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Record 2017 a glimpse of what is to come for clean energy in Australia

While 2017 was a record year on many fronts for the renewable energy industry, it is just a glimpse of the unprecedented level of activity expected in the next couple of years, Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said in launching the Clean Energy Australia Report today.

Mr Thornton said the 1.1 GW of new rooftop solar capacity last year was the most in Australian history, eclipsing the previous record in 2012. And the 16 large-scale renewable energy projects completed during the year added 700 MW of new generation to the mix.

“Perhaps most significantly, the large-scale renewable projects either under construction or which had attracted finance add up to more than seven times the amount of work completed in 2017. These 50 projects add up to 5300 MW of new capacity and 5750 direct jobs,” Mr Thornton said.

“There are now enough projects in the system to meet the 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET). Given we were only about halfway to the large-scale target at the beginning of 2017, it shows the remarkable level of deal-making and project activity during the year. However, it also shows that long-term bipartisan policy has been critical for investment in the energy sector, and that policy certainty beyond 2020 is becoming increasingly urgent.”

The 2018 Clean Energy Australia report is a summary of the previous year in clean energy and provides insight into the exciting future for the sector.

One of the changes from previous years is that hydro generation was significantly down in 2017 compared to the year before, mostly as a result of reduced rainfall in key catchment areas. While the drop in hydro was mostly offset by a rise in other kinds of renewable energy generation, the overall percentage of clean energy in the national mix dipped slightly from 17.3 to 17 per cent.

“The RET has been the key policy encouraging investment in both small and large-scale renewable energy, and the large number of projects which will come online over the next few years is predicted to reduce power prices by an average of 6.2 per cent,” Mr Thornton said.

“With the 2020 target now in hand, the whole energy sector is looking for policy certainty that will enable it to continue to invest far beyond 2020.

“The development of the National Energy Guarantee seems to be heading in the right direction, but the level of emissions reduction currently planned under the policy is unlikely to encourage the new renewable energy to continue to drive down power prices as our old coal power plants continue to close,” Mr Thornton said.

Highlights from the report include:

  • 2017 was a record year for large-scale renewable energy, with over $10 billion worth of large-scale projects reaching financial close during the year. This investment will deliver 5300 MW of new generating capacity and 5750 new direct jobs
  • It was also a record year for rooftop solar power, with 1.1 GW of new generating capacity installed
  • 12 per cent of the 172,000 solar power systems installed in 2017 included a battery, up from 5 per cent the year before. NSW is leading the charge, with more than 40 per cent of the national storage installations occurring in the state
  • The installation rate of household batteries across the country tripled in 2017, rising to 20,789 units from 6750 the year before
  • The world’s largest lithium ion battery was completed in 2017 in South Australia. The Hornsdale Power Reserve, which was built by Tesla in South Australia
  • 16 new projects were completed during 2017, including four solar power plants and five wind farms
  • Wind and hydro contributed almost identical amounts of power to the electricity system for the first time, with each accounting for just over a third of the renewable energy generated during 2017 and 5.7 per cent of total national electricity generation
  • Power prices are expected to fall just over 6 per cent on average over the next two years as more wind and solar power comes online.

The 2018 Clean Energy Australia report can be downloaded from the Clean Energy Council website.

Please contact Clean Energy Council Media Manager Mark Bretherton on 0413 556 981 for more information or to arrange an interview.