For the first time ever, renewable energy has provided for 50% of the demand for Australia’s power grid. Even though it was just for a brief moment in time, wind, hydro and solar power all combined to generate over half the electricity into the national grid.
At the start of this month the main electricity grid was powered by over 50% renewable energy. This is a new milestone in Australia’s aim to become a greener nation and experts say that it will be something that starts occurring more often than not in the near future.
On 6 November at 11:50am, data on sources of the power provided to the national electricity market showed that renewable energy was providing for 50.2% of all power used by the grid in the 5 states that it operates in, Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.
The 50.2% was broken down into 23.7% being provided from rooftop solar power, 15.7% generated by wind power, 8.8% produced from large scale solar projects and 1.9% supplied from hydropower.
Even though all the renewable energy power options made up the majority of the supply, coal fired power plants still were the largest single provider of energy to the national grid, with black coal producing 35.7% of the power and brown coal generating 13.5%.
The milestone was first noticed by an online tool, OpenNEM. The tool monitors Australia’s national grid using real time data which is retrieves from the Australian Energy Market Operator.
One of the researchers from the University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College, Dylan McConnel, who also helped develop and create the online tool is confident that this milestone represents an underlying trend where renewable energy is being used more often in Australia. Mr McConnel further said that usually it’s the spring months which get these higher levels of renewable output due to households not needing electricity to heat or cool their homes like in the other seasons.
One of the main contributors which helped achieve this milestone was the large roll out of rooftop solar electricity to households and businesses.
Achieving the 50% landmark reflects the increased growth of renewable energy in Australia which has come from large scale investment which has reached record levels in recent years.
A report in 2018 showed that over 2 million small scale solar power systems were installed along with 3.5 gigawatts of larger scale renewable energy projects.
This means that Australia as a nation is ahead of its schedule to meet its large scale project target of 33000 gigawatts of electricity generated from renewable energy sources by the year 2020.
Other experts have said that renewable energy could produce on average 35% of Australia’s electricity by the end of 2021.
The chief executive of the Clean Energy Council, Kate Thornton has said that the milestone is worth celebrating and that it is a fantastic achievement.
In 10 year’s time it is expected that these milestones are to be a completely normal occurrence. Renewable energy power plants will start replacing the old coal fired power stations. For example, South Australia ran on over 50% wind and solar for the first time 10 years ago but now it is completely normal for the state to be running on 50% renewable energy.
The future is bright as renewable sources and improved storage plants are able to do everything that coal power plants can do, but they are better for the environment, cheaper and more reliable.