Wind and solar power picked up the slack as Australia’s hydro power plants produced lower-than-average output last year, according to the Clean Energy Australia Report 2015.

“Even though hydro power was down, largely as a result of the historically low rainfall in Tasmania, the proportion of Australia’s electricity provided by renewable energy increased in 2015 due to a good boost from wind and solar power,” said Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton.

“Renewables delivered 14.6 per cent of our electricity, enough to light up the equivalent of approximately 6.7 million average homes.”

Eight major solar farms and five new wind farms became operational in 2015, he said, and two of Australia’s three largest solar power plants at Nyngan and Broken Hill.

“The industry is just under halfway towards meeting the 2020 RET. We will need a lot more projects to move forward during the rest of this year to meet the national 2020 Renewable Energy Target (RET), a $40 billion economic opportunity that has the potential to create more than 15,200 jobs.”

There are more than enough projects either under construction or with development approvals to meet the target, he said.

The Clean Energy Australia Report 2015 includes a comprehensive round-up of renewable energy projects, investment, employment and electricity generation.

The main findings from the report are:

  • Renewable energy provided 14.6% of Australia’s electricity in 2015, enough to provide power for about 6.7 million average homes – or 13.5% more electricity than the year before.
  • Wind and solar generation each increased by just over 20% to more than compensate for a drop in hydro power due to low rainfall.
  • The continued reduction of state feed-in tariff levels led to lower but more sustainable sales of rooftop solar power in 2015. Rooftop solar power passed 5GW of capacity in early 2016, enough to power all the homes in Brisbane and Perth.
  • Five new wind farms were completed in 2015, along with eight solar farms larger than 1MW of capacity. Two of the three largest solar plants in the country, at Nyngan (AGL/First Solar) and Broken Hill (AGL/First Solar) became operational during 2015.
  • Australia’s top 10 solar suburbs (in order) are: Bundaberg (QLD), Mandurah (WA), Hervey Bay (QLD), Caloundra (QLD), Toowoomba (QLD), Ipswich (QLD), Nerang (QLD), Wanneroo (WA), Mackay (QLD) and Beenleigh (QLD).
  • More than 8000MW of wind power and 2500MW of solar power projects are either under construction or have planning approval. This is more than enough to meet the 2020 RET.