Welcome to the November 2019 issue of the NEEA Electricity Update, with data updated to the end of October 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 we have been charting the rapid growth in wind and solar generation. There can be no doubt that Australia’s electricity system is well along the road to a fundamental transition in terms of both the means by which electricity is generated and the system through which electricity is supplied to consumers.

This issue includes several new graphs which look in close detail at the transition, as it is evolving in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. As responsibility for the Wivenhoe pumped storage in Queensland passes to CleanCo, a new state government owned commercial generation entity, we also look at how its previous owners, and also the owners of the two other pumped storage schemes in the NEM, have been making much more use of these plants in recent months.

Key points:

  • Coal share of generation in Queensland hit its peak in October 2018 (last reached in 2005) and is now being steadily eroded by growing supply from large renewable generation, particularly solar farms.
  • Victoria coal generation is at its lowest levels since the start of the National Electricity Market 21 years ago, due mainly to the closure of Hazelwood and several smaller stations and, at present, to the continued unavailability of unit 2 at Loy Yang A.
  • Since total annual generation of coal peaked in January 2009, black coal generation has dropped 9%, brown coal generation has fallen 41%, gas generation has increased by only 3% and overall generation has fallen 9%. The gap has almost entirely been filled by renewables.
  • On 26 October during the 30 minute trading period from 11.00 to 11.30 am total renewable share hit a high of 47.3% of NEM generation.
  • NEM consumption is greater during winter months (defined as May to August) rather than summer months (December – March), but summer suffers greater electricity peaks (mainly because air conditioning is immediate whereas space heating is often a slower, smoother demand).
  • The pumped hydro in Queensland, Wivenhoe is being more readily used to take advantage of cheap solar generation during the day. This will only continue to ramp up as the ownership of Wivenhoe transfers to the state-owned clean energy corporation CleanCo.
  • Snowy 2.0 would provide roughly ten times the energy storage capacity of its current facility, Talbingo. If it proceeds, Snowy 2.0 will be Australia’s largest single investment in electricity supply infrastructure for many years, however, it is worth asking whether it will offer the best public return on investment of all the possible options for Australia’s electricity system transition.
  • During each of the months of August, September and October 2019, new renewable generation, meaning wind and solar generation, both grid scale and rooftop, reached new record monthly levels, expressed in both absolute terms (average MW during the month), and as a share of total generation.
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