Australia Had More Renewable Energy In 1960

While solar power and wind energy’s presence in Australia has increased greatly over the past few years, it will come as a shock to many that the nation has less renewable energy capacity as a proportion of Australia’s total electricity generation than it did in 1960.
   
A new study entitled  “Australia’s Electricity Generation Mix 1960-2009” released by Environment Victoria says renewable energy accounted for 19 percent of the nation’s electricity in 1960, but had plummeted to just 7 per cent by 2008. In 1960, much of Australia’s renewable energy came from hydro-electric sources, in particular, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.
   
Total electricity generation in Australia grew over 10-fold from 1960 to 2008, with coal-fired generation increasing from 16 terawatt hours (TWh) to 202TWh; and renewable energy growing from 4TWh to just 18TWh.
  
“Sadly, we’ve made little progress in cleaning up our electricity supply over the past 50 years, with the growth of polluting coal generation far outpacing the growth of renewable energy. This is a shocking performance given the strength of Australia’s renewable energy resources,” said Environment Victoria. Campaigns Director Mark Wakeham.
 
“This underlines the need to ensure that some of the revenue raised through a price on pollution is used to replace our dirtiest power stations, like Hazelwood and Yallourn in Victoria, and fast-track renewable energy development.”
 
Hazelwood power station has the unenviable distinction of being one of the most polluting coal fired electricity generation facilities in the world; but Hazelwood is by no means the only carbon pollution offender. Emissions from generation in the National Electricity Market climbed from 166 million tonnes to 184 million tonnes during 2009.
   
While it’s a grim reminder of just how serious the situation is in Australia and how much remains to be done to clean up our electricity generation, the report states the number of home solar power systems connected to the mains grid is growing rapidly; from around 190 megawatts cumulative capacity across Australia in 2009 to over 500MW in 2010.
   
“Australia’s Electricity Generation Mix 1960-2009” can be viewed in full here (PDF).