The electricity market is undergoing a significant transition. Renewable energy and clean energy innovation, including emerging technologies will play an increasingly important role in our modern and dynamic electricity market.
Innovation in clean energy technology is essential for Australia for continued economic prosperity and to contribute to global efforts to reduce emissions
Clean energy technologies including renewables contribute to Australia’s emissions reduction targets. Renewable technologies are deployed widely throughout Australia and include large-scale and residential solar PV, concentrated solar thermal, wind, hydro, biomass, wave energy, geothermal and battery storage technology. As the costs of these technologies continue to fall, uptake is expected to increase, creating new ways to generate, store and distribute electricity.
Investment in clean energy technology
The Australian Government is investing in new forms of renewable energy, such as concentrated solar thermal and battery storage technology, to provide additional backup in times of peak demand. Since 2013, the Government has committed over $220 million to support energy storage technologies.
The Australian Government also supports clean energy innovation across the spectrum of research and development, demonstration and deployment.
Mission Innovation is a global initiative to accelerate breakthroughs in clean energy technology innovation. Along with other Mission Innovation members, Australia has pledged to double government clean energy research and development expenditure on 2015 levels by 2020 while encouraging greater levels of private sector investment in transformative clean energy technologies.
Australia nominated a Mission Innovation baseline of $108 million, based on the 2015 figures for combined research and development into focus areas including renewable energy, energy storage, fuel cells, smart grids, energy efficiency, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.
In Australia, research and development grants are provided by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), the Australian Research Council and the CSIRO. Financing for emerging technology is provided by the Clean Energy Innovation Fund. Projects near commercial deployment can access debt and equity from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).
Action on renewables
The Australian Government is:
- exploring new forms of renewable energy generation such as concentrated solar thermal and innovation in storage, to provide more back-up in times of peak demand and help bring stability to electricity prices
- exploring options to introduce pumped hydro technology across Australia through Snowy 2.0 and expanding existing hydro facilities in South Australia and Tasmania
- continuing to work with the CSIRO to realise the opportunities identified in the Low Emissions Technology Roadmap, including opportunities to be part of the future global energy supply chain
Renewable energy targets, funding and investments
The Australian Government supports the following measures:
- The Renewable Energy Target (RET) which is a scheme designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in the electricity sector and encourage the additional generation of electricity from sustainable and renewable sources. It is helping to transform Australia’s electricity generation mix to cleaner and more diverse sources, and supporting growth and employment in the renewable energy sector by providing a financial incentive for investment in new renewable energy projects. With the help of the RET, Australian households have installed more than 1.7 million solar PV systems and 1 million solar water heater systems.
- The Solar Communities program provides $5 million in funding for community groups to install rooftop solar panels, solar hot water and solar‑connected battery systems. It will support local responses to climate change and deliver lower electricity costs for community organisations.
- The CEFC has $10 billion in capital to provide debt and equity financing to promote investment in clean energy technologies. A portion of this finance has been used to establish the following funds:
- The $1 billion Sustainable Cities Investment Program supports clean energy and energy efficient technology solutions in cities and the built environment.
- The $1 billion Reef Funding Program for clean energy projects and businesses that support delivery of the Government's Reef 2050 plan.
- The $200 million Clean Energy Innovation Fund to support early stage and emerging clean energy technologies. The Clean Energy Innovation Fund is co‑managed by ARENA and the CEFC. The Fund draws on ARENA’s experience in the renewable energy sector, and its technical expertise in assessing these projects. This complements the CEFC and its financial investment expertise.
- ARENA’s purpose is to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia. As at 30 June 2017, ARENA had committed approximately $1.032 billion.
- Up to $110 million of equity funds will be made available to accelerate and secure the delivery of a new solar thermal power generation facility in Port Augusta, South Australia. This investment could add to other funding that may be available through ARENA and the CEFC through a competitive process.