Investment is the key to solving our energy crisis

By Sam Reynolds, Managing Director

Australia is on the brink of an energy revolution, driven by investment into innovative large-scale renewable energy projects.

If 2017 was the year of the energy crisis, it’s looking like 2018 will be the year of the energy renaissance. Renewable energy is a cheaper alternative to polluting fossil fuels, and Australia possesses some of the best solar and wind resources in the world, providing a strong drive towards integration of renewables into the energy market.

How did we get here?

Australia’s energy generation infrastructure is creaking. More than half of existing coal-fired power plants are approaching or have exceeded their natural operating lifespan. These generators will need to be replaced in the next two decades, but with the following considerations:

  • New coal-fired power plants are too expensive and polluting.
  • Gas generation is exposed to fluctuating gas prices.
  • Australia’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement requires a 26-28% reduction of carbon emissions by 2030.

So, what’s the way forward?

The cost of renewable energy technology has reduced in recent years, making it one of today’s most viable energy solutions. Australia is already a leader in domestic solar energy generation, with more than 1.7 million rooftop solar systems installed. But for renewables to really take off, greater investment is needed in large-scale solar farms connected to the grid, as well as wired directly into airports, mines, healthcare facilities, towns, and businesses.

The transition to renewables is already happening across the rest of the world. The rate at which solar and wind systems are being installation globally is doubling every five and a half years. If this rate of expansion continues, the Clean Energy Council predicts the world’s renewable energy systems could completely eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

How do we reach ‘energy security’?

Economic prosperity depends on energy security – the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price. When combined with increasingly affordable energy storage solutions, renewable energy projects have the potential to offer cheap, clean and reliable power, even when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing.

Renewable energy presents a timely solution to an urgent problem for Australia: the need to cost-effectively replace ‘retiring’ energy plants with a new generation of cleaner, more efficient and less expensive energy sources. Alongside federal policy and independent government agencies, state governments have set individual targets for Australian renewables.

How policy can boost investment

Two key government policies should help drive greater large-scale investment into Australia’s renewable energy future.

  • The Renewable Energy Target (RET) plans to create 15,200 jobs through $40.4 billion of investment in renewable energy infrastructure.
  • And the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), announced in October 2017, aims to provide long-term stability for the Australian energy market while offering access to affordable and reliable energy. Under the NEG, there are plans to have as much as 36% of Australian electricity generated by renewables, alongside a drive for towards innovative technology for the storage and generation of such electricity to ensure reliability in supply.

Key points:

  • The transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy is already underway.
  • Government and state-level policy initiatives are driving large-scale solar investment.
  • Octopus is playing a big part in this initiative, by developing several sites across the country.