The Other Side of the Valley
In 1960, Australia’s electricity demand was met by 19% renewable energy. In 2018 this was 18.9% (Department of the Environment and Energy data).
In 2011 a report was commissioned for the Victorian government which put national renewable energy share in clear perspective:
…the share of RE has declined from 19 per cent in 1960 to 7 per cent in 2008.
The Department of the Environment and Energy publishes annual figures on state and territory electricity consumption here. By converting energy source shares to percentages, the original chart can be expanded with more detail of source types.
This data allows us to see that what was once only hydro power has expanded to include small and large scale solar PV, onshore wind, and bioenergy sources, while the proportional share of fossil fuels, having initially risen, has now returned to that seen in the 1960s-70s (other is basically liquid fuel oil).
Alternative analysis asserts a total renewable energy share of 21.3% in 2018, but official figures are chosen here for consistency. They also allow a calculation of last year’s solar and wind share across just the NEM of 11.6%, which for geographical diversity and interconnection has lately required daily market operator intervention and reliance on stop-gap measures to maintain system security as the generator mix changes.
It has been noted that investment in renewable energy in Australia:
- from 2006 to 2016 was $40 billion (ACOLA)
- in 2017 was $8.5 billion (Climate Council)
- in 2018 was $9.5 billion (Bloomberg)
It is also still somehow not acknowledged that this is both a lot of time (almost fifteen years) and a lot of money — the two objections faced by anyone suggesting that nuclear energy should be included in this effort when we’re still burning a lot of coal and gas.
Oscar Archer holds a PhD in chemistry and has been analysing energy issues for over 13 years, focusing on nuclear technology for 4, with a background in manufacturing and QA. By day he works in energy efficiency research & development. He helps out at Adelaide-based Bright New World as Senior Advisor and writes for The Fourth Generation. Find him @OskaArcher on Twitter.