Surging large-scale solar puts Australia on track for 2020 renewable target

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Today’s renewable sector is ready to leap into action, delivering affordable and reliable carbon-free electricity at scale in a short period of time – given a stable policy framework. This is being demonstrated in the Australian marketplace, with a host of new wind and large-scale solar projects currently moving towards completion.

Information from the Clean Energy Regulator released yesterday show that 6.5 GW of renewable projects have been “firmly announced” since 2016. Of these, 4.9 GW have reached financial close and a further 1.6 GW have signed PPAs with offtakers, indicating a high likelihood they will be built.

Of the “firmly announced” pipeline, around 3.7 GW are for PV power plants.

Given the level of development, which started slowly in 2016 but accelerated sharply in 2017, the Clean Energy Regulator believes that the 2020 33,000 GWh RET target will be reached.

“In 2017, more than 1000 megawatts of renewable projects were completed and began generation, the biggest year ever for new build coming online,” Parker said in a statement.  “We expect 2018 and 2019 to be even bigger, with each year having more than double the new build completed compared to 2017.”

Parker added that while there is “still a long way to go” to reach 33,000 GWh, “we believe it will be met due to the hard work and tenacity of the electricity sector, the renewables industry and those that have financed these projects.”

The Clean Energy Regulator figures reveal that favourable state policies, and power market dynamics, are also playing a role in the development.  Queensland will host the largest share of the projects currently being developed, followed by Victoria and South Australia – all states with governments actively fostering renewable development.

The rapid turnaround, after the bipartisan deal to reduce the RET from 41,000 GWh to 33,ooo GWh in mid-2015, undermines arguments suggested at the time by members of the Coalition federal government that the target could not be met. Indeed, it is plausible that had not investor certainty not been so severely undermined by the previous Abbott Government’s attempts to scuttle the RET, a death by review, demonization and inaction, the initial 41 GWh target could also have been met.

The Clean Energy Regulator had previously stated that 6 GW of large-scale renewable would have to be built between 2016 and 2019 for the RET to be met.

This article was amended on 28/2/2018 to reflect the RET of 41,000 GWh and 33,000 GWh.