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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Transformation of the Australian Electricity Market - are Renewables Making a Difference?

We will post some of this article and a link to the body of it.  It is complicated but very on target in looking at the growth of renewables, versus the total power generated, in a country like Australia that has fantastic amounts of wind and sun.  There is no better place to leap frog into a complete clean energy plan.

As always we work to bring you a global perspective on key elements in the green economy.

It is widely thought that the Australian electricity market is already in rapid transformation (AEMO Submission to NEM Review 2017Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap, CSIRO and Energy Networks Australia 2017Charging Forward paper, Clean Energy Council 2017), with some concerns that this may be a crisis situation (Powering through, Grattan Institute 2017).

 This change is being driven by many factors including government energy policies such as the federal Renewable Energy Target (RET) and state-based renewable energy schemes. Funding of renewable energy projects through grants and projects by bodies such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency ( ARENA), changes in consumer behaviour in support of low-emissions and distributed electricity generation, and the rapidly decreasing cost of some renewable energy technologies are also key drivers of change in the electricity market (Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap, CSIRO and Energy Networks Australia 2017Powering through, Grattan Institute 2017Charging Forward paper, Clean Energy Council 2017).

 It is critical to maintain the security and stability of electricity supply and price during the transition to a substantially increased reliance on renewable (intermittent) electricity sources, taking into account the rise of distributed energy sources and eventually, battery storage technologies (AEMO Submission to NEM Review 2017Charging Forward paper, Clean Energy Council 2017Powering through, Grattan Institute 2017Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap, CSIRO and Energy Networks Australia 2017). 

Meanwhile, the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market has already delivered its preliminary report and is due in the next few months to deliver its final report, including recommendations for NEM reform and broader government energy policy settings, to the Council of Australian Government (COAG) Energy Council.

Major changes in energy generation and use are occurring worldwide as part of a low-carbon transition of national economies to mitigate global anthropogenic climate change (Renewables Global Status Report, REN21 2017). In 2015, the electricity sector generated around 35% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions (Australia's emission projections 2016, Department of Environment and Energy). Clearly, the electricity sector has a key role to play in any reduction of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Given the obviously intense activity and debate around the Australian electricity sector, it is useful to review both the latest (and historical) trends on where we are nationally in terms of electricity generation by energy source or fuel type.
 This article analyses recent changes in Australian electricity generation by fuel type using data from the Australian Energy Statistics (Office of the Chief Economist 2016), as used in the report Australian Energy Update 2016 and supplemented with data from the latest update to Australia's electricity generation statistics (Department of the Environment and Energy 2017).
Figure 1 shows yearly average Australian electricity generation by renewables (solar photovoltaic, wind, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal) over a 20-year period from 1996-97 to the end of 2016. Australian total electricity generation increased by about 30% from 1997 to 2011, went into slight decline for a few years up till 2014 and has since begun to increase again. It is currently at a historic high yearly average of about 258 TWh. 
The total renewables electricity generation over the last 20 years was fairly ‘flat’ at about 8-10% of the national total up until 2009-10. This generation was dominated by hydroelectric power. However, since 2010 the yearly average percentage of electricity generation by renewable has substantially increased to a historic high of about 16.3% or 42 TWh (yearly average to end December 2016). This increase is due to the rise of contributions from renewables other than hydroelectric power. 
There are noticeable short-term declines in both the actual and percentages of renewables electricity generation around 2008-09 and 2014-15, which may be responses to economic conditions or government policy settings.

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