Australia could reach 100 per cent renewables by 2040

Sophie Vorrath,

Australia could reach 100 per cent renewables as early as 2040 by adding 1.9GW of solar PV and 1.9GW of wind power capacity a year, according to one of Australia’s top renewable energy experts.

Andrew Blakers, who is the director for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University, told the Australian Solar and Energy Storage conference in Melbourne that his conservative prediction was that Australia would reach 90 per cent renewables by 2040 – just through natural attrition.

But, he added, at the rate Australia was adding, and could add, solar and wind – nearly 1GW of solar was added to rooftops alone in 2014 – and factoring in the ‘natural attrition’ of the nation’s fossil fuel power plants, this figure could easily reach 100 per cent.

‘PV and wind could, essentially, do the whole lot fairly easily,’ Blakers told the conference last Thursday. ‘There are no more economic constraints,’ he said, with PV and wind now costing the same as new-build fossil fuels. The issue was ensuring that fossil fuel generators actually exited the market.

And as far as solar PV was concerned, Blakers said, the economics – and efficiency of the technology – would only get better.

Blakers – whose work in solar energy conversion led to the development of highly efficient PERC (passivated emitted and rear call) solar cells, which are expected to make up 40-50 per cent of total PV cell production by 2025 – said the cost of PV was expected to fall to 40c/W by 2025.

Cell efficiency, meanwhile, was expected to increase by between 20-26 per cent within the next 10 years, he said.

‘The PV learning curve continues,’ said Blakers, noting that the historical pattern has been that every time you double cumulative production of of solar panels, the cost comes down about 25 per cent.

‘Wind and solar are fully competitive with fossil fuels, without a carbon price,’ said Blakers on Thursday.

He said that solar PV and wind had reached a very important tipping point in Australia, where they had become the number one and two in new added power generation capacity.

‘Renewables are well on track to push fossils fuels and nuclear out of the picture within the next 10-15 years,” he said.

In the Australian market, PV would kill the gas market ‘rather sooner’ than it would kill the fossil-fuelled electricity market, he said, as hot water storage, heat pumps and batteries became significantly cheaper.

‘The revolution will go far faster than most people think.’

On storage, Blakers – a long-time fan of pumped hydro storage – has a ‘different view of things’, and makes no mention of the much-hyped arrival of the Tesla battery product.

According to Blakers, most commercial-scale energy storage will be ‘off-river’ pumped hydro – using off-the-shelf technology that would add only 1-2c/kWh to cost of PV.

2 responses to “Australia could reach 100 per cent renewables by 2040”

  1. Tweed says:

    Christine Milne said we can go 100% renewable now. When asked how she and other politicians would get to Canberra without fossil fuel she was silent. Renewables are and always will be a niche market. It is all about base load and 24/7 supply and reliability. Household solar systems are merely inefficient cherry picking of energy supply. Selling solar energy back into the grid is simply duplication and economic insanity.
    Base load will be needed for way into the future, long after all readers of Echo are dead and buried. Whether it is fossil fuel based, nuclear or Fusion or some other technology it will be needed. Industry, public transport and public infrastructure will continue to rely on it.
    Sadly we are all going to pay higher electricity prices indirectly through industry passing on its higher base load costs.
    The Tesla battery storage doing the rounds again does not address base load requirements.
    I use solar every day and know its limitations.
    How it gets the tag renewable is bewildering. Imported panels, batteries, cabling, inverters, electronic controls all have to be replaced and are manufactured overseas. Yes you guessed it. Using base load fossil fuel power and transported on fossil fuel burning ships and delivered by fossil fuel burning trucks.
    Renewable is a strange description.

  2. Tweed, I guess I should have talked to you sooner before investing in some panels & batteries, My last bill from ‘origin’=$98.37 19/5/15 A previous bill from ‘Country energy’= $139.58 9/5/13 Thanks for the great advice.Thanks but No thanks I think everyone has to make their own choice in such matters…………

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