Rise of renewables

The Australia Institute’s September Electricity Update shows that a new surge of renewable generation is currently coming online, and stands alone as key to reducing energy prices, with renewables now comprising an unprecedented one fifth - 19.7 per cent - of the National Energy Market.

Authored by energy expert Dr Hugh Saddler the TAI’s Climate & Energy Program September Audit found that the average daily wind generation in the month of August exceeded the previous record set one month earlier.

The wind share of total NEM generation in the year to August 2018 reached 7.5 per cent, total grid renewable generation in the same period also reached a new record share of grid generation, at 16.6 per cent.

The renewable share with rooftop solar reached 19.7 per cent. The corresponding share for Victoria alone went up to 18.9 per cent, up from 12.3 per cent just three years earlier. All of these figures are records.

Key findings also showed that wind provided 55 per cent of grid power generation in South Australia during August, and gas the remaining 45 per cent. Wind and rooftop solar combined supplied 58 per cent of the combined total generation.

In net terms, 10 per cent of all electricity generated in the state was exported to Victoria. Average wholesale prices in South Australia during August were 19 per cent below the corresponding average of New South Wales, where renewables, including Snowy Hydro, supplied only 14 per cent of generation (and 12 per cent of supply including net imports from Queensland and Victoria). South Australian wholesale prices were also lower than wholesale prices in Queensland and Victoria.

New graphs in this issue of the Audit show the start of a surge in new renewable generation coming on-line.

The report stated in the four months since the end of April, wind generation capacity connected to the NEM grid has increased by 14 per cent and large solar generation connected has increased, from a low base, by 93 per cent. The next two years will see continuing rapid growth in both wind and solar generation.

Official figures from the Energy Security Board suggest that by the end of 2020 total wind generation capacity connected to the NEM will be 41 per cent higher than today and total solar connected will be almost three times current capacity.

“We have calculated that the total additional electricity supplied by this new renewable generation will be equal to at least 9 per cent of all NEM generation over the past year. It will equal the current total annual output from Eraring, the largest power station in Australia, and be double the current output from Liddell,” the report read.

“The reality of this imminent major increase in renewable generation has apparently been almost completely ignored by advocates for new generation investment within government

“This volume of new generation is likely to significantly increase competition in the NEM wholesale electricity market, thereby putting downward pressure on prices, even without taking into account the so-called merit order effect, resulting from the almost zero variable cost of renewable generation.”

The National Energy Emissions Audit is published quarterly. In each intermediate month, the Audit electricity update will report on changes to emissions from electricity generation in the National Electricity Market (NEM).