Wind and solar continue rapid growth, help cut Australia's grid emissions | RenewEconomy

Wind and solar continue rapid growth, help cut Australia’s grid emissions

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The growth of wind and solar continued in Australia during the month of September, playing the key role in reducing emissions from Australia’s main grid.

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The growth of wind and solar continued in Australia during the month of September, and the new additions are clearly playing the key role in reducing emissions from Australia’s main grid – despite some noisy myth–and-mischief-making from the political right.

The monthly National Emissions Audit, produced by energy analyst Hugh Saddler on behalf of The Australia Institute, highlights a couple of key points in the latest month’s survey.

Firstly, is the ongoing growth of wind and solar and their rising share of grid generation. This graph below shows that wind and solar now account for more than 14 per cent of total generation, and will continue to grow as yet more large scale solar farms, which really only made a splash from the middle of 2016, are connected to the grid.

Including hydro, which varies according to season, need and – more recently – the levels of water in dams, the total share of renewable energy remained around 22 per cent. It didn’t grow much in the last month because hydro output fell, offsetting the gains from wind and solar.

But a new graph gives an interesting insight into what this is doing to emissions, and the role that is played by large scale renewables, rooftop solar and other factors such as lower demand and greater efficiency

Emissions from the main grid are now around 40 million tonnes lower than they were just over a decade ago. That’s not the result of less consumption, although that has fallen slightly despite the growth in popultation (and hence a sharp fall in consumption per capita (the blue line).

The biggest contribution has come from the lower grid emissions intensity. That, of course, comes from the addition of cleaner energy resources, which in this case is almost exclusively wind and solar, and because some ageing coal plants have exited as a result, and due to old age.

Rooftop solar also plays a key role, which is often forgotten in the debate about its role in the grid, and the cost of rebates. Those rebates are are a steadily declining one off event, but the rooftop solar will continue generating for at least two decades, in many cases three.

AEMO recently commented too on the impact of rooftop solar on emissions during the day, when it essentially forces out back coal and gas fired generation.


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  1. GG 7 months ago

    As mentioned above, it is interesting to note the significant role rooftop solar plays in the market, particularly on weekends. As RenewEconomy reported here ( South Australia’s lowest ever demand when taking in to account rooftop solar of 595.4MW. This mark was bettered yesterday for 4 entire trading periods according to the OpenNEM website (from 12pm until 2pm) when rooftop solar accounted for up to 58.1% of demand. One 5 minute settlement period got as low as 526MW. This is another record which will undoubtedly be beaten in the not too distant future.

  2. Ken Dyer 7 months ago

    This article from the ABC features Morrison claiming that his government “is taking real action on climate change and getting results”. Hah!

    In reality, as Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese pointed out, emissions are increasing, and this is an honest fact.

    Morrison also claimed, “”Australia’s electricity sector is producing less emissions. In the year to March 2019, emissions from Australia’s electricity sector were 15.7per cent lower than the peak recorded in the year to June 2009.”

    Although this is correct, the Morrison Government had little to do with it. The fall in electricity sector emissions was the result of rising wholesale prices for electricity, the closure of big, ageing coal-fired power stations in Victoria (Hazelwood) and South Australia (Northern and Playford), and surging investment in renewable energy. All of this has been achieved without an LNP energy policy, too.

    What would make more sense if the Morrison Government really wanted to reduce emissions would be to target the mining and export of thermal coal, and get out of it entirely. Next year Australia will export minerals to the value of $282 billion dollars. Of this thermal coal represents $20 billion dollars and dropping, less than 10% of resources exports. I would like to see that, but given Morrison is a coal carrying member of the Minerals Council, I doubt it.

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