Australia on track to reach 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030

The rise in renewable energy is likely to lead to a drop in wholesale power prices, new modelling shows. Source: AAP

According to energy analysts RepuTex, wholesale energy prices in Australia are set to drop over the next three years due to the mass development of renewable resources.

Labor's renewable energy target was a key talking point during the election campaign, but new analysis suggests Australia was always on track to reach 50 per cent renewables by 2030, with or without government intervention.

Leading energy analysts RepuTex projected on Wednesday that renewable energy, without any change to federal energy policy, would make up 52 per cent of Australia's national electricity market in just over 10 years.

This number is higher than Labor's election pitch, which promised that under a Shorten government Australia would reach 50 per cent renewables by 2030 - a policy criticised by the Coalition which claimed it would cost jobs.

Angus Taylor
Angus Taylor is attempting to bring in laws that would give the federal government unprecedented powers to break up power companies.

RepuTex said the increase was largely due to state renewables targets and record rooftop solar installations, which will likely lead to a drop in wholesale prices from $85 per megawatt-hour (MWh) to $70 over the next three years as more renewable energy enters the market.

Director of research at RepuTex Bret Harper told SBS News that Australia is experiencing "a record-breaking addition of renewable energy to the system at the moment".

"That's adding a lot more energy into the system and a lot more competition, which all things being equal, should bring down prices," he said. 

While the addition of renewable energy to the market is expected to slow, Mr Harper said Australia was likely to reach the halfway point to 50 per cent renewables in the next 18 months, making it "pretty easy" to reach the full target in the following nine years "even without a lot of policy forcing".

"If you think of all the capacity we would need, all the power plants we would need to add to get to 50 per cent -we're adding about half of that capacity in the next 18 months," he said.

He added that the surge towards renewables was down to a number of reasons, but the biggest cause was likely recent high electricity prices which have encouraged developers to jump in and try to make money.

"Also the large scale renewable energy target assisted with that as well. It's now being met so it won't have much impact on the future, but it certainly laid the groundwork for developers to have the confidence to build their plants."

Following the Coalition's shock election win earlier this month, senior Liberal figures have said the falling cost of renewables was an opportunity for the government to act.

"With the energy transition underway there is an opportunity for us to reclaim more ground in that environmental space and not make it seem like it’s a binary choice between looking after the environment (and the economy)," recently appointed ambassador to the US Arthur Sinodinos told Sky News.

Days later, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told The Guardian that he was excited by developments in renewable power.

"One thing we really need to do, which I will be thinking about as the treasurer, is putting in place the infrastructure nationally that the Australian Energy Market Operator has talked about to create the renewable energy zones and to ensure we have the transmission and distribution networks to prepare our country for the long term," he said.

But RepuTex also predicted that without a federal energy policy framework - the federal renewable energy target is is set to expire in 2020 and won't be replaced - wholesale prices could rise again as aging coal generators close down.

Former Labor leader Bill Shorten at the Southern Sustainable Electric solar farm in South Australia during the election campaign.
Former Labor leader Bill Shorten at the Southern Sustainable Electric solar farm in South Australia during the election campaign.

"As we add all this energy onto the system it's going to eventually force out the most inflexible generators, which tend to be the big coal-fired power plants," Mr Harper said.

"So as they leave the system closed down, that is going to swing the supply-demand balance back into the tight range and push up electricity prices."

He said the way to avoid a future rise in prices would be to build new generators before it gets to that point. 

On Wednesday, Energy Minister Angus Taylor revealed that the government would push ahead with laws that would compel power companies to cut wholesale prices and guarantee supply.

The so-called "big stick" legislation has been labelled extreme and arbitrary and would give the federal government unprecedented powers to break up major power companies.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch