‘Change is coming fast’: Oceania outstrips Europe in solar, wind uptake

As the world moves towards a greener, sustainable future, Australia is making significant strides in transitioning to renewable energy production, according to a new report.

Figures from UK-based think tank Ember show that the Oceania region, of which Australia is a member, has recently outpaced Europe in its shift towards wind and solar.

Ember’s Global Electricity Review found that the move to wind and solar power could push the world into a new era of falling fossil fuel generation by this year.

As a critical player in the global transition, Australia has much to gain from success but even more to lose from failure.

A climate expert told The New Daily that while positive steps have been made, Australia needs to “accelerate the transition” to meet our 82 per cent renewable energy target by 2030 and limit global average temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

Dr Carl Tidemann, senior researcher for climate solutions at the Climate Council, said Australia’s overall performance regarding climate change is somewhere in between other countries.

“[Our] performance is probably better than some, but not as good as others,” he said.

“I think we’ve certainly seen some positive changes, but it’s not happening as fast as we need to avoid dangerous climate change.”

The Ember review found Australia’s reliance on fossil fuels peaked in 2009, two years later than the EU and the US. But it noted that as a nation, we’re “[not] contending with rapid growth in electricity demand”.

Dr Tidemann said the dwindling reliance on fossil fuels was good for the climate, prices and household budgets.

“As we saw when gas and coal prices increased dramatically with the Ukraine war, so too did electricity prices,” he said.

“More renewables backed up with storage and ensuring an orderly transition away from fossil fuels is a good thing.”

Despite some progress, Australia was in the world’s top 10 biggest emitters per capita, along with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, South Korea and America.

The revelation was unsurprising, given our reliance on “plentiful and cheap” coal for so long, Dr Tidemann said.

“Some of that [coal] in particular in Victoria is brown coal, which is basically the worst fuel you can use for electricity generation,” he said.

“And many of our power stations are significantly older than those in many other countries. So they’re less efficient than newer coal power stations would be.”


The review highlights the importance of hydro, stating it plays an essential role in the global electricity mix.

But Dr Tidemann said the power source was not a silver bullet.

He said external factors such as drought could affect the technology.

Pumped hydro, which involves storing electricity by pumping water to a higher reservoir when there is excess or cheap electricity in the grid, was preferable to standard hydro.

Standard hydro uses the force of moving water to generate electricity. It uses turbines to turn the energy of falling or flowing water into electricity. This is done by directing the water through a dam or reservoir.

But pumped hydro is vulnerable to being affected by severe weather conditions. Lower dam levels brought on by dry spells and droughts may restrict the power produced and raise prices.

Although hydro should be included in the nation’s energy mix, it needed to be balanced with other forms of storage, Dr Tidemann said.

Government’s role

Dr Tidemann said while the 82 per cent target outlined by the government was admirable, it required federal policies to achieve it.

“​​We haven’t heard much on exactly how they expect to achieve that target,” he said.

“There are plenty of state and territory policies that will probably get us somewhere there. But we also need federal certainty, which leads to investor certainty, which is always good.”

He said the government’s promised energy transition authority was essential to address the issue of coal and gas leaving the system and the communities affected by this.

“I think it’s an over-simplification to simply get rid of coal because we need to ensure that the communities and the workers are looked after,” he said.

“And we need to do it in a planned method … but we also need to do it as fast as possible.”

Ember’s review concluded that the electricity sector is not yet seeing the emission declines needed to limit warming at 1.5 degrees, but “change is coming fast”.

“Wind and solar are being prioritised not only because they are clean, but also because in many countries they are cheaper and more secure than fossil fuels,” the review’s authors wrote.

“Acting now brings the most benefits. Investing in renewables will rapidly pay for itself with cheaper electricity.

“Moreover, securing clean electricity decades ahead of net zero will unlock the most affordable and effective pathways to economy-wide decarbonisation.”

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