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Australia's shift toward renewable energy picks up the pace

15th Aug 2013

Australia's electric grid has, for the most part, been filled with power generated by dirty sources like coal in the modern era.

But in the past few decades, the country has seen a major shift toward renewable energy, such as solar, and even in just the last few years, this has gained steam. One recent report shows that in the past 12 months, all new proposals for electric generation facilities have been for solar or wind plants.

The report, issued by the Australian Energy Market Operator, showed that residential rooftops were by far one of the most popular electrical generation installations, with 774MW installed throughout Australia's national electricity market (NEM).

"Reduced growth in energy use across the National Electricity Market (NEM) compared to 2012, rising domestic rooftop photovoltaic (PV) generation, increasing consumer response to recent growth in electricity prices, and the development of new large-scale renewable generation is expected to defer new thermal electricity generation investment," the group wrote in the report.

This growth won't stop anytime soon, either. Experts say this rate of installation will likely hold strong in the coming 12 months. Large scale solar installations were also up, contributing to the 522.7MW of large scale electricity generation that was added in the past 12 months.

There have also been several new projects that have been approved, but have not yet started construction or electricity production. Through the NEM, about 29,521MW of new generation capacity have been proposed. While solar may not make a huge portion of this total, the fact that coal only took an 11 per cent share suggests Australia is weaning itself off the dirty fuel.

Fossil fuels on the way out

One of the most interesting parts of the report was that many fossil fuel generation plants had been taken offline. In total, roughly 870MW of coal production has been removed from the grid, with one generation facility hoping to clean up its operations with a hybrid solar/gas facility.

At this rate, the experts say Australia won't have to add any fossil fuel plants for at least another 10 years. There are several factors that play into this, ranging from a shift in public sentiment toward green living and sustainability to higher electricity prices.

The next few years will be an interesting time for solar, with government incentives coming to an end. However, with solar power getting more attention, the sector has likely been primed for further growth.


Posted by Mike Peacock

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