The year to December saw continued growth in total electricity generated in the NEM and also a modest increase in total emissions.
The total coal share of generation fell very slightly, with a small increase in black coal offset by a fall in brown coal; the small emissions increase was cause by increased supply from some of the less efficient black coal stations.
For the first time since 2010, total electricity demand in the year to December was higher than in the year to November in every NEM state. There was also an increase in WA in November, compared with October.
There was a particularly large (relative) demand increase in SA, caused by the two spells of very hot weather in that state during December 2015. By contrast, the state experienced mild summer conditions throughout December 2014. The latest issue of CEDEX® Electricity Update concludes with a detailed analysis of electricity supply and demand in SA during the heatwave week of 14 to 20 December 2015.
The analysis leads to two important conclusions:
- Rooftop solar PV installations in the state made a valuable contribution to meeting both peak demand for electricity and the increased total daily demand for electrical energy during the heatwave period, and
- The size of the increased demand for electrical energy during the heatwave (70% above the same period in 2014) suggests that increasing the energy efficiency of buildings, air conditioning and refrigeration systems should be a high priority of the recently announced National Energy Productivity Plan.
Total electricity generation in the NEM in the year to December 2015 continued the growth seen now for nearly a year. Emissions also recorded a modest increase, but the total coal share of generation decreased slightly (Figure 1), as a small increase in black coal generation was offset by a slightly larger, though still small fall in brown coal generation. The total coal share of generation (excluding rooftop solar) in the year to December 2015 was 75.9%.
The gas share of generation fell to 11.2%, the lowest level since July 2010, while wind generation was almost unchanged, at 11.2%. The hydro share showed a small increase, from just under to just over 5.6%, with small additions to output from both Hydro Tasmania and Snowy Hydro. Tasmania, however, is now facing a significant challenge, as energy storage levels fell to below 24% at the end of December, as a consequence of an abnormally dry winter.
In addition, Basslink, which at times over recent months was providing nearly half the electricity consumed in Tasmania, has been out of action since 22 December. We plan to look more closely at electricity supply and demand in Tasmania in the February 2016 Electricity Update.
Hugh Saddler is a senior energy analyst with Pitt & Sherry.