Australia moves from coal to renewables: 51 percent by 2050

Australia, one of the most coal-dependent energy economies in the world, is on track to produce 51 percent of all its energy by the year 2050. This would make the Land Down Under one of the greenest economies of all when it comes to energy production.

In 2007, Australia's Labor Party brought about the country's 20 Percent Renewable Energy Target, or RET. This called for reducing the carbon footprint of every Australian by one-third, proposing the production of 60,000 gigawatts-hours (GWh) of electricity from renewable sources. Three-quarters of that proposed green energy - 45,000 Gwh, would meet the goals. Australia currently uses about 300,000 Gwh of electricity each year.

In 2011, the goal was divided into 41,000 Gwh of energy for industrial plants coming from renewables, with the remainder produced from small-scale projects like rooftop solar installations.

Green Energy Markets of Australia released a report studying the adoption of renewable energy in the Australian market. Their findings indicate the country is on the path to producing 22 percent of its energy from renewable sources by the end of the decade, and 51 percent by the year 2050. The 22 percent figure is two percent over the established goals of the national government. Even this lower mark will establish Australia as having the greenest energy production in the world.

Currently, the Land Down Under produces 60 percent of its electricity from coal, 24 percent from natural gas, 13 percent (34 GWh) from renewables and two percent from oil. The use of renewable energy sources in Australia is on the rise, however, climbing 4.8 percent a year from 2012 to 2013, with a similar growth rate expected through 2050. Meanwhile, the use of fossil fuels decline at 3.1 percent each year.

Solar power is expected to rise fastest, with a growth rate estimated at 12.3 percent per year for the next 37 years. At that time, solar is expected to produce 16,000 GWh of electricity each year for Australia. The largest share of the renewable market in 2050 will be wind power, expected to reach 21,000 GWh of production by then, after rising 4.7 percent each year.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency, run by the national government, will invest $400 million dollars to build 150 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy plants by 2018. Many of these new plants will provide remote areas with energy. Some of these remote locations will see renewable energy for the first time.

"It's no secret that in Western Australia we have a lot of remote areas and meeting our growing energy demand is a big issue. Where there is no grid-connected electricity, many communities and industries truck-in fuels to generate energy," Gary Gray, Federal Resources and Energy Minister, said.

The improvement to the national grid will be the result of both a great increase in the solar production capacity of the nation, as well as the gradual phasing out of the use of brown coal and oil. These two sources of energy are among the biggest culprits in releasing carbon to the atmosphere.  

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