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Renewable energy in Australia

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Title: Renewable energy in Australia  
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Subject: Solar power in Australia, Solar Cities in Australia, Wave power in Australia, Solar thermal energy in Australia, Photovoltaic engineering in Australia
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Renewable energy in Australia

Australian renewable power plants
Percentage of electricity generation from renewables by energy source (2010)

Interest in and production of renewable energy in Australia has undergone substantial growth since 2006. It is estimated that Australia produced 29,678 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of [1]

Increases in solar and wind generation more than offset a decline in the contribution of hydroelectricity between 2011 and 2012. Of all renewable electrical energy sources in 2012, hydroelectricity represents 57.8%, wind 26%, bioenergy 8.1%, solar PV 8%, large-scale solar 0.147%, geothermal 0.002% and marine 0.001%; additionally, solar hot water heating is estimated to replace a further 2,422 GWh of electrical generation.[2] This compares to 2011 figures where hydroelectricity represented 67.2%, wind 21.9%,[3] bioenergy 8.5%. solar PV 2.3%, solar thermal 0.015%, wave and tidal 0.003% and geothermal 0.002%.[4] Additionally, solar water heating units have been calculated to have offset the equivalent of 2115 GWh of electricity per year, which represents around 7.2% of total renewable energy production.

Similar to many other countries, development of renewable energy in Australia has been encouraged by government policy implemented in response to concerns about climate change, energy independence and economic stimulus.[5] A key policy that has been in place since 2001 to encourage large-scale renewable energy development is a mandatory renewable energy target, which in 2010 was increased to 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable generation from power stations. Alongside this there is the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, an uncapped scheme to support rooftop solar power and solar hot water[6] and several State schemes providing feed-in tariffs to encourage photovoltaics. In 2012, these policies have been supplemented by a carbon price and a 10 billion-dollar fund to finance renewable energy projects.[7]

Survey results suggest that there is considerable public support for the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Australia.[8]

It has been suggested that with sufficient public and private sector investment and government policy certainty, Australia could switch entirely to renewable energy within a decade by building additional large-scale solar and wind power developments, upgrading to transmission infrastructure and introduction of appropriate energy efficiency measures.[5][9]


  • Renewable energy sources and initiatives 1
    • Hydro power 1.1
    • Wind power 1.2
    • Solar 1.3
      • Solar photovoltaics 1.3.1
        • Mildura Solar concentrator power station
        • Technology development
      • Solar thermal energy 1.3.2
        • Solar water heating
        • Solar thermal power
      • Solar Cities 1.3.3
    • Geothermal energy 1.4
    • Wave power 1.5
    • Biofuels 1.6
    • Biomass 1.7
  • Major renewable energy companies 2
    • BP Solar 2.1
    • Edwards 2.2
    • Origin Energy 2.3
    • Pacific Hydro 2.4
    • Snowy Hydro Limited 2.5
    • Solahart 2.6
    • Solar Systems 2.7
    • Wind Prospect 2.8
  • Government policy 3
    • Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) schemes 3.1
    • Renewable Energy Certificates Registry 3.2
    • Carbon pricing 3.3
    • Clean Energy Finance Corporation 3.4
    • Feed-in tariffs 3.5
    • Debate over fossil fuel subsidies 3.6
    • Politics of global warming 3.7
    • Politics of wind power 3.8
  • Public opinion and action 4
  • Future prospects 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Renewable energy sources and initiatives

Hydro power

The Snowy Mountains Scheme constructed between 1949 and 1974 consists of sixteen major dams and seven major power stations, and has a total generating capacity of 3,800 MW. The scheme generates in average 4,500 GWh electricity per year.[10]

Hydro Tasmania operates thirty power stations and fifty dams, and has a total generating capacity of 2,600 MW. Each year an average of 9,000 GWh of hydro-electricity is generated by the company.[11]

In 2007–08 hydro-electricity represented 15% of renewable energy production in Australia.[12]

Wind power

Windy Hill Wind Farm, Atherton Tablelands, Queensland

As of October 2010, around 22.9% of Australia's renewable electricity, and 2% of Australia's total electricity, was sourced from wind power,[13] enough electricity to power more than 700,000 homes.[14] This came from 52 operating wind farms containing a total of 1,052 turbines producing approximately 5,000 GWh of electricity per year. This figure represented approximately a 30% increase in wind power generation each year over the previous decade, or a total increase of more than 1,000% over that time. The total installed capacity as of October 2010 was 1,880 MW (including only projects over 100 kW), with a further 1,043 MW under construction.[14]

Wind power in South Australia is a fast-growing industry as the state of South Australia is well suited for wind farms. Consequently, more wind power is generated in South Australia than any other Australian state or territory; as of October 2010 South Australia had an installed capacity of 907 MW from 435 turbines accounting for close to 20% of that state's electricity needs, considerably ahead of Victoria with 428 MW from 267 turbines, and Western Australia with 202 MW from 142 turbines.[14] By the end of 2011 wind power in South Australia, championed by Premier Mike Rann, had risen to 26% of the state's electricity generation, edging out coal fired power for the first time. With only 7.2% of Australia's population South Australia had 54% of the nation's installed wind power capacity.[15] Adelaide's $A2.2 billion desalination plant, capable of providing 50% of the city's water needs, is totally powered by renewable energy.

The Waubra Wind Farm near Ballarat, Victoria, completed in 2009, was the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere,[12] consisting of 128 turbines spread over 173 km2[14] and rated at 192 MW, however in terms of generating capacity Lake Bonney Wind Farm near Millicent, South Australia was the largest with 239.5 MW, despite only having 99 turbines. These figures were set to be surpassed by the Macarthur Wind Farm at Macarthur, Victoria, scheduled to open in 2013 with a capacity of 420 MW.[14]


Solar photovoltaics

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology generates electricity from sunlight, and it can be used in grid-connected and off-grid applications.

The issue for the Australian photovoltaics industry today is that there is enormous market potential, built up through a natural competitiveness in Australian research and development, industry investment and government policy support. However, despite this, the industry is not yet self-sustaining and advantages gained to date could be lost.[16] A 2004 market report suggested that a partnership between government and industry is necessary:

"The PV industry cannot continue to actively invest in strategic industry development unless the Australian government is also committed to the journey. The industry ... requires policy and program support to assist it in bridging the gap to mainstream commercial competitiveness."[16]

Two recent projects which illustrate co-operation between industry and government are the solar power station planned for north-western Victoria, and the development of new solar cells.

Mildura Solar concentrator power station

Many projects have demonstrated the feasibility of solar power in Australia and a large new solar power station in Victoria is planned.

Solar Systems is to build the world’s most advanced[17] photovoltaic (PV) heliostat solar concentrator power station in north-western Victoria. The 154 MW, A$420 million project, will generate 270,000 MWh per year, enough for more than 45,000 homes. It will aid in reducing salinity and create jobs during manufacture, construction and operation. It will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 400,000 tonnes per year.[18] Full commissioning is expected in 2013, with the first stage to be completed in 2010.[19]

The essential components of the power plant, developed by Solar Systems over the past 16 years, are:

  • "An ultra powerful solar module for use in concentrated sunlight".
  • "A cooling system to keep solar cells operating at 60 °C to optimise the operation of the PV modules in a concentrated solar beam that can melt steel".
  • "Low cost, high performance mirror concentrator systems".
  • "A control system to manage the power station to deliver maximum reliability and output".[19]

The commercialisation of this technology has already seen four smaller solar power stations established in central Australia, with support from the Australian Greenhouse Office.[20]

Technology development

SLIVER Cell (TM) photovoltaic technology uses just one tenth of the costly and limited supply of silicon used in conventional solar panels while matching power, performance, and efficiency.[21] Professor Andrew Blakers, Director of the Australian National University Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems, invented the technology with colleague Dr Klaus Weber and developed it with funding from energy supplier Origin Energy and the Australian Research Council. Blakers and Weber won the Australian Institute of Physics' Walsh Medal for their work.[22] Origin Energy is presently developing SLIVER modules for commercialisation at its A$20M pilot plant in Regency Park, South Australia.[23]

Solar thermal energy

Australia has developed world leading solar thermal technologies, but with only very low levels of actual use. Domestic solar water heating is the most common solar thermal technology.[24]

Solar water heating

During the 1950s, Australia’s

  • Australia no shining star of renewable energy
  • MRET policy 'stills wind farm plans'
  • Green energy market unviable: Vestas
  • Cool wind blows for investors
  • Riches in energy harvesting, farmers told
  • Greens unveil farm renewable energy plan
  • Renewable energy revolution for NSW cane growers
  • Coalition calls for 'solar continent'
  • Australian breakthrough snapped up - by eager Americans
  • Sun's rays alone 'can power Australia by 2030'
  • Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator
  • The Australian Centre for Renewable Energy (ACRE)
  • Renewable energy government programs
  • Map of operating renewable energy generators in Australia
  • Renewable energy farms and Energy Georeference World map
  • Desert Knowledge Australia Solar Centre

External links

  • Australian Conservation Foundation (2007). A Bright Future: 25% Renewable Energy for Australia by 2020 27 pages.
  • Australian Government (2007). Australian Government Renewable Energy Policies and Programs 2 pages.
  • CSIRO (2007). Climate Change in Australia: Technical Report 148 pages.
  • CSIRO (2007). Rural Australia Providing Climate Solutions 54 pages.
  • Diesendorf, Mark (2007). Paths to a Low Carbon Future 33 pages.
  • ICLEI Oceania (2007). Biodiesel in Australia: Benefits, Issues and Opportunities for Local Government Uptake 95 pages.
  • New South Wales Government (2006). NSW Renewable Energy Target: Explanatory Paper 17 pages.
  • Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (2006). Mandatory Renewable Energy Target Overview 5 pages.
  • Renewable Energy Generators Australia (2006). Renewable Energy – A Contribution to Australia’s Environmental and Economic Sustainability 116 pages.
  • The Natural Edge Project, Griffith University, ANU, CSIRO and NFEE (2008). Energy Transformed: Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change Mitigation 600+ pages.
  • Greenpeace Australia Pacific Energy [R]evolution Scenario: Australia, 2008 [4]) 47 pages.
  • Beyond Zero Emissions Zero Carbon Australia 2020, 2010 [5])

Further reading

  1. ^ Global green
  2. ^ Energy Australia Report 2012.pdf "Clean Energy Australia Report 2012". Southbank Victoria: Clean Energy Council. March 2013. p. 9. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  3. ^ Solar Energy and Photovoltaics
  4. ^ "Clean Energy Australia Report 2011". Southbank Victoria: Clean Energy Council. November 2011. p. 73. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c d Tim Flannery; Veena Sahajwalla (November 2012). "Critical Decade: Generating a Renewable Australia". Canberra: Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Australian Government: Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator - LRET-SRES Basics
  7. ^ a b "Taxpayers to back $10bn renewable energy fund". The Australian. 17 April 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Australians Reject Nuclear Energy Angus Reid Global Monitor, 25 June 2007.
  9. ^ "How to be fully renewable in 10 years". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  10. ^ Snowy Hydro: Power Stations, retrieved 19 November 2010
  11. ^ "Hydro: Energy". Retrieved 30 September 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c ABS: Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, Jan 2010, retrieved 19 November 2010
  13. ^ "Clean Energy Australia 2010 (Report)". Official site. Clean Energy Council. p. 5. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c d e "Clean Energy Australia 2010 (Report): Wind Power". Official site. Clean Energy Council. pp. 49–53. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  15. ^ Center for National Policy, Washington DC, April 4, 2012
  16. ^ a b Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The Australian Photovoltaic Industry Roadmap p. 1.
  17. ^ Australia advances with solar power The Times, 26 October 2006.
  18. ^ Solar Systems. Solar systems projects
  19. ^ a b Solar Systems. Solar systems facts sheet: the technology
  20. ^ Solar Systems. World-leading Australian solar technology for export under AP6
  21. ^ Australian National University, Centre for Sustainable energy systems
  22. ^ Super-skinny solar cells soak up the sun News in Science, 6 December 2006.
  23. ^ a b Origin Energy. SLIVER technology facts sheet
  24. ^ Lovegrove, Keith and Dennis, Mike. Solar thermal energy systems in Australia International Journal of Environmental Studies, Vol. 63, No. 6, December 2006, p. 791.
  25. ^ Lovegrove, Keith and Dennis, Mike. Solar thermal energy systems in Australia International Journal of Environmental Studies, Vol. 63, No. 6, December 2006, p. 793.
  26. ^ PJT Solar Hot Water
  27. ^ "Clean Energy Australia 2010 (Report)". Official site. Clean Energy Council. pp. 5, 42. Retrieved 12 June 2011. 
  28. ^ a b c Lovegrove, Keith and Dennis, Mike. Solar thermal energy systems in Australia International Journal of Environmental Studies, Vol. 63, No. 6, December 2006, p. 797.
  29. ^ CSIRO Solar Blog, retrieved Nov 2011,
  30. ^ 'CSIRO Gets Sun Smart at the National Solar Energy Centre', June 2008,
  31. ^ Solar Oasis: About
  32. ^ ABC Rural (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
  33. ^ Cloncurry to run on solar power: Bligh
  34. ^ Australian town to run on solar power in 2 years
  35. ^ Aust firm unveils plans to build 'world's biggest solar plant'
  36. ^ Solar Cities - A Vision of the Future
  37. ^ Solar City to Advance Renewable Energy Down Under
  38. ^ a b Big energy role for central Australia’s hot rocks Mineweb, 2 May 2007.
  39. ^ Scientists get hot rocks off over green nuclear power Sydney Morning Herald, 12 April 2007.
  40. ^ Energy superpower or sustainable energy leader? (PDF) Ecos, October–November 2007.
  41. ^ "FACTBOX-Main renewables being developed in Australia". Reuters. 4 February 2009. 
  42. ^ a b Queensland Government. Ethanol case studies
  43. ^ The biofuels promise: updated thinking Ecos, October–November 2006.
  44. ^ Renewable Energy Commercialisation in Australia - Biomass Projects
  45. ^ Summary of report - Biomass energy production in Australia Status, costs and opportunities for major technologies
  46. ^ Solar Power Profitability: BP Solar Environmental News Network, 25 May 2005.
  47. ^ Wind energy round the clock
  48. ^ Edwards solar hot water
  49. ^ Geodynamics: Power from the earth
  50. ^ Solahart Industries
  51. ^ Solar Systems.Solar Systems wins National Engineering Excellence award
  52. ^ Solar technologies reaching new levels of efficiencies in Central Australia ABC Radio Australia, 12 November 2006.
  53. ^ Solar Systems to Build A$420 million, 154MW Solar Power Plant in Australia
  54. ^ Solar Systems. Solar Systems home page
  55. ^ [1]
  56. ^ [2]
  57. ^ Fuelwatch
  58. ^ Diesel Gas Australia
  59. ^ Parkinson, Giles (4 April 2011). "RET: Hail fellow, not well met". Climate Spectator. Business Spectator. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  60. ^ a b "Benefit of the Renewable Energy Target to Australia’s Energy Markets and Economy. Report to the Clean Energy Council". Clean Energy Council. August 2012. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  61. ^ "A Renewable Energy Plan for South Australia". RenewablesSA. Government of South Australia. 19 October 2011. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  62. ^ REC Registry
  63. ^ "Clean Energy Regulator – Liable Entities Public Information Database". 
  64. ^ "Clean Energy Australia - Investing in the clean energy sources of the future". Clean Energy Future. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  65. ^ a b Uren, David (23 January 2013). "Emissions drop signals fall in carbon tax take". The Australian. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  66. ^
  67. ^ "Clean Energy Finance Corporation Expert Review". Clean Energy Future. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  68. ^ "Feed-in tariffs". Parliament of Australia. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  69. ^ "NSW slashes its solar feed-in tariffs". The Fifth Estate. 28 October 2010. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  70. ^ "Fossil fuel subsidies". Australian Conservation Foundation. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  71. ^ O'Conner, Simon (25 June 2010). "G20 and fossil fuel subsidies". Australian Conservation Foundation. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  72. ^ Berg, Chris (2 February 2011). "The Truth About Energy Subsidies". Institute of Public Affairs. Retrieved 20 April 2013. 
  73. ^ International Energy Agency (2007). Renewables in global energy supply: An IEA facts sheet, OECD, 34 pages.
  74. ^ Australian Government (2004). Securing Australia's Energy Future
  75. ^ The Greenhouse Mafia Four Corners, 13 February 2006.
  76. ^ The Dirty Politics of Climate Change The Australia Institute, 20 February 2006.
  77. ^ Lovegrove, Keith. Election 2004: The Government’s non policy on energy Australian Review of Public Affairs, 10 September 2004.
  78. ^ a b Diesendorf, Mark (2007). Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy, UNSW Press, p. 107.
  79. ^ Minutes of a meeting of the Low Emissions Technology Advisory Group (LETAG) with the Australian Government 6 May 2006.
  80. ^ Diesendorf, Mark (2007). Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy, UNSW Press, p. 109.
  81. ^ First Annual World Environment Review Poll Reveals Countries Want Governments to Take Strong Action on Climate Change Global Market Insite, 5 June 2007.
  82. ^ ABS: Year Book Australia, 2009–10, retrieved 19 November 2010
  83. ^ CSIRO (2007). Rural Australia Providing Climate Solutions p.1
  84. ^ a b Australian Conservation Foundation (2007). A Bright Future: 25% Renewable Energy for Australia by 2020
  85. ^ Energy [r]evolution: A Sustainable Energy Australia Outlook, Teske, Sven and Vincent, Julien, Greenpeace International 2008
  86. ^ Spratt, David and Sutton, Phillip, Climate Code Red: The case for a sustainability emergency, Friends of the Earth, Melbourne 2008
  87. ^ "How to be fully renewable in 10 years". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 August 2010. 
  88. ^ Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan
  89. ^ Has the World Already Passed “Peak Oil”?
  90. ^ [3]
  91. ^ Solar Sponsoring in Australia


See also

Recently an uptake of Third Party ownership models for small to mid-scale solar photovoltaic systems has been seen in Australia mirroring developments in the same direction in the US with over 70% of all new PV systems installed under such models in California, Colorado and Arizona.[90] In Australia the Solar Power Purchase Agreement approach is pursued under the term Solar Sponsoring [91]

Australia could entirely transition to renewable energy within the 2010 decade by building 12 very large scale solar power plants (3500 MW each), which would provide 60% of electricity used, and 6500 7.5 MW wind turbines, which would supply most of the remaining 40%, along with other changes, according to the "Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan",[87] for a cost of A$370 billion, about $8/household/week over a decade to create an infrastructure that will last a minimum of 30 to 40 years. Biofuel use is proposed to increase from 2 PJ used in 2010 to 51 PJ/year for modes of transportation not easily electrified, along with some hybrid vehicles.[88] The cost of oil, post peak oil, is increasing, and without converting now to 100% renewable sources the world will pay an additional USD$8 trillion over the next 25 years - and then convert to 100% renewable.[89]

David Spratt and Phillip Sutton argue in their book Climate Code Red that Australia (as part of a concerted global effort) needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions down to zero as quickly as possible so that carbon dioxide can be drawn down from the atmosphere and greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced to less than 325 ppm CO2-e, which they argue is the upper "safe climate" level at which we can continue developing infinitely. They outline a plan of action which would accomplish this.[86]

Greenpeace released a report in 2008 called "Energy [r]evolution: A Sustainable Energy Australia Outlook", detailing how Australia could produce 40% of its energy through renewable energy by 2020 and completely phase out coal-fired power by 2030 without any job losses.[85]
Several reports have discussed the possibility of Australia setting a renewable energy target of 25% by 2020.[83][84] Combined with some basic energy efficiency measures, such a target could deliver 15,000 MW new renewable power capacity, $33 billion in new investment, 16,600 new jobs, and 69 million tonnes reduction in electricity sector greenhouse gas emissions.[84]

The percentage of renewable resources that could be achieved by 2020 has evolved from 25% in 2007 to 100% in 2010:

Future prospects

Voluntary uptake of GreenPower, a Government program initiated in 1997 whereby people can pay extra for electricity that is generated from renewable sources, increased from 132,300 customers in 2005 to 904,716 customers in 2009.[82]

There is a considerable movement known as The Transition Decade to transition Australia's entire energy system to renewable by 2020.

  • 88% of Australians think that the Government should do more to increase the use of solar power. 78% say the government should do more to boost wind power, 58% hydro power, 50% tidal power, and 38% geothermal power, while only 25% think that the Government should do more to increase use of nuclear power.
  • 84% of Australians think that the Government should make it easier for people to buy renewable electricity.
  • 89% think that all electricity should contain a minimum 25% of power generated from renewable energy sources. Only 3% disagree.
  • 82% think that the Government should make it easier for people to buy solar panels.
  • 80% think that the Government should make it easier for people to buy energy efficient products, such as energy-saving light globes, water-saving shower heads and insulation etc.
  • 85% think that the Government should raise national fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks.
  • 87% think that the Government should do more to increase the number of cars that don’t use petrol.

The Australian results from the 1st Annual World Environment Review, based on a survey of 1,007 people in 2007, found that:[81]

Survey results suggest that there is considerable public support for the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Australia. In one recent survey, 74% of respondents favoured a "greenhouse strategy based mainly on energy efficiency and renewable energy, and 19% favoured an "approach that focuses mainly on nuclear power and clean coal technologies."[8]

Demonstration in front of the Parliament House, Melbourne supporting investment in renewable energy.

Public opinion and action

Dr Mark Diesendorf has suggested that the Howard Government tried to stop the development of wind power, the lowest-cost, new, renewable electricity source, until such time as coal-fired power stations with CO2 capture and sequestration and possibly nuclear power stations are available.[80]

Leaked minutes from a 2004 meeting between leaders of energy intensive industries and the Australian government describe how both groups were worried that mandatory renewable energy targets were working too well and were "market skewed" towards wind power.[79]

From 2001 to early 2006, the main driving force for the establishment of wind farms in Australia was the Government's Mandatory Renewable Energy Target or MRET.[77][78] However, by mid-2006, sufficient renewable energy had been installed or was under construction to meet the small MRET target for 2010. Also, in 2006, several Federal Government Ministers spoke out against several wind farm proposals.[78]

Politics of wind power

Australia ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2007 under newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and will meet its targets. Australia had not ratified the Kyoto Protocol until then, due to concerns over a loss of competitiveness with the US, which also rejects the treaty.[74] Some business groups have lobbied the Australian government to prevent Australia from reducing greenhouse gas emissions,[75] including representatives of the coal, oil, cement, aluminium, mining, and electricity industries.[76]

Australia is one of the major exporters of coal, the burning of which contributes significantly to anthropogenic climate change. Australia is also one of the countries most at risk from climate change according to the Stern report and Australia's own Garnaut Climate Change Review. Renewable energy technologies provide opportunities for mitigating greenhouse gases.[73]

Politics of global warming

[72] (IPA) contends that the ACF's definition of a subsidy differs from that of the OECD and that the fuel tax rebate schemes are in place to ensure that all producers are treated equally from a tax point of view. However, the IPA acknowledges that regardless of perceived issues with the ACF analysis, some level of fossil fuel subsidy is likely in existence.Institute of Public Affairs On the other side of the debate, the [71] Analysis by the ACF indicates that these provisions add up to a total annual subsidy of A$7.7 billion, with the most significant component being the Fuel Tax Credits program that rebates diesel fuel excise to many business users.[70] The

Debate over fossil fuel subsidies

Feed-in tariffs have been enacted on a state by state basis in Australia to encourage investment in renewable energy by providing above commercial rates for electricity generated from sources such as rooftop photovoltaic panels or wind turbines.[5] The schemes in place focus on residential scale infrastructure by having limits that effectively exclude larger scale developments such as wind farms. Feed-in tariffs schemes in Australia started at a premium, but have mechanisms by which the price paid for electricity decreases over time to be equivalent or below the commercial rate.[5] All the schemes now in place in Australia are "net" schemes whereby the householder is only paid for surplus electricity over and above what is actually used. In the past, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory enacted "gross" schemes whereby householders were entitled to be paid for 100% of renewable electricity generated on the premises, however these programs have now expired. In 2008 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to harmonise the various state schemes and developed a set of national principles to apply to new schemes.[68] Leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, has advocated a uniform national "gross" feed-in tariff scheme, however this proposal has not been enacted.[69]

Feed-in tariffs

The Australian Government has announced the creation of the new 10 billion dollar Clean Energy Finance Corporation which will commence business in July 2013. The goal of this intervention is to overcome barriers to the mobilisation of capital by the renewable energy sector. It will make available two billion dollars a year for five years for the financing of renewable energy, energy efficiency and low emissions technologies projects in the latter stages of development. The government has indicated that the fund is expected to be financially self-sufficient producing a positive return on investment comparable to the long term bond rate.[7][67]

Clean Energy Finance Corporation

The carbon pricing legislation was repealed by the Australian Government on 17 July 2014.[66]

Analysis of the first 6 months of operation of the carbon tax have shown that there has been a drop in carbon emissions by the electricity sector. It has been observed that there has been a change in the mix of energy over this period, with less electricity being sourced from coal and more being produced by renewables such as hydro and wind power.[65] The government has presented this analysis as an indicator that their policies to promote cleaner energy are working.[65]

In 2012, the Gillard government implemented a carbon price of $23 per tonne to be paid by 300 liable entities representing the highest business emitters in Australia. The carbon price will increase to $25.40 per tonne by 2014-15, and then will be set by the market from 1 July 2015 onwards.[63] It is expected that in addition to encouraging efficient use of electricity, pricing carbon will encourage investment in cleaner renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. Treasury modelling has projected that with a carbon price, energy from the renewables sector is likely to reach 40 percent of supply by 2050.[64]

Carbon pricing

The Renewable Energy Certificates Registry (REC-registry) is an internet based registry system that is required by the Australian Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 (the Act)[.[62] The REC-registry is dedicated to: maintaining various registers (as set in the Act); and facilitating the creation, registration, transfer and surrender of renewable energy certificates (RECs).

Renewable Energy Certificates Registry

A number of states have also implemented their own renewable energy targets independent of the Commonwealth. For example, the Victorian Renewable Energy Target Scheme (VRET) mandated an additional 5% of Victoria's “load for renewable generation”, although this has since been replaced by the new Australian Government LRET and SRES targets.[60] South Australia achieved its target of 20% of renewable supply by 2014 three years ahead of schedule (i.e. in 2011) and has subsequently established a new target of 33% to be achieved by 2020.[61]

A key policy encouraging the development of renewable energy in Australia includes Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) schemes at both Commonwealth and State levels. In 2001, the Howard Government introduced an MRET of 9,500 GWh of new renewable energy generation by 2010. This target has since been revised with the Gillard Government introducing in January 2011 an expanded target of 45,000 GWh of additional renewable energy between 2001 and 2020.[59] This MRET has been split into a small scale renewable energy scheme (SRES) and large scale renewable energy target (LRET) components to ensure that adequate incentive exists for large scale grid connected renewable energy.[60]

Mandatory Renewable Energy Target (MRET) schemes

There are a number of government policies in place in Australia that influence the development of renewable energy.

Government policy

Wind Prospect developed the 46 MW Canunda Wind Farm in South Australia, which was commissioned in March 2005. A second South Australian wind farm, Mount Millar Wind Farm, was commissioned in January 2006 and this provides a further 70 MW of generation. More recently, a third wind farm has reached financial close for Wind Prospect in South Australia. This is the 95 MW Hallett Wind Farm which is expected to be fully commissioned late in 2008.

Wind Prospect

Solar Systems has already completed construction of three concentrator dish power stations in the Northern Territory, which together generate 1,555 MWh/year (260 homes, going by the energy/home ratio above). This represents a saving of 420,000 litres of diesel fuel and 1550 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. The total cost of the solar power station was "A$7M, offset by a grant from the Australian and Northern Territory Governments under their Renewable Remote Power Generation Program".[56] For comparison; 420,000 litres of diesel, at September 2009 prices of A$1.24/litre,[57] would cost $520,800.[58]

Solar Systems is a leader in high concentration solar photovoltaic applications,[51][52] and the company is preparing to build the world's largest photovoltaic Mildura Solar concentrator power station, Australia.[53][54] This project will use innovative concentrator dish technology to power 45,000 homes, providing 270,000 MWh/year for A$420 million.[55]

Solar Systems

Solahart manufactured its first solar water heater in 1953, and products currently manufactured by Solahart include thermosiphon and split system solar and heat pump water heaters. These are marketed in 90 countries around the world and overseas sales represent 40% of total business. Solahart has a market share of 50% in Australia.[50]


Snowy Hydro Limited, previously known as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, manages the Snowy Mountains Scheme which generates on average around 4500 gigawatt hours of renewable energy each year, which is around 74% of all renewable energy in the National Electricity Market in 2005. The scheme also diverts water for irrigation from the Snowy River Catchment west to the Murray and Murrumbidgee River systems.

Snowy Hydro Limited

Pacific Hydro is an Australian company that specialises in electricity generation using renewable energy. Its focus is on hydroelectricity and wind power. Power stations owned by Pacific Hydro include wind farms: Codrington Wind Farm, Challicum Hills Wind Farm, Portland Wind Project and Hydro power: Eildon Pondage Power Station, Ord River Hydro Power Station and The Drop Hydro.

Pacific Hydro

Origin Energy is active in the renewable energy arena, and has spent a number of years developing several wind farms in South Australia, a solar cell business using technology invented by a team led by Professor Andrew Blakers at the Australian National University,[23] and geothermal power via a minority shareholding stake in Geodynamics.[49]

Origin Energy

Edwards first began manufacturing water heaters in Australia in 1963. Edwards is now an international organisation which is a leader in producing hot water systems for both domestic and commercial purposes using solar technology. Edwards exports to Asia, the Pacific, the Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.[48]


BP has been involved in solar power since 1973 and its subsidiary, BP Solar, is now one of the world's largest solar power companies with production facilities in the United States, Spain, India and Australia.[46] BP Solar is involved in the commercialisation of a long life deep cycle lead acid battery, jointly developed by the CSIRO and Battery Energy, which is ideally suited to the storage of electricity for renewable remote area power systems (RAPS).[47]

BP Solar

Major renewable energy companies

Biomass for energy production was the subject of a federal government report in 2004.[45]

In 2007-08 Bagasse accounted for 39% of Australia's renewable energy production, while wood for another 33%.[12]

Biomass can be used directly for electricity generation, for example by burning sugar cane waste (bagasse) as a fuel for thermal power generation in sugar mills. It can also be used to produce steam for industrial uses, cooking and heating. It can also be converted into a liquid or gaseous biofuel.[44]


Biodiesel produced from oilseed crops or recycled cooking oil may be a better prospect than ethanol, given the nation’s heavy reliance on road transport, and the growing popularity of fuel-efficient diesel cars.[43]

[42] In partnership with the

Legislation imposes a 10% cap on the concentration of fuel ethanol blends. Blends of 90% unleaded petrol and 10% fuel ethanol are commonly referred to as E10,[42] which is mainly available through service stations operating under the BP, Caltex, Shell, and United brands.

Biofuels produced from food crops have become controversial as food prices increased significantly in mid-2008, leading to increased concerns about food vs fuel. Ethanol fuel in Australia can be produced from sugarcane or grains and there are currently three commercial producers of fuel ethanol in Australia, all on the east coast.


  • BioPower Systems is developing its bioWAVE system anchored to the seabed that would generate electricity through the movement of buoyant blades as waves pass, in a swaying motion similar to the way sea plants, such as kelp, move. It expects to complete pilot wave and tidal projects off northern Tasmania this year.[41]
  • Carnegie Corp of Western Australia is refining a method of using energy captured from passing waves, CETO to generate high-pressure sea water. This is piped onshore to drive a turbine and to create desalinated water. A series of large buoys is tethered to piston pumps anchored in waters 15 to 50 metres deep (49 to 131 feet). The rise and fall of passing waves drives the pumps, generating water pressures of up to 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi). The company is looking to have a 50 MW demonstration project finished within the next four years.

Several projects for harvesting the power of the ocean are under development:

Wave power

A geothermal power plant is generating 80 kW of electricity at Birdsville, in southwest Queensland.[40]

There are currently 19 companies Australia-wide spending A$654 million in exploration programmes in 141 areas. In South Australia, which is expected to dominate the sector's growth, 12 companies have already applied for 116 areas and can be expected to invest A$524 million (US$435 M) in their projects by the next six years. Ten projects are expected to achieve successful exploration and heat flows, by 2010, with at least three power generation demonstration projects coming on stream by 2012.[38]

South Australia has been described as "Australia's hot rock haven" and this emissions free and renewable energy form could provide an estimated 6.8% of Australia's base load power needs by 2030.[38] According to an estimate by the Centre for International Economics, Australia has enough geothermal energy to contribute electricity for 450 years.[39]

In Australia, geothermal energy is a natural resource which is not utilised as a form of energy. However there are known and potential locations near the centre of the country in which geothermal activity is detectable. Exploratory geothermal wells have been drilled to test for the presence of high temperature geothermal activity and such high levels were detected. As a result, projects will eventuate in the coming years and more exploration is expected at potential locations.

Geothermal energy

Solar Cities in Australia is a $75 million program which is designed to demonstrate how solar power, smart meters, energy conservation and new approaches to electricity pricing can combine to provide a sustainable energy future in urban locations throughout Australia. It is a partnership approach that involves all levels of Government, the private sector and the local community. Adelaide, Townsville, Blacktown and Alice Springs are the first four solar cities announced in Australia.[36] Consumers will be able to purchase solar photovoltaic panels using discounted loans. The project also plans to help low-income and rental households in the community share in the benefits of the project through other cost-saving initiatives.[37]

Solar Cities

In August 2008 Worley Parsons, an Australian engineering firm, announced plans to build world’s biggest solar plant in Australia within three years. Backed by nine Australian companies, including miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, they have launched a study into finding possible sites to host the $1 billion plant.[35]

Cloncurry, a north-west Queensland town, has been chosen as the site for an innovative $31 million (including a $7 million government grant) solar thermal power station. The 10 MW solar thermal power station would deliver about 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power the whole town. Ergon Energy will develop the project which should be running by early 2010.[33][34]

Research activities at the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales have spun off into Solar Heat and Power Pty Ltd (now Ausra), which is currently building a major project at Liddell Power station in the Hunter Valley. The CSIRO Division of Energy Technology has opened a major solar energy centre in Newcastle that has a tower system purchased from Solar Heat and Power and a prototype trough concentrator array developed in collaboration with the ANU.[28]

The Australian National University (ANU) has worked on dish concentrator systems since the early 1970s and early work lead to the construction of the White Cliffs solar thermal station. In 1994, the first 'Big Dish' 400 m2 solar concentrator was completed on the ANU campus. In 2005, Wizard Power Pty Ltd was established to commercialise the Big Dish technology to deployment.[28] Wizard Power has built and demonstrated the 500m2 commercial Big Dish design in Canberra and the Whyalla SolarOasis[31] will be the first commercial implementation of the technology, using 300 Wizard Power Big Dish solar thermal concentrators to deliver a 40MWe solar thermal power plant.[32] Construction is expected to commence in mid-late 2013.

CSIRO's National Solar Energy Centre in Newcastle, NSW houses a 500 kW (thermal) and a 1.5 MW (thermal) solar central receiver system, which are used as research and development facilities.[29][30]

There are no large scale solar thermal power stations in Australia, although the country has significant research, development and commercialisation efforts.[28]

White Cliffs Solar Power Station, Australia's first solar power station operated between 1981 and 2004
Solar thermal power

While solar water heating saves a significant amount of energy, they are generally omitted from measures of renewable energy production as they do not actually produce electricity. Based on the installed base in Australia as of October 2010, it was calculated that solar hot water units would account for about 7.4% of clean energy production if they were included in the overall figures.[27]

It is estimated that by installing a solar hot water system, it could reduce a family's CO2 emissions up to 3 tonnes per year while saving up to 80% of the energy costs for water heating.[26]


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