This Climate Council roadmap outlines how Australia can cut its rising greenhouse gas pollution levels, while continuing the transition to clean, affordable and reliable renewable energy and storage technology.
Australia's love affair with clean energy and battery storage is only just beginning, with the nation on the verge of an energy storage boom, as the cost of lithium-ion batteries rapidly drops. Prices have dropped by 80% since 2010, and are tipped to halve again by 2025.
This report introduces the Climate Council's Cities Power Partnership program which highlights the leaders of councils and communities that are switching to renewable energy and building greener, more efficient and resilient communities.
1. Globally, solar photovoltaic (PV) power is surging on the back of scaled-up production and continually falling costs.
70GW (projected) of new solar power capacity was added globally in 2016, breaking last years’ (2015) record of 50GW capacity added.
China (34.2GW), the United States (13GW) and Japan (10.5GW) continued to lead with the most solar PV capacity added.
The solar sector employs 2.8 million people globally, outnumbering coal jobs. In the United States, solar now provides twice as many jobs as coal.
2. Solar costs are now so low that large, industrial-scale solar plants are providing cheaper power than new fossil and nuclear power.
Solar costs have dropped 58% in five years and are expected to continue to fall by a further 40-70% by 2040.
Electricity prices from new coal power stations could rise to A$160 per megawatt hour, while solar parks are around $110 per megawatt hour and are expected to come down significantly in price over time.
3. Australia remains a world leader in household solar
The cost of solar power is now well below the retail power prices in Australian capital cities, and continues to fall. The exception is the ACT which has the lowest retail prices in Australia.
Australia adds more solar power every year than the combined capacity of South Australia’s (recently closed) Northern and Playford coal-fired power stations.
Over 8000 Australians are now employed in solar and solar has the potential to create thousands more jobs as it grows.
4. 2017 will be a huge year for large-scale solar in Australia.
Larger solar PV installations are already taking off in Australia – on airports, mines, healthcare facilities and businesses.
In 2017 over 20 new large-scale solar projects will come online. A further 3,700 MW of large-scale solar is in the development pipeline (roughly equivalent to three coal fire power stations).
Australia is expected to reach over 20GW of solar PV in the next 20 years, equivalent to about a third of Australia’s current total power generation capacity.
5. A range of energy storage technologies will complement the growth of solar power providing secure, flexible power.
Solar and battery storage for households and businesses is already gaining traction in Australia – with more than 6,500 households installing the technology. Uptake is expected to triple in 2017.
Large-scale developments such the Lakeland solar and battery storage project and the Kidston solar and pumped hydro project (both in North Queensland) are demonstrating the potential of combining large-scale solar and energy storage technologies.
The Victorian Government is seeking expressions of interest to build a large scale battery storage facility in western Victoria to improve grid stability.
In July this year, South Australia experienced a series of high wholesale electricity price spikes in one week, which some politicians and media commentators simplistically linked to the state’s high proportion of renewable energy, particularly wind (For example, Australian Financial Review 2016; The Advertiser 2016a; The Australian 2016). This was incorrect.
The mistaken attack on renewables enabled the principal reasons and parties responsible for the high price events to slip under the radar and largely avoid public scrutiny.
This briefing paper analyses the role the “gentailers” (generator-retailers, companies owning both power plants and retail businesses) played in the high wholesale price spikes in South Australia, the lack of competition, and the conditions which enabled these companies to exercise the full force of their market power. For background, see the Climate Council’s initial analysis in our report “Mythbusting: Electricity Prices in South Australia” (Climate Council 2016).