Australia has the perfect conditions for renewable energy. After eight months of bush fires, there is no doubt the population supports the shift to renewables. However, only a better grid can boost Australia into a renewable future. Sven Teske of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney, speaks about frustrations and hopes.
Australia’s 2019 bush fires were unprecedented in scale and ferocity. According to government data, they burned 37,500 square miles. Teske says this was a wake-up call for the general public. Now, citizens support action on climate, as well as understanding that renewable energy is absolutely vital to reducing emissions, hand in hand with energy efficiency.
Even though the bushfires are an urgent call to action, global climate strikes also increased awareness. “The Fridays for Future movement, the youth movement, did a really good job in speaking up and challenging the generation of the boomers,” he underlines. “I am a boomer. They challenged our generation, and that is perfectly right, they should do it and continue to do it.”
“We could replace the entire capacity Australia needs within a few years”
The project pipeline for the shift to renewables already exists. “In 2019, we had here in Australia applications for new solar and wind farms in utility scales with a capacity equal to the actual power plant capacity currently installed in Australia.” outlines Teske.
The Renewables 2020 Global Status Report shows that Australia saw significant progress in renewables during the year, with advances across all sectors. The power sector saw particular progress, especially for wind power and solar PV, and energy storage. Despite output from solar PV being affected by haze from the bushfires, generation rose 55% in 2019, to represent 7.8% of Australia’s total.
However, Teske fears that big capacity restraints in the grid will hinder renewable energy deployment. “It’s not that it is not economic. Australia has one of the best solar and wind resources on the planet, but the infrastructure is simply not there. And the policy is not there. That is really frustrating, because if we had both in place, we could replace the entire capacity Australia needs within a few years.”
Remote communities are perfect for renewable energy clusters
Teske also sees alternatives to long-distance transmission lines. “We have a lot of communities which are quite remote, which would be perfect for micro-grids or mini-grids. To have renewable clusters all around the country. This is an idea which spread in 2019 and I am pretty sure that throughout 2020 and the next few years, we will see more and more renewable energy clusters. Especially in the remote areas of Australia, where solar is simply the cheapest form of electricity generation.”