Australia Hits Huge 25GW Solar Milestone
14th February 2022: Australia hits huge 25GW solar milestone, but Government action needed to keep solar growing
Australia has reached a milestone 25GW of installed solar, according to the Australian PV Institute. Australia has more solar per capita than anywhere else in the world.
“Australia is the sunny country and we’ve been able to capitalise on that abundant solar energy to slash electricity costs and lower emissions,” said Ellen Roberts, Solar Citizens’ National Director.
“Solar homes and businesses are doing the heavy lifting to transition our energy system and we’ve reached this fantastic 25GW milestone.
“But now Governments need to step up to and ensure that rooftop solar can continue to grow and everyone is able to access the benefits of cheap clean energy.
“Governments are failing to keep up with incredible growth of solar, and we’re starting to see issues arise in the distribution network where the policy and technology isn’t keeping pace.
“We’re seeing these problems in states like Western Australia and South Australia where they’ve just introduced new powers to shut off solar systems when excess solar threatens grid stability.
“Instead of backwards measures like cutting off solar, we need to see governments proactively rolling out smarter solutions, like more batteries and dynamically managing solar exports.
“As we decarbonise our homes and switch to electric vehicles we need to be ready to make the most of all the cheap energy straight from the sun.
“Just today we’ve seen a new Bill introduced to Federal Parliament by Helen Haines to make home batteries more economical and to help electrify households.
“This could potentially save people up to $5,000 a year and further slash emissions at a household level, while making the most of our solar advantage. It’s a win-win but governments must step up to support this exciting solar future.”
Media contact: Ellen Roberts 0408 583 694
Queensland’s Renewable Hydrogen Potential a Jobs Bonanza
Turning Queensland into a renewable hydrogen superpower will create 30,000 solar and wind farm construction jobs and 1,800 ongoing jobs in renewable energy operations and maintenance by 2030, according to a new report from community group Solar Citizens.
The job figures come from an analysis of newly released Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) modelling showing the projected build-out of large-scale renewable projects if Australia becomes a significant exporter of hydrogen made with renewable energy.
A staggering 20,400 MW of new solar and wind farms are modelled to be built in Queensland’s Renewable Energy Zones by 2030 if Australia becomes a renewable hydrogen superpower. Currently there are approximately 4,500 MW large-scale renewable power plants operating or under construction across the State.
“Our analysis shows that tapping into the Sunshine State’s potential to become a renewable hydrogen powerhouse will create an additional 10,000 renewable construction jobs by 2030 compared to the trajectory we’re currently headed on,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens.
“But the jobs in renewable energy project construction and management are just the tip of the iceberg. If we tap into Queensland’s incredible solar and wind potential to create abundant cheap energy we’ll also be powering jobs in hydrogen production, minerals processing and manufacturing.”
This analysis comes as the Queensland government is developing their plans for three Renewable Energy Zones in Northern, Central and Southern Queensland. A Renewable Energy Zone is a location with good renewable energy resources that has been identified as a strategic location to build out grid infrastructure so new solar, wind and storage projects can connect to the grid.
“We recently commissioned polling showing 60 per cent of Queenslanders think the State’s grid should be powered entirely by renewable sources within the next 15 years, if not before,” said Ms Gray.
“But right now the Queensland government’s draft renewable plans fall well short of the clean energy ambition we’re seeing in New South Wales and Victoria. This is despite 62 per cent of Queenslanders agreeing the State’s Renewable Energy Zone plans should at least be in line with New South Wales’ and Victoria’s plans.
“Other States are racing to attract the investor attention for new renewable industries. Queensland will lose out if we don’t invest in enough renewable energy infrastructure.”
Queensland initially plans to unlock 3,300 MW of new transmission capacity in their REZs, while New South Wales has a goal of unlocking 12,000 MW of new renewable generation and 2,000 MW of storage by 2030, and Victoria is aiming for 10,000 MW.
Solar Citizens is calling for the Queensland government to ensure at least 2,000 MW of new renewable energy generation is added to each of Queensland’s three Renewable Energy Zone regions by 2025. An open letter supporting this recommendation has been signed by groups including the Australia Institute, Beyond Zero Emissions, and hydrogen proponent Edify Energy.
- Switching on Queensland's Hydrogen Potential report
- Open letter calling for greater REZ ambition from the Queensland government
North Well-placed to Lead Emerging Hydrogen Industry
17 January 2022: North Well-placed to Lead Emerging Hydrogen Industry
New research released from Steven Percy from the Victorian Hydrogen Hub demonstrates how exceptionally well-placed Northern Queensland is to lead Australia’s emerging renewable hydrogen industry.
The research finds that Northern Queensland is the cheapest location to produce hydrogen made from renewable energy because of the region’s world-class solar and wind resources.
“It’s pretty staggering that the federal government is still overlooking Townsville as a priority location for hydrogen hub funding when the evidence shows that the North is the cheapest place in the country to produce renewable hydrogen,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens.
The Federal Government has allocated $464 million to enable the rollout of hydrogen hubs across seven prospective regional sites, which include Bell Bay (TAS), Darwin (NT), Eyre Peninsula (SA), Gladstone (QLD), Latrobe Valley (VIC), Hunter Valley (NSW), and Pilbara (WA).
“There are already three major renewable hydrogen projects proposed for Townsville. Industry has recognised this region’s potential and now it’s time for the Morrison government to see it too.
“Queensland has been an exporter of energy for a long time and into the future we can continue to power the world by producing renewable hydrogen for export. Investing in new clean industries is how we create good, future-proof jobs for Queenslanders.
“But so far Queensland has largely missed out on federal funding for energy because, unlike States like New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania, an Energy and Emissions Reduction deal has not been announced for the Sunshine State.”
Release refers to the research presented in the Conversation.
Queensland Coal’s Dire Future Exposed
10 December 2021: Queensland Coal’s Dire Future Exposed
Modelling released today from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) shows a dire outlook for Queensland’s coal-fired power stations. In the most likely future scenario modelled, almost 70% of black coal power stations will retire by 2032.
This comes as new polling commissioned from Solar Citizens finds:
50% of Queenslanders think the Queensland government should develop a plan for the early closure of state owned coal-fired power stations, with 25% being unsure.
35% think Queensland’s grid should be powered entirely by solar, wind and storage in 10 years, and a further 25% think this should happen in the next 15 years.
62% think Queensland’s Renewable Energy Zone plans should be as ambitious as New South Wales and Victoria’s plans. NSW has a goal of unlocking 12 gigawatts of new renewable generation and 2 gigawatts of storage by 2030.
“The shift to a cleaner energy system is happening much faster than many people expected because cheap solar and wind plants are making coal uneconomical. The best thing that governments can do now is be upfront about that reality and plan for the early closure of coal-fired power stations,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens.
“Queensland is blessed with some of the world’s best solar resources, which can be turned into cheap and abundant energy to power renewable hydrogen production, and more local manufacturing and minerals mining.
“If we plan the transformation of our grid and economy well, regional Queenslanders can benefit from these opportunities and affected workers can be redeployed.
“The energy transition doesn’t mean that Queensland will stop being a global energy powerhouse. We’ll just be producing a different kind of energy.”
AEMO’s modelling also finds Australia will need to double how much electricity we produce by 2050 to power things like the uptake of electric vehicles and new hydrogen industries.
“Right now the Queensland government is developing their plans for rolling out Renewable Energy Zones, but their draft plans are much less ambitious compared to New South Wales and Victoria’s plans,” said Ms Gray.
“To replace retiring coal generators and to seize the exciting opportunities to kick-start new manufacturing and hydrogen industries, we need to be building a lot more renewable projects in the Sunshine State.”
Solar Citizens is calling for the Queensland government to ensure at least 2 GW of new renewable energy generation is added to each of Queensland’s three Renewable Energy Zone regions by 2025. AEMO estimates Queensland will require 47 GW of new renewable generation by 2050.
Polling done by Dynata with a 800-person representative sample size.
Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006
Townsville Hydrogen Cluster Announcement Just the First Step
3 December 2021: Townsville Hydrogen Cluster Announcement Just the First Step
Solar Citizens today welcomes the announcement that National Energy Resources Australia (NERA) has named Townsville a hydrogen cluster, but says federal funding is still required to get local proposed projects off the ground.
“It’s great that there’s now some recognition from a federal body that Townsville is an ideal place to set up a new renewable hydrogen industry. Now what we really need to see is the Federal government name Townsville as a priority for hydrogen hub funding,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens.
“The Morrison government has allocated $464 million for hydrogen grants and Townsville is still not seen as a priority location for that funding to be spent, which is mind-boggling given North Queensland’s impressive solar and wind resources.
“North Queensland is perfectly placed to benefit from the world’s shift to a cleaner economy because you’ve got sunshine 320 days a year, wind that blows in the evening and minerals deposits needed for battery storage technology.
“A new report from Deloitte yesterday showed that Queensland’s economy can grow by seven percent and employ a million more people as we transition to net zero if governments plan and manage the economic transformation well.
“If we want to tap into Townsville’s incredible potential to be a clean manufacturing powerhouse then we need all levels of government to be showing leadership in this space and providing adequate funding.”
Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006
Vanadium Plant Applauded as a Win for Townsville
23 November: Vanadium Plant Applauded as a Win for Townsville
The Queensland government’s commitment to build and own a new vanadium processing plant in Townsville has today been applauded by community group Solar Citizens.
“This is a smart investment by the Queensland government that is a step towards turning Townsville into a renewable industry hub,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens.
“North Queensland’s mineral deposits and natural renewable resources mean Townsville is perfectly placed to process minerals for clean technology and produce renewable hydrogen for export. Investing in these opportunities will create good, future-proof jobs for the region.
“It’s a shame that the Morrison government is not taking this potential as seriously. They are overlooking Townsville as one of the country’s planned hydrogen hubs and Queensland is still waiting for a slice of federal clean energy funding.
“The Federal government has provided significant clean energy funding to states like South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania, but Queensland is still waiting for an energy and emissions reduction funding deal.
“If we want to tap into Townsville’s incredible potential to be a clean manufacturing powerhouse then we need support from all levels of government.”
Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006
Coal States Record Highest Electricity Prices
22 November 2021: Coal States Record Highest Electricity Prices
The recently released Wholesale Markets Quarterly report from the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) shows the most coal dependent States in Australia’s National Electricity Market recorded the highest wholesale power prices over the last quarter.
Queensland had the highest prices at $90/MWh, followed by New South Wales at $88/MWh, Victoria at $64/MWh, South Australia at $63/MWh, and Tasmania at $27/MWh. Queensland has the lowest share of renewable electricity at around 20% whereas Tasmania is 100% renewable.
“This last quarter Queensland and New South Wales had high electricity prices due to high coal prices and outages at ageing coal-fired power stations,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens.
“States with more renewable energy generation have cheaper prices in part because solar and wind plants don’t need to pay fuel costs.
“This report also shows that Australia’s 3 million solar homes and businesses are doing their part to drive down electricity prices, with a record number of negative pricing events occurring in the middle of the day.”
Wholesale electricity prices can go negative when there’s low electricity demand and abundant solar energy available. In the third quarter of 2021 prices were negative 25% of the time in South Australian and 20% of the time in Victoria.
The AER report also shows a staggering 1,200 megawatts of new wind, battery and solar capacity entered the market in July, August and September.
“Australia’s coal-fired power stations are getting older and we’re seeing regular unplanned outages, which drives up the cost of electricity for consumers,” said Ms Gray.
“The good news is that coal dependent States like New South Wales and Victoria have visions to build out Renewable Energy Zones so that by 2030 the lion’s share of their electricity will come from clean and cheap renewables.
“Now we need the Queensland government to follow suit and plan for an ambitious renewable rollout so that consumers living in the Sunshine State aren’t paying top dollar for electricity.”
Solar Citizens is calling on the Queensland government to ensure at least 2,000MW of new renewable energy generation is added to each of Queensland’s three Renewable Energy Zone regions by 2025.
Last things first: WA Government rushing to cut off solar households
15 November 2021: Last things first: WA Government rushing to cut off solar households
The Western Australian Government wants to switch off rooftop solar systems as a ‘last resort’ measure for stabilising the grid, but has given no detail on other steps to be taken first, how much it would cost, how often it could happen, or how solar households could be affected.
The WA Government is seeking to fast-track a recommendation by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to give AEMO the power to cut off solar homes and businesses from exporting to the grid when abundant solar generation and low demand combine to make it hard for AEMO to manage any system issues. The change would apply to all new and upgraded solar systems sized 5KW or under, with systems over 5KW to face different rules yet to be announced by Western Power.
“WA has a great challenge. Many households and businesses are embracing solar but AEMO has not been prepared for this and is now seeking to control small household solar systems.” said Dr Gabrielle Kuiper, an adviser to the Smart Energy Council.
In July, the new AEMO CEO, Daniel Westerman announced a tiered approach to periods of extreme minimum system load, a protocol equivalent to the lack of reserve (LOR) notices used for the Reliability & Emergency Reserve Trader (RERT) scheme for periods of extreme peak demand.
Dr Kuiper said, “What is disappointing is that there is no sign of this new Minimum System Load protocol in WA, nor the new approach to collaboration and consultation with consumers that Mr Westerman also announced.
“AEMO and Western Power have not seemingly prioritised ‘first resort’ changes such as working with commercial and industrial users to increase loads or with large generators to decrease generation at low load times” said Dr Kuiper.
Last week, 127 members of community advocacy group Solar Citizens made submissions to the WA Government, calling for more investigation of alternatives to switching off solar to ensure it really is used as a last resort.
“The WA Government and AEMO want the go ahead to cut off people’s solar, but we need more transparency around when it could be used or what the financial impact could be for solar homes and businesses,” said Solar Citizens’ National Director Ellen Roberts.
“AEMO is right in saying that switching off solar should be a last resort, but they want to push ahead without a clear plan for what the first, second, or third resorts might be.
“Solar homes and businesses are doing much of the heavy lifting to transition our energy system and bring down emissions. Rushing to cut off solar could waste all of that abundant and cheap clean energy.
“We need to see a real plan from the WA Government to roll out smarter solutions first, like more community and household batteries, incentives for households and businesses to use more power during the day, electrification of gas hot water and appliances and dynamically managing solar exports.”
Ellen Roberts (National Director, Solar Citizens) 0408 583 694
Dr Gabrielle Kuiper: 0410 324 942
Queensland announces Renewable Energy Zone ambition
16 November: Queensland announces Renewable Energy Zone ambition
The Queensland government has announced they plan to unlock 3,300MW of new renewable energy generation in the initial stages of developing their three Renewable Energy Zone regions.
Southern Queensland is expected to host the lion’s share of new renewable energy projects with grid upgrades allowing 2,000MW of new renewable energy projects to connect locally. Central Queensland will receive investment to host another 800MW, while a 500MW upgrade has already been announced for Northern Queensland.
Across Australia the need for more grid infrastructure has been a major hurdle that has slowed investment in new renewable energy projects. A Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) is a region with good renewable energy resources where it is strategic to build or upgrade infrastructure so new solar, wind and storage projects can connect to the grid.
Community group Solar Citizens welcomes the announcement, but says the State government’s ambition is dwarfed by other states.
“Both New South Wales and Victoria have announced Renewable Energy Zone targets that will propel them towards becoming clean energy and hydrogen superpowers,” said Stephanie Gray, Energy Strategist at Solar Citizens.
“Victoria has a 10,000MW target while New South Wales is aiming to bring online 12,000MW of new renewable energy projects and 2,000MW of storage by 2030. Queensland’s plan to unlock 3,300MW looks measly in comparison.
“The Sunshine State has all the right ingredients to kick-start new industries in areas like renewable hydrogen production and battery manufacturing for electric vehicles. We’ve got critical mineral resources needed for clean technology, a skilled workforce and the possibility for abundant and cheap renewable energy.
“But unless we at least match the ambition of other Australian states, we risk investors taking their funding elsewhere.
“We’re calling on the Queensland government to ensure at least 2,000MW of new renewable energy generation is added to each of Queensland’s three RenewableEnergy Zone regions by 2025 so the State doesn’t miss out on new clean energy industries.”
Last year the Queensland government announced $145 million to establish three Renewable Energy Zones. So far they have allocated $62 million of this to underpin a transmission upgrade in Far North Queensland and undertake a business case analysis of the Borumba pumped hydro project.
Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006
Queensland Falls Behind NSW, Vic in REZ Rollout
1 November 2021: Queensland Falls Behind NSW, Vic in REZ Rollout
Queensland is estimated to fall short of its 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 target with new Australian government projections showing the Sunshine State is only on track to reach 43 per cent. This puts other Australian states well ahead of Queensland with New South Wales estimated to reach 84 per cent by 2030, Victoria 61 per cent, and South Australia 96 per cent.
This comes as a new report by community group Solar Citizens says that the Queensland government is falling behind other States in the Renewable Energy Zone rollout and can do a lot more to set the stage for hosting the world’s first climate positive Olympics.
“We did a deep dive looking at Queensland’s progress on emissions reduction and the rollout of clean energy and found the Sunshine State gets a bronze medal where we really should be going for gold before the 2032 Olympics,” said Stephanie Gray, Solar Citizens’ Energy Strategist.
“The Queensland government and state-owned energy companies have announced a series of exciting commitments lately that will see a number of new large-scale renewable energy projects come online, but after years of dragging their feet there’s much more to do to even reach our existing emission reduction and clean energy targets.
“Hosting a climate positive Olympics means we have to drastically overhaul our energy and transport sectors over the next 11 years. The 2012 London Olympics produced as much carbon pollution as running a whole coal-fired power station for a year.”
Solar Citizens notes that Queensland is behind New South Wales and Victoria in the rollout of Renewable Energy Zones, with both southern states having set targets for unlocking a substantial amount of new renewable energy and storage projects. Victoria has a 10,000MW target while New South Wales is aiming to bring online 12,000MW of new renewable energy projects and 2,000MW of storage by 2030. Queensland has no target.
“Announcing three Renewable Energy Zones is a hollow commitment without a target for how much renewable energy we’re going to unlock with new infrastructure,” said Ms Gray.
“Over the last few years we’ve seen investment in large-scale renewables go from boom to bust in Queensland because there’s a pressing need for new infrastructure and energy policy certainty.
“We would like to see the Queensland government ensure that at least 2,000MW of new renewable energy is added to each of Queensland’s Renewable Energy Zones by 2025 on top of the projects already under construction. This will set us on the right track to meet new manufacturing and transport demand with affordable and clean energy.”
Other key findings of the report include:
Queensland currently has 37 large-scale solar and wind farms operating across the state, with a further eight large-scale renewable projects under construction. The projects currently under construction are powering 6,300 jobs and represent a substantial 1,757MW of new generation capacity for Queensland. A further four projects are likely to proceed to construction in the coming years.
As of 2019, Queensland’s emissions were approximately 14% lower than 2005 levels. There’s still a long way to go to reach the existing 30% by 2030 target and then go beyond that for the 2032 climate positive Olympics.
Queensland now has over 800,000 solar homes and businesses and 4,125MW of installed rooftop solar capacity across the state. According to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) this could rise up to 11,100MW over the next 10 years; growth that Solar Citizens says will create 4,050 ongoing installation jobs.
Full report available here.
Media contact: Stephanie Gray 0425543006