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Renewable energy

We often hear about 'clean' or 'renewable' energy, but what is it, really? Truly clean energy is renewable because it comes from unlimited natural sources: sunlight, wind, flowing water (hydro) and waves, heat stored in the earth’s crust, and the energy stored in plants and animal waste (bioenergy).

A cleaner energy source

Unlike coal, oil or gas, renewable energy produces virtually no pollution when generating power. There are no dirty plumes of smoke from wind turbines or solar panels, and no toxic particle emissions to cause health problems. That’s why it’s often called ‘clean’ energy.

Renewables on the rise

Across the world, the way we generate power is evolving. Globally, an estimated 147 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power capacity was added in 2015, the largest annual increase ever.[1] Investment in renewable energy capacity continues to outpace investment in fossil fuels. The trend is clear – wind and solar power are growing at extraordinary rates (see graphs below). Clean energy is taking over.

Growth in global rooftop solar capacity from 2005 to 2015. Source: http://www.ren21.net/status-of-renewables/global-status-report/

Above: Growth in solar panel capacity from 2005-2015. Source: REN21.

Above: Growth in global wind power capacity 2005-2015. Source: http://www.ren21.net/status-of-renewables/global-status-report/

Above: Growth in global wind power capacity 2005-2015. Source: REN21.

Costs are dropping

As coal power stations are phased out, increasing amounts of renewable energy will be built. The wind blows for free and the sun shines for nothing, so once renewable energy projects are built they are very cheap to run. This means they can provide electricity at much lower cost than coal power, and ultimately this will push electricity prices down. In fact, that was one finding of the Abbott government’s review of the federal Renewable Energy Target.[2]

The technologies are getting cheaper and cheaper, meaning the costs will fall even further.

For example, from 2009 to 2014, the price of photovoltaic solar panels dropped 80 percent, and wind turbines by a third, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.[3]

Renewable energy in Victoria

In 2015, renewable energy provided about 12 percent of Victoria’s electricity.[4] Other Australian states are far ahead. For example, in the same year renewable energy provided about 40 percent of South Australia’s electricity.

But Victoria is catching up. In 2016, the Victorian state government announced new renewable energy targets. By 2020, 25 percent of Victoria’s electricity will come from clean renewable energy. By 2025, that will rise to 40 percent.

The target is expected to support 5400 megawatts (MW) of new projects and create more than 4000 new jobs in the renewable energy sector by 2024.

Along with other environment and community groups, Environment Victoria played an important role in campaigning for this success. Read more in our media release here.


[1] http://www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/REN21_GSR2016_FullReport_en_11.pdf p.17

[2] http://webarchive.nla.gov.au/gov/20150403183612/http://retreview.dpmc.gov.au/ret-review-report-0

[3] https://www.irena.org/rethinking/IRENA%20_REthinking_Energy_2nd_report_2015.pdf p.12

[4] https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/policy-advocacy/reports/clean-energy-australia-report.html

Cleaning up our power

It's time to make the transition from polluting coal to clean, renewable energy. Tell the federal government we need a national plan to phase out coal while supporting affected communities.