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Australia’s Momentum Continues To Build Toward Renewable Energy Target

Australia’s Clean Energy Council insists momentum continues to build for the country’s renewable energy sector as it progresses toward its 2020 Renewable Energy Target.

According to a new analysis of the progress of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target, published this week by the Clean Energy Council, momentum is building for the country’s renewable energy sector. Major projects under construction and legislation revising the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target (RET) in mid-2015 have created strong momentum and confidence across the sector.

“About 450 MW of projects have been committed in the past three months alone, helping to provide some much-needed momentum for the sector,” added Kane Thornton, Clean Energy Council Chief Executive. “The flow on benefits of these projects in terms of investment and jobs into rural Australian communities is significant.”

Australia is currently sitting at just above the halfway mark towards its legislated RET target. In 2015, 15,200 GWh of renewable energy was generated above the pre-1997 baseline levels established as part of the legislation. To achieve the 2020 target of 33,000 GWh, another 18,000 GWh of renewable energy generation is required, equating to around 6 GW of new generation capacity, resulting in around $10 billion in new investment and thousands of jobs across the country.

“In order to meet the 2020 target, approximately 6000 MW of new capacity will need to be installed,” said Mr Thornton. “The good news is that about 10,600 MW of projects already have planning approval and a further 6600 MW were being progressed towards approval.”

The Clean Energy Council published its Clean Energy Australia Report 2016 report late last month, its annual update on the country’s renewable energy sector. In it, 2015 is described as a “challenging year for the renewable energy sector,” but nevertheless “the year ended with much optimism.”

“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 on the release of the report. “Renewables delivered 14.6% of our electricity, enough to light up the equivalent of approximately 6.7 million average homes.”

Looking forward, the CEC’s Progress and Status of the Renewable Energy Target analysis is quick to praise the supposed momentum the industry has recently garnered — including a somewhat misleading belief that “a new Prime Minister that is more supportive of renewable energy” when really all Australia currently has is a Prime Minister who is not as vitriolically anti-renewable energy. The authors of the report also note that the current “level and pace of investment will need to increase substantially in 2016 and 2017 in order for liable parties to deliver on the 2020 legislated target and obligation.”

“There is no question that 2016 will be a big year for the renewable energy industry,” added Mr Thornton. “At the end of 2015 we were just under halfway towards the delivery of the RET, with 15,200 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable energy generation of the 33,000 GWh required to meet it.”

“Most electricity retailers have banked enough Large-scale Generation Certificates (LGCs) to meet their obligations for about the next two years. But projects need to be committed in 2016 and 2017 to ensure retailers meet their future liability. A wind farm takes a couple of years to build, while solar power plants can be constructed more quickly.

“As the sector builds momentum, confidence is rising that the industry’s long pipeline of projects can achieve the 2020 target and go much further in years and decades to come.”

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