Just a decade ago in 2008, renewable energy sources like solar power only accounted for a modest 7% of the electricity supply in Australia. However, by the end of June 2018, the share of renewable generation had already grown to almost 19% according to The Australian Institute. This figure does not include the large number of wind and solar farms currently under planning and development, and the share of renewable energy will have climbed to around 43% by 2030.
Rooftop solar power systems at client premises have contributed significantly to the recent growth of renewable generation in Australia:
During the first half of 2018, 584 MW of wind farms and 624 MW of solar farms were added to the Australian power system. Rooftop solar power has experienced even higher growth, with a total capacity addition of around 700 MW.
From the data above, once can conclude that the emissions reduction target in the National Energy Guarantee is too low – 26% by 2030, with respect to 2005. With the current growth rate of renewable sources, The Australian Institute estimates that the NEG emissions reduction target will be reached in 2021, nine years early.
Individual states in Australia have set more ambitious renewable energy targets: The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) aims for 100% renewable energy by 2020, Victoria aims for 40% by 2025, and Queensland aims for 50% by 2030. According to the Clean Energy Regulator, there are 8GW of solar in wind power in the project pipeline for the next three years.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance studied the potential growth of renewable sources in several countries by 2050, including Australia. They concluded that wind and solar power could deliver 86% of the country’s electricity by 2050, based on economics alone and not based on government policies driving investment.
According to BNEF, solar and wind power are more cost-effective than fossil fuels for meeting the electricity needs in the near future, even when you consider the energy storage required to manage the variability of these electricity sources. BNEF estimate that wind and solar power will have 50% of the global electricity market by 2050, with Australia leading at 86%. Other countries that could generate over 70% of their power from renewable sources by 2050 are the following:
India, Japan and the Philippines will likely surpass 60% renewable generation, while the USA, China, Middle East and Russia are likely to lag behind 50%. Among renewable sources, coal is expected to lose its market share faster than natural gas – the flexibility of natural gas generation is useful for accommodating a larger wind and solar capacity, given the variability of these resources.