The Clean Energy Council has today released a report showing 2021 was a bumper year for renewables and emissions reduction in Australia, writes Gavin Dennett.

The “2022 Clean Energy Australia Report” shows Australia’s renewable energy industry continued its record-breaking run in 2021, with renewable energy now accounting for 32.5 per cent of Australia’s electricity – a figure that has almost doubled since 2017, when renewable energy accounted for 16.9 per cent of generation.

Renewables now generate enough energy to power Australian households 1.6 times over.

“2021 was another record year for clean energy in Australia, with almost 3GW of new large-scale renewable energy projects completed,” says Clean Energy Council chief executive Kane Thornton.

“The rooftop solar sector also had its fifth straight record-breaking year, installing almost 400,000 new systems.”

The Clean Energy Council also reported that the number of accredited solar installers in Australia passed 8000 for the first time in 2021, increasing by 12.5 per cent to 8682.

“This equates to more than 6.3GW of new capacity installed during the year, giving Australia confidence that [green energy] can deliver the new clean energy supply necessary to support the accelerated closure of coal generation, and achieve more ambitious climate-change goals,” says Thornton.

“2021 was also a breakthrough year for big batteries, with 30 large-scale batteries under construction at the end of 2021, with a combined capacity and storage duration of 921MW and 1169MWh. Energy investors are clearly confident about the important role and commercial viability of big batteries to deliver the reliable power of the future.”

Other highlights from the “2022 Clean Energy Australia Report” include 2995GW of new large-scale renewable-generation capacity completed construction added to the grid across 27 projects in 2021. This is an increase of 50 per cent compared to 2020, when 1990MW of new large-scale capacity was added.

Additionally, 1.7GW of new wind capacity was added throughout the year, making 2021 the wind sector’s third consecutive record-breaking year for annual installed capacity. Hydropower generation also increased by 10.2 per cent in 2021 compared to the previous year, resulting in hydro’s contribution to Australia’s total electricity generation increasing to 7 per cent in 2021, up from 6.4 per cent in 2020.

This will increase further in coming years as the two major hydro projects currently under construction in Australia – Snowy 2.0 and the Kidston Pumped Storage Hydro Project – are completed.

Corporate renewable power purchase agreements (PPAs) had a strong year in 2021, with 18 corporate renewable PPAs announced, directly contracting around 800MW.

However, Thornton notes a significant slowdown in the pipeline for new large-sale renewable energy projects, with the level of financial commitments for them falling by more than 17 per cent, from $4.5 billion across 28 projects in 2020, to $3.7 billion across 20 projects in 2021.

“This significant reduction is due to continued policy uncertainty combined with the challenges associated with connecting renewable energy projects to the grid,” he says.

“While investors are enthusiastic about investing in new large-scale renewable energy projects, these challenges have increased risks and slowed down the number of new projects coming forward.

“The slowdown is concerning in light of expectations that coal-fired power plants will continue to close earlier than previously anticipated.”