 in which solar power played an important part in reducing peak energy demand.
All in all, says the report, a total of 933MW of solar power was installed across the country in 2012, bringing the cumulative total to 2298MW by the year’s end – more than 20 times the amount at the end of 2009 and more than 75 times what had been installed just four years earlier at the end of 2008.
But solar aside, Hydro remains the largest contributor of renewable energy generation at 58 per cent, while wind power, at 26 per cent, is making “significant inroads” – of the 380MW of new large-scale renewable energy generating capacity that came on board in 2012, 359MW came from wind.
(As the report notes, AGL’s 140-turbine 420MW Macarthur Wind Farm was completed early this year and, as the largest wind farm in Australia, is expected to make a significant difference to the total output of renewable energy for 2013.)
Other contributing sources included large-scale solar (0.147%, 44GWh), bioenergy (8.1%, 2400GWh), and marine energy (0.001%, 0.2GWh).
The report also notes that 14 renewable large-scale renewable power plant projects became operational in 2012, contributing to a total of 364 in Australia.
Other highlights from the report include the more than $4.2 billion that was invested in renewable energy and energy efficient technologies in 2012, while the renewable energy industry was said to have employed approximately 24,300 people at the beginning of 2013.