Australia to hit 2020 large-scale renewables target ‘ahead of schedule’
Unprecedented investment in large wind and solar power projects has put Australia on track to meet the federal government’s 2020 large-scale renewable energy target.
The government had previously indicated that 6400 megawatts of large-scale renewable capacity had to be built between 2017 and 2019 to generate sufficient electricity to meet the target of having 33,000 gigawatt hours of additional energy by next year.
Clean Energy Regulator chair David Parker said that milestone was met ahead of schedule last week after the approval of four large wind and solar power stations, with a combined capacity of 406 megawatts.
“It is now certain Australia will generate enough renewable energy to meet the 2020 large-scale renewable energy target,” Mr Parker said. “This achievement represents the hard work of a growing and dynamic renewables industry.”
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said the government was supporting record investment in renewable energy.
“In 2018, Australia led the world in clean energy investment, with more than double the per-capita investment of countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom,” Mr Taylor said. “With the renewable energy target set to be exceeded, investment is not slowing down.”
The recent approval of the 148.5 megawatt Cattle Hill Wind Farm in Tasmania, owned by Goldwind and partners, saw the milestone surpassed, according to the regulator. The Cattle Hill Wind Farm is built on the hills above Waddamana Power Station, Tasmania’s first hydro scheme which was opened in 1916.
The regulator said the large-scale renewable energy target would continue to provide a framework for ongoing renewable energy investment.
The Clean Energy Council, which represents the renewable energy industry in Australia, said meeting the large-scale renewable energy target had been a “massive effort for the clean energy industry for close to two decades”.
“It shows what is possible when our major political parties agree to put aside their differences and work together to achieve a shared, ambitious goal,” Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton said.
“The RET is the most successful emissions reduction policy of all time for Australia’s electricity system. The RET has been one of the bright spots which is making our electricity system cleaner, cheaper and more reliable.”
The policy was a world first when introduced by Prime Minister John Howard in 2001 and was later adopted by more than 100 countries, Mr Thornton said. The Rudd government expanded the scheme in 2009.
“The policy has delivered dozens of wind and solar farms this decade, along with tens of thousands of jobs for people in regional parts of the country and tens of billions of dollars in project investment which have created many new economic opportunities in the Australian economy,” Mr Thornton said.
“With the news that the industry will far exceed the target, the question should now turn to what comes next. The industry doesn’t need new subsidy, we just need certainty – renewable energy can continue to create opportunities for regional parts of the country for many decades with the right policies in place.”
The milestone came as former US secretary of state John Kerry implored policymakers to consider the jobs being created by the transition to renewable energy, not just those lost as the fossil fuel industry declined.
In a speech in Melbourne on Tuesday, where he also questioned the wisdom on Adani coal mine development in Queensland, Mr Kerry said solar energy could create “millions upon millions of jobs” pointing to the sector’s surging performance in the United States.
“Nobody’s talking about making people unemployed, we’re talking about transitioning to better jobs. [The] fastest-growing job in the United States of America today – solar power technician. Second fastest-growing job in America today – wind power turbine technician,” he said, quoting official statistics.
“There are 300,000 solar workers in America today, there are somewhere around 50,000 doing anything with coal.”
Mr Kerry was the keynote speaker at a major food expo in Melbourne called Global Table, served as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama and signed the Paris Climate Accord during his time in the role.
“We can’t just sit on our asses and leave the political process to Neanderthals, who don’t want to believe in the future, simple,” he said.
After the speech, Mr Kerry told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that he was surprised that the Adani coal mine in Queensland was being built.
“We shouldn’t be building huge coal infrastructure going forward. We need to be much more creative and much more disposed to push the curve on the other alternatives,” he said.
“It isn’t going to do you any good to pretend you’re going to have great jobs for the long term with coal when in fact it’s going to be supplanted, it is not a fuel of the future, and it’s going to cost you a lot more to undo the damages that come from climate change than it is to make the adjustment. A great deal more.”