Source: Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis
Brown coal generation fell to its lowest level in the history of the modern power grid in the December quarter, as solar and wind generation surged and coal’s retreat was exacerbated by scheduled maintenance and accidents.
The development marks another milestone in the evolution of the modern eastern states’ National Electricity Market from a centralised grid dominated by huge thermal generators to a decentralised grid with a constantly changing mix of fossil fuel, solar, wind and hydro energy.
Brown coal generation in Victoria was 8227 gigawatt hours in the December quarter, down from 8500 GWh in the December 2017 quarter and well below the 11,000 GWh in the December 2016 quarter, the last full quarter before Hazelwood’s closure in late March 2017, according to data compiled by Dylan McConnell, a researcher at the University of Melbourne’s College of Climate and Energy.
Gas generation was also a big loser, plummeting to just 3183 GWh in the December quarter from 5692 GWH in the December 2017 quarter.
The big winners were rooftop solar, which surged by more than a quarter to 2690 GWh from a year earlier, utility-scale solar, which increased fivefold to 917 GWh as more large solar farms came online, and wind, up a fifth to 3426 GWh. Hydro generation also grew 17 per cent to 3400 GWh.
Black coal generation still dominates the NEM, but its contribution slipped to 27,550 GWh from 27,698 GWh a year earlier. Even so, the trend is unmistakable, with 7200 megawatts of large-scale wind and solar under construction, according to Green Energy Markets, and record rates of solar rooftop installation.