South Australia, on track to meet 50% renewables target, sets sites on 100%

South Australia is on track to pass its 50 per cent renewable energy target next year – nearly a decade ahead of schedule – as the Labor government shifts its aim to reaching 100 per cent renewable energy, as soon as possible.

Premier Jay Weatherill said in Paris on Monday that the state was leading the world in the incorporation of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, and hoped the knowledge gained would create a massive economic opportunity for a state struggling with the decline of long-term industries such as car manufacturing.

“We are running a big international experiment right now,” Weatherill said at the launch in Paris of the Compact of States and Regions, an initiative that will see 44 states and regions reduce their emissions by 12.4 tonnes by 2030.

“We have got a long, skinny transmission system and we will soon have 50 per cent renewable energy, including a lot of wind and some solar.

“We need technology breakthroughs for large-scale storage, such as pumped hydro or batteries, but these are massive technological challenges that are exciting opportunities for the state.”

South Australia does find itself at the cutting edge of the transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to an energy system dominated by technologies such as wind, solar and storage. Its last coal fired power generator is due to close in March next year.

The 50 per cent renewable energy target was formally announced last year, but was always going to be met well ahead of time – the addition of the Snowton 2 wind farm, the construction of the Hornsdale wind farm, and the growth in rooftop solar PV will take the state over that threshold in 2016.

Indeed, the Australian Energy Market Operator has forecast that all of the state’s daytime demand may on occasions be met by rooftop solar alone within the next decade.

It recently undertook scenario planning that suggested the state could reach close to 100 per cent renewable energy within two decades. In reality, the state is unlikely to go all the way to 100 per cent renewables, because it will likely find that  electrification of transport is a bigger priority. But it could go close.

“We know there are challenges here,” Weatherill told RenewEconomy. “But with big risks, go big opportunities.

“If we can solve (these issues) in South Australia, we can then help others. We are trying to turn this into an exciting challenge, rather than a burden.”

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Giles Parkinson