This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.


Australia: 22 Percent Renewable Energy By 2020, 51 Percent by 2050

Silvio Marcacci's picture
Communications Director Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC

Silvio is Energy Innovation’s Communications Director, leading media relations and strategy. He has more than 15 years of communications experience, and has been a bylined columnist at top media...

  • Member since 2012
  • 146 items added with 89,223 views
  • Jun 7, 2013

Australia may be one of the most coal-dependent economies in the world, but by the end of this decade, it may have one of the greenest global grids.

A new analysis of government data compiled by Green Energy Markets finds Australia on track to not only hit 22% renewables by 2020, but reach an unprecedented 51% of all electricity by 2050.

Two major factors are empowering this paradigm shift: rapid growth of solar energy and the gradual phase-out of oil and brown coal – the two most carbon-intense energy resources.

Where’d All This Green Power Come From?

Since past is prologue, let’s examine how this green transformation began. Australia’s 20% Renewable Energy Target (RET), roughly 60,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of power, or equal to reducing every resident’s carbon footprint by one-third, was established in the Australian Labor Party’s 2007 election platform.

45,000GWh of new capacity was required to meet this target, considering the country’s projected 2020 electricity generation requirement of 300,000GWh and existing renewables capacity of 15,000GWh as of 1997.

Australian electricity generation by type

Electricity retailers and other large-scale emitters are required to produce certificates demonstrating progress against a set liability level of renewable generation. In January 2011, the RET was divided into two parts: an uncapped scheme for small-scale renewable projects like rooftop solar, and a utility-scale target of 41,000GWh.

Slow Start, Fast Finish

So far, progress toward the RET has been modest, despite billions of pending clean energy investments. Government figures show that in 2012-2013, 13% (34,000GWh) of the country’s total electricity came from renewable generation, with 60% coming from coal, 24% coming from natural gas, and 2% from oil.

But renewables are poised to quickly expand, growing at an annual average rate of 4.8% from 2012-2013 to 2049-2050 while fossil fuels decrease at an annual average rate of 3.1% over the same time period. As expected, this means the fossil fuel industry has renewables in their sights.

Australian electricity generation projection by type

Under this projection, total renewable generation will hit 194 terawatt hours (TWh) for a 51% market share by 2049-2050. Wind power will represent the largest percentage of total renewables at 21TWh and a 4.7% annual growth rate, while solar will be the fastest grower at 12.3% per year to reach 16TWh. This isn’t surprising, considering solar reached “socket parity” in Australia several years ago.

Solar Energy On Top Down Under

Even though transmission is boosting wind’s market access and investment is pouring into Australia, helping to build the Southern Hemisphere’s largest wind farm, solar energy could lead the country’s transition to a clean energy economy.

Electricity consumption in the National Electricity Market fell 5.5% (11,400 GWh) from 2008 to 2012, with more than half of this reduction attributable to solar and energy efficiency activities supported by Government market based schemes.

Distributed generation from rooftop solar PV and solar water heater systems are considered by the government as reductions in demand. Good thing, as one million Australian homes now have rooftop solar.

The average capacity of an Australian rooftop solar system is now between 3-5 kilowatts and they will continue to lower grid consumption past 2020, producing “up front” renewable certificates and helping lower the cost of solar PV components, showing the two-way benefits of small-scale solar.

Australian Renewables May Even Surge Past 51%

While extremely promising, this renewables outlook may not even capture the true potential of Australia’s clean energy future. Government figures include “off-grid” electricity generation in the mining industry, a sector expected to grow faster than generation on the main grids. But since this generation is difficult to determine, government estimates may be lower than eventual output.

In addition, Green Energy Market’s analysis doesn’t include community solar projections or growing investor concerns about Australia’s risk from the $6 trillion carbon bubble.

But most of all, the analysis doesn’t consider Australia’s nascent carbon market, which has already linked with New Zealand and the European Union, and is considering linkages to China and South Korea’s markets once they are fully functioning between 2015-2020. If this Pan-Asian carbon market were to take shape, carbon prices would rise and boost demand for renewables as cross-border investment pours into clean energy sources.


Note: this post was originally published on CleanTechnica

Spell checking: Press the CTRL or COMMAND key then click on the underlined misspelled word.
I K's picture
I K on Jun 7, 2013

Easier said than done comes to mind…or perhaps the new version should be, easier projected than implemented

I K's picture
I K on Jun 7, 2013

Having looked at the numbers on that chart again the cynic in me says they first decided renewables should outnumber others and went for 51% and 49% and made up the rest to fit a projected hope


Also I always try to keein mind what my old physics twacher used to tell us every day. A result without an error is not a result. in physics this is becuase our instruments are not perfect. Even the speed of light isn’t known exactly (it is to a very high degree but wven that has an error of plus or minus something)

Anyway this applies to almost anything so if you read this or that will be x y or z its probably bullpoop. It should have a range.  Wind is projected to hit 15 to 28% of generation…perhaps. wind is expected to hit 22%…. just a poor guess.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »