Australia is paving the way for global adoption of solar energy



All the leading countries in solar and wind power production per capita are in Europe, except for Australia, which produces more solar electricity per capita than any other country. Per capita, it is also the leading producer of wind energy.

Australia’s location is similar to where 80% of the world’s population lives: below 40 degrees latitude. The south-eastern part of Australia, where most people live, is characterized by the availability of sun and wind and its mild climate.
Path-seeking nations must solve problems without prior experience. Australia’s experience is highly replicable because it relies on cheap, mature technology from huge production runs that use vast amounts of available resources – namely solar, wind, hydro storage, batteries, and transmission and demand management. Most of the world’s population can easily follow Australia’s path.

Northern latitudes have excellent wind (mostly offshore). Densely populated areas such as Japan and Indonesia have vast offshore wind and solar resources respectively. Europe will benefit from a terawatt-scale transmission interconnection to transfer offshore wind from the North Sea to the south and southern winter solar energy to the north.

Sun and wind

Currently, Australia purchases 38 percent of electricity in its national electricity market from renewable energy sources, mainly solar and wind. The government’s goal is 82% renewable electricity by 2030 (Figure 3). Australia is finding managing high levels of solar and wind easier and cheaper than many people expected.

Figure 3: Renewable electricity generation in Australia’s national electricity market, including indicative electricity generation to meet the government’s 2030 target. Source: CER

The state of South Australia (population 1.7 million) is targeting 100% solar and wind power in 2027 annually (Figure 3). South Australia has relatively weak connections with other states. A gigawatt of additional transmission is under construction, allowing South Australia to export significant amounts of solar and wind electricity to the eastern states.

Figure 3: Rising solar and wind levels in South Australia. Source: OpenNEM

Solar and wind accounted for 85% in December 2022 (Figure 4), with an average spot market price of AUD 55 ($37)/MWh. South Australia’s grid is very stable and generally offers lower electricity prices than other states. South Australia offers compelling evidence that solar and wind are cheaper than fossil gas generation.

Figure 4: Daily generation shares in South Australia in December 2022. Yellow is solar, green is wind, orange is gas and purple is exports and imports. The horizontal red line indicates zero net output. Source: OpenNEM

Finding solutions

Australia has no nuclear power or geothermal generation and little hydropower capacity (about 6% of annual production). Almost all new generation capacity in Australia is solar and wind.

Energy storage is a solved problem. There are three pumped hydro storage systems in Australia. The structures have two new systems (Snowy 2.0 and Kidston) with more energy stored than all the world’s electric batteries combined.

Australia (population 26 million) has about 15 GW of pumped hydro, as reported by the governments of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria., and Tasmania, with about 700 GWh of combined storage. Nothing about new dams on rivers. A multi-gigawatt-scale investment in batteries and thousands of additional kilometers of gigawatt-scale transmission is underway.

Australia presents simple solutions to solar and wind variability and offers an economically compelling model for rapidly phasing out fossil fuels from electricity generation.

Solar and wind power account for three quarters of new global production capacity (Figure 5). This is compelling market-based evidence that they are the cheapest way to generate electricity. Coupled with “everything electrification,” they can do the heavy lifting to achieve zero emissions before mid-century. Balancing techniques are complete and include storage, transmission and demand management.

Figure 5: New global net production capacity in 2018-2022. Sources: Several

Authors: Prof. Andrew Blakers /ANU) and Prof. Ricardo Rüther (UFSC) and

ISES, the International Solar Energy Society, is a UN-accredited membership organization founded in 1954. It works towards a world with 100% renewable energy for all, used efficiently and wisely.

David is a passionate writer and researcher who specializes in solar energy. He has a strong background in engineering and environmental science, which gives him a deep understanding of the science behind solar power and its benefits. David writes about the latest developments in solar technology and provides practical advice for homeowners and businesses who are interested in switching to solar.

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