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Renewable Energy Growth in Australia

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 2207 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Renewable energy refers to the energy that once depleted can be easily replenished. It is obtained from renewable energy resources such as sunlight, water, geothermal and wind. Its use has become greatly preferred in the recent years because it does not affect the environment negatively. Non renewable energy sources such as coal, fossil fuels, natural gas and petroleum can become depleted if used excessively. Also when in use, they are responsible for emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

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As stated above, the major aim of the use of renewable energy is to reduce emissions. The transition to the use of renewable energy can be seen in numerous countries such as China, Australia and among other developing countries. In the past, the use of this energy commenced but was unable to be self-sustaining thus most countries went back to the use of alternative sources of energy. The use of renewable energy was targeted majorly towards running households. These households used biogas and solar systems which provided enough energy towards their needs. In this essay, I will focus on the growth rate of the use of renewable energy in Australia and its effects towards the economy among other factors.


Australia is ranked as one of the most developed countries together with the United Kingdom, Denmark and Canada just to name a few. Between 1996 and 2001, Australia’s resident population increased by nearly 1.1 million people, from 18.3 million to 19.4 million, surpassing 19 million in 2000 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1981 p.1). With a constant increase in the countries’ population, implementation of the use of alternative sources of energy was of outmost concern. Australia is one of the countries that are considered rich and abundant in fossil fuel energy resources. It is important for Australia to regulate the use of conventional energies with renewable energy (RE) resources (Yusaf, Goh and Borserio, 2011). Presently, the available forms of renewable energy include solar, wind and biomass.

Energy consumption by fuel type.

 Australia is a largely diverse country. In terms of fuel type, this diversity can be explored.

Source: 2013 Australian energy statistics, Figure 1.

It can be seen from the above data that, the use of renewable energy sources in Australia has shown a slight increase from the years 1973 to 2012. However, the use of coal and oil have been largely predominant. From this data, it is plain to see that renewable resource use needs to be emphasized.



growth %

share %



2010-11 to

5 year average annual growth


2 118





2 411





1 399










6 194




Source: Australian energy statistics, Table 3

Renewable resources contribute only 4.3 % to the total energy usage in Australia. The most common of which is solar energy. There is a marked decrease in the amount of coal because of the falling coal use in Iron and steel sector over the past five years (Azad, Khan, Ahasan and Ahmed, 2014 p. 21).

Potential for Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

Concentrated Solar Power refers to the specific technology used to generate solar power by converting the energy of the suns’ rays into heat using a set of powerful lenses. The use of CSP would result in the reduction of the costs obtained in energy use and would furthermore curb greenhouse emissions.

According to Clifton and Buroff (2010), potential CSP sites are defined in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia through overlaying environmental variables and electricity infrastructure on a high resolution grid using widely available datasets and standard geographical information system (GIS) software.  The Wheatbelt region is located in an enormous region of Western Australia’s Golden Outback and borders the Indian Ocean to the west, and extends north to the Mid-East region.  Since solar energy is directly influenced by the availability of land resources, the vastness of this region creates conducive environment for the setting up of a CPS sites. This is supported by the study conducted by the European project “Risk of Energy Availability: Common Corridors for European Supply Security” (REACCESS). The analysis of the data obtained from this study shows that Australia and the Middle East have the largest potential areas for CPS followed by China and Central & South America (Trieb et al, 2009 p.3).

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However, CSP remains largely unexploited because of the high investment and lack of stable investment incentives (Peterseim et al, 2014). Furthermore, the total hybrid potential in Australia within 50 km of existing transmission and distribution infrastructure is 7000MWe which would require an investment of AU$39.5b to annually generate 33.5 TWh (Peterseim et al, 2014). The Australian government is capable of providing adequate funding for the commencement of this project. The money can be budgeted for in the next financial year and the benefits of renewable solar energy achieved.

Other renewable energy sources

Apart from CSP, there are various other sources of renewable energy currently being exploited in Australia. In late 2007, a new Australian federal government committed to significantly boosting Australia’s energy consumption from renewable energy by 2020 (Hindmarsh and Mathews, 2008).

Currently, the exploitation of wind energy is a major contributor to the countries’ total energy output. The use of wind as an energy resource dates back several centuries. It has evolved from the use of basic windmills to high efficiency turbines capable of producing energy to run plants and companies. Wind harvesting farms prime location is in high altitude areas. The main setback towards their installation is the conflict surrounding their location. Hindmarsh and Mathews, (2008), attribute this to the inadequate community involvement in state government approval processes for wind farms. A more wholesome approach towards installation of wind farms is being undertaken. It will involve adequate representation of the local communities and ensure the governments’ goals on self-sustainable renewable energy are met. 

Renewable Energy Target (RET)

In 2001, Australia introduced legislation requiring investment in new renewable electricity generation capacity. (Nelson et al, 2013).  Furthermore, Nelson et al (2013) states that the legislation was significantly expanded in 2009 to give effect to a 20% RET. It was designed to ensure that, from the total energy produced in Australia, an average of 33,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) would come directly from the renewable energy resources. The main purpose of the RET was to reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions and the end date set was 2020. This move would create market for renewable energy and pave the way towards sustainable use of these resources.

Benefits of renewable energy.

Most governments have discovered the importance of the use of renewable energy and are in the process of out facing non-renewable energy sources. This is attributed to the numerous advantages offered by renewable energy. These are;

  • Renewable energy resources cannot be completely exhausted. They can be used over a long period of time without depletion.
  • They provide clean energy. This means that when in use, they do not release harmful greenhouse gases to the environment. Greenhouse gases, once released gradually lead to global warming.
  • Since they are produced from natural resources, renewable energy sources require minimal and inexpensive maintenance procedures. They are thus pocket friendly.

Limitations of renewable energy

Though the benefits of renewable energy are abundant, there are some disadvantages associated with their use.

  • Renewable energy is fully dependent on the environment thus when weather conditions are unfavorable, their generation and distribution is affected. In solar energy generation, extended periods of cloudy skies and darkness inhibit its production.
  • The amount of energy produced by renewable resources is significantly lower than that of non-renewable sources. This problem can be overcome by having a greater number of renewable energy generation sites to meet the high energy demands.


Australia provides a prime location for the installation and application of renewable energy resources. The stability of its economy, advanced infrastructure and overall vast terrain provide a conducive environment for the growth of the renewable energy industry. Furthermore, legislations such as the RET, provide backing from the Australian government towards this goal. Currently, Solar and Wind energy are the most exploited renewable resources. Measures should be taken towards inclusion of other renewable resources such as water and natural gases. Although development is slow, great strides are being made in the renewable community and in the near future, Australia will hopefully be among the top users of renewable energy in the world.


  • Australian Bureau of Statistics, A., 1981. Census of population and housing (p. 106). Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  • Azad, A.K., Khan, M.M.K., Ahasan, T. and Ahmed, S.F., 2014. Energy scenario: production, consumption and prospect of renewable energy in Australia. Journal of Power and Energy Engineering2(04), p.19.
  • Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, 2013. Australian Energy Statistics Data. http://www.bree.gov.au/publications/aes-2013.html
  • Clifton, J. and Boruff, B.J., 2010. Assessing the potential for concentrated solar power development in rural Australia. Energy Policy38(9), pp.5272-5280.
  • Hindmarsh, R. and Matthews, C., 2008. Deliberative speak at the turbine face: community engagement, wind farms, and renewable energy transitions, in Australia. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning10(3), pp.217-232.
  • Nelson, T., Nelson, J., Ariyaratnam, J. and Camroux, S., 2013. An analysis of Australia’s large scale renewable energy target: Restoring market confidence. Energy Policy62, pp.386-400.
  • Peterseim, J.H., White, S., Tadros, A. and Hellwig, U., 2014. Concentrating solar power hybrid plants–Enabling cost effective synergies. Renewable Energy67, pp.178-185.
  • Trieb, F., Schillings, C., O’sullivan, M., Pregger, T. and Hoyer-Klick, C., 2009, September. Global potential of concentrating solar power. In SolarPACES Conference (pp. 15-18).
  • Yusaf, T., Goh, S. and Borserio, J.A., 2011. Potential of renewable energy alternatives in Australia. Renewable and sustainable energy reviews15(5), pp.2214-2221.


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