Report shows record-breaking run for renewables

Solar panels in front of wind turbines (planning pathways)
Image: Shutterstock

Australia’s renewables industry continued its record-breaking run in 2021, according to the Clean Energy Council‘s 2022 Clean Energy Australia Report released today.

According to the report, renewables now accounts for 32.5 per cent of Australia’s electricity—a figure that’s almost doubled since 2017 when renewable energy accounted for 16.9 per cent of generation. Renewables now generate enough energy to power Australian households 1.6 times over. 

“2021 was another record year for clean energy in Australia, with almost 3GW of new large-scale renewable energy projects completed. The rooftop solar sector also had its fifth-straight record-breaking year, installing almost 400,000 new systems to add 3.3GW of new capacity,” Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton said. 

“This equates to over 6.3GW of new capacity installed during the year, giving Australia confidence that it can deliver the new clean energy supply necessary to support the accelerated closure of coal generation and achieve more ambitious climate change goals. 

“2021 was also a breakthrough year for big batteries, with 30 large-scale batteries under construction at the end of 2021 with a combined capacity and storage duration of 921MW/1169 MWh. Energy investors are clearly confident about the important role and commercial viability of big batteries to deliver the reliable power of the future.”  

However, Thornton said the report showed these extraordinary achievements are clouded by a significant slowdown in the pipeline for new large-scale renewables, with the level of financial commitments for new large-scale renewable energy projects falling by more than 17 per cent from $4.5 billion in 2020 to $3.7 billion in 2021.

“This significant reduction is due to continued policy uncertainty combined with the challenges associated with connecting renewable energy projects to the grid,” he said. 

Related article: CEC: Budget fails to prioritise renewables transition

“While investors are enthusiastic about investing in new large-scale renewable energy projects, these challenges have increased risks and slowed down the number of new projects coming forward. The slowdown is concerning in light of expectations that coal-fired power plants will continue to close earlier than previously anticipated.” 

Other highlights from the 2022 Clean Energy Australia Report include: 

  • 2995GW of new large-scale renewable generation capacity completed construction and was added to the grid across 27 projects in 2021. This is an increase of 50 per cent compared to 2020, when 1990MW of new large-scale capacity was added. 
  • The small-scale solar sector added 3.3GW of new capacity from 389,577 systems to record its fifth-straight record-breaking year. 
  • 1.7GW of new wind capacity was added throughout the year, making 2021 the wind sector’s third record-breaking year in a row for annual installed capacity.
  • 30 large-scale batteries were under construction at the end of 2021 with a combined capacity and storage duration of 921MW/1169MWh. 
  • The level of financial commitments for new large-scale renewable energy projects fell by more than 17 per cent from $4.5 billion in 2020 to $3.7 billion in 2021. This was a result of the amount of new capacity reaching financial commitment falling from 3160MW across 28 projects in 2020 to 2110MW across 20 projects in 2021. This reduction is broadly consistent with the Clean Energy Regulator’s latest Quarterly Carbon Market report, noting some minor variations in reporting methodology.
  • Hydropower generation increased by 10.2 per cent in 2021 compared to the previous year, resulting in hydro’s contribution to Australia’s total electricity generation increasing to 7.0 per cent in 2021, up from the 6.4 per cent the previous year. This will increase further in the coming years as the two major hydro projects currently under construction in Australia—Snowy 2.0 and the Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project—are completed.
  • Corporate renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs) had another strong year in 2021. There were 18 corporate renewable PPAs announced in 2021, directly contracting just over 800MW.
  • The number of Clean Energy Council accredited installers passed 8000 for the first time in 2021, increasing by 12.5 per cent to 8682. 
Previous articleSantos sets new emission targets for 2030
Next article“It’s now or never”: new IPCC warning to governments