Solar continus to shine

Justin_Hitchen_New_Energy_SolarJustin Hitchen2 March 2018

The global transition to clean energy is well underway. On the world stage, solar power was the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in the world in 2016, outperforming growth in all other forms of power generation.1

China led the transition toward a clean energy future as its PV power generation sector surpassed a 100 gigawatt (GW) milestone, achieving an installation capacity of 102 GW by the end of June 2017.2 Meanwhile, India added more rooftop solar to its buildings in 2017 than in the last four years combined, adding a total of 715 megawatts (MW) in rooftop power and further contributing to the country’s fastest growing sub-sector of the renewables market.3

In the United States, the government’s decision to impose a tariff on imported solar products garnered headlines but had a limited effect on investments in the country’s solar industry, which experienced the second highest level of solar installations on record.Ten per cent of all electricity generated in March and April alone likely came from wind and solar power, marking the first milestone of its kind for the country.5 Despite the tariffs, solar capacity over the next three years is still predicted to grow at a greater level than the past three years.6

Meanwhile, 2017 also marked the commencement of a utility-scale solar boom7 in Australia. The sector grew from less than 250 MW of installed capacity at the beginning of the year to over 400 MW of operational projects – with a further 2,000 MW to commence construction by year’s end.

Australia’s total solar power capacity surpassed 6 GW, contributing 11% toward the nation’s total electricity generation capacity and creating enough energy to power 1.3 million homes.9 Charles Sturt University installed the country’s largest rooftop solar power system to date10 and by December, Australia also became home to the world’s first solar-powered train.11

The South Australian state government announced last year that it would construct a 150 MW solar thermal power plant in Port Augusta – the biggest of its kind in the world.12 The Aurora Solar Energy Project is slated for construction later this year and by 2020 will “supply 100% of the state government’s needs”, according to Premier Jay Weatherill.13 Meanwhile, New South Wales will become home to the country’s largest solar plant this year, after Maoneng Australia and Decmil partnered to construct a 250 MWdc solar farm that covers 1,000 hectares of land.14 Once constructed, the Sunraysia solar farm will also sell energy to the University of New South Wales, after the university agreed to purchase enough power to meet its annual energy requirements for the next 15 years.15

And these milestones are only the beginning. The rising cost of electricity, coupled with increased energy unreliability, has prompted consumers to seek alternative energies with which to meet their needs.

According to research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewable energies are fast becoming consumers’ preferred sources of electricity as they compete with traditional energies on a cost, reliability and sustainability basis. Research suggests that by 2040, 72% of the $10.2 trillion spent on new power generation worldwide will be invested in new wind and solar PV plants.16 Bloomberg estimates that in Australia, almost 90% of the AU$88 billion forecast to be spent adding power capacity by 2040 will go towards clean energy.17 During this time, the cost of solar-powered electricity is also expected to drop by 66% in many countries including Australia, further increasing the adoption of rooftop solar by households across the world.18

Driven by the competitive economics of renewable energy,19 and as a response to the threat of global warming,20 the demand for sustainable energy around the world is expected to remain robust. In particular, the outlook appears bright for the Australian utility-scale solar market, where a large number of projects are expected to commence throughout 2018 as developers compete to take advantage of some of the best solar in the world.

Justin has a Bachelor of Business with a major in Finance and Economics from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He also completed the UTS Finance Honours Program in 2015. His role with the business focuses on market research, transaction coordination, financial modelling, and investor communications.

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