The Australian Labor Party unveiled its ambitious renewable energy goals that outdo the current government’s projections. The Smart Energy Council speaks highly of the ALPs plan to achieve 82% renewables share in the National Electricity Market by 2030. But this summer, there’s a risk of power outage despite renewables bolstering the grid with up to 5.5 gigawatts of energy capacity. As solar manufacturing prices lower, solar prices are expected to go down.
Australia has lofty renewable energy goals. So it is important to check up on how the nation is going towards achieving these goals. This update is a gist of the recent happenings in Australia’s solar industry.
You should be interested:
- If you care enough about the planet that you’ll want to reduce carbon from your power usage
- If you care about saving money on electricity consumption
- If you’ll want to keep track of the activities of participants in the renewable energy industry
This post covers all that’s going on with solar and renewables in Australia this week.
Australia’s Labor Party unveils its 82% renewables goal for 2030
With the federal elections drawing closer, the Australia Labor Party sees renewable energy penetration as the way to cut Australia’s emissions by 43% by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
This week, the party launched a new emissions policy titled “Powering Australia.” The policy aims to boost the share of renewable energy in the National Electricity Market up to 82% – a 14% improvement over the 68% projections of the current government.
According to the party, the plan will drive a public investment of about AUD 24 billion towards a total investment of about AUD75 billion. Over 80% of the public investment (AUD 20 billion) will modernise the grid while unlocking Private co-financing of about AUD 58 billion.
The policy commitments also include allocating up to AUD 3 billion from the National Reconstruction Fund towards clean energy and green technologies objectives. The funds will construct 400 community energy storage batteries and install 85 shared solar banks to boost rooftop solar panels.
Also, the government aims to reach 3.8 million electric vehicles (EVs) in use by 2030. The policy will provide electric vehicle discounts and invest in EV charging infrastructures to achieve this.
The Smart Energy Council is entirely in favour of ALP’s Powering Australia plan
The Chief Executive of Smart Energy Council waxed lyrical about “Powering Australia” “as a plan for modernising the economy, creating jobs, industries and business opportunities” and that “it is the foundation stone for establishing Australia as a renewable energy superpower.”
The SEC Chief Executive concludes that Powering Australia is “the right policy at the right time.”
The risk of summer power outages is real despite renewables boosting grid
Households added 2.6 gigawatts of energy capacity to the grid, while solar and wind farms added 2.2 gigawatts (GW).
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) affirmed that adding up to 5.5GW of renewable energy to the main grid will improve its resilience in the summer months to overcome the reduction in power production from fossil fuel plants.
First, the gas-fired Mintaro Power Station in South Australia is no longer available. Secondly, production has been reduced in the Callide C Power Station unit 4 in Queensland.
The explosion that rocked the coal-fired Callide C Power Station on the 25th of May caused one of Queensland’s worst power outages. Over 477,000 customers lost power, including households and businesses, traffic lights, and sewage treatment plants.
However, the damage negatively impacts future supply. The power station’s unit 4 needs to be rebuilt, so it will not generate electricity for at least 12 months.
Thus, going into this summer, there is significantly less coal-fired capacity than last summer.
In other news, AEMO employees have voted to engage in strike action for the first time. The Guardian reports that there will be work stoppages and that employees will take all allocated meal breaks and refuse to work overtime or on-call.
Given that the summer months are usually AEMO’s highest pressure period, this news of a looming AEMO workers’ strike brings with it fears of supply disruption. Nonetheless, AEMO is adamant that the looming strike will not disrupt electricity or gas supply.
Solar prices are falling
It is no longer news that the Australian government plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Net-zero emission means that the amount of carbon dioxide the nation takes out of the atmosphere is the same as the amount it emits.
One of the plans to achieve the 2050 Net Zero Emission is to deliver ultra-low-cost solar power below $15 per megawatt-hour. To put this in context, the price for solar in NSW in 2021-22 is about $40 – $50 per megawatt-hour.
The price of solar has consistently reduced faster than expected. In just 10 years, the cost of solar has dropped by 90%, and it is expected to keep dropping.
The reasons for the consistent drop include:
- The cost of capital has gone down, so more investors are raising funds to build solar farms
- Manufacturing processes are becoming cheaper by the day as more people embrace solar and push businesses to be more efficient.
- The efficiency of solar panels. With the improvement in solar technology, the efficiency with which modules convert sunlight to electricity has improved.
Solar impacts electricity prices. The reduction in the price of solar translates to a reduction in bills over time. With national plans to make the cost of solar go ultra-low, Aussies can look at a future where they pay nothing for mains power.
We already have a glimpse of this future. On November 27, renewables accounted for 135% of total demand in South Australia. This resulted in electricity prices falling to minus $35.95 per megawatt-hour.
1,000-megawatt offshore wind farm to power Portland smelter
Alinta Energy proposes building a 1,000-megawatt wind farm to power the Portland aluminium smelter. It is called the Spinifex offshore wind project that will be off the coast of Portland. When completed, it will power the smelter with up to 100% renewable energy, making it one of the first Australia’s smelters to be powered by up to 100% renewables.
This news comes at a good time because aluminium smelters in and outside Australia face serious calls to lower emissions.
For this reason, other smelters in Australia are also looking to switch to a 100% renewable energy supply before the decade ends. These include major smelters at Tomago in NSW and Boyne Island in Queensland.
World’s largest renewable energy retailer to join Australian market
The Australian Energy Regulator issued Italy’s Enel Group a retail energy license this week to allow the company to enter the national energy market.
The Enel Group operates more than 51 gigawatts of renewable capacity worldwide and has more than 70 million retail customers in markets across Europe and North and South America. This makes it the world’s largest renewable energy retailer.
The Enel Group is already operating in Australia via its subsidiary Enel Green Power. It has 3 solar farms, including the biggest solar farm in South Australia. These farms have 309 megawatts installed capacity.
The Enel Group plans to take advantage of the existing operations and quickly expand to selling power to households and businesses. To achieve this, the company will bring together the renewable generation assets of Enel Green Power and the technology platforms of Enel X (another subsidiary). These platforms include a virtual power plant, battery energy storage systems, and electric vehicle charging solutions.
The offering of Enel Group will benefit customers from two fronts. First, subscribing to renewable energy will help customers decarbonise their energy usage and bring clean energy into their homes. Secondly, customers can earn money from their solar power systems via the virtual power plant.
The Labor Party highlighted the week as they unveiled their ambitious plans to outdo the current government with an 82% boost of renewables share in the National Electricity Market generation.
Their Powering Australia plan shows that Australia can achieve a 43% reduction in emissions by 2030. The Smart Energy Council Chief Executive praised this plan as “the right policy at the right time.”.
In other news, there is a risk of summer power outage despite renewables boosting grid with up to 5.5 gigawatts of energy capacity. But AEMO is optimistic that the grid will be resilient, even with the looming strike action.
Best of all, solar prices are projected to keep falling as manufacturing prices go down. Finally, Alinta Energy plans to build a 1,000-megawatt offshore wind farm to power Portland smelter while the world’s largest renewable energy retailer joins Australia’s retail market.
To know more about the industry, check out our previous solar updates.
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