Renewables outperformed coal in summer of unprecedented heatwaves

The Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program has released the latest National Energy Emissions Audit for the electricity sector (The Audit*) covering the month of January 2019.

The Audit shows that renewables now account for 20% of total generation in the National Energy Market (NEM) — a share that that is certain to continue growing — performing best of all energy sources during a record breaking summer of heatwaves.

Key findings:

  • AEMO’s intervention in the NEM during the unprecedented heatwave of 25th Jan (one of the highest ever days of total energy demand on the NEM) if Victoria’s brown coal generators had not failed in the heat.
  • Wind and grid scale solar now supply a larger share of annual grid generation than hydro – a relationship which is also most unlikely to be reversed, with a doubling in large scale wind and solar to be expected by 2021.
  • South Australia is now firmly above 50% renewable electricity.
  • The rise of renewables and fall in coal generation has led to a 20% reduction in emissions in the NEM.

“If we take one lesson from the record breaking heatwaves this summer, it is that solar saved the day. Both home and large scale solar delaying and diminishing peak electricity demand,” says Dr Hugh Saddler, renowned energy expert and author of the report.

“During the unprecedented heatwave on January 25th large scale solar farms were running at 93 per cent of their maximum output, which is in stark contrast to Victoria’s brown coal generators of which two of the three stations were operating well below capacity.

“The era of coal is ending in Australia and around the world. Renewables are being backed as the most affordable, reliable and popular energy solution — despite the federal government’s efforts to the contrary.

“The continued growth of solar and wind energy on the NEM, which now exceeds hydro energy, will do far more to reduce emissions than the drop in the bucket that is the Government’s so-called Climate Solutions Fund.”

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