Newly released figures show Australia is on track to meet the 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET) due to record investment levels.
Statistics revealed by the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) show Australia is primed to reach the major milestone ahead of schedule.
A record level of investment in renewable energy during 2017 has boosted the nation’s large-scale generation capacity. This makes it the biggest year ever for renewable energy new builds.
2018 and 2019 are also expected to exceed this record, with each year doubling completion of new build compared to 2017.
While 2016 had a slow start, momentum then built for renewable energy investment late in the year. This has picked up pace, placing the 2020 RET within reach.
Solar plays major part in 2020 Renewable Energy Target
Solar energy makes up 46 per cent of total new capacity based on firmly announced projects since 2016.
According to CER Chair David Parker, solar power is therefore an important emerging player in the energy mix.
Solar will make an increasing contribution to meeting peak electricity demand, Mr Parker says.
This is particularly true on long summer days. The weather bureau is forecasting a future increase in the number of extreme heat events experienced in Australia.
While the CER figures refer to large-scale generation projects, domestic solar installations in Australia are also booming.
The Clean Energy Regulator estimates 1.05 GW of solar capacity was installed in Australia during 2017.
In the same Bloomberg report, the Climate Council predicts 45 per cent of Australian power will be produced by solar energy and energy storage batteries by 2040.
Record renewable investment: What the figures say
According to previous CER calculations, the 2020 target of 33,000 gigawatt hours of additional renewable energy needed to be announced and built between 2016 and 2019.
This is equivalent to around 6,000 megawatts of large-scale generation capacity. After a slow start, CER now anticipates Australia will meet the RET target early.
Of 6,532 megawatts of new large-scale generation firmly announced since 2016, more than 4,900 megawatts is now fully financed. Most is already under construction or operating, with the rest expected to begin construction early this year.
Projects amounting to a further 1,600 megawatts have a power purchase agreement in place. Most of the new construction is earmarked for Queensland, followed by Victoria and New South Wales.