As part of his Energy announcements this week, Minister Angus Taylor has finally heeded calls from solar consumers led by Solar Citizens to rule out axing the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme.
‘Energy consumers are tired of being taken for a ride by electricity retailers, which is why Australians are installing solar at record rates so that they can take the power back into their own hands,’ says Solar Citizens National Director Joseph Scales.
‘The Small-scale Renewable makes investing in rooftop solar affordable,’ explains Mr Scales.
The ACCC gave a misguided recommendation to cut the SRES 9 years early or even immediately.
‘The cost of rooftop solar would increase by approximately 30% by axing Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme,’ describes Mr Scales.
Today, representatives of Solar Citizens are in Parliament to lock in this announcement with our open letter which collected nearly 10,000 signatures. Solar Citizens will be meeting with Minister Taylor’s office, and with Labor’s Shadow Minister Mark Butler and Greens’ spokesperson Adam Bandt.
Solar Citizens mobilised thousands of solar consumers to call on the Federal Government to rule this out:
- Nearly 10,000 signed our open letter to the Energy Minister (jointly with Smart Energy Council);
- Hundreds of constituents contacted their MP asking them to join our call to rule out axing the SRES; and,
- numerous people wrote to their local papers and had letters to the editor published which explained the benefit of the SRES.
‘This is a huge win for solar consumers around the country – saving the SRES will keep the installation of rooftop solar affordable so that more Australians can enjoy the benefits of solar and lower their energy bills,’ concludes Mr Scales.
The Abbott Government also backed down from cutting the SRES and the RET in 2015 when Solar Citizens delivered petitions with 28,000 signatures to the Government.
The Northern Territory will develop its own competitive wholesale electricity market as part of the state government’s plan to deliver lower power prices.
In the next 12 months, a Northern Territory Electricity Market (NTEM) will be developed, consistent with recommendations made by the independent panel in the Roadmap to Renewables report.
This will ensure the growing interest in renewable energy can be facilitated in the Darwin-Katherine power network in a way that will deliver lower cost generation and reliable power to Territorians.
The Northern Territory Government announced the electricity market reforms to deliver reliable power and meet the state’s target of its 50 per cent renewables by 2030.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said creating local jobs was his number one priority.
“Our election commitment of 50 per cent renewables by 2030 is already paying dividends by creating local jobs in the growing renewable energy sector,” he said.
“We have kept our promise to stabilise power prices after massive hikes under the CLP.
“The fact we have also kept public assets in public ownership means we are perfectly placed to transition to more renewable energy while maintaining system reliability.”
The NTEM is expected to be up and running within 12 months, and government will work closely with stakeholders on design and implementation.
The state government will also begin consultation shortly on a review of supply and feed-in tariffs to encourage behind the meter energy storage for those with rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) and stimulate greater take-up of energy efficient technologies.
This was also one of the recommendations made by the renewables panel to increase system reliability and enable Territorians to reduce their electricity costs during the most expensive times of the day.
In a major step towards reaching the 50 per cent renewables target, the government has approved a 25MW solar photovoltaic electricity plant to be developed near Katherine.
The power purchase agreement (PPA) between Jacana Energy and Katherine Solar will enable the construction of the $40 million project, create more than 100 jobs during construction and be the largest renewable energy generator in the Northern Territory.
Epuron executive director Martin Poole said the company was pleased to sell its energy to Jacana.
“We look forward to the Katherine solar project moving into construction in the coming months,” he said.
“The NT has great potential for solar energy, and it is exciting to see the Territory Government’s initiatives to enable investors to compete to generate the lowest cost solar power for the grid.”
NT Minister for Renewables and Essential Services Dale Wakefield said the PPA would increase renewable energy use in the Territory by between 3 and 4 per cent.
“It’s a huge step towards our renewable energy target and will put downward pressure on electricity prices,” he said.
“There are lessons learned from the National Energy Market that we have incorporated into the design of this policy.
“This is a common-sense and best practice approach tailored for the Territory’s unique circumstances.”
A new best practice electrical safety guide for battery systems will give consumers increased confidence about the quality of the products that are being installed in their homes and businesses.
Clean Energy Council director of Smart Energy Darren Gladman said the new guidelines for battery products would put Australia “at the head of the pack worldwide” when it comes to battery product safety.
“The best practice guidelines for battery products released this week combines the best of international and US standards, along with a few other belts and braces,” Gladman said.
“They are the result of consultation and collaboration across the energy storage industry and beyond, including input from CSIRO, Australia’s leading scientific research organisation. The safety of consumers should always be the first priority, and it is has been great to have the storage industry working together in this spirit as batteries increase in popularity.”
The Best Practice Guide: Battery Storage Equipment – Electrical Safety Requirements will work in tandem with a risk matrix to provide important guidance for professionals installing energy storage units. The risk matrix will help professionals working with battery storage technology to identify and manage any risks and ensure a safe installation of battery systems.
The guide and the risk matrix were developed by the Clean Energy Council, the Australian Industry Group, the Consumer Electronics Suppliers Association, CSIRO and the Smart Energy Council.
“There is now a robust Australian system of standards and guidelines in place for batteries being installed in Australia. What is missing is this framework being a pre-requisite for state and federal government battery programs. The clean energy industry is working with all governments to ensure this framework is in place to protect consumers as the rollout of battery technology accelerates,” Gladman said.
The Best Practice Guide: Battery Storage Equipment – Electrical Safety Requirements and associated risk matrix are online and available for download at batterysafetyguide.com.au.
Barry O’Sullivan General Manager, Mars Petcare Australia picture at the Wodonga factory.
Mars Australia is going 100 per cent renewables, and will source all the power for its six Australian factories and two offices from a 200MW solar farm in Victoria.
Mars announced on Thursday that it has signed a 20 year power-purchase agreements (PPA) with Total Eren to produce the equivalent of all its electricity needs from the new Kiamal solar farm when it is complete in mind 2019.
Mars has contracted for energy – through the solar farm and a “firming contract” from TFC Green – to match the electricity requirements of its six Australian factories (Asquith, Ballarat, Bathurst, Wacol, Wodonga & Wyong) and two sales offices (Melbourne & Sydney).
“Mars is thrilled to be flicking the switch to solar energy,” says Barry O’Sullivan, the head of sustainability at Mars Australia, which makes confectionaries such as M&Ms, brands such as MasterFoods, EXTRA and Pedigree dog food.
“It’s about making a long-term commitment to a sustainable, greener planet that will benefit our customers, our consumers and the local and global community.”
O’Sullivan said the recent big rise in electricity prices in Australia accelerated its plans to join Mars sites in the US, UK and nine other countries in moving to renewable electricity.
“We acted quickly because the price volatility of energy in Australia made renewables the best option for our business, in addition to getting us closer to our commitment to eliminate greenhouse gasses from our operations by 2040.”
O’Sullivan said the company will also be talking to its extensive local supplier network “about how they can help further reduce emissions in our supply chain.”
It is the second innovative deal for the Kiamal solar farm, which is to be built near Ouyen in western Victoria.
Earlier this year, it announced a PPA with PowerShop, which enabled that retailer to announce a fall in retail prices to be passed on to consumers.
Total Eren, partly owned by one of the biggest oil companies in the world, also has council approval for a huge battery installation at the site – 100MW/380MWh – which the company will build once there is a “compelling proposition.”
Total Eren CEO David Corchba said the move by Mars Australia “sends a strong message to the rest of the market that now is the time to capitalise on the opportunities offered by renewable power purchase agreements.”
Total Eren says the success with the Kiamal solar farm means that it can no go ahead with a second solar farm in NSW.
Mars partnered with Commodity Risk Solution, LLC, a global energy market advisor, to structure and deliver an innovative corporate PPA that will provide a lasting economic advantage.
The deal was brokered by TFS Green, which has developed a marketplace for buyers and sellers of renewable energy, along with new “firming” contracts, under a new product known as the Renewable Energy Hub.
Essentially, this allows renewables to be presented as transactional firm contracts to the wholesale energy market, and builds liquidity for renewables to function with the wholesale contract market.
“The future of the renewable energy market will require firming solutions for intermittent generators to transact advantageously, says Chris Halliwell, the head of renewable energy and environmental markets at TFS Australia.
The electricity from the Kiamal solar farm will be exported to the main grid. Mars will receive the Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) created by Kiamal Solar Farm, which are transferable for all Mars’ electricity use in all of its Australian facilities.
The PPAs are part of a broader Mars journey to become Sustainable in a Generation, with plans to reduce greenhouse gasses across the supply chain by 67% by 2050.
Pop-up mobile solar PV could soon replace diesel generators as temporary power supply for military operations, disaster relief efforts and music festivals, thanks to an Australian-made innovation.
ARENA has announced $289,725 in funding for Canberra-based ECLIPS Engineering to design, manufacture and test its rapidly redeployable Container Roll Out Solar System (CROSS).
CROSS is a factory assembled, relocatable solar array that has been developed to reduce the logistics challenges associated with deploying solar PV generators. Designed to fit inside a standard shipping container, the CROSS units can be stacked up to seven units high.
The $703,468 total project opens up markets not previously available to the renewables industry, including defence, disaster recovery, humanitarian, construction and temporary network augmentation.
The systems come available in 20ft and 40ft configurations, with a maximum output of 2,175W and 4,350W delivered in minutes ready for connection to an inverter.
ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said the CROSS units could see solar energy delivering temporary power is required in a remote location or an emergency situation.
“CROSS units can be deployed in off-grid and fringe-of-grid areas, displace or offset diesel consumption and improve the security of existing networks.”
“These renewable options can reduce some of the barriers to entry for potential renewable power users in remote locations, including short project durations and where power systems need to be periodically relocated,” Frischknecht said.
“Renewable energy can provide an emissions-free, silent energy system that could replace diesel generators in the long run.”
ECLIPS managing director Shaun Moore said that the original objective for CROSS was to improve power self-sufficiency for defence.
“One of our early objectives was to provide rapidly deployable utility scale PV generators to improve the self-sufficiency of Defence’s deployed forward operating bases. Diesel consumption related to the provision of electricity can account for up to 70% of deployed forces’ fuel usage and is a significant cost driver. More importantly, deploying CROSS to forward operating bases also reduces the frequency of convoys for fuel resupply, which reduces the threat to soldiers in contested environments.
“These same logistics efficiencies and benefits are transferable to commercial and utility customers in remote areas of Australia,” said Moore
A record amount of solar capacity and renewable power was installed across the world in 2017 – as the cost of both wind and solar became competitive with fossil fuels – but it still is not enough, a major new report has found.
The annual Renewables 2018 Global Status Report from REN21, a renewables policy organisation, notes that a record 98GW of solar capacity was added, as well as 52GW of wind, and a total of 178GW of renewables.
Including large hydro, this amounted to $US310 billion of new investment, nearly twice that of new fossil fuels and nuclear capacity, and the global share of renewables is now at 23 per cent, with wind and solar providing 7.4 per cent.
But while the growth in renewables electricity was pleasing and continues the transformation of the electricity sector, REN21 says it is concerned by the lack of change in transport, cooling and heating, which means the world is lagging behind its Paris climate goals.
“We may be racing down the pathway towards a 100 percent renewable electricity future but when it comes to heating, cooling and transport, we are coasting along as if we had all the time in the world. Sadly, we don’t,” said Randa Adib, executive secretary of REN21.
Adib’s concern was shared by investors representing $26 trillion of assets under management, which used the prelude to the G7 Summit in Canada to call for governments to step up their ambition and action to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.
“The global shift to clean energy is underway, but much more needs to be done by governments to accelerate the low-carbon transition and to improve the resilience of our economy, society and the financial system to climate risks,” investors wrote in a joint statement.
Emma Herd, the CEO of the Investor Group on Climate Change, the Australian chapter of this group, says investors are stepping up in unprecedented numbers, but could do so much more if governments acted too.
“Investors could do even more if governments delivered the policies required to effectively manage climate risk and accelerate investment in low-carbon solutions.”
Labor’s Mark Butler said this was a clear reproach to Australia’s Coalition government, which refuses to lift its weak 2030 target even though most analysts say it will be largely met – in the electricity sector at least – by 2030.
“The Turnbull government’s weak National Energy Guarantee is projected to deliver no new large-scale renewable energy investment over the 2020s,” he said in a statement.
“And far from being on track to delivering their weak targets, according to the government’s own data emissions are projected to increase all the way to 2030.”
The REN21 report said of particular concern was global energy demand and energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which rose for the first time in four years in 2017, by 2.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.
“In the power sector, the transition to renewables is under way but is progressing more slowly than is possible or desirable,” it says.
“A commitment made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to limit global temperature rise to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels makes the nature of the challenge much clearer.
“If the world is to achieve the target set in the Paris agreement, then heating, cooling and transport will need to follow the same path as the power sector – and fast.”
The scale of the problem is illustrated in this chart above, which shows all energy usage, including the oil-dominated transport sector, and the traditional biomass for heating and cooking.
The heating, cooling and transport sectors – which together account for about four-fifths of global final energy demand – continue to lag behind the power sector.
Around 92 percent of transport energy demand continues to be met by oil and only 42 countries have national targets for the use of renewable energy in transport.
However, increasing electrification is offering possibilities and more than 30 million two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles are being added to the world’s roads every year, and 1.2 million passenger electric cars were sold in 2017, up about 58 per cent from 2016.
Currently, electricity provides just 1.3 per cent of transport energy needs, of which about one-quarter is renewable.
There is little change in renewables uptake in heating and cooling. National targets for renewable energy in heating and cooling exist in only 48 countries around the world, whereas 146 countries have targets for renewable energy in the power sector.
Small changes are under way. In India, for example, installations of solar thermal collectors rose approximately 25 per cent in 2017, as compared to 2016. China aims to have 2 per cent of the cooling loads of its buildings come from solar thermal energy by 2020.
“To make the energy transition happen there needs to be political leadership by governments,” says Arthouros Zervos, the chair of REN21.
“For example by ending subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear, investing in the necessary infrastructure, and establishing hard targets and policy for heating, cooling and transport.
“Without this leadership, it will be difficult for the world to meet climate or sustainable development commitments.”
Queensland is leading the national charge towards a record year for the large-scale solar industry, Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton told a sold-out audience at the 2018 Large-scale Solar Industry Forum.
The current boom in activity is something that will be a key topic of discussion at the Large-scale Solar Industry Forum being held in Brisbane today. The event brings together 450 solar technical professionals from across the country to learn from experts in the field.
According to Thornton 20 projects were actively under construction, would soon start or had already been completed in the Sunshine State during 2018 and the flow-on benefits were helping regional communities in solar hotspots such as North Queensland and the Darling Downs.
“Across the country, projects which are under construction, completed or have secured financial commitment add up to $5 billion in investment, with Queensland investments contributing more than half – 52 per cent, or $2.6 billion. All up, large-scale solar activity in the state adds up to almost 2670 direct jobs and 1400 MW of new clean energy,” said Thornton.
“The technology in the solar industry is forever evolving and maturing and events like the Large-scale Solar Industry Forum allow industry professionals across all levels to network and discuss issues and celebrate achievements for the industry.”
Thornton said the dramatically falling cost of large-scale solar power this decade had sparked a huge amount of interest in the sector from construction companies and major financiers.
“Large-scale solar has gone from an emerging technology in Australia at the beginning of the decade to a genuinely game-changing form of power that is cheaper than new coal or gas. It has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic predictions,” said Thornton.
“Along with the national Renewable Energy Target, support from the Queensland Government, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has helped to make this one of the lowest-cost options we have for electricity today.”
For the first time in 2017, global solar capacity grew faster than all fossil fuels combined, including coal, oil and gas-fired power stations.
That’s one finding of the latest annual report on global trends in renewable energy finance, from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
It shows renewables, excluding large hydro, made up three-fifths of net power capacity growth in 2017 and supplied a record 12% share of global electricity generation.
Global renewable investment held steady, with falling costs ensuring the same money bought record levels of new capacity. Within that, developing nations, led by China, claimed an ever-larger share of the total as investment fell steeply in several European countries.
One of the most striking findings in today’s report is that global solar capacity grew faster in 2017 than the combined total for all fossil fuels – coal, oil, gas – as the chart below shows.
Note that this chart shows net capacity growth, after accounting for power plants that have retired. This is particularly significant for coal, where 32 gigawatts (GW) closed in 2017 and for gas, which lost 16GW.
Global growth in net electricity generating capacity, gigawatts, after subtracting retirements from new additions. Global net nuclear capacity shrank during 2010-2012. Fossil fuels includes coal, oil and gas. Other renewables includes biomass, geothermal, waste-to-energy and small hydro below 50 megawatts capacity. Source: UNEP/BNEF Global Trends in Renewable Energy Finance reports 2010-2018, International Atomic Energy Agency PRIS database and Carbon Brief analysis. Note that the figures reported in each year’s ‘Global Trends’ report are preliminary. Carbon Brief will update this chart if final figures become available. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.
The milestone reflects rising investment and falling costs for solar (see below for more on this). Significantly, it also reflects the decline in the growth of new coal and gas capacity, as well as an increase in retirements.
The global pipeline of new coal-fired power stations is shrinking fast and ageing plants in the US and Europe are closing down. The outlook for new gas-fired power stations is also fading, according to the world’s largest gas turbine manufacturers.
The record 98 gigawatts (GW) of new solar built in 2017 increased the world’s cumulative capacity by a third, to 399GW. Solar capacity also grew by a third in 2016 – and the amount added in the last year alone was larger than all the solar ever built before 2013.
Even the International Energy Agency (IEA), which has long been seen as downplayingthe growth potential for renewables, expects global solar capacity to reach 740GW by 2022. Others say solar growth is still consistently underestimated.
The shift in global additions means that renewables, excluding large hydro, made up 61% of the growth in power generating capacity last year, a record high, shown in the chart, below.
(The “Global Trends” reports focus on investment in wind, solar, small hydro, biomass, geothermal and waste-to-energy projects. These are the newer forms of renewable energy, whereas large hydro has been in use for many decades.)
The grey line in the chart show the share of global power capacity which is renewable, excluding large hydro, while the blue line shows the contribution to electricity generation.
Renewable power generation (blue) and capacity (green) as a share of the global total, 2007-2017, %. Renewables excludes large hydro. Source: UNEP/BNEF Global Trends in Renewable Energy Finance 2018.
Despite contributing the majority of new capacity added in 2017, renewables, excluding large hydro, still only supplied 12% of global electricity generation – itself a record contribution that has doubled since 2010. This is because wind and solar have lower load factors than coal, gas or nuclear power plants, meaning each gigawatt of renewables generates less electricity each year.
(It’s worth noting that coal-fired power stations in the world’s largest users, from Indiato China to the US, currently generate less than 60% of the time. This is comparable to offshore windfarms, with load factors of 40-60%, though coal plants can operate on demand. Offshore windfarms generate electricity during 90-100% of hours but only occasionally reach maximum output.)
The rise of new renewable capacity is largely down to solar growth, as the first chart showed. This, in turn, is due to rapidly falling costs. Between 2009 and 2017, the global average cost of generating a megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity from solar fell by 72%, as the chart below shows. Onshore wind has also seen significant declines, of 27% over the same period.
Levelised cost of electricity, by renewable technology, 2007-2017, $ per megawatt hour. Source: UNEP/BNEF Global Trends in Renewable Energy Finance 2018.
These cost reductions are continuing: the latest figures from BNEF suggest onshore wind and solar costs fell a further 18% in the first part of 2018. Publishing those numbers late last month, BNEF head of energy economics Elena Giannakopoulou said:
“Some existing coal and gas power stations, with sunk capital costs, will continue to have a role for many years, doing a combination of bulk generation and balancing, as wind and solar penetration increase. But the economic case for building new coal and gas capacity is crumbling, as batteries start to encroach on the flexibility and peaking revenues enjoyed by fossil fuel plants.”
In a growing number of countries, new wind and solar capacity is competitive with new fossil fuel plants on cost. A second tipping point is fast approaching, BNEF says, where it will be cheaper to build new wind and solar than to pay the ongoing cost of running old coal and gas capacity.
Cheaper renewables means the world was able to install a record 157GW of new capacity in 2017, excluding large hydro. This 14% year-on-year increase was possible even though investment in the sector only grew by 2%, to $280bn, as the chart below shows.
This total remains well below the record $323bn invested in 2016, however.
(The chart breaks down investments according to the source and type of finance, including research and development spending, venture capital and private equity, small distributed capacity such as off-grid or rooftop solar, as well as asset finance.)
Global investment in renewable energy by asset type, 2004-2017, $bn. Year-on-year growth is shown above the chart. Source: UNEP/BNEF Global Trends in Renewable Energy Finance 2018.
In 2011, when investment levels were roughly the same as in 2017, the world installed 82GW of new renewable capacity, excluding large hydro. In other words, the cost of a new GW, averaged across all renewable technologies, has halved in six years. This is due to falling costs for each technology, as well as the shift in focus towards solar.
The early growth in solar was driven by major EU economies, markets that quickly dried up as government subsidies were cut and reformed. Now, China is the engine of solar growth, installing more than half of all new capacity last year.
This shift is reflected in the trends in overall renewable investment around the world, shown in the map, below. China now accounts for 45% of renewable energy investment, excluding large hydro, spending a record $127bn in 2017. This makes it the world leaderin clean energy investment.
Global investment in renewable energy by region, 2004-2017, $bn. Source: UNEP/BNEF Global Trends in Renewable Energy Finance 2018.
In contrast, European investment peaked in 2011, when it accounted for 45% of the global total, before halving in the years that followed. It fell a further 36% last year, to $41bn – the lowest level in records going back to 2004.
Within this regional total, the largest fall was in the UK, where investment fell 65% to $7.6bn after the window closed on government subsidies for large-scale onshore wind and solar. Despite its far smaller population, Australia invested more than the UK in 2017, at $8.5bn.
There was also a large 35% fall in German renewable energy investment, to $10.4bn. This total is now lower than investment in India, which stood at $10.9bn in 2017, despite a 20% decline. However, a planned tariff on imported solar modules means Indian investment is expected to stall in the short term – although this will need to be temporary if their ambitious renewable energy targets are to be met.
Balance of power
For the first time in 2017, renewable energy investment in China, India and Brazil was larger, at $144bn, than the $103bn spent by all developed nations combined. You can see this in the chart below.
Global investment in renewable energy by type of economy, 2004-2017, $bn. Source: UNEP/BNEF Global Trends in Renewable Energy Finance 2018.
In total, developing nations increased investment by 20% compared to a year earlier, to $177bn. In contrast, developed nation investment fell 19%.
As Carbon Brief analysis shows last year, developing nations are driving the explosion in solar power. Indeed, the IEA argues that renewables, particularly solar, will help more people to gain access to electricity for the first time than coal, thanks to rapidly falling costs.
The way renewable energy projects get built is also changing, as costs come down and subsidies dry up. One increasingly popular route is for governments to hold auctions for renewable capacity. This accounted for a record 51GW last year, as the chart below shows.
Global auctioned renewable energy capacity, 2003-2017, gigawatts. Source: UNEP/BNEF Global Trends in Renewable Energy Finance 2018.
Today’s report also lists a record 5GW of new renewables bought via power purchase agreements (PPAs), where large corporates agree to buy fixed amounts of electricity for a set number of years at a guaranteed price. PPAs are seen as one way to bring subsidy-free renewables to market, though they currently account for only a small share of deals.