Renewables hit record levels as electricity demand rises


The Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) latest Quarterly Energy Dynamics (QED) report shows the amount of renewable energy being fed into the National Electricity Market (NEM) grew to 39% in the first quarter of 2024, up from 37.4% in the same period last year.

In the Wholesale Electricity Market (WEM) that services Western Australia, renewables accounted for 39.1% of the overall generation mix in the three months to 31 March 2024, up 0.5% year on year.

Grid-scale solar generation had the greatest increase in output setting a new first quarter record of 2,164 MW, an 18% lift in quarterly average output from the same time in 2023.

AEMO said this increase was driven by new and recently commissioned capacity in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland.

Rooftop PV output also increased, reaching highs in Victoria (787 MW), South Australia (445 MW) and Tasmania (58 MW) and hitting its highest level for any Q1 in Queensland (931 MW) and New South Wales (1,050 MW), leading to an overall increase in quarterly output of 10% compared to the same period last year.

Record Q1 underlying demand was partially offset by higher distributed PV output.

Image: AEMO

Output from grid-scale batteries also continued to grow, up a massive 134% year-on-year to reach a quarterly average of 53 MW, lifting batteries’ frequency control ancillary services (FCAS) market share to a combined 57% across the NEM’s 10 FCAS markets.

Wind generation also increased, up 5% year-on-year to an average output of 2,971 MW.

“The move to renewables over traditional coal-fired power generation is well and truly underway and is happening at record pace,” AEMO’s Executive General Manager of Reform Delivery Violette Mouchaileh said.

“We are increasingly seeing renewable energy records being set which is a good thing for Australian consumers as it is key in driving prices down and NEM emissions intensity to new record lows.”

The growth in renewables output came as heatwave conditions and extreme weather events pushed electricity demand to record highs.

In the three months to 31 March 2024, operational demand reached a maximum of 32,973 MW on 22 February, marking the highest level since 31 January 2020, and averaged 21,552 MW across the quarter, the highest Q1 average in four years.

AEMO said the demand was most evident in Queensland, where a record maximum operational demand of 11,005 MW was recorded on 22 January, a 9.3% increase from the previous record set on 17 March 2023.

At the time, rooftop PV output stood at 1 GW, constituting 8.3% of the state’s total underlying demand, while grid-scale variable renewable energy accounted for 16.6%.

In WA, operational demand hit a record maximum average of 4,233 MW on 18 February 2024.

Queensland was the only NEM region where wholesale spot prices increased on Q1 2023, recording the highest regional quarterly average of $118/MWh, followed by NSW at $87/MWh.

Tasmanian wholesale spot prices averaged $67/MWh, South Australia $55/MWh, while Victoria recorded the lowest quarterly average price of $52/MWh.

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