Booming renewable energy generation halves wholesale power prices across national grid

Booming renewable energy generation halves wholesale power prices across national grid
  • PublishedJanuary 25, 2024

Prices more than halved in the final three months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, as power supplied by large-scale renewables and rooftop solar soared.

For a few hours on New Year’s Eve, South Australia was powered entirely by rooftop solar panels.

A new report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) lays out the increasing role renewables are playing in the energy grid, reaching 72 per cent of the total demand for power on the east coast at times during the three months.

Demand varied up and down the coast, with wholesale prices higher in Queensland and New South Wales than in South Australia and Victoria.

Cattle grazing below wind turbines
Renewables are increasingly playing a role in the energy grid.(ABC News: Brett Worthington)

The difference was down to an unusually warm spring and summer in some parts of the country.

The national energy market includes all states except Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Renewables influence to increase

AEMO’s chief executive Daniel Westerman said the influence of renewables on the grid will only grow.

“We are regularly seeing records set for the higher contribution of renewables and lower levels of energy drawn from the grid because of rooftop solar,” he said.

“As our coal-fired generators retire, renewable generation, batteries, hydro, new gas-fired power plants, and new transmission will power our homes and businesses.”

AEMO chief executive Daniel Westerman
Daniel Westerman says rooftop solar is contributing to reduced grid usage.(ABC Rural: Jane McNaughton)

Renewables are also more regularly pushing the spot price of power in the grid below zero, particularly during the middle of the day.

During the three-month period, the spot price in the national energy market was zero or below about one-fifth of the time.

AEMO says those opportunities will become critical in coming years, as pumped hydro projects like Snowy 2.0 rely on cheap energy to push water uphill.

And the increased place of renewables in the grid pushed coal generation to a new quarterly low, and a record low level of carbon emissions produced by the national grid.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the figures were evidence the broad push to renewables was progressing as hoped.

“AEMO’s report out today shows the shift to renewable energy is working exactly as it should with wholesale prices being cut in half over the past year as renewables hit an all-time record output and the Albanese government’s coal and gas caps took effect,” he said.


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