THE first ever Renewable Energy Index launched today has revealed renewable energy sources in Australia produced enough electricity to power 70 per cent of all households in the country.
Energy market analysts, Green Energy Markets, will now be publishing a monthly index so Australians can track the renewable sector including jobs created, increased power supply, pollution reduction and savings on power bills from rooftop solar.
“Renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, are now beginning to emerge as a significant source of power,” Director of analysis and advisory Tristan Edis said.
The 2016-2017 Benchmark Report, released today, was funded by GetUp and revealed that power provided by renewables was largely from hydro and wind, but surprisingly rooftop solar was the third biggest contributor.
Energy produced was enough power to keep the lights on in 7.1 million homes or 70 per cent of all households in Australia.
Overall, renewables only provide 17 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply because there’s also demand from businesses and industry.
Mr Edis said he hoped Australians would see that renewables weren’t just producing some “dinky” amount of power. “This is a serious amount of power.”
“Ten years ago renewables represented about 7 per cent of our electricity supply,” he said. “Last financial year it was 17 per cent.”
It is also set to increase with projects currently under construction expected to add enough electricity to power another 1.5 million homes, bringing the total to 90 per cent of household consumption.
Clean energy has also helped to prevent carbon pollution equal to removing 8.1 million cars from the road, which is more than half of all the cars in Australia.
The sector is also creating jobs.
The index revealed there were 46 major renewable energy projects under construction at the end of 2016-17, which are estimated to employ 8868 full-time people for one year.
Many of these jobs will be in NSW, where 3018 job years will be created mostly from the construction of new wind farms.
Queensland is in second place with 2,625 job years, 70 per cent flowing from solar farm construction and the remainder from wind farms.
70 per cent of households
Renewables produced enough energy to power 7.1 million households between July 2016 and June 2017.
90 per cent
Projects under construction will add enough power for another 1.5m homes, bringing the total to 90 per cent of household electricity consumption.
17.2 per cent of electricity
Was provided by renewables generated in Australia between July 2016 and June 2017.
8.1 million cars
Renewable energy generated during last financial year avoided carbon pollution equal to removing 8.1m cars. This is more than half of all cars in Australia.
8862 full time jobs
Will be created as part of 46 large-scale renewable energy projects under construction at the end of 2016-17.
150,000 rooftop solar systems
Were installed in the year June 2017, enough to power 226,000 homes.
“Power from rooftop solar in particular has grown spectacularly,” Mr Edis said.
Almost 150,000 small-scale rooftop solar systems were installed in the year to June 2017, enough to power 226,000 homes.
“Back in 2008, generation from solar was little more than a rounding error,” he said.
“These solar systems will also save consumers $1.6 billion off their electricity bills over the next 10 years.”
But Mr Edis said large-scale solar was expected to grow substantially in the next year as construction costs have come down.
“The thing that’s concerning is that really, we’re in a boom right now but in 12 months time it looks like a bust.”
Mr Edis said the boom had been encouraged by the Renewable Energy Target, which will finish in 2020. But this target will likely be achieved early, by the end of next year based on the current rate of construction.
Unless a new target is adopted, such as the Clean Energy Target recommended by the Finkel report, Mr Edis said growth in renewables won’t continue.
“The renewable energy sector has staged a remarkable recovery, after investment completely dried-up under former prime minister Tony Abbott,” Mr Edis said.
He said investors had recovered their confidence under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, who introduced a change in tone and attitude towards the Renewable Energy Target, and following comments from then-environment minister Greg Hunt that retailers should meet their commitments under the target.
“Investors have now recovered their confidence under Malcolm Turnbull, supported by a range of state government initiatives as well,” he said.
“However the current boom in renewable energy investment and jobs could soon turn to bust unless the Federal Government moves forward on Finkel’s recommendation for a Clean Energy Target.”
Solar panels at the Australia Post Building in Brisbane. Pictures: Jack TranSource:News Corp Australia