AEMO says Australia “well ahead” of 90 per cent renewables scenario for 2040

Stockyard Hill wind project.

The Australian Energy Market Operator says the rate of wind and solar additions on the country’s main grid, and the huge and growing pipeline, means it is “well ahead” of its most optimistic renewable transition scenario of 90 per cent renewable energy penetration by 2040.

AEMO chief systems design officer Dr Alex Wonhas said in a statement on Monday that a further 300 generation and storage projects, totalling 55,000MW, were currently proposed across the NEM, nearly double its current total installed capacity.

“Based on the pipeline of registered and commissioned renewable projects, we’re well ahead of the 2020 Integrated System Plan’s ‘step change’ scenario which would see more than 90 per cent renewable penetration, including rooftop solar PV, by 2040,” he said.

Other key energy bodies have already recognised that AEMO’s “step change” scenario is likely to be bettered, adding pressure to the need for a revision of the market rules, due to come into place from 2025, and to ensure these new rules are flexible enough to adapt to technology change.

AEMO’s next Integrated System Plan – despite pressure from the federal government – is likely to include an even faster change scenario, bringing forward the potential decarbonisation of the country’s main grid by the mid-2030s, that would align with the Paris climate treaty goal of capping average global warming at 1.5°C.

AEMO noted in its statement that 1,146MW of new wind and solar farms were registered in Victoria, where AEMO is directly responsible for connections, with more than double the previous year’s level of 467MW.

It expects to see a new record in 2021, including from the long delayed Stockyard Hill project, the largest wind farm yet built in Australia.

Across the entire NEM, which includes the eastern states plus Tasmania and South Australia, a total of 3,301MW of new wind and solar was added from 32 different projects.

“We’ve seen registrations of new wind and solar projects in Victoria more than double from 467MW in 2019 to 1,146MW in 2020, despite the disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic and the issues in the West Murray zone,” Wonhas said.

“We expect (Victoria) registrations to further increase in 2021, with 2,000 MW of new wind, solar and battery storage projects forecast.”

Interestingly, AEMO highlighted the situation at Stockyard Hill, the 530MW wind farm in central Victoria that finished construction late last year but has been at a standstill over undisclosed issues (thought to be due to “oscillations”).

“For some time now, AEMO has been working closely with Goldwind Australia to overcome the issues that have prevented the registration of Stockyard Hill Wind Farm,” Wonhas said.

“This significant collaboration is now seeing an agreed, well-defined plan being implemented to address the specific issues and achieve registration and commissioning of this wind farm in the coming months,” he said.

Victoria has the strongest connection pipeline of any NEM state with 32,800MW across 131 projects in the connection pipeline. This is 80 per cent more capacity than the next biggest state, New South Wales, with 8,100 MW across 52 projects that are in the application or completion process.

According to AEMO’s recently published its State of the System newsletter, there are a further 300 generation and storage projects, totalling 55,000 MW, currently proposed across the NEM.


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