Although 2020 is looking to be a tough year for the renewable energy sector, no thanks to the global covid-19 pandemic, the Clean Energy Council’s annual round-up of data for the industry has shown that 2019 was a standout, with 4.4GW of new renewable energy capacity installed and almost a quarter of Australia’s electricity supply now coming from clean energy sources.

Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton said 2019 saw 2.2GW of new large-scale renewable generation capacity added to the grid and the rooftop solar industry experiencing its third-straight record-breaking year, culminating in Australia achieving the Renewable Energy Target more than a year ahead of schedule.

“A record 2019 saw Australia take a major step towards a clean energy future, with 4.4GW of renewable energy capacity installed, which is the equivalent to more than two times the capacity of the Liddell Power Station installed in just a single year,” Thornton said.

“Last year saw the construction of 34 new large-scale renewable energy projects, adding 2.2GW of clean energy to the grid. This represents around $4.3 billion in investment and the creation of more than 4,000 jobs. Alongside this, we saw the rooftop solar industry adding a further 2.2GW of new capacity with the highest number of new systems installed since the solar boom of 2012.”

Renewable energy is now responsible for almost a quarter of Australia’s total electricity generation, he said.

The achievements of 2019 were even more impressive considering the significant challenges facing the industry. After more than a decade of growth, 2019 saw a 50% downturn in new large-scale renewable energy investment commitments – with grid congestion, erratic transmission loss factors and system strength issues creating barriers for project developers and impacting investor confidence.

“Our ageing coal-fired power stations are becoming increasingly unreliable, with many due to retire in the next 15 years,” Thornton said. “We have now reached a critical point where we must continue to grow our renewable energy capacity and accelerate work to upgrade our outdated grid infrastructure so that we can successfully transition to a modern, clean energy system.”

Highlights from the report

  • Renewable energy sources are now responsible for 24% of Australia’s total electricity generation.
  • 2019 was a record year for rooftop solar, with 2.2GW of new capacity installed.
  • In 2019, more than 2.2GW of new large-scale renewable generation capacity was added to the grid across 34 projects.
  • Large-scale solar accounted for almost two-thirds of new large-scale renewable generation, with 1,416MW of new capacity added across 27 solar projects.
  • The wind sector had its best year in 2019, with 837MW of new capacity installed across eight new wind farms.
  • 2019 was also a huge year for the emerging renewable hydrogen industry, with $370 million in funding allocated under the National Hydrogen Strategy and the states delivering their hydrogen strategies and projects.
  • The energy storage sector is also starting to gain momentum, with the more than 22,000 small-scale batteries installed in 2019, taking Australia’s household storage capacity past 1GWh.

The full 2020 Clean Energy Australia Report can be downloaded from the Clean Energy Council website.