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Big rains, solar put wind in power

Posted on 08 Dec 2011

Heavy rains and a dramatic rise in the number of household solar energy panels have helped to boost Australia’s renewable energy production in the past financial year, despite larger projects temporarily stalling amid political uncertainty over the carbon tax.

A report released today by the Clean Energy Council, the peak body for the clean energy sector, shows that wind farm projects led the sector in terms of new investment, but overall spending on wind projects dropped dramatically.

Heavy rains leading to large inflows of water to the NSW hydroelectricity plants were the key driver behind the growth in renewable energy.

Renewable sources constituted 9.6 per cent of the country’s electricity supply in the 12 months to October, up from 8.7 per cent the previous year.

CEC director Kane Thornton said the figures showed the nation was on track to meet the target of obtaining 20 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.

“Now we have a carbon price in place we expect to see many clean energy companies investing in major projects in 2012 and beyond,” Mr Thornton said.

“Wind power is the lowest-cost form of renewable energy that can be rolled out on a large scale, and we expect it to play a major part in meeting Australia’s 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.”

Figures compiled by Bloomberg show $US5.2 billion ($5.8bn) was invested in Australian renewable energy in 2010-11, up from $US3.2bn the previous year, with $US4bn spent on household solar power.

Investment in the wind sector dipped, reaching $US1.1bn compared with $US1.8bn in 2009-10, while solar energy investment nearly quadrupled from $US1.2bn to $US4bn, and geothermal investment grew steeply.

Solar panels made up 2.3 per cent of the total renewable energy generated, but more than 230,000 household solar power systems – nearly half the total – were installed between January and August this year.

About two-thirds of all renewable energy came from hydroelectricity plants, chiefly the Snowy hydro plants in NSW and smaller hydro systems in Queensland and Tasmania.

Wind power was the next biggest source, providing 22 per cent of renewable energy.

A number of major wind farm projects were kept on hold until the Gillard government’s July announcement on the carbon price, which will be introduced at $23 a tonne from July next year.

The legislation comes with a $10bn fund to drive investment in renewable energy.

Source: The Australian


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