First Time in History: Solar & Wind supply more than 50% of Australia’s main grid

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October 26, 2020

First Time in History: Solar & Wind supply more than 50% of Australia’s main grid

In the first week of October, something remarkable happened in the renewables sector, however short-lived.

Renewable energy shares broke record highs for three consecutive days, with Saturday, 3 October posting the highest percentage. More than 50 per cent of Australia’s main grid was powered by wind and solar energy systems for the first time ever, and over an extended period.

The record-breaking streak of the renewables sector reported by the National Electricity Market (NEM) was caused by several factors, including strong winds and ideal solar conditions prevalent in most of the eastern states. This, combined with the relatively low heating and cooling demand during spring, as well as the beginning of the weekend holiday in some states, led to the surge in demand for renewables.

By late Saturday morning, renewables shares reached an all-time high of 54.5 per cent – which is almost two per cent higher than the record posted on Friday.

The share of wind and solar energy broke the 50 per cent threshold on Friday for the first time and reached the historical high the following Saturday, where renewables achieved a 50 per cent share at 9.15 am, continuing to stay well above 50 per cent until 1.30pm.

The output of wind and solar energy combined reached approximately 52.3 per cent – with a little more than half of it attributed to rooftop solar panels in Brisbane and elsewhere in Australia.

The percentage share of renewables could have been higher if not for a number of wind and solar farms switching off to evade negative pricing events that were experienced in many states at a certain point that day. As well, hydro facilities and big batteries had been busy pumping and charging within the same period.

On the other hand, the Labor Party has been criticised by the federal government for its 50 per cent renewable energy target for 2030, saying the move is reckless and destructive for the local economy. However, the government has also acknowledged the fact that the grid is headed in the same direction, even in the absence of a coherent national energy policy.

There are some analysts who predict that renewable shares by 2030 might very well exceed the 50 per cent target, as evidenced by the experience of South Australia. Even with the Liberal government target of net 100 per cent renewables by 2030, they managed to achieve 73 per cent renewables in September this year.

These record highs achieved by renewables may happen again. Whether they recur this year, these record-breaking numbers signify the growing trend toward the adoption of renewables and the steady growth of the sector.

Take advantage of this development, save on energy bills and live an eco-friendlier lifestyle by adopting solar energy. 

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