Australia’s switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy is heating up. Earlier this week solar power edged out coal as the leading source of energy nationwide, the first time it has naturally occurred during the winter months. Experts predict this trend will continue due to increasing consumer demand in solar and aggressive national emissions targets.

Coal has been at times up to 80 or 90 percent of the amount of energy coming into the market.

Blink and you would have missed it, but it did happen none the less. For approximately 30 minutes solar energy overtook coal as the lead source of power, as seen across the national energy market. This accounts for all states and territories within Australia (with the exception of the Northern Territory and Western Australian). Notably, this wasn’t the first time solar had overtaken coal, but it was significant for other reasons. It was the first-time coal had been dethroned by solar during the winter months and under business-as-usual conditions. Joshua Stabler, Managing Director at energy consulting firm Energy Edge, explained how important this shift in use was, as “coal has been at times up to 80 or 90 percent of the amount of energy coming into the market. Which means this is a big event.”

Was this uptake in use just an anomaly? Experts think not, and in fact expect increased usage of solar to soon become the norm, both in the short and long-term. Equally impressive is the fact that Australia is just beginning to emerge from a particularly cold winter, a period where naturally occurring light is at its lowest levels, yet the country recorded higher than average levels of energy attributed to solar power. Most of the solar power came from rooftop solar panels installed on commercial and residential properties, not large-scale solar farms. As the warmer weather and longer sunlight hours take over, expect solar usage to do the same, more often.

Solar isn’t the only renewable seeing a surge in use. Last week the state of Victoria was majority powered by wind energy, making up a reported 69% of the state’s power supply. This is the result of increasing consumers demand for green energy, with Australia behind only the Netherlands when it comes to the rate of adoption for renewables of the last two years, shifting over 8% of the total electrical demand away from fossil fuels.

With more Australians installing rooftop solar panels to offset higher electricity prices, experts are betting that we will see even more records fall in the coming months and some have predicted that solar could become the dominant provider of electrical energy as early as 2023. These predictions come on the heels of the new Australian government’s environmental agenda, which is refocussing on renewable energy as a top priority amid intense pressure to tighten its net-zero targets to 2030 (from 2050). Whilst the country appears to be turning the page, there is still much work to be done to address Australia’s unsatisfactory environmental policy and failure to adhere to international emissions standards. This week’s renewable energy event was a ray of sunshine amidst the dark clouds of climate change.

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