New data in the latest Quarterly Carbon Market Report (Quarter 2 2020), published by the Clean Energy Regulator, shows accelerated growth in rooftop solar and an increase in project registrations in the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).

Investment in small-scale and large-scale renewables has exceeded expectations and provided support to the Australian economy, said Clean Energy Regulator chair David Parker.

“Rooftop solar PV installations are likely to exceed the previous estimate of 2.7GW for 2020 and reach 2.9GW,” Parker said. Last year’s record was just under 2.2GW. 

“The strong growth in rooftop solar PV over the first six months of the year is estimated to have added 2,800 jobs at a time when employment in other sectors has contracted [by the effects of the covid-19 pandemic].”

The CER accredited more than 2GW capacity of large-scale renewable projects during the first half of 2020 and is expecting to reach 3.4GW for the calendar year.

About 6.3GW of total renewable energy capacity is expected to be delivered in 2020, matching the record set in 2019.

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New analysis from The Australian National University shows Australia is leading the world in the rollout of solar energy on a per capita basis.

The 18GW of new solar and wind generation built over 2018-20 will generate twice as much electricity as gas power stations currently generate in the National Electricity Market, said the paper’s co-author Professor Andrew Blakers.

“However, while it’s good news, we urgently need more investment to remove bottlenecks in deployment of further renewables,” Blakers said.

“An effective way to do this is to upgrade transmission lines from rural Renewable Energy Zones, such as those recently announced in NSW and Queensland, to our cities.

“While governments have been slow to act on transmission, if the federal and state governments make determined efforts to rapidly resolve these bottlenecks, we can get ahead of the solar and wind construction curve instead of lagging behind it.”

Boosting renewable energy deployment has resulted in lower wholesale electricity prices and lower greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector, according to co-author and ANU Energy Change Institute Director Professor Ken Baldwin. 

For example, South Australia has more than half (53%) of its electricity supplied by solar and wind, compared with 14% in Queensland.   

Average wholesale electricity prices in South Australia have been similar to Queensland’s and lower than in NSW and Victoria, which have fewer supplies of renewables.

Baldwin says the Clean Energy Regulator’s latest data shows the pipeline of new wind and solar farm projects remains strong until at least 2022.  

“On the one hand, deployment is being affected by lower prices for wholesale electricity, the impending attainment of the Renewable Energy Target, and curtailment of output due to transmission bottlenecks,” he said. 

“On the other hand, there are continually falling costs, deployment of solar and wind at mining projects, solar on commercial building rooftops, large-scale voluntary purchases of clean electricity and future retirement of coal power stations.”