Renewables produced more energy in Australia over summer than 2 key fossil fuels

Photo: read Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • Renewable energy produced 128% more megawatt hours of electricity than gas and 23% more than brown coal over the 2018-19 summer.
  • Black coal remains the strongest source of energy, but its output across the summer dipped below 2017-18 summer levels.
  • Green Energy Markets director Tristan Edis told Business Insider Australia the next milestone to look for is 30% renewables by 2021, provided wholesale prices come down.

Renewable energy comfortably generated more electricity than brown coal and gas this summer, almost completely replacing the lost capacity from the closure of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria, according to a new report.

The latest Green Energy Markets report said renewable energy produced 128% more megawatt hours of electricity than gas and 23% more than brown coal over the 2018-19 summer in the national electricity market states.

Green Energy Markets director Tristan Edis told Business Insider Australia that milestones like this will reassure consumers that renewables can fill the capacity gap when we move away from fossil fuels.

“These sort of horror stories about the lights going out if we grow renewables, what this does is counters those particularly scary stories that are out there,” said Edis.

Screenshot: Green Energy Markets’ Renewable Energy Index

Green Energy Markets’ figures come from data published by the Australian Energy Market Operator. The figures show that output from solar exceeded output from brown coal and gas when averaged across the 9am-5pm period, which is when demand typically peaks in summer.

The numbers also show solar beat both gas and brown coal every hour from 9am until 3pm. From 3pm to 4pm, brown coal exceeded. From 4pm to 5pm, solar was beaten by both brown coal and gas.

Black coal remains the strongest source of energy, but its output across the country over the summer slipped below 2017-18 levels.

Edis said solar is set to double in the next three years, thanks to big increases in large-scale solar and rooftop solar coming online.

He added the next milestone consumers should look for is renewables hitting 30% of the national energy market Australia-wide, with the caveat that wholesale prices have to come down.

“The next milestone is 30% and that’s probably only three years…but we’ve got to get the average megawatt hour down.”

Edis said he was confident wholesale prices will return to more normal levels by 2021.

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