Independent research has found that within two years, one-third of Australia’s National Energy Market needs will be met through renewable energy generation.
A Green Energy Markets report shows that on current projections, 33 percent of market needs would be met through renewable energy by the year 2020 and 40 percent by the year 2030.
If the current pipeline continues in its current form, it is estimated that the country could be producing 85 percent of the National Energy Market’s needs by the year 2030.
To put that into perspective, in 2015, only 17.5 percent of the country’s energy needs came from renewable energy sources. In May this year, just shy of 20 percent of Australia’s grid supply was generated by renewable energy sources.
This means that the amount of energy produced from renewable sources will have roughly doubled in the space of five years.
The situation also needs to be seen in the context of the fact that the Coalition Government refuses to give up the coal dream and continues to do all it can to preserve fossil fuel generation, even though generators continually push away and towards renewable energy.
The data sourced by GEM was collated by the Australian Energy Market Operator and is based on solar and wind farms which are already under construction or in the contract pipeline.
The data also assumes that rooftop solar installations will continue on current levels.
GEM director Tristan Eides said the figures were quite remarkable, considering that the renewables share in 2015 was just over 17 percent of the total energy mix.
NEG unlikely to have any effect on power station investments
Turning to the National Energy Guarantee, Mr Edis said it was unlikely to make any difference to power station investment or emissions unless the emission target was strengthened.
“Even if contracting and construction commitments to solar farms and wind farms halted from today, ongoing installations of rooftop solar should see renewables share reaching 39 percent by 2030,” he said.
The issue has caused consternation within the National Party, which forms the coalition with the coalition. Backbencher Barnaby Joyce has gone on record saying that rural Australian voters will not support the NEG because they are already struggling to pay their power bills.
As a result, senior Nationals have drafted a discussion paper, proposing that the Government provides incentives for businesses to invest in refurbishing existing baseload power stations to try and the life of some existing coal-fired power stations extended.
The move flies in the face of market forces however, with the big operators – particularly AGL Energy – saying that they are moving out of coal and into renewable energy generation.
The only player which seems to be interested in coal generation is Alinta, which recently saw a $250 million bid for AGL’s Liddell plant kicked out of the park.
AGL CEO Andy Vesey said the company would keep hold of the site and turn it into a renewable energy hub. The New South Wales Government has also embraced the power of renewables and is planning a new high-voltage transmission network to service three renewable energy hubs in rural areas, which is expected to unlock $18 billion worth of investment.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott – who led a backbench rebellion against Alan Finkel’s Clean Energy Target – has already said he would consider crossing the floor to vote against the NEG policy.
Mr Joyce would not be drawn on whether he would do the same, but he vowed to “fight” until his concerns about cutting power prices were addressed.
The Government needs all states to agree to its final energy plan before any legislation is put to a vote in parliament.
Record month for PV installations
GEM’s report also found that May was yet another record month for small-scale rooftop solar photovoltaic panel installations. In total, 19,000 systems were installed in Australia in that month, which Mr Edis said translated to potential savings on bills of $233 million over a 10 year period.
Another record which was smashed in the month of May was the total amount of energy generated by rooftop solar, which reached 131 Megawatts.
Mr Edis said new units in May alone would add up to bill savings of about $233 million over 10 years.
The 131 megawatts (MW) of rooftop solar PV registered in May was also new monthly record.
On GEM figures, renewable energy avoided 2.4 million tonnes of CO2 pollution over the month or the equivalent of taking 9.2 million cars off the road.
Large-scale renewable energy pipeline growing
Source: Green Energy Markets
Mr Edis said his forecast for renewables providing about 40 percent of generation by 2030 substantially exceeded the emission reduction ambition within the NEG. Modelling for the Energy Security Board estimated the emission target would be achieved with 36 percent renewables’ share.
“Since the political uncertainty over the Renewable Energy Target was resolved, project developers have been incredibly busy identifying and gaining development approval for new wind and solar farms around the country,” Mr Edis said.
The pipeline of renewable projects waiting for approval is capable of supplying 85 percent of the NEM’s demand by 2030, provided they all materialise.