The latest data from the Clean Energy Council (CEC) and the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) has shown that Australian investment in large-scale renewable energy has increased five times since 2015, putting the 2020 renewable energy target (RET) well within reach.
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The new report shows that 98 new large-scale renewable energy plants were accredited last year - the vast majority being solar, with $4 billion being committed to build new projects that will add more than 2000MW of capacity to the grid.

The report states that this building momentum puts Australia in a strong position to meet the legislated target of having 23.5% of energy generated from renewables.

The momentum has continued into 2017, with one-third of the total build required for the year achieved within the first three months, boosted by strong investment in large-scale solar projects since February, as solar costs continue to drop.

CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said that the price of large-scale solar had halved over the past few years, making it competitive with not just wind power, but fossil fuels such as gas.

"Renewable energy is now the cheapest kind of power generation that's possible to build today, and solar power plants have a relatively short project lead time compared to other technologies," Thornton said.

"Large-scale renewable energy, combined with the continued strong uptake of rooftop solar and the emergence of energy storage, provides a clear pathway for Australia's future energy needs. 

"New generation is necessary to ensure energy security as coal plants such as Hazelwood retired."

The newly released data shows that the surge in project announcement, particularly in solar plants, means that the 2020 target is likely to be reached, and the long predicted deficit in large-scale certificates in 2018 could also be avoided.

According to CER executive general manager Mark Williamson, the pace is so great that enough projects could be committed by the end of this year to meet the 2020 target, a year earlier than previously anticipated. 

"The momentum we saw in the second half of 2016 has continued into 2017, and if we continue like that, we will get enough commitments by the end of the year" Williamson said.

"Our market information is that there are some big announcements coming in the next few months, and this demonstrates that Australia is now in a strong position to meet the 2020 RET." 

Small-scale renewable investment was also strong, with 182,000 new installations in 2016, many of which were in regional areas.

The report states that there are now 2.6 million small-scale renewable systems covering around 15% of homes across the country. 

"Rooftop solar panels and household how water systems generate more than 5000MW of power, nearly twice the size of the nation's largest power station," Williamson said.

"This massive ramp-up in investment has seen Australia become a top 10 destination in the world for renewable energy projects, ahead of other resource-rich economies like Norway and Canada."

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg also noted in a speech to the Carbon Market Institute that the "dramatic sea-change" in the cost of large-scale solar systems is definitely leading to more investment in this space.

"When it comes to renewables - and this is absolutely critical to the power generation sector, which makes up a third of the country's emissions - there is an irreversible transformation taking place," Frydenberg told the conference in Melbourne. 

"Australia's energy market is undergoing an unprecedented and unstoppable transformation, and what's remarkable is how fast the cost of these new technologies are coming down."

However, Australian Energy Council boss Matthew Warren said that though support from state and territory governments had played a large role in reducing costs and restoring confidence to the sector, there was still much to do to avert an energy crisis.

"More renewables are part of the solution, not the solution itself," Warren said.

"We still need a durable national energy and climate policy that unlocks all types of energy investment, and allows the market to coordinate energy technologies to deliver reliability and lower emissions at the lowest cost to consumers."