The Renewable Energy Target - a long term source of angst and division in the Turnbull government and in rural Australia - has already been met from wind, solar and hydro energy projects under construction or in the pipeline, new research shows.
Research by Green Energy Markets, which advises on renewable energy and sustainability, also suggests there are enough clean energy projects proposed on top of those already in the pipeline to supply more than half of Australia's electricity supply needs by 2030.
That would easily exceed the 42 per cent of total generation projected by the Finkel review of energy under its proposed Clean Energy Target, which had to be abandoned because government conservatives led by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott thought it too renewables-friendly.
The estimates confirm the energy industry is moving ahead of the government and the falling cost of wind and solar energy - increasingly supported by batteries - is driving the market despite years of policy uncertainty and bitter debate.
The catch is that many of the proposed projects do not yet have a financial commitment or a long-term power purchase agreement to support them and may not get built unless there is a strong policy to replace of the Renewable Energy Target when it tops out in 2020.
"I struggle to see a noticeable volume of projects getting-up based solely on wholesale electricity revenue without some kind of clean energy incentive," said Green Energy Markets' director Tristan Edis.
He said the National Energy Guarantee - which the Energy Security Board has proposed as a replacement for Chief Scientist Alan Finkel's Clean Energy Target - could do the job provided it had a more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction target than the government's 26 per cent target for the electricity sector.
Mr Edis estimates the government's 26 per cent emissions reduction for the electricity sector is already largely achieved when large-scale renewables projects in the pipeline and the expected rapid growth in small-scale or rooftop solar power are combined.
The downside of hitting the RET target is that unless there is a continuing policy to encourage more clean energy to be built, the pipeline of projects - outside of the auctions planned by the Victorian and Queensland governments under their state renewable energy targets - will dry up after 2020 and the expertise that has grown up to deliver wind and solar projects efficiently will be lost.
"Boom is about to turn to bust in large-scale renewables," Mr Edis said.
The Renewable Energy Target (RET) requires energy retailers and large users to use electricity from qualifying wind, solar and hydro electricity generation up to a target which peaks at 33,000 gigawatt hours - about 23 per cent of expected consumption in in 2020. A gigawatt hour is 1000 megawatt hours.
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