Australia could hit the equivalent of 100% renewable energy by 2032 if wind and solar installations continue at their current pace, according to a new study by the school of electrical engineering at Australian National University.
“The ANU study says Australia is installing solar PV and wind four to five times faster per capita than China, Japan, the EU, and the U.S., and is on track to reach 50% renewable electricity by 2024—far ahead of Labor’s federal target date of 2030, which the Coalition government describes as ‘reckless’,” RenewEconomy reports. “The most important thing the government of the day can do is to get out of the way, although it will need some considerable facilitation and coordination to get everything built and in place in time.”
“There is a large PV and wind pipeline which augers well for continued deployment of PV and wind at rates above 6 GW per year,” write researchers Andrew Blakers and Dr. Matthew Stock. “We anticipate that this will continue for many years, provided that energy policy is not actively hindering development of renewables.”
Blakers said the electricity sector’s ability to meet its “share” of Australia’s target under the Paris Agreement is already locked in over the next few years, and electricity alone is positioned to hit the country’s economy-wide target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28% by 2030—though that’s not a consensus view.
“Other experts question the assumption on economy-wide emissions and whether this would be enough to deliver Australia’s weak Paris treaty emissions target, and they point out that Australia will be under pressure to increase its target in coming years,” RenewEconomy notes. ANU climate specialist Frank Jotzo warned against complacency, adds editor Giles Parkinson, particularly after Energy Minister Angus Taylor “reacted to the research by claiming it was proof the government was doing enough”.
And the hope that the current Coalition government would get out of the way and just let renewable energy technologies deploy is a very big IF, Parkinson notes.
“The current wind and solar boom has come despite the government’s intentions, rather than because of it,” he writes. “Taylor insists there is already too much wind and solar in the grid, and his policies—the ‘big stick’ proposal to control prices and force divestment, and the proposed tender for 24/7 power—are being criticized by virtually everyone for being rushed, ill-thought-out, and likely to delay investment rather than encourage it.”
But Blakers said the falling cost of wind and PV solar make both technologies less expensive than a new coal or natural gas plant. “The net cost of achieving deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions is approximately zero,” he and Stock reported, adding that off-the-shelf energy storage, demand management, and interstate transmission technologies will be sufficient to stabilize a 50 to 100% renewable grid.
They also see the path they’ve laid out for Australia as an example for others.
“Most developing countries lie in the low-latitude sunbelt and can readily follow the Australian renewable energy path rather than go through a fossil fuel era—a bit like Africa skipping landline phones and transitioning directly to mobiles,” they wrote. “Renewable energy offers real hope for massive avoidance of greenhouse emissions and preservation of a livable planet.”