Australia’s clean energy transition accelerated again in 2020 as wind and rooftop solar set new records, battery storage came of age, and the hydrogen sector continued its rapid development. This all points to Australia realising its potential as a clean energy superpower.
The Australian renewable energy industry has come a long way in the past five years. In 2016, just 17 percent of the country’s electricity came from renewables, and the majority of this was due to New South Wales and Tasmania’s long-serving hydro systems. Fast forward to 2020, and more than 27 per cent of Australia’s electricity came from clean energy sources, with wind and rooftop solar leading the way. This represents a massive transformation that makes Australia’s electricity system cheaper, more reliable and, most importantly, cleaner. But the best news is that the shift is showing no sign of slowing down.
An enormous amount of new clean energy capacity was added in 2020 as both the rooftop solar and wind sectors set new annual records. Emerging technologies also made rapid progress, with several major utility-scale battery announcements and considerable investment in renewable hydrogen building strong momentum for these exciting new technologies.
Much of this progress was driven by state and territory governments, which introduced a number of world-leading renewable energy policies and targets in 2020. However, the states and territories’ progressive energy policies only served to highlight the ongoing failures at the federal level, where arguments about government support for gas and coal overshadowed some genuinely positive developments.
These included the continued growth of clean energy jobs, with the industry employing more than 25,000 Australians in 2020, and the hundreds of dollars that households and businesses saved on their electricity bills due to the recent influx of new renewable generation. These are just a small sample of the benefits of renewable energy, and there is enormous potential for more in the coming years as the industry continues to grow.
First though, the industry will need to overcome ongoing grid connection and transmission challenges, which continued to plague renewable energy developers in 2020. While the market bodies made some progress on resolving these challenges throughout the year, much more work and investment is required to ensure that Australia’s clean energy transition can continue unimpeded.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that 2020 was a difficult year for many Australians, but the renewable energy industry continued to provide hope that Australia’s other great challenge – climate change – is being addressed. The industry’s incredible progress over the past five years is just the beginning of a long and challenging journey towards our vision of a clean energy future. It’s a journey that I’m looking forward to, both in 2021 and beyond.
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