Solar PV on a roll

Renewable energy generation could provide almost 80 per cent of the electricity market as early as 2030, according to the latest report from Green Energy Markets. It’s prompting many to ask: “Is 50 percent renewables by 2030 proposed by the ALP and several state Labor governments now too moderate a target?”

During October, renewables generated a rather impressive 22.5 per cent of the electricity mix. Should this year’s rapid and record rate of wind and solar installations be maintained over the next decade, renewable energy would represent 78 per cent of electricity supply across Australia’s main grids by 2030, GEM noted in its report highlights.

Ironically, “The renewable energy industry has built itself up to such a significant scale that even a 50 per cent by 2030 renewables target would involve a significant contraction in activity and employment in the industry,” the report read. The Coalition’s 2030 emissions target, as embodied within the proposed National Energy Guarantee would involve a collapse to 839 MW per year.

According to GEM around 1,850 MW in new renewable energy capacity each year is necessary to meet a 50 per cent target, yet in the months from January 2017 to October 2018 residential and large-scale solar was running at around 5,150 MW per year.

GEM’s Tristan Edis said "Most of us had thought a while back that 50 per cent by 2030 would be a pretty massive task for the industry to scale-up but given the spectacular level of construction and rooftop solar installation activity since 2017, the current scale of construction and installation activity in the renewables sector is actually consistent with achieving something like 78 per cent renewable energy market share."

Rooftop PV hit a new high in October with homes and businesses installing more than 150 MW of solar which is 76 per cent greater than the monthly average of October 2017 which in itself was a record for installations and such is the trend that by year’s end rooftop PV capacity will beat that of the now decommissioned Hazelwood coal fired power station.

In the ten months to October, installed rooftop PV reached 1,243 MW, surpassing last year’s total, and according to GEM solar system owners will be saving almost $3 billion in energy costs over the next decade.

Large-scale wind and solar projects came in at 412 MW committed to construction in October, bringing the year to date total to just over 3,200 MW. This is in addition to the 3,933 MW committed in 2017.

We wonder if Australia’s political representatives at COP24 in Poland have registered Australia’s thirst for renewables and potential to slash emissions in the coming years and develop into a renewables energy superpower, as put by Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes.

According to SunWiz, Australia has ranked in the top 10 nations for annual installed capacity for every year since 2008 and with 299 Watts of power per inhabitant ranks fifth in the world for per capita installed capacity.

The Clean Energy Regulator says the milestone of two million PV rooftops reached in early December has cemented Australia’s position as a world leader in rooftop solar PV investment.

General Manager Michelle Crosbie explained that the more than two million solar PV systems installed under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme include systems up to 100 kilowatts (kW) in size.

According to the CER, the average system size in 2018 has now reached 6.9 kW.

“Australia has the largest uptake of household solar installations and capacity per capita in the world, with hundreds of thousands of homes generating their own renewable energy,” Crosbie said.

“A growing segment of the industry installing rooftop solar are small businesses who have installed over 16,596 systems so far in 2018 compared to over 9,663 in 2017.”

Since the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme was introduced in 2001, the Clean Energy Regulator has been tracking trends and developments in each state and territory. States with the highest number of solar PV installations are Queensland with 592,218, followed by New South Wales 449,577 and Victoria with 371,966.

“Annually, 13.3 million megawatt hours of electricity is produced or displaced under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme with 73 per cent generated by solar PV installations,” Ms Crosbie said.

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