Australia’s renewable uptake at record levels despite COVID-19

Solar panels in front of wind turbines (planning pathways)
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Australia’s uptake of renewable energy looks set to remain at record levels in 2020, demonstrating the resilience of the energy sector in the face of COVID-19.

The Clean Energy Regulator’s latest Quarterly Carbon Market Report estimates total delivered additional renewable capacity for this year is likely to match the record 6.3 gigawatts (GW) set in 2019.

The rate of rooftop solar installation is exceeding expectations, with the regulator now estimating 2.9 GW will be installed in 2020.

Small-scale rooftop solar installations continued to grow during the pandemic, from 81,000 in the March quarter up to 82,400 in the June quarter.

The report also confirmed the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) and Renewable Energy Target are expected to deliver 54.3 million tonnes of abatement in 2020, compared to 48.5 million tonnes delivered in 2019.

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Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said Australia is a world-leader in renewable energy uptake and that the sector has continued to be a source of growth for the economy.

“Australians are continuing to embrace low emissions technologies, particularly in the form of rooftop solar PV, and we expect to see uptake to continue at record levels,” Minister Taylor said.

“This is not only positive news for lower energy prices and the environment, but also for the economy with strong growth in rooftop solar PV this year creating an estimated 2800 jobs.

“While the renewables boom brings reliability challenges, the Government is helping Australia’s electricity network continue its transition to support more renewable energy through programs like the $1 billion Grid Reliability Fund.”

The regulator found 837 megawatts of new large-scale renewable capacity reached financial close in the first half of 2020. Generation from large-scale renewable sources for the first half of the year was estimated to be 13,500 gigawatt hours (GWh), compared to 12,300 GWh at the same point in 2019.

In total, 2 to 3 GW of large-scale renewable projects are expected to reach financial close across the 2020 year, demonstrating confidence in the sector despite the economic challenges of COVID-19. This is six times the average capacity in the years prior to 2017.

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The outlook is also positive for next year, with the current fleet of accredited power stations expected to generate in excess of 40,000 GWh once at full capacity in 2021.

Supply of Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) was 4.8 million in the June quarter, keeping Australia on track for a step up in abatement delivered under the ERF to over 16 million ACCUs in 2020.

The Regulator recorded strong interest in the ERF with 23 new registrations in the quarter, representing an estimated 3.5 million tonnes of potential abatement.

“The Government is working constructively with business and industry to drive down Australia’s emissions,” Minister Taylor said.

“As Australia recovers from COVID-19, the Government is committed to reducing emissions without imposing new costs on businesses or reducing their international competitiveness.”

Through the ERF, the Government has already committed over $2 billion to projects that reduce emissions in rural and regional areas, with more funding available from the $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund.

More information can be found in the Clean Energy Regulator’s Quarter 2 2020 Carbon Market Report.

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