The number of large-scale clean energy generation projects that are being committed to throughout Australia has slumped, new data shows.

But investment in utility-scale batteries and storage continues to ramp up.

And renewable energy now makes up almost 40 percent of Australia’s overall electricity generation.

In its Clean Energy Australia report, the Clean Energy Council has provided an analysis of current market conditions with respect to Australia’s clean energy transition in terms of energy generation, storage and transmission.

Concerningly, the report found that there has been a substantial slowdown in new financial commitments for large-scale clean energy generation projects.

Overall, the report indicates that the dollar value of new financial commitments in large-scale wind and solar projects dropped from $6.5 billion in 2022 to just $1.5 billion last year.

Whereas six new projects for large-scale wind farms received financial commitments in 2022, there were no new financial commitments for large-scale wind farms in 2023.

Meanwhile, the number of new financial commitments for large-scale solar projects eased back from 10 projects with capacity of 1.5 GW in 2022 to seven projects with combined capacity of 912 MW.

In its report, the Council said that large—scale projects are being hampered by slow, complex and inefficient process for planning assessment and approval.

There was also a lack of policy certainty following the early achievement of the Large Scale Renewable Energy Target, which provided financial incentives for the establishment of renewable energy power stations.

Going forward, the CEC said that the expansion of the Australia Government’s Capacity Investment Scheme will help to stimulate activity.

(The Capacity Investment Scheme aims to help to reduce investor uncertainty for large-scale clean energy generation and storage projects by underwriting projects that are accepted as part of the scheme so that the projects achieve a minimum ‘floor’ revenue stream along with a maximum ‘ceiling’ revenue stream.

In November last year, the Government announced an expansion of the scope and size of the scheme from its initial pilot phase to cover 9GW of clean dispatchable capacity and 23GW of renewable capacity.)

The latest report comes amid ongoing concerns about potential reliability issues should Australia not be able to deliver sufficient new energy generation, storage and transmission to ensure the reliability of energy supply as existing coal-fired power stations wind down.

In its 2023 Electricity Statement of Opportunities report released last August, the Australian Energy Market Operator warned that the nation faces significant gaps in energy reliability across most states at various stages over the next decade unless the nation delivers upon a large number of new projects in addition to those which are already committed or under construction.

The report also comes amid ongoing debate about the best way for Australia to move to a clean energy system as coal-fired plants power down over the next decade and a half.

The current government is focusing its strategy on additional investment in renewable generation, storage and transmission.

However, the Opposition is arguing that nuclear should be part of Australia’s energy mix and is seeking an end to the current ban on nuclear energy generation in Australia.

Whilst the latest report indicates a slowdown in investment in large-scale renewable generation, it also indicates that investment in energy storage (batteries, pumped hydro etc.) is ramping up.

All up, financial commitments were made for a total of $4.9 billion in large-scale storage projects in 2023.

This is well above the $1.9 billion in financial commitments recorded during 2022 and represents a record level of financial commitments in utility scale storage facilities.

Meanwhile, 27 large-scale batteries were under construction at the end of 2023, with a total capacity of approximately 5GW/11GWh.

This is well up from the end of 2022, which saw 19 batteries under construction with capacity of 1.4 GW/2 GWh.

The largest of the systems is the Waratah Super Battery in New South Wales (850 Mw/1,680 MWh), construction upon which commenced last May.

Meanwhile, approval for an even larger 2.4 GWh battery at the Melbourne Renewable Energy Hub was granted in October.

(Approval for the Melbourne Renewable Energy Hub was granted last October. When complete, this will be Australia’s largest grid-connected battery)

Whilst 2023 was a quiet year for large-scale renewable generation, meanwhile, the year was a strong one in terms of rooftop solar panel additions.

Across Australia, 337,498 rooftop solar PV systems were installed in 2023, representing a total of 3.1 GW in capacity additions.

This is well up from the 315,499 installations which took place adding 2.7 GW of capacity in 2022.

The data also shows that the overall proportion of electricity generations that is provided by renewables increased from 35.4 percent in 2022 to 39.4 percent in 2023.

At this level, renewables’ share of electricity generation has more than doubled since its level of 17 percent that was recorded just six years ago in 2027.

(source: Clean Energy Australia Report, Clean Energy Council

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Officer Kane Thornton said that renewables have now reached a tippling point in Australia’s energy mix.

Thornton said the importance of clean energy additions should not be underestimated.

He adds that policy announcements such as the aforementioned extension of the Capacity investment Scheme will further help to stimulate investment.

“We’ve reached a major milestone following 12 months of profound change as industry and governments at all levels continue to work together with a renewed focus on a timely transformation of our energy system …” Thornton said.

“… Several announcements and policy initiatives led by the Commonwealth throughout the year have already sent a strong signal about the importance of a timely energy transition to the national interest, addressing several major challenges including cost of living, emissions reduction and energy security.

“We are more determined than ever to continue to build and maintain the strong investment in our clean energy future that we need, overcome the barriers holding back a substantial pipeline of new opportunities and navigate the most consequential transformation of Australia’s economy in a generation.”


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