Australia renewables hit 50% of main grid’s net demand on Easter Saturday

RenewEconomy

Renewable energy hit what may be a record level of renewable energy on grid demand in the early afternoon on Easter Saturday, when the combined output of rooftop solar, large scale wind and solar and hydro power accounted for 50.4 per cent of net load.

The 50 per cent share of renewables – which even the federal Coalition government now conceded will be an “annual average” by 2030, rather than a figure reached during a point in time – was attained just after noon on Easter Saturday, traditionally a time of low demand, and perhaps more so given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The milestone – which beats the 50.2 per cent share reached in November last year – was flagged by one reader in an email titled “the day the sky didn’t fall and I roasted a chicken”.

The chart below, sourced from OpenNEM.org.au, shows a share of rooftop solar at 22.5 per cent, large scale solar at 9.3 per cent, large scale wind at 17.7 per cent, and hydro at 2.2 per cent, at 12.05pm. The share of renewables was fairly consistent around 50 per cent for about half an hour and half an after that time, but that appears to be the peak 5 minute interval.

Between the renewables and the fossil fuels, more than enough electricity was being produced to meet the current demand of Australia’s consumers’s both big and small – on the main grid (which comprises only the eastern states and South Australia, and not W.A, the NT and other isolated grid.

But storage was accounting for nearly 4 per cent of demand, particularly pumped hydro and to a lesser extend battery storage, so renewables were providing 50.5 per cent of “net demand” at this point of time.

Of the individual states, South Australia was doing best with renewables contributing 108 per cent of local demand and exporting its excess to Victoria. That state in turn, was producing 56 per cent of local demand from renewables, but was exporting a lot of excess capacity to both Tasmania and NSW.

NSW and Queensland, traditionally the most coal dependent states, were both producing 40 per cent of local demand through renewables, although Queensland was exporting a small amount and NSW was importing. Tasmania was also importing a lot at the time, which it tends to do during the daytime hours, and exports more at night-time.

The Coalition government had, before and during the election campaign, described the goal of 50 per cent renewables by 2030 (averaged over a whole year) as “reckless” and economy-destroying, but has now quietly dialled in exactly that number under its assumptions for emissions reductions to meet the country’s modest Paris targets.

Environmental groups argue that the pace of transition to renewables should be much faster.

ClimateWorks last week released an update of its Decarbonisation Futures report which showed that a level of at least 74 per cent renewables by 2030 was needed so that Australia could achieved a fully decarbonised grid, and reductions in transport and buildings and manufacturing, as an important interim step to reach either a 2°C or even a 1.5°C target.

Australia has averaged around 24 per cent renewables in its main grid over the past 12 months, according to the OpenNEm data.

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