Australia as renewable energy laboratory writ large
In many ways, 2017 has become somewhat of a watershed year for the Australian renewables market, with utilities, businesses and households all adopting renewables while political debate about climate mitigation and renewable energy policy has raged. On the distributed generation front, there has never been more renewable development Down Under. A report from Green Energy Markets states that Australia will reach its renewable energy target already before 2020.
A recent example is the 112.7m installed wind tower off Montagu with Tasmania’s North-West to become Australia’s wind farm capital and the nation’s biggest renewable energy park. November also saw Australia install more rooftop solar systems, smaller than 100kW, than ever before. This trend looks set to continue if not accelerate in 2018. Distributed storage is also taking off, despite the economics of adding battery storage to rooftop PV still questionable – according to some analysis. The number of residential battery storage units is look to hit between 20,000 to 30,000 systems in 2017, with genuine excitement about storage being reported by installers and equipment suppliers alike. Businesses too, many of which faced record hikes in electricity tariffs mid-year, are installing PV+storage systems, in an attempt to reduce their reliance on the utilities.
A multi-GW pipeline of large scale solar and wind development is taking shape, with the economics of both looking extremely attractive, when compared to an aging coal fleet and with natural gas prices in Australia remaining high.
Looking to policy, the Federal Government has done little to encourage renewable investment and has walked away from calls for legislating renewable targets beyond 2020. However, various state governments have stepped into the fold and have launched various programs to attract wind and solar development to their states.
With so much development taking place, the integration of ever-growing amounts of renewables is coming into focus. A range of initiatives, some sponsored by agencies such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation, who has formally announced a $20 million funding , are looking at pairing large scale wind and solar, and integrating both distributed and utility scale electrical storage systems into national grids.
Tesla supplied to Neoen the world’s largest grid level storage, 100MW/129MWh in under 100 days, with the system being switched on as 2017 drew to a close. P2P energy is gaining momentum, with Australian startup PowerLedger pioneering a blockchain enabled trading platform. And in a such vast country, off or edge-of-grid microgrids are also pioneering new ways to deliver cheaper and clean energy to Outback and regional communities.