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Challenging 2015 For Australian Renewables Heralds Optimistic Future

A new report has described 2015 as a “challenging year for the renewable energy sector” in Australia, but believes “the year ended with much optimism.”

Published by Australia’s Clean Energy Council (CEC), the Clean Energy Australia Report 2015 provides a comprehensive overview of Australia’s renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors, including key figures and statistics from 2015. The CEC Chief Executive, Kane Thornton, described 2015 as a tough year for the Australian renewable energy industry, but was confident that there was something worth looking forward to.

“Even though hydro power was down, largely as a result of the historically low rainfall in Tasmania, the proportion of Australia’s electricity provided by renewable energy increased in 2015 due to a good boost from wind and solar power,” said Mr Thornton. “Renewables delivered 14.6% of our electricity, enough to light up the equivalent of approximately 6.7 million average homes.”

2015 in Australia’s renewable energy industry was overshadowed by the reduction in the country’s Renewable Energy Target, which dropped from 41,000 GWh by 2020 to only 33,000 GWh. However, if nothing else, this at least ended nearly two years of political uncertainty which castrated the country’s renewable energy sector.

By the end of the year, according to the CEC’s new report, renewable energy in Australia accounted for 14.6% of the country’s total electricity, up from 13.5% in 2014. Lower rainfall, especially in the country’s south, hit Australia’s hydro-industry hard — as exemplified by the only-recently solved electricity crisis in Tasmania. Nevertheless, wind and solar picked up some of the slack, increasing by just over 20%.

“Eight major solar farms and five new wind farms became operational last year,” added Mr Thornton. “Two of Australia’s three largest solar power plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill became operational in 2015, while the other at Moree in northern New South Wales was officially launched in the early part of 2016.”

A continued reduction in state feed-in tariff levels saw lower levels of rooftop solar power, but more sustainable levels throughout 2015, helping the sector to pass 5 GW of capacity in early 2016.

Maybe the most important figure from the report, and the backbone beneath the renewed industry optimism, is the increased interest in the country’s renewable energy industry by domestic and international investors, following the readjusted Renewable Energy Target. Investor confidence had all but fallen off a cliff by the time the RET review was concluded, but has since begun to rectify itself.

Below, the Clean Energy Council has provided an infographic detailing the key highlights from the report.


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