The share of renewables in Australia’s main grid surged to a new record high on Monday, setting a new benchmark for instantaneous share, and also a new benchmark for a whole 24-hour period. It also marked the first time wind and solar alone delivered more than 60 per cent of grid demand.
Energy data analysts noted that at 11.20am grid time (AEST) the share of renewables – wind, solar and hydro – in Australia’s main grid, known as the National Electricity Market reached 62.5 per cent, according to Geoff Eldridge of NEMLog (although another data source, OPENNem, had it at 62.2 per cent).
Either way, it beat the agreed previous record of 61.7 per cent set last month in late September, and the share of wind and solar alone reached 60.5 per cent (60.2 per cent on OPENNem), also a record and the first time above 60 per cent.
The new 24-hour average share for renewables was also beaten, with a new benchmark of 43.4 per cent for the 24 hours to 4.05am, according to Eldridge.
And, if wind and solar are going to set record highs it means that fossil fuels such as coal will set record lows. Sure enough, the share of coal fired generation in the NEM hit a record low of 36.6 per cent at 10.45am, according to Eldridge.
The remarkable thing about the Australian grid in the past few years is that wind and solar have continued to proliferate despite the apparent disinterest of the federal Coalition government – thanks to state actions and corporate demand.
Current federal energy minister Angus Taylor said on repeated occasions after he took office that there was too much wind and solar in the grid, but the average share has more than doubled in the three years he has been in the portfolio, thanks largely to Labor policies he had sought to dismantle.
The Coalition had deemed Labor’s targets of an average 50 per cent share of renewables in the grid by 2030 as “economy wrecking”, but its own emissions forecasts assume that renewables will have a near 70 per cent share of the NEM by 2030.
Those assumptions include a net 100 per cent renewables grid in South Australia, and a 90 per cent renewables share in NSW, currently the country’s biggest grid and the one most dependent on coal.
Right now, however, wind and solar currently produce more than is useful at times, and on Sunday set a record high curtailment level across the NEM, and in South Australia where almost as much wind and solar was switched off as was used.
That should be an incentive for more storage, shifting of loads, and possibly green hydrogen opportunities. Coal and gas were also heavily curtailed, given there was no demand for their products. And the more that happens, the less incentive there will be for their owners to keep them open.