‘Record’ renewables under construction says report which contrasts earlier analysis


Construction on over 5 GW of wind and solar farms begun in 2022, according to the Clean Energy Council’s latest Clean Energy Australia Report. This makes it the “highest year for new renewable construction commitments on record,” the report says. 

While the wording “construction commitments” hints at the Council using more of a prospective lens, the sharp contrast between SunWiz’s prediction that 2023 would be one of the large-scale segment’s worst years is noteworthy.

On the whole, the report mostly confirms many of the statistics and conclusions publicised in the last months – for instance, that the rooftop solar segment contracted badly in 2022 while residential battery installations grew. The Council landed on established figures, stating there were 34,731 residential battery installations in 2021 reaching around 50,000 in 2022.

The Clean Energy Australia Report points out despite last year’s rooftop market contraction, the segment accounted for more than a quarter (25.8%) of Australia’s renewable energy generation in 2022, with the average system size reaching 8.84 kW. In total, 310,352 small-scale rooftop solar systems were added, totalling 2.7 GW of new capacity – roughly the same capacity as Eraring coal-fired power station.

Renewable projects completed in 2022

Image: Clean Energy Council

“If Australia is chasing a target of 82% renewable energy generation by 2030, the good news is that rooftop solar is continuing to do the heavy lifting adding around 3.5 TWh per year,” Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton said. “The challenge is now to maintain this pace right through to 2030.”

Similar to how wind and solar project sizes are trending up towards megaproject status, big battery projects are also getting bigger, the Council concludes. While the number of large-scale batteries under construction at the end of 2022 was also down on the previous year, dropping from 30 to 19, the approximate combined capacity of those batteries actually grew – going from 921 MW/1,169 MWh in 2021 to 1380 MW/2,004 MWh in 2022.

National average solar system size in kW

Image: Clean Energy Council

Annual solar installations from 2010 to 2022.

Image: Clean Energy Council

Large-scale segment

In terms of the Council’s utility-scale outlook, it concluded the total number of projects under construction or financially committed at the end of 2022 stood at 72, up from 66 at the end of 2021. Of these projects, 48 are solar, 21 wind, and three bioenergy. Meanwhile 48 projects were physically under construction leaving 30 in the committed category, it said.

Coming back to the difference in expectations for Australia’s large-scale segment, it could also be that CEC and SunWiz have focussed on slightly different metrics which are impacting the years projects are credited in. 

For instance, the Council’s report says: “While capacity added was down on the previous year (860 MW in 2022 versus 1683 MW in 2021), the larger developments currently under construction should see total generation rise considerably in the coming years.”

SunWiz, on the other hand, credited 2022 as adding some of Australia’s biggest projects to date.

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