Australia Generated a Record 25% of Its Electricity From Solar in December

Analysis by global energy think tank Ember reveals that Australia achieved a new solar record in December 2023, for the first time generating 25% of its electricity from solar power across a full month, an all-time high of 4.6 TWh.

According to data from AEMO and APVI, which was compiled by OpenNEM, solar also broke records in October and November, when the country generated 24% of its electricity from solar. December tends to be the month with the highest solar generation in Australia, and the previous record was set in December 2022, when solar reached 23% of Australia’s electricity.

Rooftop installations in the country have been key. December saw further records with rooftop solar at times meeting all of South Australia’s power demand. The data shows that around two-thirds of Australia’s solar generation last year was provided by rooftop systems.

As a result, Australia is making progress in cutting emissions from its electricity system. In the three months since October, Australia’s power supply has been 44% low-carbon, with 25% from solar, 13% from wind and 6% from hydro. “It’s the cleanest quarter on record,” said Ember’s data analyst Nicolas Fulghum.

However, coal remains Australia’s largest single source of electricity, generating 52% of the country’s electricity between October and December. Analysis by Ember revealed that Australia emits more carbon dioxide from burning coal on a per capita basis than any other G20 country. Nonetheless, the rapid increase in renewables–particularly solar–is helping to reduce fossil fuel use.

Australia’s solar and wind generation almost quadrupled since the year of the Paris Agreement. In 2015, Australia generated just 7% of its electricity from wind and solar (18 TWh). By 2022, the country generated 26% of its electricity from wind and solar (70 TWh). Australia had the third-highest share of solar power worldwide in 2022. As a result, coal generation fell from 64% of Australia’s electricity (162 TWh) in 2015 to 48% in 2022 (131 TWh). Gas generation fell from 20% in 2015 (50 TWh) to 17% in 2022 (46 TWh).

The trend reflects the global acceleration towards wind and solar energy, which have more than doubled since 2015 to deliver a record 12% of global electricity in 2022, according to Ember’s Global Electricity Review. Solar was the fastest-growing form of electricity worldwide for the eighteenth year in a row in 2022 and is projected to be the backbone of the future electricity system.

By 2030, the Australian government has plans to reach 82% renewable electricity, up from 33% in 2022. However, recent analysis by Ember found that Australia’s plans do not match up to other high-emitting nations. For example, Germany is planning to build 50% more renewables per capita compared to Australia, even though its CO2 emissions per capita from the power sector are half those of Australia. Many European countries already produced more than a third of their electricity from wind and solar in 2022, including Germany and Spain.

“Australia has the opportunity to stake its claim as a renewable leader. A higher target with renewed storage and transmission policies would signal to investors that Australia is serious about its renewable future, and is ready to position itself as a green energy hub, at the heart of the world’s clean energy system,” said Dr Katye Altieri Global Electricity Transition Analyst, Ember