As Australia ramps up the transition to renewable energy, there is much discussion about how our ageing energy system will handle this new form of electricity generation. While the transition is not without its challenges, some remarkable milestones this month show that other developed countries with similar potential have already realised a cleaner energy future.

Above: Wind turbine in Portugal. Pic by Aires Almedia.

Portugal, for example, ran for four and a half days’ straight in early May using nothing but renewable energy.  The country used to depend heavily on coal and gas, but has substantially ramped up its wind, solar and hydro resources in recent years. In 2015 about half of its power came from clean energy, and in the future it intends to run on nothing but renewables.

Germany is in the middle of a remarkable energy transformation, and on Sunday 15 May it met almost all its power needs using renewable energy.  Adding to this, Denmark’s wind farms supplied more than the entire power needs for the country last year – they provided 140 per cent of the Scandinavian country’s thirst for electricity.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said it had been a remarkable month, with many examples of the incredible progress renewable energy was making across the globe.

“If anyone still believes you can’t run a modern economy using clean, renewable energy, these developed countries show that it’s more than possible. It’s already happening,” Mr Thornton said.

“This transition is well within our means in Australia, and it is more than affordable – it is the cheapest form of any power generation technology that you can build right now. By the end of the decade we will see more and more examples of countries that have switched on to renewable energy and are reaping the benefits.

“Locally, South Australia gets more than 40 per cent of its power from renewable energy, and this is set to increase now that the last coal-fired power plant in the state has been switched off,” he said.

The Clean Energy Council has developed the comprehensive Power Shift blueprint, which can take Australia to a renewable energy future no later than 2050. The document contains a suite of inter-connecting policy options to retire our highest-polluting coal-fired power plants, encourage new renewable energy, drive innovation, improve regulation and build public support.

The transition to a 21st century energy system isn’t without its challenges, but the examples above show Australia has the capability to shift to a cleaner and smarter energy system.