The speed with which the renewable energy industry has fired up to meet the national 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET) almost makes Usain Bolt look tame by comparison.
By Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton
If you wind the clock back to this time last year, analysis by both the Clean Energy Council and the Clean Energy Regulator showed that we were off to a slow start and needed to pick up the pace.
Right now, we are flying. We are not even at the mid-point of 2017, but it is shaping up to be an unprecedented year for renewable energy in Australia. It feels like every week there is a new announcement about a project that has reached financial close and will start construction soon.
Figures released by the Clean Energy Council this month show that more than 30 projects are either under construction, will start this year or have already been completed in 2017. If you tally up the benefits that these projects will deliver, they include $7.5 billion worth of investment, more than 4100 direct jobs and more than 3500 MW of new power capacity. This is almost as much power capacity as the iconic Snowy Hydro scheme, which took decades to complete. Our industry will build most of these projects in just a few years.
So far, the projects in play are almost evenly split between wind and solar power plants. A huge part of this story has been the rapid fall in price of renewable energy. Large-scale solar has almost halved in cost over just the last couple of years. Federal Government support through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), finance packages developed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and state government support programs have all played their role in this success story.
This is an incredibly exciting time to be a part of the renewable energy industry. A lot of hard work by our members over many years has made this possible, creating the conditions that are now helping these projects to thrive. As always, there is a lot of hard work to do and many problems to solve, but the wind is finally at our backs.