Solar power in Australia overtakes coal-fired electricity for the first time | Energy

The national electricity market took another step forward on Sunday, with solar power overtaking power generation from coal for the first time since the market was created two decades ago.

The crossover only lasted a few minutes, as weak demand and sunny skies on Sunday caused the contribution of coal to drop to a record 9,315 MW just after noon, while solar provided the dominant share with 9,427 MW.

Dylan McConnell, a researcher at the College of Climate and Energy at the University of Melbourne, said that for a brief moment, renewables accounted for 57% of national electricity production.

“It’s what I informally call a ‘record season,’ said McConnell. “It’s actually still quite early in the season [to get these numbers] but in spring or shoulder seasons you have the combination of low demand because there is no heating or cooling, and then good weather on weekends.

“These factors combine and you get these giant shares of renewable energy that typically drives coal.”

While McConnell said it was only “fleeting” and “Australia was far from the peak of renewables”, energy prices also turned negative Sunday from 8:30 am to 5 pm.

Although the exact price differs by jurisdiction, this means that generators were paid to consume, or that energy producers paid to continue operating.

Unlike more agile solar and wind producers, coal producers are particularly affected when prices turn negative. The costs associated with shutting down and restarting coal generators are prohibitive, meaning operators will choose to continue operating even at a loss.

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According to data logger NEMlog, South Australia had 100% of its energy needs met by wind and solar, while Victoria would have met 102% of state demand if operators had not. been forced to go out during the negative price period.

Energy analyst Simon Holmes in Court said the overall proportion of renewables – solar, wind and hydro – would have been higher in the energy mix, but wind power producers have chosen to shut their doors to avoid a drop in prices.

“There has been a significant amount of cutbacks,” he said. “What this shows is that there is already more renewables that could have entered the grid if coal-fired plants were more flexible and transmission had been improved.”

The development coincides with calls from the Clean Energy Investor Group (CEIG) – an 18-member body that advocates for investors in large-scale renewable energy projects – for financial reforms aimed at “aligning Australia with international markets ”And“ unlock ”new investments.

Modeling conducted for the group by Rennie Partners revealed that Australia needs 51 GW of renewable energy production by 2042 if it is to meet its commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change, but that only 3 GW of new wind and solar projects have been committed, leaving a deficit of 48 GW.

Simon Corbell, CEO of CEIG, said governments and regulators should align Australia’s investment guidelines with global markets.

“Investors in clean energy currently face significant risks in the NEM, which is holding back the necessary capital,” Corbell said.

“To unlock a $ 70 billion investment pipeline, we need effective market reforms and political certainty, which could also save up to $ 7 billion in costs. investment, or up to 10% of the cost of Australia’s clean energy transition. “

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Lois Mendez

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