Australia set to reach carbon net-zero target a decade sooner than others

The world has a target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050 to halt and reverse climate change and the destructive weather patterns that would result if left unchecked.

This was ratified in the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement, which saw 195 countries sign up and pledge their commitment towards reaching that target by 2050. This includes Australia; although the way things are tracking, we could achieve carbon net-zero emissions in 2040 – a decade ahead of the global target.

The key to this target lies in doubling our solar and wind output

Australia has experienced rapid uptake of solar solutions for homes and businesses, while large-scale solar and wind projects have accelerated our push towards a net-zero carbon future. Australian National University engineering researchers have found that doubling that output would see us comfortably achieve this target by 2050 and likely reach it by 2040.

Australia added about seven gigawatts of renewable energy in 2020 – a record volume –  and would need to double that to 14GW to reach the target. Meeting this target would wipe out 80 per cent of our emissions, all coming from fossil fuels and allow us to be carbon neutral.

Professor of Engineering Andrew Blakers believes that the goal was achievable with the current trend towards renewable energy sources.

“Australia is demonstrating that rapid deployment of solar and wind can lead to declining emissions and low electricity prices,” he said.

Australia’s plans for large-scale solar and wind projects

While doubling our output might sound like a huge undertaking, the groundwork is already well underway, with significant projects being rolled out across the country.

One single project is already set to smash our annual record with sprawling Australia–ASEAN Power Link project in the Northern Territory set to deliver a 10GW solar farm.

There are also 95 projects set to commence construction or completion in the near future that will deliver another 11.209GW of renewable power. Add to that the 10.531GW of projects that have not yet reached financial close or be commissioned, and we are looking at an enormous spike in the volume of solar power being installed across Australia.

Wind power is also set to boom, with 2021 predicted to be the biggest on record. It is one of the fastest-growing sources of energy globally, and five major projects are going ahead in Australia that will deliver 6.93GW of power in 2021 and 2022.

Australia already has 20.21GW of solar PV systems installed across 2.66 million homes and business, and this number is set to spike as well. There were 333,978 installations in 2020 –  despite the global COVID-19 pandemic – which added 2.6 GW of capacity to the network. That number is set to rise year on year as well.

So while doubling our renewable energy installations might seem fanciful on the surface, we are already well and truly on our way there.