Renewables out-compete gas generation: National Energy Emissions Audit

Renewable generation in the National Energy Market (NEM) has reached a new record high, with all new energy generation over the last two months due to eight new solar farms coming online in the NEM, latest findings from the National Energy Emissions Audit show.

The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program has released the November National Energy Emissions Audit authored by renowned energy expert, Dr Hugh Saddler, covering emissions in the electricity sector over the previous month of October.

Key findings:

  • Renewable energy generation in the NEM has reached a new record high – five consecutive months, and up by over 20% since the beginning of the year.
  • Solar power provided all new renewable energy generation over the last two months, due to eight new large-scale solar plants coming online in the past two months
  • Gas generation has been declining over 2018, down by almost 20% since the beginning of the year, due to high prices and strong competition from renewables.
  • South Australia could afford to shut down all its gas generation following upgrades to the network (including a new SA-NSW transmission link).
  • Snowy hydro has been active all month storing energy from renewables, after ten years of little use.

“Renewable energy generation records continue to be broken and the level of renewables on the grid continues to rise. It is clear we can only expect more to come,” says Dr Hugh Saddler, energy expert and author of the report.

“If the Government truly wants more reliable energy and lower power prices, they should look up not down.

“The future is in renewables. Australia just witnessed eight large-scale solar plants coming online in the last two months, increasing solar capacity connected to the NEM grid by over 50%. Unless taxpayers foot the hefty bill, it is unlikely we will see any new coal power plants being built again.

“Gas generation has fallen steadily in 2018 driven mainly by high cost and competition from renewables. It is clear gas generation is looking less and less attractive as an energy option. In South Australia, currently more dependent on gas than any other NEM state, AEMO says that gas generators could be completely shut down if new upgrades to the NEM are built.

“It is positive to see Snowy Hydro, Australia’s largest pumped storage facility, being used as it should – storing cheap solar electricity in the middle of the day, and sending it back into the grid to supply peak evening demand, when electricity is most expensive.

“Regular use of renewable storage such as Snowy Hydro is a much more practical and effective way to put downward pressure on electricity prices than hollow threats from the Government to force the break-up of electricity industry businesses.

“Despite the boom in renewables, the new Ichthys LNG project in Darwin means it’s one step forward two steps back, as it is expected to emit about 7 million tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, further pushing up Australia’s emissions and making achievement of the Paris target even less likely.” 

Eight new large-scale solar plants that joined the NEM:




Coleambally Solar Farm

Coleambally, NSW


Emerald Solar Park

Emerald, QLD


Ross River Solar Farm

Kelso, QLD


Bannerton Solar Farm

Robinvale, Vic


White Rock Solar Farm

Glen Innes, NSW

New England

Daydream Solar Farm

Collinsville, QLD


Bungala Solar PV Project – Two

Port Augusta, SA


Karadoc Solar Park

35km south of Mildura, VIC


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