The rise in rooftop solar installations is edging coal-fired generation out of Australia’s power market, according to a recent audit of the National Electricity Market.
This latest National Energy Emissions Audit, published by The Australia Institute, found that the covid-19 pandemic had a small initial impact on power consumption. The strong rise in rooftop solar, however, which provided more than 16% of SA’s power consumption last summer and almost 8% of QLD’s consumption as well, has started to beat out fossil fuel generation.
2019 was a record year
Last year was a record year for rooftop solar – the 16% in SA was a jump from 10.0% in 2018 and the 7.7% in QLD was up from 5%. This pace is carrying on throughout 2020, too.
Without this increase in rooftop, SA would have needed 20% more electricity from gas production in 2017-2018 and 44% in 2019-2020. Coal would have needed to go up by 44% in summer 2019.
This growth in renewables means that for the first time, renewables will account for more than 25% in the year to April 2020. The 2020 Easter weekend saw renewables supplying more than 50% for the first time ever (for two hours, at least).
The covid-19 pandemic throws renewables into relief
The growing importance of renewables has been demonstrated quite starkly by the surprisingly low carbon emissions coming from domestic electricity during the pandemic. Household electricity is the most polluting sector in Australia and with many people working from home, demand has risen, but carbon emissions haven’t.
Covid-19 didn’t cause too much of a dip in usage
The report, which goes up to the end of April this year, found that electricity usage in the second half of March, when lockdown started, was only down 2.4% on the same period in 2019. This is partly down to a cooler autumn along the east coast; not just the shift to working from home leaving offices at least partly vacant.
Mines, factories and processing facilities have been largely unaffected by shutdowns and although many people are working from home, office, retail and educational buildings are still using some power.