Renewables hit record high in Australia, as green energy transition rolls on


Renewable energy hit a record high of 72.9 per cent of total generation on Sunday, as a wave of wind and solar across Australia’s main grid sent coal output and operational demand to new lows.

The new peak of 72.9 per cent on the National Electricity Market (NEM), the country’s main grid, was reached for a five minute interval at 12.45pm (AEST), according to data collectors at GPE NEMLog2, beating the previous peak of 72.5 per cent set late last month (October 24).

The bulk of the renewable came from rooftop solar from households and businesses, which accounted for around 44 per cent of total generation. Utility scale solar and large scale wind had shares of just over 14 and 12 per cent each, while hydro played a minor role with just over 1.1 per cent.

The new peak for renewables was especially noticed in Victoria, where the share of variable renewable energy (wind and solar) hit a new record high of 95.7 per cent earlier that day (10.10am AEST), well beyond the previous peak of 88.5 per cent set on October 22.

The new peak just happens to correspond to Victoria’s renewable energy target for 2035 (95 per cent), although that will be measured on an annual average basis, rather than a single five minute dispatch period. But the trend is clearly there.

NSW has the biggest fleet of coal generators in Australia, with 8,200MW of coal fired capacity, but coal output hit a new low of just 1633 MW at 9.15am (AEST), more than 100 MW below its previous low, highlighting the assault on its business case and “baseload” assumptions.

It also reflects the fact that one third of its units were out of action for maintenance and upkeep, and the second unit at Mt Piper also wound back to zero on Saturday.  Coal power accounted for just 16.4 per cent of the state’s demand when renewables hit their peak at 12.45pm on Saturday.

Network demand also hit a new low in Victoria (1724 MW), while battery discharge hit a new high in NSW (209 MW), indicating the early but accelerating shift to different forms of dispatchable energy.

On Friday, as GPE NEMLog’s Geoff Eldridge reports, a bunch of solar output records tumbled across the grid, with the gap between solar power and coal output stretching to nearly 10 GW at one stage.

Australia’s target renewable share is 82 per cent by 2030, based around the modelling of the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan.

Across the last 12 months, the NEM has average 38.7 per cent renewables, so it needs to more than double that share in the next 6-7 years.  Across the last 30 days, the average share of renewables has been a more promising 45.8 per cent.

Read more here: Solar records tumble across the grid, stretches midday gap over coal to nearly 10 GW


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