Australia is on track to increase its total share of renewable electricity generation to 30 per cent by the end of 2020, the Clean Energy Regulator has confirmed in a new report published on Thursday.
The Renewable Energy Target 2019 Administrative Report details a year of records for large and small-scale solar and wind in Australia, with total capacity delivered under the Renewable Energy Target increasing by 24 per cent – from 5.1GW in 2018 to 6.3GW in 2019.
The CER says that this momentum has been maintained in 2020, despite Covid-19 and despite the large-scale component of the renewable energy target effectively coming to an end, having already been met. The big driver for added capacity has been the corporate market and its push for renewable energy power purchase agreements.
As RenewEconomy reported earlier this week, 2020 has already delivered a new milestone for Australia – a 25 per cent share of renewable energy on its main grid in the last 12 months – despite all the carefully constructed political and regulatory road-blocks, a powerful and entrenched fossil fuel lobby, and a global pandemic.
The CER report says around 3.4GW of new utility-scale solar and wind energy capacity is expected to be delivered in 2020, generating a minimum 34,000 gigawatt-hours that well exceeds the 33,000GWh mandated by the large-scale RET.
With the RET met and with federal government support for large-scale renewable energy dried up, the CER says new renewables investment is being driven primarily by the state policies, the private market, and by corporations signing up to solar and wind power purchase agreements.
“Over 500 megawatts of new utility-scale renewable capacity in 2019 was underpinned by large corporations seeking to hedge electricity costs and reduce carbon emissions,” the report says.
And this corporate offtake market is continuing to thrive in 2020, boosted by a growing subsector of large resource corporations looking to power off-grid mines with renewables either through power purchase agreements or their own installations.
The CER says reported PPAs underpin more than 77% of the total large-scale renewable project pipeline.
“The pipeline of projects tracked by the Clean Energy Regulator at the end of 2019 includes 1.2GW of projects with a signed power purchase agreement,” the report says.
“Beyond this there is 37GW of projects with development approval across Australia, which provides the potential for solid future investment if the transmission network is upgraded to support this additional capacity.”
Meanwhile, state renewable energy targets are also seen to be supporting investment in new renewable energy projects, including through a second reverse auction in the ACT in 2019, and in Victoria, projects from the 2018 Renewable Energy Auction Scheme getting underway.
According to the CER’s data, roughly 700MW of the total 886MW contracted by the Victorian government in 2018 is expected to be delivered in 2020.