Is Australia making the switch to renewable energy?
With climate change and greenhouse gas emissions dominating the headlines in recent times, renewable energy has been a heated topic of discussion - particularly for small business. From electricity price reviews to the opening of large-scale solar plants across the country, it has been the never-ending pursuit of balance between cost and sustainability. However, a new report from the Clean Energy Council has revealed that the renewable sector has plenty of room to grow.
The latest Clean Energy Australia report for 2015 shows that renewable energy's share of electricity production has tumbled for the first time in eight years. Chief Executive Kane Thornton said it was a difficult year for renewable energy in Australia.
The overall proportion of electricity produced by renewables fell from 14.76 per cent in 2013 to 13.47 in 2014, with the sector also facing falling investment and employment over the period.
The overall proportion of electricity produced by renewables fell from 14.76 per cent in 2013 to 13.47 in 2014
This figure comes amidst controversy, with the federal government debating the place of Australia's renewable energy target - including a proposed reduction. Mr Thornton said the decline in investment had a lot to do with the uncertainty created by this discussion.
Investment in large-scale projects, including wind farms and solar installations dropped by a concerning 88 per cent over the year but, nonetheless, he remains positive about the outlook.
"Once this deal is legislated, it will help return investment to the sector and build a lot more major renewable energy projects," Mr Thornton said in a June 3 statement.
Similarly, he pointed out that reduced generation wasn't only a result of the government review, as it was of the conditions. Lower rainfall throughout the year meant the amount of power generated by hydro dropped significantly, which put a dent in renewable energy's overall share in 2014.
Network charge challenge
It's little wonder renewables are becoming a viable alternative. Heated debated has sparked between electricity providers and consumers, with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) launching the first ever challenge to network electricity prices in New South Wales. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has undertaken a substantial review of these charges, but PIAC says they are still too high.
"Network prices in NSW are now double what they are in Victoria," Dr Gabrielle Kuiper, Senior Policy Officer in PIAC's Energy and Water Consumer Advocacy Program, said in a May 21 statement.
"This is bad news for the productivity of the NSW economy, especially for small businesses."
Creating a solar solution
Despite the challenging conditions, the Clean Energy Australia report also showed that the electricity produced from renewable sources was still adequate enough to power some 4.5 million homes in 2014.
A recent report from the Grattan Institute shows that since 2001, 1.4 million homes across the country have these systems installed, a point echoed by the Clean Energy Council.
According to the council, there were just over 187,000 solar power systems installed on homes and small businesses during 2014 - though this was an 8.5 per cent drop on the previous year. While the household sector fell slightly, the commercial solar sector saw the largest growth over the year.
"More than 15,000 businesses have now installed a solar power system, helping them save a collective $64 million on their power bills every year," Kane Thornton said.
What can you do?
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Posted by Nikki Wilson-Everett