Green Energy Markets publishes a monthly Renewable Energy Index “to assist the Australian community in understanding the role and contribution of renewable energy to meeting our energy needs while also providing an important source of employment and reducing pollution. Its report for December, 2018 is out and it begins with these prophetic words: “2018 will go down as the year that fossil fuels began an inexorable decline in Australia’s electricity supply.”
Tristan Edis, GEM’s director of analysis and advisory, says, “For wind, the 26% jump in generation this year came after almost no growth in 2017. Rooftop solar has had more steady additions of generation but 2018 was exceptional, with the incremental new generation 86% greater than the average annual additions of 2015-2017. Yet it was large scale solar farms that really jumped out of the blocks in 2018, with generation leaping up by almost 300% on the prior year.”
Not all the news is so positive. GEM says Western Australia trails far behind the eastern states in renewable energy growth. Also, although the use of soft brown coal has decreased, the amount of generation from black coal is up, thanks to the elimination of a national price on carbon. “Black coal generation is likely to decline this year and next as more than 10,000 MW of renewables capacity is added to the grid.” the report says. “But much more renewables capacity is required to bring carbon emissions in line with Australia’s international commitments.” Natural gas generation fell 26% in Australia last year.
PV Magazine Australia adds the GEM December report also says more than 3.2 GW of large scale solar projects were under construction at the end of December, bringing the total of close to 7.15 GW when wind is included. The solar boom is bringing good news for the employment sector as well. Nearly 7,700 people are involved in utility scale solar project construction at the present time in Australia.
Turning to rooftops, GEM found 22,010 PV systems were installed in December. New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory led all other regions with 5,700 systems combined followed by Victoria with 5,400; Queensland with 5,300, Western Australia 3,150, South Australia 1,900, the Northern Territory 269; and Tasmania (262).
Despite the intransigence of its national leaders, Australia is embracing renewables faster than most other countries and may be the first to get to 100% renewable energy. As prices for wind, solar, and storage continue to fall, the current shift to wind and solar power will continue to accelerate.