The Clean Energy Regulator has approved enough capacity to guarantee that the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target of 33,000GWh of additional renewable energy will be met in 2020.

“It is now certain Australia will generate enough renewable energy to meet the 2020 Large-scale Renewable Energy Target,” Clean Energy Regulator chair David Parker said.

The regulator stated that 6.4GW of large-scale renewable capacity had to be built between 2017 and 2019 to generate sufficient electricity to meet the target.

On August 30 this milestone was met ahead of schedule with the approval of four large wind and solar power stations, with a combined capacity of 406MW.

“This achievement represents the hard work of a growing and dynamic renewables industry,” Parker said.

The approval of the 148.5MW Cattle Hill Wind Farm, owned by Goldwind and partners, saw the milestone surpassed. The Cattle Hill Wind Farm is built on the hills above Waddamana Power Station, Tasmania’s first hydro scheme that was opened in 1916.

While the capacity target has been achieved, the Large-scale Renewable Energy Target will continue to provide a framework for ongoing renewable energy investment.

“Coincidentally, we are tracking another 6,410MW of renewable energy to be built over the coming years,” Parker said.

“While future investment faces a number of constraints, this is by no means the end of renewable energy investment in Australia, with markets continuing to innovate and adapt to opportunities and challenges.”

A tick for clear policy

Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton said meeting the target had been a massive effort for the clean energy industry for close to two decades, which had transformed renewable energy from one of the most expensive kinds of energy generation to the cheapest.

“It shows what is possible when our major political parties agree to put aside their differences and work together to achieve a shared, ambitious goal,” Thornton said.

“The RET is the most successful emissions reduction policy of all time for Australia’s electricity system. At a time when people are becoming increasingly concerned about climate change, the RET has been one of the bright spots which is making our electricity system cleaner, cheaper and more reliable.”

The policy was a world first when introduced by the Howard Government in 2001, Thornton said. It was expanded under Kevin Rudd in 2009.

“The RET has delivered dozens of wind and solar farms this decade, along with tens of thousands of jobs for people in regional parts of the country and tens of billions of dollars in project investment which has created many new opportunities in the Australian economy,” Thornton said.

The question should now turn to what comes next.

“The industry doesn’t need new subsidies, we just need certainty – renewable energy can continue to create opportunities for regional parts of the country for many decades with the right policies in place.

“We’ve always said that if you set us a target, we will beat it. We’ve hit the bullseye with a year to go, and it’s time to start asking ourselves what comes next.”