(Australian Associated Press)
Renewable energy sources tipped six times more power into Australia’s grid over the 2020-21 summer than gas, according to new research which calls the federal government’s gas expansion plan into question.
The Climate Council on Tuesday found that 30 per cent of energy in the National Electricity Market during the 2020-21 summer came from renewables.
Less than five per cent, meanwhile, came from gas power generation.
The Council said demand for gas power dropped by more than a third in the 2020-21 summer compared to the previous summer, while demand for renewable energy generation lifted by 20 per cent.
Renewables provided 57 times more power than gas in Victoria, and 31 times more power than gas in NSW, the research also found.
Climate Council senior researcher Tim Baxter said renewables were outperforming gas power stations in Australia and should be prioritised.
The federal government is planning for a gas-based economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and invested $53 million in the October budget on new projects across Australia’s gas supply chain.
Reducing the price of gas and increasing supply is central to the government’s plan, even flagging direct support if private companies do not choose to invest.
Labor’s draft policy platform also backs gas as a key part of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and supports new gas projects.
Mr Baxter said such policy positions were misguided.
“Our existing gas power stations are struggling to compete with clean, reliable and affordable energy and storage,” Mr Baxter said in a statement.
“Australia does not need any new gas.
“As the sunniest and one of the windiest places on the planet, Australia should be cashing in on its renewable advantage and, in doing so, rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions … it’s a win-win.”
Gas advocates argue the export of natural gas can help other countries swap out coal use for gas, reducing carbon emissions overseas.
The federal government last year approved a controversial gas field in NSW’s Narrabri, paving the way for the $3.6 billion coal seam project to go ahead.
But the Climate Council previously found the gas industry itself is Australia’s second largest user of gas, using it to make liquefied natural gas to export.
Some seven gigawatts of renewable energy capacity was installed in Australia in 2020, driven by a boom in household solar uptake.