Solar supplied 3.2% of Australia demand in 2016, heading to 30% | RenewEconomy

Solar supplied 3.2% of Australia demand in 2016, heading to 30%

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Solar accounted for 3.2% of total generation in Australia last year, and its big rise will continue to 30% by 2030 and more than 50% by 2050.

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australia solar farm

Solar energy – on the rooftop of homes and businesses and increasingly in large scale ground mounted arrays – provided more than 3 per cent of Australia’s electricity demand in 2016, and appears on track to deliver at least 30 per cent by 2030, before becoming the dominant source of power for the sunburnt country.

New data released on Tuesday by the Clean Energy Council shows renewable energy provided 17 per cent of the nation’s power demand in 2016 – its highest in more than half a century (since Snowy Hydro was completed).

But the big mover is the growing share of solar. Its generation jumped 29 per cent in the last year, and it accounted for 3.16 per cent of total generation across the country in 2016. That is expected to continue to grow significantly – 10 fold over the next 14 years, and to more than half of all generation by 2050.

In 2016, small scale rooftop solar power, with some 5.5GW located on more than 1.6 million homes and small businesses, provided 2.76 per cent of total generation, while medium scale PV (from 100kW to 5MW) provided 0.19 per cent, and large scale solar PV (5MW and bigger) provided 0.21 per cent.

Large scale solar, however, is expected to dramatically increase its share over the next two years with more than 2,000MW under construction or about to be built, and thousands of megawatts more in the pipeline.

2016 large scale solar completed“Between household, commercial and large-scale solar power, solar power production increased by more than a quarter (29 per cent) during the year,” CEC chief executive Kane Thornton says.

“Significantly, many businesses are switching on to the idea of generating their own renewable energy to manage electricity prices that continue to rise following a decade of energy and climate policy uncertainty.”

That is being seen in both the rooftop market, with record installations so far in 2017 from homes and businesses, and in the large scale market, with the likes of Sun Metals building its own 116MW solar farm, and Monash University also tendering (for either 40MW of new wind or solar) to reduce its bills and push to greater renewables.

solar cumulative capacity

The CEC data shows that the fastest-growing sector of the solar market has been commercial systems between 75-100 kW, helping to pushup the average size of solar power systems to 5.56 kW at the end of 2016.

Commercial systems between 30-100kW are particularly popular in the ACT, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory, where they make up about 30 per cent of sales.

Solar now accounts for around half of the new projects being built to meet the federal 2020 renewable energy target, according to figures provided by the Clean Energy Regulator.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency suggests that solar will provide 30 per cent of all demand by 2030 as its costs continue to fall, and the CSIRO and Energy Networks Australia recently said that distributed generation, mostly solar accompanied by battery storage, will meet nearly half of all demand by 2050. That does not include large scale solar.


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  1. Tony Pfitzner 3 years ago

    This is likely to be a serious underestimate of the rate of growth of solar pv.
    Global growth has been 46% compounded annually for many years, so why would it stall now? There will be an overlay of political and economic factors which will cause short term variations, but why assume it move from exponential growth to linear?
    It seems that government agencies and energy think tanks invariably err on the side of conservatism, and therefore end up with serious underestimates, which do not serve the formation of sound policy.

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      I agree, as solar,wind and storage are cheaper than fossil fuels, more and more investment will go into RE. It’s unstoppable now and like a train pulling out of the station, it will keep gathering speed.

      • Joe 3 years ago

        I hope your train isn’t the one “Rescuers Minister Canavan” bangs on about,,,The Adani Express from Carmichael to Abbott Point.

      • david H 3 years ago

        Technology and the market will always win at the end of the day and we are seeing this happen now.

  2. Patrick Comerford 3 years ago

    One can only wonder at the lost opportunity inflicted by the Abbot Turnbull LNP government. They killed the renewable energy market stone dead with their ideological stupidity and their sycophantic support for the coal lobby. Those lost years are being felt already with the turmoil in the electricity sector.

  3. Chris Drongers 3 years ago

    Patrick wrote
    “One can only wonder at the lost opportunity inflicted by the Abbot Turnbull LNP government. They killed the renewable energy market stone dead with their ideological stupidity ”
    – sorry, I thought you were talking about the Greens and their knife into the Emissions Trading Scheme on the nominal grounds that it was not perfect because it did not include all carbon emissions but was actually because it was being proposed by conservative, traditional party.

    • Jo 3 years ago

      The greens opposed that initial scheme together with the ALP because it was actually preventing long term action. And the Greens together with the ALP established a carbon trading scheme – which was axed as a “Tax” by your mates.

      • Chris Drongers 3 years ago

        Jo- the best horse trainers don’t scare the horses (by doing too much at one time). An imperfect emissions trading scheme that planted the seeds of engineering, finance and regulation for a reduced carbon economy would have started the thought processes that would lead to greater decarbonisation with less squealing (because of familiarity) than we are now having (because of novelty).

        • Joe 3 years ago

          Chris my man you are being way to kind to ‘The Liberal Squealers’. The Liberals under Howard wet themselves with excitement with their Mandatory Renewable Energy Target now known as Renewable Energy Target. Check Hansard for all their glowing endorsements. Then under Turnbull when he was Opposition Leader the Liberals were all for supporting Labor’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. But then the Abbott knifed Turnbull and became the new Opposition Leader which threw everything off course and started the climate war that still runs today. Labor’s legislated ETS was repealed by Abbott when he was PM because it was actually working. Our carbon emissions were reducing which was bad news for the COALition. and their Fossil Fueler friends. “The horses” you speak of were well aware of the argument for an ETS. But Abbott and the Liberals mounted a dishonest campaign calling the ETS a Carbon Tax which it never was. What was even worse were the lies that Abbott, The Liberals and Rupert’s newsrags kept peddling that Julia Gillard promised before the 2010 election that “there will be no Carbon Tax….”. Of course Abbott etc never repeated the full quote of Julia Gillard’s promise. Go and check it for yourself…the full quote…not the selective 5 word quote of Abbott & co. Julia Gillard promised a price on carbon via an ETS and that is exactly what was delivered.The only scaring of ‘The Horses” that is being done is entirely from The Liberals & Rupert via his newsrags.

    • Craig Allen 3 years ago

      No doubt if the Greens had at the time the ability to foresee how successful the liberals would be with their destructive behaviour, then they would have formulated different policies. The original scheme included elements that would have made it ineffective and allow business as usual for polluters. The Greens thought they could be successful with their push for better policy. Had they known how things would turn out I have no doubt they would have chosen a different path. Perhaps with your impeccable hindsight you can build a time machine and go back to warn everyone.

    • Ren Stimpy 3 years ago

      Didn’t the Senate numbers make all of that irrelevant?

      Labor + Greens 37 seats. Not enough to do jack shit.
      Liberal/National + Family First 38 seats. Enough to block any legislation?

      Rudd HAD to deal with the Coalition to get an ETS passed. That means he had to snub the Greens and cater the ETS policy to the Coalition’s wants. It was neither Rudd’s fault for dealing with Coalition nor the Greens’ fault for rejecting a policy they had absolutely no say in formulating. It was simply a matter of Senate numbers.

      How was anybody to know a bunch of pea-brained opportunists in the Coalition would wrest control of that party – using this very issue …. and the rest is history.

      The biggest mistake of all was by Rudd, who should have pulled the trigger for a double dissolution election on the ETS the very moment Tony Abbott ousted Malcolm Turnbull.

      • David leitch 3 years ago

        Rudd could and would have won a double dissolution if he’d stuck to his guns. Reneging on “climate change is the biggest threat” broke his direct connection with the Australian people. After that federal Australian politics has never been able to recapture the high ground.

  4. John Saint-Smith 3 years ago

    Scoring political points at this juncture is just so juvenile!

    It is clear that we don’t have until some time after 2050 to reduce CO2e emissions to zero if we are hoping to achieve climate stability at +2 degrees C.

    So unless we substantially accelerate the transition to massively reduced energy and material consumption, renewable energy and recycling across the globe and in all sectors of the economy by 2030 we won’t have a climate left to save by 2050.

  5. Bristolboy 3 years ago

    It would be interesting to understand how solar growth projections compare to that for other technologies, including wind. Ultimately the time for action is very limited so all technologies possible need to be utilised, both in Australia and globally.

  6. onesecond 3 years ago

    Totally ridiculous that a sun-scorched continent like Australia has a lesser share of solar in the total electricity generation than a country like Germany which is as sunny as Alaska. The whole Australian continent is absolutely brimming with renewable energy and they don’t grasp their huge opportunity. Sigh.

    • Joe 3 years ago

      Yes, Germany is a lesson for Australia. Germany is the fourth richest country in the world, their “EnergieWende” sees them now at over 30% RE and the sky still hasn’t fallen in on them. Wind is huge in Germany and they don’t need a Wind Commissioner like the Federal Liberals here in Oz. With only a fraction of the sunshine that we get here in Oz, Germany are going the max with what sunshine they do get. Companies like SonnenBatterie are leading the way with the technology smarts that go with RE and we are seeing some of that now here in Oz with SonnenBatterie’s home solar with storage and the management systems that accompany that. The ‘Nu Clear’ industry in Germany will be shut down by 2022. Domestic coal mining in Germany is coming to an end and the days of Coal power generation are surely numbered as well. The departure of nuclear and coal power will allow more RE to come to a modernised and fit for purpose 21st century electricity grid in Germany…all courtesy of “Die EnergieWende”. Australia has the full suite of RE sources, solar,wind, hydro, bio mass / gas, geo thermal, tidal…and all we can do is 16% RE of which solar is a few per cent. It really is criminal but with the COALition in charge and pushing dud projects like Adani, little wonder Solar and RE is up against here in Oz.

    • FeFiFoFum 3 years ago

      The irony of it all..
      Germany peaked at 42% solar generation.
      UK peaked at 24.3% solar generation.

      And we are getting excited at 3.2% ???
      Its pathetic.

  7. Peter F 3 years ago

    and cloudy Germany 7%. We have a way to go. Just to cheer you up even more, for the last 3 months in Germany, all renewables have outgenerated coal (just). In January they were well behind but with current rate of progress particularly with re-invigorated solar installations and new wind running at about 3-4GW this year, 2018 should be the year when renewables outdo coal there

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