Posted May 06, 2018 06:09:40 Australia is poised to overtake the United States as the world’s second-largest producer of clean energy, according to the most recent World Energy Council figures.
The report released on Wednesday found Australia produced a record 5.7 gigawatts of clean electricity last year, up from 4.9 gigawatts in 2015.
The data from the council is one of the most comprehensive, but also the most contentious, ever released by the international organisation.
The WEC’s most recent figures show Australia produced 4.5 gigawatts last year.
While the figure is still only a fraction of what was produced in the US, the US has more than doubled its clean energy output over the last five years, to nearly 30 gigawatts.
“We’re going to have the greatest solar boom of all time,” Australian Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told ABC Radio.
“It’s going to be the largest solar boom since the early days of solar.”
Mr Frydenbrook said Australia’s role as the leading nation on renewable energy was “incredibly significant”.
“The reason why it is so significant is because it is the only country in the world that produces more renewable energy than the US,” he said.
The global boom in solar panels has sparked huge excitement across Australia.
With demand for solar growing, the solar industry has been hit hard by a slump in demand for traditional energy, such as coal, which was once the country’s dominant source of power.
A recent report by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) said demand for electricity from renewable energy dropped by 40 per cent between 2014 and 2016.
ARENA chief executive, Paul O’Neill, said that while the sector was still “on track” to meet the world target, he was “not confident that we will hit our targets”.
The report also warned of “potential risks” to the sector as the global economic downturn hits Australia hard.
In recent years, a number of solar panels have been removed from rooftops across Australia, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to upgrade them.
A number of businesses have moved to install solar panels themselves, with many relying on a “factory model” for manufacturing solar panels.
Mr Fryderinbrook said the industry was “going to take a massive hit” with the global financial crisis and continued drought.
“Australia is going to take the biggest hit of all in terms of solar as we’re going through a global downturn,” he told ABC News.
“So we’re really focused on making sure that our energy portfolio is strong, we’re taking a big hit.”
The Australian Solar Council, which represents more than 1,000 businesses, said the data showed Australia’s renewables investment had grown by 20 per cent in the past year.
“The industry has always been very dependent on government subsidies, particularly for solar, so that’s an issue that’s getting a lot of attention, particularly in the next couple of years,” the council’s chief executive Peter White told ABC Rural.
“As an industry, we are looking at the cost of our energy, and that’s going up, and we’re getting a huge jump in the cost for our solar panel systems.”
The data released on Tuesday shows the industry has made significant strides over the past few years, as a result of a number new regulations and incentives.
In the last year alone, Australia has introduced a number different incentives to encourage solar panel installations.
The Government’s solar incentives have already doubled over the next three years, with the solar subsidy program currently costing the Government $8 billion.
While some of those incentives are aimed at providing a boost to the industry, others are aimed more at improving energy efficiency.
For example, the Government announced a national carbon price for electricity, a measure that will save the energy sector around $6 billion over the coming decade.
“One of the things that’s been really important is the Government has been investing in the energy efficiency and the energy security of our electricity network,” Mr White said.
“And it’s just been a really good first step in making sure we have a strong energy network.”
Renewables Minister Josh MacFarlane said it was a good sign the industry had responded well to the recent federal government’s measures.
“I think the solar market is a great opportunity for our government, for our industry, and for the Australian people,” Mr MacFarlan said.