Welcome to the July 2019 issue of the NEEA Electricity Update, with data updated to the end of June 2019. The Electricity Update presents data on electricity demand, electricity supply, and electricity generation emissions in the National Electricity Market (NEM), plus electricity demand in the South West Interconnected System (SWIS). Since the start of 2018 there has been a marked acceleration in the commissioning and connecting to the grid of new wind and solar farms, and a corresponding increase in the growth of supply from new solar farms in particular. The majority of this growth has occurred in Queensland and New South Wales, states which had previously been lagging in the uptake of new zero emission generation.

This issue takes a more detailed look at the growth of new generation in each of the four mainland states in the NEM. We also look back into the history of the Australian electricity supply system, to compare the changes in generation capacity and generation mix in the NEM with the changes to electricity supply which occurred during the 1950s, a period during which changes which were at least as fast, and arguably more far reaching than those now occurring.

Key points:

  • New South Wales annual output from grid scale wind and solar generators doubled over the past fourteen months
  • South Australia set to lose its top stop as the largest generator of renewable energy, with Victoria and NSW in a race to take over top state for total wind and solar generation.
  • While Queensland has slower than any other NEM state to shift towards renewable generation (and is not on track to meet its target of 50% renewables by 2030) it retains its moniker as the sunshine state with the: largest solar generation output; largest share of solar rooftops; and most solar jobs.
  • Current changes in the Australian electricity supply system (as it transitions from coal fired generation to wind and solar) are comparable to the rates of growth of the whole electricity supply system during the 1950s and 1960s. The transition during the 50s and 60s was larger and as transformative as the changes currently taking place.
  • The new electricity generation from 1953 to 1960 in all six states were comparable in size of new generation wind and solar from 2011 to 2019.
  • April to June saw a NEM-wide fall in annualised consumption supplied from the grid. This drop was mainly due to a lower supply from brown coal generators in Victoria, caused by lower output from Loy Yang A, where Unit 2 failed in midMay, and from a decrease in both Snowy hydro and the Tasmanian hydro system, caused by low rainfall throughout eastern Australia.
  • Commercial scale solar generation has also accelerated since early 2018. A significant proportion of this new grid connected solar generation, as well as some new wind generations is financially supported by power purchase agreements (PPAs) with large commercial and industrial consumers.
  • Average monthly data from 2007 highlights seasonal trends in solar and wind generation. Solar generation shows little volatility in month to month output but marked and very consistent seasonal variation. Wind generation, by contrast, shows very considerable month to month variation, but a limited and inconsistent seasonal pattern.
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