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The State of Renewable Energy in Australia

The latest Climate Council report on the state of renewable energy in Australia GAME ON: THE AUSTRALIAN RENEWABLE ENERGY RACE HEATS UP  released in May 2016 provides some interesting statistics

Key findings

The key findings from the report are:

  • Australian states and territories are increasingly supporting renewable energy:
    • The number of states and territories with renewable energy targets has increased from two to four in the last year. The ACT has the highest target (100% by 2020), followed by SA (50% by 2025), QLD (50% by 2030 and one million solar rooftops), and VIC (at least 20% by 2020).
    • NSW, WA, TAS and NT do not have renewable energy targets.
    • All states, except VIC and NSW have increased the proportion of renewable energy in their electricity supply in the last two years.
  • SA and the ACT are the best-performing on renewable energy. NSW is the worst performing state as it has the lowest (and falling) percentage of renewable electricity.
    • In NSW, QLD and VIC fossil fuels still comprise 90% or greater of the power supply.
  • QLD has the greatest percentage of solar households.
    • Both QLD (29.6%) and SA (28.8%) significantly ahead of other states and are approaching almost one third of homes with solar .
  • There are now 14 postcodes in Australia in which more than half of households have solar on their rooftops.

The scorecard

The report found that, contrary to much of the rest of the globe, Australia clearly lacks focus and direction in terms of renewable energy.

In 2015, Australia claimed the dubious honour of being the first developed country in the world to reduce its national Renewable Energy Target.

Given the lack of direction on a federal level, many of the states and territories have taken it upon themselves to set their own targets to address the climate change issue.

So, how do they stack up?

In order to compare the performance of states and territories on renewable energy, the Clean Energy Council used the following measures:

  1. Percentage of renewable energy in electricity supply.
  2. Large-scale renewable energy capacity installed, and capacity per capita (excluding large-scale hydro).
  3. Total number of solar PV installations and proportion of households with solar panels.

How do the states and territories compare?

Clearly, SA is the runaway over all winner, but it doesn’t have everything its own way.

Percentage Renewable Electricity

Based on the most up-to-date data available publicly , in 2014 renewable energy provided 13.5% of Australia’s electricity (Source: Clean Energy Council 2015; See table and figure below).

TAS and SA produced well over the national average. The figure for TAS reflects well-established hydro power (primarily), with some wind power generation. SA’s figure comprises renewable electricity from wind and solar PV developed in the last 12 years.

States proportion of renewable electricity.

Source: Adapted from Clean Energy Council 2015.

Disappointingly, NSW and VIC’s proportion of renewable electricity actually fell, and in those states, as well as QLD, burning fossil fuels generates 90% or more of the states’ power. (Source: Clean Energy Council 2015).

Large-Scale Renewable Energy

According to the report, Australia has 482 large-scale renewable power stations with a total capacity of 13,656MW. Just over half of Australia’s renewable energy capacity is large-scale hydro with the remainder comprising mainly wind, biomass, and solar. (Source: Clean Energy Regulator 2016)

The state and territory governments implement policies to either encourage or discourage large-scale renewable energy investments. On a per-capita basis, SA again takes the ribbon, with TAS second (see table below).

Notable, however, is the ACT. Whilst it has a low share of large-scale renewable energy capacity within its borders, the
 ACT Government has supported 400MW of large-scale wind projects in SA, NSW and VIC through its renewable energy reverse auctions (Source: ACT Government Environment and Planning Directorate – Environment Energy, 2015). Including these projects would give the ACT the highest large-scale renewable energy capacity per person.

Rooftop Solar

Although Australia ranks only sixth globally for total solar (PV and solar thermal) capacity installed per capita, it leads the world in household solar PV.

With an average of 15% (more than 1.5 million) of households in the country with rooftop solar panels installed, this is almost twice the capacity of the next nearest nation – Belgium (7.5%). (Source: Energy Supply Association of Australia).

According to the report, this high take up rate is fuelled by high (and increasing) retail electricity prices, well-priced solar panels and government incentives such as Small-scale Trading Certificates (STCs).

The sunshine state, QLD, has the highest share of total solar PV systems installed in Australia. “

Impressively, the proportion of PV installations in SA, QLD and WA is greater than their proportion of the population as a whole.

QLD and SA have PVs on almost one in every three households, and in WA the number is almost one in five.

Top Solar Suburbs

Rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) panels could soon become as common as home insulation. “

Despite some lingering public perception, installing a PV system is not a luxury for the upper classes. As the table below shows, some suburbs have an enviable 65% penetration rate of domestic PV, yet are low- to medium-income level suburbs located in the outer metropolitan mortgage belts, or in regional areas.

Encouragingly, new suburbs are being built with 100% solar. In the ACT, Denman Prospect will be the first suburb in Australia to require a minimum of 3kW of solar PV on every house (Canberra Times 2015). Defence Housing Australia is building Breezes Muirhead in Darwin and plans to include a 4.5kW PV system and charging points for electric vehicles on each house. (Source: RenewEconomy).