A new, crowdfunded renewable energy index reveals that Australia is generating enough electricity from clean sources to power 70% of its homes, en route to 90% by year-end.
The Index, produced by Green Energy Markets with funds raised from online donors, determined that renewables, “which made up just 7% of national electricity output a decade ago, accounted for 17.2% last financial year [and] 18.8% last month,” the Guardian reports. Once solar and wind projects now under construction go online, “the sector will generate enough power to run 90% of [Australian] homes.”
Hydroelectric generation provided the biggest share of renewable power (40%), with wind delivering close to another third (31%) and rooftop solar nearly a fifth (18%). Utility-scale solar farms contributed less than 2%, “suggesting the best is yet to come from this arm of the renewables industry which has an array of large-scale projects under way,” the Guardian notes.
The degree of clean energy penetration, the index authors calculate, is “equivalent to taking more than half of all cars in Australia off the road,” putting the country “on track to meet the federal government’s renewable energy target of 20% of total generation by 2020 over a year early, by the end of 2018.”
The shift to clean energy is also fueling a hiring boom. Nearly 50 large projects have created 10,000 construction jobs, while rooftop installations employ another 3,800 Australians.
The boom “could soon turn to bust”, however, warns Green Energy Markets Analyst Tristan Edis, unless Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government clarifies its expectations for the country’s future energy needs by setting a post-2020 clean energy target.
The industry suffered “an investment drought under former prime minister Tony Abbott, whose government cut the renewable energy target,” Edis told the Guardian. A recent review of the national electricity market recommended restoring and raising the goal. But Turnbull’s government, which has also defied expert advice by advocating strongly for “clean” coal technology, remains sharply divided over whether to accept the advice.