Renewable energy in Australia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Australian Electricity Generation in 2017
Australian renewable power plants

Renewable energy in Australia deals with efforts that have been and continue to be made in Australia to quantify and expand the use of renewable energy in the generation of electricity, as fuel in transport and in thermal energy. Renewable energy is created through electricity generation using renewable sources, such as wind, hydro, landfill gas, geothermal, solar PV and solar thermal.

There has been a substantial growth in Australia in generation of renewable electricity in the 21st century. Total renewable energy consumption in Australia in 2015 was 5.9% of Australia's total energy consumption;[1], compared to 4.3% of Australia's total energy consumptionn in 2011/12.[2] It is estimated that Australia produced 35,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable electricity (or equivalent) in 2015, 14.6% of total production in Australia.[3]

Of all renewable energy consumption in 2015 (in order of contribution) biomass (wood, woodwaste and bagasse) represented 53%, hydroelectricity 19.2%, wind 10.7%, solar PV 5.1%, biogas 4.7%, solar hot water 3.8% and biofuels 3.6%.[4] Bioenergy (the sum of all energy derived from plant matter) represented 61.3% of Australia's total renewable energy consumption in 2015.[4]

Similar to many other countries, development of renewable electricity in Australia has been encouraged by government energy policy implemented in response to concerns about climate change, energy independence and economic stimulus.[5] A key policy that has been in place since 2001 to encourage large-scale renewable energy development is a mandatory renewable energy target, which in 2010 was increased to 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable generation from power stations. This was subsequently reduced to 33,000 gigawatt-hours by the Abbott Government, in a compromise agreed to by the Labor opposition.[6] Alongside this there is the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, an uncapped scheme to support rooftop solar power and solar hot water[7] and several State schemes providing feed-in tariffs to encourage photovoltaics. In 2012, these policies were supplemented by a carbon price and a 10 billion-dollar fund to finance renewable energy projects,[8] although these initiatives were later withdrawn by the Abbott Federal Government.[9]

It has been suggested that with sufficient public and private sector investment and government policy certainty, Australia could switch entirely to renewable energy within a decade by building additional large-scale solar and wind power developments, upgrades to transmission infrastructure and the introduction of appropriate energy efficiency measures, together with the inevitable retirement of many ageing coal-fired power stations over the next 10 to 15 years.[5][10]

Timeline of developments[edit]


Several reports have discussed the possibility of Australia setting a renewable energy target of 25% by 2020.[11][12] Combined with some basic energy efficiency measures, such a target could deliver 15,000 MW new renewable power capacity, $33 billion in new investment, 16,600 new jobs, and 69 million tonnes reduction in electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions.[12]


Greenpeace released a report in 2008 called "Energy [r]evolution: A Sustainable Energy Australia Outlook", detailing how Australia could produce 40% of its energy through renewable energy by 2020 and completely phase out coal-fired power by 2030 without any job losses.[13] David Spratt and Phillip Sutton argue in their book Climate Code Red that Australia (as part of a concerted global effort) needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions down to zero as quickly as possible so that carbon dioxide can be drawn down from the atmosphere and greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced to less than 325 ppm CO2-e, which they argue is the upper "safe climate" level at which we can continue developing infinitely. They outline a plan of action which would accomplish this.[14]


Australia could entirely transition to renewable energy within the 2010 decade by building 12 very large scale solar power plants (3500 MW each), which would provide 60% of electricity used, and 6500 7.5 MW wind turbines, which would supply most of the remaining 40%, along with other changes, according to the "Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan",[15] for a cost of A$370 billion, about $8/household/week over a decade to create an infrastructure that will last a minimum of 30 to 40 years. Biofuel use is proposed to increase from 2 PJ used in 2010 to 51 PJ/year for modes of transportation not easily electrified, along with some hybrid vehicles.[16] The cost of oil, post peak oil, is increasing, and without converting now to 100% renewable sources the world will pay an additional USD$8 trillion over the next 25 years – and then convert to 100% renewable.[17] Recently an uptake of Third Party ownership models for small to mid-scale solar photovoltaic systems has been seen in Australia mirroring developments in the same direction in the US with over 70% of all new PV systems installed under such models in California, Colorado and Arizona.[18] In Australia the Solar Power Purchase Agreement approach is pursued under the term Solar Sponsoring[19]


Of all renewable electrical sources in 2012, hydroelectricity represented 57.8%, wind 26%, bioenergy 8.1%, solar PV 8%, large-scale solar 0.147%, geothermal 0.002% and marine 0.001%; additionally, solar hot water heating was estimated to replace a further 2,422 GWh of electrical generation.[20]


The Australian Federal Government ordered[21] the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation[22] to refrain from any new investment in wind power projects, with the explanation that the government prefers the corporation to invest in researching new technologies rather than the "mature" wind turbine sector.


An unprecedented 39 projects, both solar and wind, with a combined capacity of 3,895 MW are either under construction, constructed or will start construction in 2017 having reached financial closure. [23]Capacity addition based on renewable energy sources is expected to increase substantially in 2017 with over 49 projects either under construction, constructed or which have secured funding and will go to construction.[23] As of August 2017, it is estimated that Australia generated enough to power 70% of the country's households. It is further estimated that, once additional wind and solar projects are complete at the end of the year, enough energy will be generated to power 90% of the country's homes.[24]

Hydro power[edit]

The Snowy Mountains Scheme constructed between 1949 and 1974 consists of 16 major dams and 7 major power stations, and has a total generating capacity of 3,800 MW. The scheme generates on average 4,500 GWh electricity per year.[25] Hydro Tasmania operates 30 power stations and 15 dams, with a total generating capacity of 2,600 MW, and generates an average of 9,000 GWh of electricity per year.[26] In 2007/08 hydro-electricity represented 43% of renewable energy production in Australia.[27] In 2014/15 this had dropped slightly to 39% of renewable energy production.[28] In 2015 renewable energy represented 5.9% of Australia's total energy consumption.

Wind power[edit]

Windy Hill Wind Farm, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland

As of July 2017, 15 wind energy projects with a combined generation capacity of around 2,112 MW were either under construction, constructed or due to start construction in 2017 having reached financial closure. [23]

By October 2010, around 22.9% of Australia's renewable electricity, 2% of Australia's total electricity, was sourced from wind power,[29] enough electricity to power more than 700,000 homes.[30] This came from 52 operating wind farms containing a total of 1,052 turbines producing approximately 5,000 GWh of electricity per year. This figure represented approximately a 30% increase in wind power generation each year over the previous decade, or a total increase of more than 1,000% over that time. The total installed capacity as of October 2010 was 1,880 MW (including only projects over 100 kW), with a further 1,043 MW under construction.[30]

Wind power in South Australia is a fast-growing industry as South Australia is well suited for wind farms. Consequently, more wind power is generated in South Australia than any other Australian state or territory. As of October 2010, South Australia had an installed capacity of 907 MW from 435 turbines accounting for nearly 20% of that state's electricity needs, considerably ahead of Victoria with 428 MW from 267 turbines, and Western Australia with 202 MW from 142 turbines.[30] By the end of 2011, wind power in South Australia had risen to 26% of the state's electricity generation, edging out coal fired power for the first time. With only 7.2% of Australia's population South Australia had 54% of the nation's installed wind power capacity.[31] Adelaide's $A2.2 billion desalination plant, capable of providing 50% of the city's water needs, is totally powered by renewable energy.

The Waubra Wind Farm near Ballarat, Victoria, completed in 2009, was the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere,[27] consisting of 128 turbines spread over 173 km2[30] and rated at 192 MW. However, in terms of generating capacity Lake Bonney Wind Farm near Millicent, South Australia was the largest with 239.5 MW, despite only having 99 turbines. These figures have since been surpassed by the Macarthur Wind Farm at Macarthur, Victoria, which opened in 2013 with a capacity of 420 MW.[30][32]

Solar photovoltaics[edit]

As of June 2017, 31 solar PV projects with a combined generation capacity of around 2,593 MW were either under construction, constructed or due to start construction in 2017 having reached financial closure.[23] Two recent projects which illustrate co-operation between industry and government are the solar power station planned for north-western Victoria, and the development of new solar cells. Queensland Solar and Lighting is a major importer of Chinese and European solar products for the Brisbane region in Queensland, Australia.[33] In some cases, plants are co-located, sharing equipment and grid connections.[34]

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology generates electricity from sunlight, and it can be used in grid-connected and off-grid applications. They first become mass-produced in 2000, when German environmentalists and Eurosolar succeeded in obtaining government support for the 100,000 roofs program.[35] According to a report in 2006 the issue for the Australian photovoltaics industry at that time was that there was enormous market potential, built up through a natural competitiveness in Australian research and development, industry investment and government policy support. However, despite this, the industry was not yet self-sustaining and advantages gained to date could be lost.[36] A 2004 market report suggested that a partnership between government and industry was necessary:

"The PV industry cannot continue to actively invest in strategic industry development unless the Australian government is also committed to the journey. The industry ... requires policy and program support to assist it in bridging the gap to mainstream commercial competitiveness."[36]

Mildura Solar concentrator power station[edit]

Many projects have demonstrated the feasibility of solar power in Australia and a large new solar power station in Victoria is planned. Solar Systems is to build the world's most advanced photovoltaic (PV) heliostat solar concentrator power station in north-western Victoria.[37] The 154 MW, A$420 million project, (now canceled) would have generated 270,000 MWh and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 400,000 tonnes per year.[38][39] Full commissioning was expected in 2013, with the first stage to be completed in 2010.[40] The essential components of the power plant, developed by Solar Systems over the past 16 years, are:

  • "An ultra powerful solar module for use in concentrated sunlight".
  • "A cooling system to keep solar cells operating at 60 °C to optimise the operation of the PV modules in a concentrated solar beam that can melt steel".
  • "Low cost, high performance mirror concentrator systems".
  • "A control system to manage the power station to deliver maximum reliability and output".[40]

The commercialisation of this technology has already seen four smaller solar power stations established in central Australia, with support from the Australian Greenhouse Office.[41]

Technology development[edit]

SLIVER Cell (TM) photovoltaic technology uses just one tenth of the costly and limited supply of silicon used in conventional solar panels while matching power, performance, and efficiency.[42] Professor Andrew Blakers, Director of the Australian National University Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, invented the technology with colleague Dr Klaus Weber and developed it with funding from energy supplier Origin Energy and the Australian Research Council. Blakers and Weber won the Australian Institute of Physics' Walsh Medal for their work.[43] Origin Energy is presently developing SLIVER modules for commercialisation at its A$20M pilot plant in Regency Park, South Australia.[44]

Solar Cities[edit]

Solar Cities in Australia is a $75 million program which is designed to demonstrate how solar power, smart meters, energy conservation and new approaches to electricity pricing can combine to provide a sustainable energy future in urban locations throughout Australia. It is a partnership approach that involves all levels of Government, the private sector and the local community. Adelaide, Townsville, Blacktown and Alice Springs are the first four solar cities announced in Australia.[45] Consumers will be able to purchase solar photovoltaic panels using discounted loans. The project also plans to help low-income and rental households in the community share in the benefits of the project through other cost-saving initiatives.[46]

Solar thermal energy[edit]

Solar water heating[edit]

Australia has developed world leading solar thermal technologies, but with only very low levels of actual use. Domestic solar water heating is the most common solar thermal technology.[47] During the 1950s, Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) carried out world leading research into flat plate solar water heaters. A solar water heater manufacturing industry was subsequently established in Australia and a large proportion of the manufactured product was exported. Four of the original companies are still in business and the manufacturing base has now expanded to 24 companies. Despite an excellent solar resource, the penetration of solar water heaters in the Australian domestic market was only about 5% in 2006, with new dwellings accounting for most sales.[48] By 2014, around 14% of Australian households had solar hot water installed[49] It is estimated that by installing a solar hot water system, it could reduce a family's CO2 emissions up to 3 tonnes per year while saving up to 80% of the energy costs for water heating.[50]

While solar water heating saves a significant amount of energy, they are generally omitted from measures of renewable energy production as they do not actually produce electricity. Based on the installed base in Australia as of October 2010, it was calculated that solar hot water units would account for about 7.4% of clean energy production if they were included in the overall figures.[51]

Solar thermal power[edit]

White Cliffs Solar Power Station, Australia's first solar power station operated between 1981 and 2004

CSIRO's National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle, NSW houses a 500 kW (thermal) and a 1.5 MW (thermal) solar central receiver system, which are used as research and development facilities.[52][53]

The Australian National University (ANU) has worked on dish concentrator systems since the early 1970s and early work lead to the construction of the White Cliffs solar thermal station. In 1994, the first 'Big Dish' 400 m2 solar concentrator was completed on the ANU campus. In 2005, Wizard Power Pty Ltd was established to commercialise the Big Dish technology to deployment.[54] Wizard Power has built and demonstrated the 500m2 commercial Big Dish design in Canberra and the Whyalla SolarOasis[55] will be the first commercial implementation of the technology, using 300 Wizard Power Big Dish solar thermal concentrators to deliver a 40MWe solar thermal power plant.[56] Construction is expected to commence in mid-late 2013.

Research activities at the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales have spun off into Solar Heat and Power Pty Ltd (now Ausra), which was building a major project at Liddell Power station in the Hunter Valley. The CSIRO Division of Energy Technology has opened a major solar energy centre in Newcastle that has a tower system purchased from Solar Heat and Power and a prototype trough concentrator array developed in collaboration with the ANU.[54]

Cloncurry, a town in north-west Queensland, has been chosen as the site for an innovative $31 million (including a $7 million government grant) solar thermal power station. The 10 MW solar thermal power station would deliver about 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power the whole town. Ergon Energy will develop the project which should be running by early 2010.[57][58]

In August 2008 Worley Parsons, an Australian engineering firm, announced plans to build world's biggest solar plant in Australia within three years. Backed by nine Australian companies, including miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, they have launched a study into finding possible sites to host the $1 billion plant.[59]

Geothermal energy[edit]

In Australia, geothermal energy is a natural resource which is not utilised as a form of energy. However, there are known and potential locations near the centre of the country in which geothermal activity is detectable. Exploratory geothermal wells have been drilled to test for the presence of high temperature geothermal activity and such high levels were detected. As a result, projects will eventuate in the coming years and more exploration is expected at potential locations.

South Australia has been described as "Australia's hot rock haven" and this emissions free and renewable energy form could provide an estimated 6.8% of Australia's base load power needs by 2030.[60] According to an estimate by the Centre for International Economics, Australia has enough geothermal energy to contribute electricity for 450 years.[61]

There are currently 19 companies Australia-wide spending A$654 million in exploration programmes in 141 areas. In South Australia, which is expected to dominate the sector's growth, 12 companies have already applied for 116 areas and can be expected to invest A$524 million (US$435 M) in their projects by the next six years. Ten projects are expected to achieve successful exploration and heat flows, by 2010, with at least three power generation demonstration projects coming on stream by 2012.[60] A geothermal power plant is generating 80 kW of electricity at Birdsville, in southwest Queensland.[62]

Wave power[edit]

Several projects for harvesting the power of the ocean are under development:

  • Oceanlinx is trialling a wave energy system at Port Kembla.
  • Carnegie Corp of Western Australia is refining a method of using energy captured from passing waves, CETO to generate high-pressure sea water. This is piped onshore to drive a turbine and to create desalinated water. A series of large buoys is tethered to piston pumps anchored in waters 15 to 50 metres (49 to 164 ft) deep. The rise and fall of passing waves drives the pumps, generating water pressures of up to 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi). The company is looking to have a 100MW demonstration project finished within the next four years.[when?]
  • BioPower Systems is developing its bioWAVE system anchored to the seabed that would generate electricity through the movement of buoyant blades as waves pass, in a swaying motion similar to the way sea plants, such as kelp, move. It expects to complete pilot wave and tidal projects off northern Tasmania this year.[63]



Biomass can be used directly for electricity generation, for example by burning sugar cane waste (bagasse) as a fuel for thermal power generation in sugar mills. It can also be used to produce steam for industrial uses, cooking and heating. It can also be converted into a liquid or gaseous biofuel.[64] In 2015 Bagasse accounted for 26.1% (90.2PJ) of Australia's renewable energy consumption, while wood and woodwaste for another 26.9% (92.9PJ).[4] Biomass for energy production was the subject of a federal government report in 2004.[65]


Biofuels produced from food crops have become controversial as food prices increased significantly in mid-2008, leading to increased concerns about food vs fuel. Ethanol fuel in Australia can be produced from sugarcane or grains and there are currently three commercial producers of fuel ethanol in Australia, all on the east coast. Legislation imposes a 10% cap on the concentration of fuel ethanol blends. Blends of 90% unleaded petrol and 10% fuel ethanol are commonly referred to as E10,[66] which is mainly available through service stations operating under the BP, Caltex, Shell, and United brands. In partnership with the Queensland Government, the Canegrowers organisation launched a regional billboard campaign in March 2007 to promote the renewable fuels industry. Over 100 million litres of the new BP Unleaded with renewable ethanol has now been sold to Queensland motorists.[66] Biodiesel produced from oilseed crops or recycled cooking oil may be a better prospect than ethanol, given the nation's heavy reliance on road transport, and the growing popularity of fuel-efficient diesel cars.[67] Australian cities are some of the most car-dependent cities in the world,[68] and legislations involving vehicle pollution within the country are considered relatively lax.[69]

Government policy[edit]

Renewable energy targets[edit]

A key policy encouraging the development of renewable energy in Australia are the mandatory renewable energy targets (MRET) set by both Commonwealth and State governments. In 2001, the Howard Government introduced a 2010 MRET of 9,500 GWh of new renewable energy generation.

An Expanded Renewable Energy Target was passed with broad support[70] by the Australian Parliament on 20 August 2009, to ensure that renewable energy achieves a 20% share of electricity supply in Australia by 2020. To ensure this the Federal Government committed to increasing the 2020 MRET from 9,500 gigawatt-hours to 45,000 gigawatt-hours. The scheme was scheduled to continue until 2030.[71] This target has since been revised with the Gillard Government introducing in January 2011 an expanded target of 45,000 GWh of additional renewable energy between 2001 and 2020.[72]

The MRET was split in 2012 into a small scale renewable energy scheme (SRES) and large scale renewable energy target (LRET) components to ensure that adequate incentive exists for large scale grid connected renewable energy.[73] A number of states have also implemented their own renewable energy targets independent of the Commonwealth. For example, the Victorian Renewable Energy Target Scheme (VRET) mandated an additional 5% of Victoria's "load for renewable generation", although this has since been replaced by the new Australian Government LRET and SRES targets.[73] South Australia achieved its target of 20% of renewable supply by 2014 three years ahead of schedule (i.e. in 2011) and has subsequently established a new target of 33% to be achieved by 2020.[74]

Renewable Energy Certificates Registry[edit]

The Renewable Energy Certificates Registry (REC-registry) is an internet based registry system that is required by the Australian Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 (the Act).[75] The REC-registry is dedicated to: maintaining various registers (as set in the Act); and facilitating the creation, registration, transfer and surrender of renewable energy certificates (RECs).

Carbon pricing[edit]

In 2012, the Gillard government implemented a carbon price of $23 per tonne to be paid by 300 liable entities representing the highest business emitters in Australia. The carbon price will increase to $25.40 per tonne by 2014–15, and then will be set by the market from 1 July 2015 onwards.[76] It is expected that in addition to encouraging efficient use of electricity, pricing carbon will encourage investment in cleaner renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Treasury modelling has projected that with a carbon price, energy from the renewables sector is likely to reach 40 percent of supply by 2050.[77] Analysis of the first 6 months of operation of the carbon tax have shown that there has been a drop in carbon emissions by the electricity sector. It has been observed that there has been a change in the mix of energy over this period, with less electricity being sourced from coal and more being produced by renewables such as hydro and wind power.[78] The government at the time presented this analysis as an indicator that their policies to promote cleaner energy are working.[78] The carbon pricing legislation was repealed by the Tony Abbott-led Australian Government on 17 July 2014.[79] Since then, carbon emissions from the electricity sector have increased.[80]

Clean Energy Finance Corporation[edit]

The Australian Government has announced the creation of the new 10 billion dollar Clean Energy Finance Corporation which will commence business in July 2013. The goal of this intervention is to overcome barriers to the mobilisation of capital by the renewable energy sector. It will make available two billion dollars a year for five years for the financing of renewable energy, energy efficiency and low emissions technologies projects in the latter stages of development. The government has indicated that the fund is expected to be financially self-sufficient producing a positive return on investment comparable to the long term bond rate.[8][81]

Feed-in tariffs[edit]

Feed-in tariffs have been enacted on a state by state basis in Australia to encourage investment in renewable energy by providing above commercial rates for electricity generated from sources such as rooftop photovoltaic panels or wind turbines.[5] The schemes in place focus on residential scale infrastructure by having limits that effectively exclude larger scale developments such as wind farms. Feed-in tariffs schemes in Australia started at a premium, but have mechanisms by which the price paid for electricity decreases over time to be equivalent or below the commercial rate.[5] All the schemes now in place in Australia are "net" schemes whereby the householder is only paid for surplus electricity over and above what is actually used. In the past, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory enacted "gross" schemes whereby householders were entitled to be paid for 100% of renewable electricity generated on the premises, however these programs have now expired. In 2008 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to harmonise the various state schemes and developed a set of national principles to apply to new schemes.[82] Leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, has advocated a uniform national "gross" feed-in tariff scheme, however this proposal has not been enacted.[83] Currently each state and territory of Australia offers a different policy with regards to feed in tariffs [84]

Subsidies to fossil fuel industry[edit]

There is dispute about the level of subsidies paid to the fossil fuel industry in Australia. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) argues that according to the definitions of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), fossil fuel production and use is subsidised in Australia by means of direct payments, favourable tax treatment, and other actions. It is suggested these measures act as impediments to investment in renewable energy resources.[85] Analysis by the ACF indicates that these provisions add up to a total annual subsidy of A$7.7 billion, with the most significant component being the Fuel Tax Credits program that rebates diesel fuel excise to many business users.[86] This analysis is disputed by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) who argue that the ACF's definition of a subsidy differs from that of the OECD and that the fuel tax rebate schemes are in place to ensure that all producers are treated equally from a tax point of view. However, the IPA acknowledges that regardless of perceived issues with the ACF analysis, some level of fossil fuel subsidy is likely in existence.[87]

Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol[edit]

Australia ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2007 under the then newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Evidence suggests Australia will meet its targets required under this protocol. Australia had not ratified the Kyoto Protocol until then, due to concerns over a loss of competitiveness with the US, which also rejects the treaty.[88]

Policy Uncertainty[edit]

The Australian government has no renewable energy policy beyond the year 2020, raising concerns about environmental sustainability for future generations.[89] The Liberal party's energy minister, Angus Taylor, has also stated that the government will not be replacing the 'Renewable Energy Target' (RET) after 2020[89].

Public opinion and action[edit]

Demonstration in front of the Parliament House, Melbourne supporting investment in renewable energy.

Survey results suggest that there is considerable public support for the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Australia. In one recent survey, 74% of respondents favoured a "greenhouse strategy based mainly on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and 19% favoured an "approach that focuses mainly on nuclear power and clean coal technologies."[90] The Australian results from the 1st Annual World Environment Review, based on a survey of 1,007 people in 2007, found that:[91]

  • 88% of Australians think that the Government should do more to increase the use of solar power. 78% say the government should do more to boost wind power, 58% hydro power, 50% tidal power, and 38% geothermal power, while only 25% think that the Government should do more to increase use of nuclear power.
  • 84% of Australians think that the Government should make it easier for people to buy renewable electricity.
  • 89% think that all electricity should contain a minimum 25% of power generated from renewable energy sources. Only 3% disagree.
  • 82% think that the Government should make it easier for people to buy solar panels.
  • 80% think that the Government should make it easier for people to buy energy efficient products, such as energy-saving light globes, water-saving shower heads and insulation etc.
  • 85% think that the Government should raise national fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.
  • 87% think that the Government should do more to increase the number of cars that don't use petrol.

There is a considerable movement known as The Transition Decade to transition Australia's entire energy system to renewable by 2020. Voluntary uptake of GreenPower, a Government program initiated in 1997 whereby people can pay extra for electricity that is generated from renewable sources, increased from 132,300 customers in 2005 to 904,716 customers in 2009.[92]

Academic literature[edit]

Australia has a very high potential for renewable energy.[93] Therefore, the transition to a renewable energy system is gaining momentum in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.[94] Among them several studies have examined the feasibility of a transition to a 100% renewable electricity systems, which was found both practicable as well as economically and environmentally beneficial to combat global warming.[95][96][97]

Major renewable energy companies[edit]

BP Solar[edit]

BP has been involved in solar power since 1973 and its subsidiary, BP Solar, is now one of the world's largest solar power companies with production facilities in the United States, Spain, India and Australia.[98] BP Solar is involved in the commercialisation of a long life deep cycle lead acid battery, jointly developed by the CSIRO and Battery Energy, which is ideally suited to the storage of electricity for renewable remote area power systems (RAPS).[99]


Edwards first began manufacturing water heaters in Australia in 1963. Edwards is now an international organisation which is a leader in producing hot water systems for both domestic and commercial purposes using solar technology. Edwards exports to Asia, the Pacific, the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.[100]


Eurosolar was first formed in 1993, with an aim of providing photovoltaic systems to the masses. It focuses on Solar Power in multiple Australian capitals. They continue to install panels all around Australia.

Hydro Tasmania[edit]

Hydro Tasmania was set up by the State Government in 1914 (originally named the Hydro-Electric Department, changed to the Hydro-Electric Commission in 1929, and Hydro Tasmania in 1998). Today Hydro Tasmania is Australia's largest generator of renewable energy. They operate thirty hydro-electric stations and one gas power station, and are a joint owner in three wind farms.

Origin Energy[edit]

Origin Energy is active in the renewable energy arena, and has spent a number of years developing several wind farms in South Australia, a solar cell business using technology invented by a team led by Professor Andrew Blakers at the Australian National University,[44] and geothermal power via a minority shareholding stake in Geodynamics.[101]

Pacific Hydro[edit]

Pacific Hydro is an Australian company that specialises in electricity generation using renewable energy. Its focus is on hydroelectricity and wind power. Power stations owned by Pacific Hydro include wind farms: Codrington Wind Farm, Challicum Hills Wind Farm, Portland Wind Project and Hydro power: Eildon Pondage Power Station, Ord River Hydro Power Station and The Drop Hydro.

Snowy Hydro Limited[edit]

Snowy Hydro Limited, previously known as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, manages the Snowy Mountains Scheme which generates on average around 4500 gigawatt hours of renewable energy each year, which represented around 37% of all renewable energy in the National Electricity Market in 2010. The scheme also diverts water for irrigation from the Snowy River Catchment west to the Murray and Murrumbidgee River systems.


Solahart manufactured its first solar water heater in 1953, and products currently manufactured by Solahart include thermosiphon and split system solar and heat pump water heaters. These are marketed in 90 countries around the world and overseas sales represent 40% of total business. Solahart has a market share of 50% in Australia.[102]

Solar Systems[edit]

Solar Systems was a leader in high concentration solar photovoltaic applications,[103][104] and the company built a photovoltaic Mildura Solar concentrator power station, Australia.[105][106] This project will use innovative concentrator dish technology to power 45,000 homes, providing 270,000 MWh/year for A$420 million.[107] Solar Systems has already completed construction of three concentrator dish power stations in the Northern Territory, at Hermannsburg, Yuendumu, and Lajamanu, which together generate 1,555 MWh/year (260 homes, going by the energy/home ratio above). This represents a saving of 420,000 litres of diesel fuel and 1550 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. The total cost of the solar power station was "A$7M, offset by a grant from the Australian and Northern Territory Governments under their Renewable Remote Power Generation Program".[108] The price of diesel in remote areas is high due to added transportation costs: in 2017, retail diesel prices in remote areas of the Northern Territory averaged $1.90 per litre. The 420,000 litres of diesel per year saved by these power stations in the first decade of operation would thus have cost approximately $8,000,000.

Wind Prospect[edit]

Wind Prospect developed the 46 MW Canunda Wind Farm in South Australia, which was commissioned in March 2005. A second South Australian wind farm, Mount Millar Wind Farm, was commissioned in January 2006 and this provides a further 70 MW of generation. More recently, a third wind farm has reached financial close for Wind Prospect in South Australia. This is the 95 MW Hallett Wind Farm which is expected to be fully commissioned late in 2008.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Department of Industry and Science (2015) Australian Energy Statistics
  2. ^ Australian Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (2013), 2013 Australian Energy Update
  3. ^ Clean Energy Council. "Clean Energy Report 2015". Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Department of Industry and Science (2015), Australian Energy Statistics, Table C.
  5. ^ a b c d Tim Flannery; Veena Sahajwalla (November 2012). "Critical Decade: Generating a Renewable Australia". Canberra: Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Archived from the original on 11 March 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  6. ^ "Renewable Energy Target: Legislation to cut RET passes Federal Parliament". ABC. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  7. ^ Australian Government: Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator – LRET-SRES Basics
  8. ^ a b "Taxpayers to back $10bn renewable energy fund". The Australian. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  9. ^ Michael Safi; Shalailah Medhora (22 December 2014). "Tony Abbott says repealing carbon tax his biggest achievement as minister for women". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  10. ^ "How to be fully renewable in 10 years". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  11. ^ CSIRO (2007). Rural Australia Providing Climate Solutions p.1[dead link]
  12. ^ a b Australian Conservation Foundation (2007). A Bright Future: 25% Renewable Energy for Australia by 2020[dead link]
  13. ^ Energy [r]evolution: A Sustainable Energy Australia Outlook, Teske, Sven and Vincent, Julien, Greenpeace International 2008 Archived 13 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Spratt, David and Sutton, Phillip, Climate Code Red: The case for a sustainability emergency, Friends of the Earth, Melbourne 2008
  15. ^ "How to be fully renewable in 10 years". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 August 2010.
  16. ^ Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan Archived 23 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Has the World Already Passed “Peak Oil”?
  18. ^ Wang, Ucilia. "Solar Leases Will Drive Solar Home Growth to $5.7B". Forbes.
  19. ^ Solar Sponsoring in Australia
  20. ^ "Clean Energy Australia Report 2012" (PDF). Southbank Victoria: Clean Energy Council. March 2013. p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 August 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  21. ^ "Tony Abbott has escalated his war on wind power, causing a cabinet split and putting international investment at risk". Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  22. ^ "Clean Energy Finance Corporation". Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  23. ^ a b c d "2017: Biggest year for Australia's Renewable Energy Industry"
  24. ^ "Renewable energy generates enough power to run 70% of Australian homes". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  25. ^ Snowy Hydro: Power Stations. Retrieved 19 November 2010 Archived 21 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Hydro: Energy". Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  27. ^ a b ABS: Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, Jan 2010. Retrieved 19 November 2010
  28. ^ Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (2016) Australian Energy Statistics
  29. ^ "Clean Energy Australia 2010 (Report)" (PDF). Official site. Clean Energy Council. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  30. ^ a b c d e "Clean Energy Australia 2010 (Report): Wind Power" (PDF). Official site. Clean Energy Council. pp. 49–53. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  31. ^ Center for National Policy, Washington DC, 4 April 2012
  32. ^ "AGL How We Source Energy: Macarthur Wind Farm". Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  33. ^ "Solar Power Gold Coast". Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  34. ^ "Australia's first solar farm co-located with wind park begins production". 5 October 2017. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
  35. ^ Solar Power for the World: What You Wanted to Know about PhotovoltaicsTaylor & Francis Group
  36. ^ a b Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The Australian Photovoltaic Industry Roadmap p. 1. Archived 7 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Australia advances with solar power The Times, 26 October 2006.
  38. ^ Solar Systems. Solar systems projects Archived 18 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ Tom Arup: "Sunraysia's huge solar farm up and running", in The Age, 17 July 2013
  40. ^ a b Solar Systems. Solar systems facts sheet: the technology Archived 8 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ Solar Systems. World-leading Australian solar technology for export under AP6 Archived 15 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  42. ^ Australian National University, Centre for Sustainable energy systems Archived 19 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ Super-skinny solar cells soak up the sun News in Science, 6 December 2006.
  44. ^ a b Origin Energy. SLIVER technology facts sheet
  45. ^ Solar Cities – A Vision of the Future Archived 19 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  46. ^ Solar City to Advance Renewable Energy Down Under Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  47. ^ Lovegrove, Keith and Dennis, Mike. Solar thermal energy systems in Australia International Journal of Environmental Studies, Vol. 63, No. 6, December 2006, p. 791.
  48. ^ Lovegrove, Keith and Dennis, Mike. Solar thermal energy systems in Australia International Journal of Environmental Studies, Vol. 63, No. 6, December 2006, p. 793.
  49. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (3 December 2014). "Environmental Issues: Energy Use and Conservation, Mar 2014". Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  50. ^ PJT Solar Hot Water Archived 20 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  51. ^ "Clean Energy Australia 2010 (Report)" (PDF). Official site. Clean Energy Council. pp. 5, 42. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 February 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  52. ^ CSIRO Solar Blog. Retrieved Nov 2011,
  53. ^ 'CSIRO Gets Sun Smart at the National Solar Energy Centre', June 2008,
  54. ^ a b Lovegrove, Keith and Dennis, Mike. Solar thermal energy systems in Australia International Journal of Environmental Studies, Vol. 63, No. 6, December 2006, p. 797.
  55. ^ Solar Oasis: About
  56. ^ ABC Rural (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  57. ^ Cloncurry to run on solar power: Bligh
  58. ^ Australian town to run on solar power in 2 years
  59. ^ Aust firm unveils plans to build 'world's biggest solar plant'
  60. ^ a b Big energy role for central Australia’s hot rocks Mineweb, 2 May 2007.
  61. ^ Scientists get hot rocks off over green nuclear power The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April 2007.
  62. ^ Energy superpower or sustainable energy leader? (PDF) Ecos, October–November 2007.
  63. ^ "FACTBOX-Main renewables being developed in Australia". Reuters. 4 February 2009.
  64. ^ Renewable Energy Commercialisation in Australia – Biomass Projects Archived 22 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  65. ^ Summary of report – Biomass energy production in Australia Status, costs and opportunities for major technologies Archived 12 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  66. ^ a b Queensland Government. Ethanol case studies Archived 20 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  67. ^ The biofuels promise: updated thinking Ecos, October–November 2006.
  68. ^ "Car dependence in Australian cities: a discussion of causes, environmental impact and possible solutions" (PDF). Flinders University study. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 March 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2015.
  69. ^ "Australia's weaker emissions standards allow car makers to dump polluting cars". The Conversation. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  70. ^ "Coalition attempts to rewrite history on support for wind, solar and RET". 15 May 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  71. ^ Australian Government: Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator Archived 26 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  72. ^ Parkinson, Giles (4 April 2011). "RET: Hail fellow, not well met". Climate Spectator. Business Spectator. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  73. ^ a b "Benefit of the Renewable Energy Target to Australia's Energy Markets and Economy. Report to the Clean Energy Council" (PDF). Clean Energy Council. August 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  74. ^ "A Renewable Energy Plan for South Australia" (PDF). RenewablesSA. Government of South Australia. 19 October 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2013. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  75. ^ REC Registry
  76. ^ "Clean Energy Regulator – Liable Entities Public Information Database".
  77. ^ "Clean Energy Australia – Investing in the clean energy sources of the future" (PDF). Clean Energy Future. Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 May 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  78. ^ a b Uren, David (23 January 2013). "Emissions drop signals fall in carbon tax take". The Australian. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  79. ^ Vorrath, Sophie (17 July 2014). "Australia dumps carbon price, as repeal passes Senate".
  80. ^ Yeates, Clancy (13 April 2015). "Coal makes a comeback thanks to carbon price repeal, emissions rise". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  81. ^ "Clean Energy Finance Corporation Expert Review". Clean Energy Future. Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original on 3 March 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  82. ^ "Feed-in tariffs". Parliament of Australia. 21 December 2011. Archived from the original on 26 February 2014. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  83. ^ "NSW slashes its solar feed-in tariffs". The Fifth Estate. 28 October 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  84. ^ "Solar feed-in tariffs VIC WA NSW SA TAS QLD NT ACT". Solar Choice.
  85. ^ "Fossil fuel subsidies". Australian Conservation Foundation. Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  86. ^ O'Conner, Simon (25 June 2010). "G20 and fossil fuel subsidies" (PDF). Australian Conservation Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  87. ^ Berg, Chris (2 February 2011). "The Truth About Energy Subsidies". Institute of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
  88. ^ Australian Government (2004). Securing Australia's Energy Future Archived 30 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  89. ^ a b "Renewable energy investment to slump beyond 2020 amid policy uncertainty". pv magazine Australia. Retrieved 3 April 2019.
  90. ^ Australians Reject Nuclear Energy Angus Reid Global Monitor, 25 June 2007. Archived 21 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  91. ^ First Annual World Environment Review Poll Reveals Countries Want Governments to Take Strong Action on Climate Change Archived 22 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine Global Market Insite, 5 June 2007.
  92. ^ ABS: Year Book Australia, 2009–10. Retrieved 19 November 2010
  93. ^ Shafiullah et al., Prospects of renewable energy e a feasibility study in the Australian context. In: Renewable Energy 39, (2012), 183–197, doi:10.1016/j.renene.2011.08.016.
  94. ^ Byrnes, L.; Brown, C.; Foster, J.; Wagner, L. (December 2013). "Australian renewable energy policy: Barriers and challenges". Renewable Energy. 60: 711–721. doi:10.1016/j.renene.2013.06.024.
  95. ^ Elliston et al, Simulations of scenarios with 100% renewable electricity in the Australian National Electricity Market. In: Energy Policy 45, (2012), 606–613, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2012.03.011.
  96. ^ Elliston et al, Least cost 100% renewable electricity scenarios in the Australian National Electricity Market. In: Energy Policy 59, (2013), 270–282, doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2013.03.038.
  97. ^ Elliston et al. Comparing least cost scenarios for 100% renewable electricity with low emission fossil fuel scenarios in the Australian National Electricity Market. In: Renewable Energy 66, (2014), 196–204, doi:10.1016/j.renene.2013.12.010.
  98. ^ Solar Power Profitability: BP Solar Environmental News Network, 25 May 2005.
  99. ^ Wind energy round the clock
  100. ^ Edwards solar hot water
  101. ^ Geodynamics: Power from the earth
  102. ^ Solahart Industries Archived 30 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  103. ^ Solar Systems.Solar Systems wins National Engineering Excellence award Archived 21 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  104. ^ Solar technologies reaching new levels of efficiencies in Central Australia ABC Radio Australia, 12 November 2006.
  105. ^ Solar Systems to Build A$420 million, 154MW Solar Power Plant in Australia
  106. ^ Solar Systems. Solar Systems home page Archived 21 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  107. ^ "Large Scale Solar Power" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 July 2008. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
  108. ^ [1] Archived 3 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Renewable energy in Australia at Wikimedia Commons