Will Australia invest more heavily in renewable energy?

Renewables has been something of a buzzword across the energy sector over recent years, but one report suggests there's still room for improvement here in Australia.

Sustainable energy technology has the potential to revolutionise the way in which Australia uses and pays for its power. With electricity prices on the rise, the need for this to happen is increasing day by day.

Bloomberg New Energy Financial (BNEF) has discussed what must be done here and throughout the Asia-Pacific region in its 2030 Market Outlook.

Putting a figure on future development

BNEF estimates that in order to meet its power capacity demands over the next couple of decades, the Asia-Pacific region will need to invest as much as $3.6 trillion in renewables.

Around two-thirds of this will be dedicated to renewable technologies such as hydro-electricity, solar and wind, which are set to grow in parallel with coal and gas-fired generation.

The group believes fossil fuels will continue to play a part in Australia's energy mix, even as demand for more sustainable solutions grows throughout the region.

Solar expected to lead the charge

One of the standout performers of the coming years is expected be solar power, which will come to the fore much sooner than many other renewable technologies.

It's estimated by BNEF that as much as 800 GW of utility-scale solar panels will be added throughout the Asia-Pacific - but this won't be at the expense of fossil fuels.

"This will be driven by economics, not subsidies - our analysis suggests that solar will be fully competitive with other power sources by 2020, only six years from now," said Milo Sjardin, head of Asia-Pacific for BNEF.

Over the same period, economic growth in Asia will accommodate 434 GW of coal-fired capacity and 314 GW of gas-fired production, meaning carbon emissions still look set to rise.

Figures from ARENA show the use of solar power in Australia is likely to grow by 5.9 per cent per year until 2029-30. At present, it accounts for just 0.1 per cent of primary energy use in Australia and many other parts of the world.

Renewable energy on a global scale

It's not only the Asia-Pacific region that's making the shift towards sustainable energy technology - the rest of the world is showing an interest too.

BNEF forecasts investment of around $7.7 trillion by 2030, with approximately 66 per cent of this to be invested in renewables such as wind and solar.

The Asia-Pacific region will spend the greatest amount on sustainable technologies, followed by the Americas, Europe and the rest of the world.

Even though there is undoubtedly a shift towards newer systems, fossil fuels are predicted to retain a 44 per cent share of power generation by 2030. However, this is markedly lower than the 64 per cent recorded globally last year.

Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for BNEF, said cost reductions are what will make renewable power a more appealing option to developed nations across the globe.

"What we are seeing is global CO2 emissions on track to stop growing by the end of next decade, with the peak only pushed back because of fast-growing developing countries, which continue adding fossil fuel capacity as well as renewables," he commented.

Forecasts suggest as much as 1,073 GW of coal, oil and gas capacity will be introduced worldwide over the next 16 years, the majority of which will be found in developing nations.

Meanwhile, the combined share of solar photovoltaics and wind will increase from just 3 per cent in 2013 to 16 per cent in 2030.

Posted by Liam Tunney.