AEMO sees South Australia at 73% renewables by 2020/21 | RenewEconomy

AEMO sees South Australia at 73% renewables by 2020/21

AEMO scenarios predict 73% renewables for South Australia by 2020/21, and up to 80% five years later. And is it worried?


Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg has tried to make a big deal about what he calls the South Australia Labor government’s “reckless” pursuit of a 75 per cent renewable energy target by 2025. But if he continues to throw stones at those responsible, he might end up breaking a mirror.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has predicted, in a document published in December, that -– based largely on the federal renewable energy target – it expects South Australia to reach 73 per cent renewable energy by 2020/21.

It goes further. It says that South Australia will likely reach between 75 per cent and 80 per cent renewable energy share by 2026/27, depending on the policy pathway. And, just to underline the point, most of it is due to the federal government’s large-scale renewable energy target.

That range, to state the obvious, is well within the bounds unveiled by SA Premier Jay Weatherill last month at the same time as a 25 per cent “renewable storage” target that will seek 750MW of energy storage was also announced ahead of the upcoming state election.

That commitment elicited a ferocious response from Frydenberg, who described it as “reckless” and followed that with a similar attack in which he quoted two conservative business lobby groups and an equally conservative energy think tank to support him.

But all Weatherill has done is prove that he can add, and not be scared by the result:

The 50 per cent wind and solar the state currently enjoys, plus the wind and solar farms under construction, the big projects planned to make the Whyalla steel works viable, and the anticipated doubling in rooftop solar, all make 75 per cent well within reach.

And let’s be clear about what AEMO is basing its assumptions on; firstly for the minimum 75 per cent by 2026/27, in what it calls its “concentrated renewables” scenario that sees 51 per cent wind, 7 per cent large scale solar and the rest in rooftop solar.

“Under this scenario, additional renewable generation in South Australia is limited to that which is incentivised by the LRET.”

That would be your government’s policy, minister Frydenberg.

Is AEMO bothered by this amount of wind and solar in the grid?

Not that it lets on. It notes South Australia is likely to become a net exporter of power, it notes ElectraNet will build two “synchronous condensers” and contract output with some exiting gas plants to maintain power system security, and it assumes frequency is under control

The Electranet initiatives, says AEMO, will “reduce the need to enforce constraints on wind output.”

It sees total gas generation falling by nearly half, and notes that while some new transmission lines may be built, this won’t happen within the time frame it is looking at.

It also notes the opening of the Tesla big battery at Hornsdale, the world’s largest lithium-ion storage facility, which has been performing beyond expectations.

“South Australia, and the NEM, will continue to see a transformation of the generation mix to meet Australia’s state and federal energy and emissions targets and meet the ongoing need for system support services, such as frequency and voltage support potential, with new and innovative methods,” it says.

So, what does a 75 per cent or 80 per cent wind and solar grid look like.

Here are AEMO’s graphs. The first series (starting above and then below) is the concentrated renewables policy, which is effectively the LRET and the Victoria renewable energy target.

Note that it hasn’t factored some of the other battery storage or pumped hydro storage that may also get built in the meantime.

The graph above shows the month by month anticipated output from the various resources. Confusingly, AEMO chooses yellow for gas, and dark blue for rooftop solar.

Overall, it expects under this scenario for wind to account for 51 per cent of total generation, large-scale solar 7 per cent, and rooftop solar just less than 18 per cent, double what it is now.

This graph above shows what that looks like in a different graphic form for summer (above) and winter (below). Gas output falls dramatically in both seasons.

This next series of graphs shows the scenario AEMO calls “the dispersed renewables” scenario, where meaningful government policy takes the emphasis away from the actions of just one or two states.

Under this scenario, the share of wind power grows to 54 per cent by 2026/27, large-scale solar to 14 per cent, and rooftop solar output taking the total share of renewables to 80 per cent.

The big difference here (in the graph above) is the greater amount of net exports back to Victoria, particularly in the later years.

The next two graphs show the seasonal changes for the dispersed renewables pathway. Note that by 2026/27, the amount of rooftop solar PV nearly matches that of the only fossil fuel in the state of any note, gas generation.

It’s a phenomenal transition to a consumer powered grid, as we noted in this other story last year: South Australia’s stunning transition to consumer-powered grid.


In winter, rooftop solar goes back into its box. But one wonders, given the development of the Port Augusta solar tower and molten storage facility, a couple of pumped hydro projects, and some more battery storage, just how much gas will be burned in a decade’s time?

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  1. Joe 3 years ago

    ….4 more years for Premier Jay to shepherd SA’s RE projects to their finalization and show Joshie, Two Tonguer Turnbull etc how its done.

    • Hettie 3 years ago

      In 4 years Josh and Waffles will be long gone.

    • rob 3 years ago

      we can only hope!

  2. Richard Bentley 3 years ago

    And the gas might be manufactured via excess wind and solar in SA. No point in slowing down now. I understand we are dealing with a climate crisis.

    • Mike Dill 3 years ago

      Really cheap power will allow us to generate ammonia and hydrogen to store for the peaks, or sell. It will be interesting to see what happens when the interconnects to NSW get overloaded in the other (export) direction.

  3. Malthus Anderson 3 years ago

    ” – just how much gas will be burned in a decade’s time?”
    None, we hope. None at all.
    Let’s modernise the planet; or perish.

  4. Mike Dill 3 years ago

    Interestingly I see that they predict that large scale solar growth will mostly stop being built as the LGCs disappear, but wind will continue to grow.
    Since PV prices continue to decline, and power bills have not yet started to even stabilize, I do not see this happening.

  5. Alastair Leith 3 years ago
    • Peter F 3 years ago

      Because SA has very high insolation almost perfectly matched with the output of tracking or west facing solar and very high grid power prices so solar in SA is a no brainer if you have a North or West facing roof

      • Alastair Leith 3 years ago

        That would have been an ironic rhetorical question, @Peter F. Globally the rate is a doubling of PV capacity every 2 years. And price falls accordingly. Yet AEMO has consistently underestimated solar and energy efficiency, here they see a few commercial solar farms going in over next two years then a pretty tiny amount each year after that. And Rooftop linear trend too.

        I wrote more about it in 2015 here:

        • Peter F 3 years ago

          Sorry Alistair
          I should have recognised the irony, particularly from you. Discus need emojis

          By my calculations, unless a new government forcibly restricts new renewables SA is more likely to be 90% renewable electricity by 2025.

          With expected private uptake of batteries and two of the five proposed pumped hydro systems as well as One Steel and other grid batteries and the Tesla VPP, SA will have about 1,000 MW of storage by 2021. Current wind and solar projects being built with storage including Solar Reserve will add about 300 MW more. In other words it could supply average demand for 2-3 hours from storage alone

          Right now, midday March 6 SA demand is 971 MW and wind is 921 MW. In three years time in exactly the same conditions because of increased rooftop solar demand will be about 900 MW. Wind and large scale solar will be producing about 1,200-1,400 MW + solar reserve. I.e they will be supplying all the power needed + exporting and/or recharging storage and the only possible use for gas would be to increase exports or provide spinning reserves

  6. George Darroch 3 years ago

    Let’s hope that Labor are re-elected. We depend on it.

  7. Peter F 3 years ago

    There is a serious argument that synchronous condensors, batteries and synthetic inertia on windfarms and even solar farms can easily supply all the grid stabilisation necessary. Throw in at least one pumped hydro plant with Francis turbines which can run dry to provide yet more inertia so by 2025 it will not be necessary to run gas at all if its only purpose is grid stability. Then gas will be confined to a power only market as storage will get all the Reg up, Reg down, raise and lower 6, 60 and 300 sec markets which currently make a significant difference to the profitability of gas plants

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