Australians spent $4bn on renewable energy in 2016

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There was a five-fold increase in investment in clean and renewable energy generation in 2016, putting Australia well on track to reach its 2020 Renewable Energy Target.

The bulk of the $4 billion spent went towards solar rooftop panels and solar water heaters, according to the latest report from the Clean Energy Regulator.

Biggest ever year of investment in renewable energy

The same report found that Australia recorded its biggest ever year in terms of renewable energy investment in 2016. The trend continued into 2017, with the CER finding that more than $3 billion has been locked in during the first three months of the year.

The CER had hoped for 3000 megawatts of new renewable generation to be invested in 2016, but the numbers fell slightly short.

There was an investment in 1,350 megawatts of large-scale renewable power, with another 719 megawatts sufficiently advanced to count as probable.

The CER said: “More new large-scale renewable power generation was financed during 2016 than in any other previous year

“Together these projects represent around one-third of the new capacity required to deliver the 2020 target, and nearly a five-fold increase on the 409 megawatts capacity committed or probable in 2015.”

4,000 megawatts needed to hit target

4,000 megawatts – 3,000 in 2017 and a further 1,000 in 2018 – is still needed for Australia to reach the 2020 renewables target.

Australia has committed to produce 33,000 gigawatt hours, or 23 per cent of Australia’s total power, from clean energy sources by the end of the decade.

That might sound like a long-term target, but in reality, there is only two and a half years to the cutoff date.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said the report confirmed Australia as one of the top 10 global destinations for renewable energy investment, including wind, solar and battery storage.

Seismic change from Abott Government days

While many have questioned the coalition government’s commitment to renewable energy targets, the latest figures show a seismic change from the days of the Abbot Government.

The Clean Energy Regulator showed a stunning turnaround in renewable investment in Australia with a record amount of more than $4 billion being committed in the last year alone.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said: “According to the CER there is the momentum to meet the 2020 target and establish Australia as a top 10 global destination for renewable investment.”

The Turnbull government has not committed to extending the RET beyond 2020, but is hoping the existing target will drive investment out to 2030. A review of the Coalition’s Direct Action climate policies will be released later this year.

Market not yet at saturation point

Outgoing CER chair Chloe Munro, in her final report to the government, said while Australia had the world’s highest penetration of roof-top solar, the market had not yet reached saturation point. “Our postcode data showed continued demand for small-scale solar panel systems and solar water heaters in regional and outer metropolitan households and developers frequently include solar as a standard option in new build,” Ms Munro said. “New financing models, such as solar leasing and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s Community Housing Program, will make rooftop solar accessible to new segments on the community.”

You can find out more about Australia’s renewable energy targets at Clean Energy Regulator’s site

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