Australia’s renewable energy and carbon markets reached new heights in 2021, with almost one-third of energy generated coming from renewables. The Federal Government’s Clean Energy Regulator has released its December 2021 Quarterly Carbon Market Report (QCMR) which shows the record-breaking gains, writes Gavin Dennett.

The report includes data for all of 2021, and it highlights Australia’s growing investment in renewable energy, and increasing demand for high-integrity Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCU).

Combined, the Renewable Energy Target and Emissions Reduction Fund schemes cut national emissions by the equivalent of 58 million tonnes in 2021, a 9.1 per cent gain from 2020.

This figure is expected to grow to 62.8 million tonnes of emissions reduction in 2022.

The Clean Energy Regulator report also shows that renewable energy is on the rise, with a record 36 per cent of all electricity fed into the National Electricity Market (NEM) in the fourth quarter of 2021 coming from renewable energy sources.

It was also the fifth consecutive year of record-breaking rooftop solar PV installations in Australia, with 3.2 GW of capacity installed.

“Across the year, our large-scale and small-scale renewable energy schemes delivered an average of nearly one-third of all electricity in the NEM,” said Clean Energy Regulator chair David Parker.

“Rooftop solar PV led the way for renewable energy with a record 3.2GW installed in 2021, despite extensive lockdowns [due to COVID-19] and reduced installations in two of Australia’s biggest markets of NSW and Victoria.

“Australia’s uptake of rooftop solar PV at more than three million systems – and more than 16GW of capacity – is world leading, with one-in-three suitable homes now having rooftop solar.”

Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said Australia sets the global benchmark when it comes to rooftop solar uptake.

“Australia now has more solar generation capacity per person than any country in the world, and more wind and solar than any country outside of Europe,” he said.

Australia’s investment in renewables is also making big strides.

“We saw almost 3GW of new large-scale renewable energy projects receive the investment green light this year, including Australia’s largest wind farm, MacIntyre Wind Farm in Queensland,” said Parker.

“This continues an upward trend that started in 2019 and promises strong growth in the renewable energy industry in coming years.”

It was also a significant year for the ACCU market. There was strong growth in new ACCU issuances under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) in 2021, up one million units from 2020, and there were record voluntary cancellations of nearly one million units.

“Last year saw another record for the Emissions Reduction Fund, with 17 million Australian Carbon Credit Units issued, representing 17 million tonnes of carbon emissions stored or avoided,” said Minister Taylor.

A record 198 new ERF projects were registered and an additional seven new or updated ERF methods offered in 2021, which will help bolster future supply of ACCU to the market and meet increasing demand for voluntary offsets.

Parker said the evolution of ERF fixed delivery contracts to allow holders to exit in six-month windows upon the payment of a fee will also assist with ACCU supply in coming years to better meet substantial growth in private demand.

“I am pleased that 25 major Australian companies have volunteered to participate in a pilot of the new Corporate Emissions Reduction Transparency report where their net emissions and cancellation of ACCU and certificates will be presented,” he said.

“The companies represent almost 26 per cent of scope 1 emissions reported to the Clean Energy Regulator.”