Wednesday, July 7, 2010

And the leader in renewable energy is....?

.. not Australia I'm afraid.

The Europeans have just announced that 62% of all the new power generation installed in the EU in 2009 were from renewables, an increase from 57% in 2008. Wind energy has now been the leading energy technology for two years running with 37.1% of new capacity in 09.
Most of that non-renewable energy is in the form of gas generation (24%), but even that was almost beaten by solar PV (21%), pretty outstanding considering Australia with its far superior solar resource is nowhere near these sort of numbers.

So how is Australia doing? According to the Clean Energy Council, 2009 was a good year for renewables by Oz standards with almost 750 megawatts of moderate-to-large scale renewables added (ie: not counting the 1.5 kilowatt solar PV you might have put on your roof as these add to only about ~150 megawatts in total, not just from 2009) far more than any other year in the last decade. Like in Europe, wind was the leading renewable technology, unlike in Europe new large scale solar accounted for less than 1% of new renewable generation.

Unfortunately that's where the good news stops, because the real question is: what percentage of the total installed generation was from renewables?
Australia doesn't seem to have a yearly report as in the EU, but the federal government releases 6 monthly updates of new large scale projects. In the 6 mths to April 2010 1402 Mw was added, of which only 19% was from renewables and, to rub salt into wounds, Origin Energy actually expanded its Townsville plant that runs on oil (kerosene specifically).
But maybe that 6 months was poor, what about the 6 months before that? In that period there was ~1600 Mw of new electricity and 13.5% was new renewables.

So there we have it, a bumper year for renewables but it's still only a small minority of new generation and we've a long way to go to catch up with the Europeans. Time magazine gave Europe an A for what they've achieved, I wonder what they'd give us?

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