Australian renewables boom despite policy uncertainty

The Clean Energy Council reveals new figures that show record levels of investment in the renewable energy sector but cautions that clearer policy is needed.

Australia’s renewables industry experienced a record year for investment and construction in 2018, according to the Clean Energy Council.

The latest figures from the CEC, the peak industry body for the clean energy industry in Australia, show that 14.6GW of new renewable energy projects are under construction, with more than 80 wind and solar farms either under construction or about to begin construction.

The total value of projects under way is double that at the end of 2017, with the total value of projects completed or under way in 2018 standing at A$26 billion ($18.7 billion; €16.5 billion). Wind and solar projects make up A$6 billion of that.

The east coast states posted the most activity, with Queensland securing A$6.9 billion of investment in projects producing 5,638MW.

Victoria attracted A$5.2 billion of investment on projects producing 3,378MW, while New South Wales drew A$4.3 billion of investment on projects producing 3,485MW.

There were 27 projects either under construction or due to start soon in Queensland, with 23 in NSW, 19 in Victoria, and nine in South Australia.

CEC chief executive Kane Thornton said state energy policies combined with incentives provided by the federal government’s Renewable Energy Target had contributed to the positive figures. But he cautioned that ongoing energy policy uncertainty could yet derail the sector’s progress.

“While new investment no longer requires subsidy, it does require long-term energy policy certainty. As the year closes, we are no closer to national, bipartisan energy and climate policy. If anything, we are further away than when we started,” he said.

“States and territories have stepped in to fill the void with their own initiatives to encourage jobs and investment in new clean energy. But there remains a clear vacuum of federal energy policy in Australia.”

The vacuum Thornton referred to was created when former prime minister Malcom Turnbull, caving in to pressure from right-wing members of his own party, dumped the National Energy Guarantee, which he had promoted as his flagship energy policy. A few days later, in August, he was removed from office by his party.

Since then, the federal government, now led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, revived the reliability component of the NEG without any emissions reduction element, while the Labor opposition has pledged to revive the NEG as a whole should it win a general election in 2019.