Renewable energy generation hits record levels in Australia


The latest data from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) shows that average renewable energy output from wind, solar and hydro was the highest on record in the final quarter of 2022 with peak renewable contribution records also broken as the overall contribution of both coal-fired and gas generation fell.

AEMO’s Quarterly Energy Dynamics (QED) report for the December quarter reveals that renewable energy provided an average of 40.3% of power in the National Electricity Market (NEM), a record for any quarter since the NEM started in 1998.

The record performance of renewables also reached Western Australia (WA) where renewables supplied a record quarterly share of nearly 43% of power in the Wholesale Electricity Market (WEM) in the final three months of 2022, up 3% on the same period in 2021.

The report also shows that renewable energy generation in the WEM peaked at 84.3% on 12 December, up 3.7% on the previous high.

In the NEM, instantaneous renewable penetration reached a record high of 68.7% on 28 October, exceeding the previous record of 64% set in the previous quarter.

The increase in renewable output was offset by decline in coal and gas-fired generation. Change in supply – Q4 2022 versus Q4 2021.

Image: AEMO

AEMO said the records were “largely driven” by rooftop solar which delivered a 16% increase in electricity output for the quarter. An increase due in part to a rise in rooftop solar installations in the third quarter of 2022. After substantial declines in rooftop PV installation rates in the first half of 2022, with installed capacity down 27% compared with first half of 2021, AEMO said Clean Energy Regulator (CER) data showed an estimated 729 MW of small-scale PV capacity was installed in the third quarter of 2022.

Rooftop solar output reached a record high of 10,685 MW on 27 December 2022, 8% higher than the previous record achieved in the same period the year prior. (Figure 39). New South Wales (NSW) led the way with a 28% increase in distributed PV output relative to the same quarter in 2021. Queensland (+15%), Victoria (+12%), Tasmania (+7%) and South Australia (+4%) also experienced growth relative to last quarter.

Grid-scale solar in the NEM reached an average output record of 1,644 MW in the December quarter.

Image: Neoen

Output from wind and grid-scale solar also grew strongly in the December quarter, producing 20% of total generation in the NEM. This continued the upwards trend for large-scale renewable generation which delivered a record quarterly average of 4,532 MW, up 645 MW from the same period the year prior. Grid-scale solar reached an all-time average output record of 1,644 MW as new facilities were connected and commissioned.

AEMO said 139 MW of increased grid-scale solar generation arose from ramping up of solar farms commissioning since the fourth quarter of 2021, including the 120 MW Gangarri Solar Farm in southwest Queensland. An additional 200 MW of the generation increase was from new grid-scale solar commencing production since the fourth quarter of 2021. Of this, 159 MW was in Queensland, including the recently connected Western Downs Green Power Hub, Blue Grass, Woolooga and Coolumboola solar farms. The Moura Solar Farm in Queensland, the West Wyalong Solar Farm in NSW and the Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park in South Australia also began generating in the final quarter of 2022.

Grid-scale solar output reached a record high of 5,311 MW on 6 December, 15% above the previous record set in the previous quarter.

The result of this increase in output from large-scale wind and solar farms and rooftop PV was that power generation from black and brown coal-fired plants was the lowest since the NEM started, down 926 MW from the same period last year. Overall demand from gas-fired generators also decreased during the quarter.

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