Australia Will Meet 2020 Renewable Energy Target Following Record Investments

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Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator announced Tuesday that Australia will meet its 2020 Renewable Energy Target following 2017’s record level of clean energy investment.

australia wind farmEarlier this month, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) published its latest annual clean energy investment figures. Within the numbers, despite ups and downs all over the world, it turned out Australia had a record year with $9 billion in clean energy inevestments, up 150% on 2016 and breaking the previous record of $6.2 billion set in 2011.

“2017 was a breakout year for the Australian Clean Energy sector,” said Leonard Quong, a Senior Analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Sydney. “Total investment in clean energy in Australia rose to a record USD 9 billion, smashing the previous record of USD 6.2 billion set in 2011.”

This week, Australia’s Clean Energy Regulator released its own information confirming Australia’s record year of clean energy investments and confirming that, as a result, the country will now meet its 2020 Renewable Energy Target of 33 GW (gigawatts) of additional renewable energy. The Regulator had previously said that Australia needed approximately 6 GW worth of large-scale generation capacity installed between 2016 and 2019 in order to meet this target. Speaking on Tuesday, Clean Energy Regulator Chair David Parker announced that Australia had reached a major milestone ahead of schedule.

“While announcements started slowly in 2016, the momentum we saw in the later part of that year continued throughout 2017 and has now reached a level that we believe will be sufficient to meet the 2020 target,” David Parker said. “In 2017, more than 1000 megawatts of renewable projects were completed and began generation, the biggest year ever for new build coming online.”

“We expect 2018 and 2019 to be even bigger, with each year having more than double the new build completed compared to 2017.”

Specifically, in 2016, 6,532 MW (megawatts) worth of large-scale generation was firmly announced, with more than 4,900 MW fully financed — most of which is now already under construction, with the rest expected to begin construction early this year. A further 1,600 MW already have Power Purchase Agreements in place which will soon lead to financial close.

Solar energy has, unsurprisingly, led the way in Australia, accounting for 46% of the firmly announced projects since 2016.

“Solar is an important emerging player in the energy mix, particularly on long summer days,” Parker continued. “Over the next few years as more of these projects become operational they will make an increasing contribution to meeting peak electricity demand.”

“There is still a long way to go on the journey to reach the 2020 target, but 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.”

Unfortunately — and when it comes to clean energy in Australia, there is always an “unfortunately” — the current surge of capacity expansion is not expected to continue much past 2020, given the lack of political courage to expand the country’s targets. Australia doesn’t have a post-2020 Renewable Energy Target, and its 2030 Climate Change Target is lackluster at best — and liable to fail if things do not turn around quickly. A report in September of last year warned that Australia risks falling short of its national emissions targets if the country’s electricity sector does not ramp-up its shift to renewable energy.

And clean energy investment figures currently suggest that 2017 will be when it peaked in Australia, according to BNEF.

“However 2017 will likely mark a peak — investment will begin to taper over the coming years unless there is a significant change in government policy,” said BNEF’s Leonard Quong.

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Joshua S Hill

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