Energy Transition

Australia to boost domestic solar panel production, and other top energy stories

Solar panels

This round-up brings you the key energy stories from the energy sector over recent weeks. Image: Unsplash/Nuno Marques

Roberto Bocca
Head, Centre for Energy and Materials; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum
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Energy Transition

This article is part of: Centre for Energy and Materials
  • This round-up brings you the key energy stories from the energy sector over recent weeks.
  • Top energy stories: Australia looks to spur domestic solar production; hydropower generation falls in China; Record clean energy production in Europe.
  • For more on the World Economic Forum’s work in the energy space, visit the Centre for Energy and Materials.

1. Australia unveils Solar Sunshot programme

Australia plans to boost domestic solar panel production with a new $650 million fund.

Speaking at the launch of the Solar Sunshot programme, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “Today we have around 90% of the world's solar panels produced in just one country, China, and then exported to around the world. We missed the opportunities. We are not going to miss the opportunities of this generation, and that is what our support is all about."

Australia currently has over 3.6 million solar photovoltaic installations with a combined capacity of over 34 gigawatts, giving the country one of the world’s highest installation rates per capita.

The programme, which is set to provide grants and production credits across the solar panel supply chain, will be overseen by the federal government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

2. Droughts depress hydropower generation in China

China’s hydroelectricity power generation has dropped slightly over recent years despite an increase in installed capacity, according to official data.

Figures from China’s National Bureau of Statistics show that total output of hydroelectric power across the country was 1,141 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2023, a drop from 1,202TWh in 2022 and 1,184TWh in 2021.

This fall comes despite China's hydropower capacity having increased 7.8% over the same period — from 390.9MW in 2021 to 421.5MW in 2023, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

An ongoing drought is impacting river flows in the southwest of the country, leading to reduced power generation at plants, Reuters reports.

3. News in brief: More energy stories from around the world

A record 60% of Europe’s electricity was generated by clean power sources in the first two months of 2024. Of the 867.5TWh generated across the continent in January and February, 516.5TWh came from clean power sources, Reuters reports, citing figures from Ember. This is an increase of 12% from the same period in 2023.

Graph showing Europe's electricity output for January and February
The amount of coal in Europe's electricity mix is decreasing year by year. Image: Reuters

The US has announced $6 billion of federal funding for cutting emissions at 33 industrial projects across 20 states. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the projects would cut emissions across industries including steel, concrete, aluminium, pulp & paper, food & beverages and chemicals.

Japanese trading group Mitsui has announced an investment of $560 million to develop a gas field in the southern Vietnam province of Kien Giang. Production is slated to begin in late 2026 with field development and the construction of a pipeline to a gas-fired power plant.

EU countries have expressed conditional support for setting a target of a more ambitious carbon reduction target by 2040. In addition to the bloc’s aim to cut carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 and to go net zero by 2050, the European Commission had proposed an interim target of 90% reduction by 2040. Following a debate on the 2040 goal, 10 countries voted in favour and three were opposed, while 13 asked for additional concessions.

Global solar installations surged by over 80% year-on-year in 2023. Research from Wood Mackenzie has found annual installations reached 417 (gigawatts-direct current) in 2023, with China contributing more than 60% of global installed capacity over the last year. On the current trajectory, total worldwide solar capacity will more than triple over the next decade, it said.

Graph of global solar installations from 2022 to 2033
Solar installations are set for steady growth over the next decade. Image: Wood Mackenzie

Germany has shut down 15 of its coal-fired power plants as the country moves ahead with its plan to phase out all coal plants by 2030. “Several coal-fired power plants that were still on the grid as a precautionary measure over the last two years are therefore now superfluous and can be taken off the grid for good,” the country’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck told the German Press Agency, dpa, as reported by Euractiv.

4. More on energy from Agenda

What are the top issues for the energy sector this year? That was the question in the latest Radio Davos podcast where Roberto Bocca spoke with John Defterios, professor of business at New York University Abu Dhabi.

A new database has explored how 76% of all electricity required on the continent could come from renewable resources by 2040. Read more about the Renewable Power Plant Database Africa here.

There are 12,000 offshore oil and gas platforms around the world, and many of them are nearing the end of their lives. This article explores how they can be safely and sustainably decommissioned.

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