Additional renewable energy capacity has now replaced the electricity output generated by the recently closed Hazelwood power station in just two summers. Since the closure of the coal fired power station in March 2017, the rapid growth of renewables in Australia has eased the transition toward clean energy.
The brown coal fired power station was primarily owned and operated by French multinational company Engie and is located in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. Since its commissioning in 1964, it became one of the most carbon polluting coal power plants in Australia.
At its closure there was extra pressure placed on the National Energy Market to provide reliable and affordable electricity during peak summer periods. Nevertheless, the Australian renewable energy market experienced a sustained period of considerable growth. This greatly influenced the nation’s ability to produce an energy supply surpassing that of the Hazelwood coal station.
During the peak summer periods where energy demand is at its greatest, renewable energy has managed to fill the hole left by the Hazelwood coal power station. Comparing the summer of 2016/17 to the summer of 2017/18, wind and solar capacity grew by 2,821 GWh, whilst brown coal output at this time fell 2,908 GWh. This dramatic decrease in brown coal output across these summers coincided with falling outputs from both gas and black coal.
Output of renewable energy in Australia has contributed heavily to the NEM during peak hours of 11:30am to 5:30pm over the two summers since the Hazelwood closure. Black coal remains the highest contributor during peak summer demand. Brown coal output during these times has fallen by 1,400MW, whereas renewables supplied an extra 2,000MW on average.
Additionally, solar now outperforms brown coal, gas and hydro during the 9am to 5pm period in summer, making it the second largest energy contributor to the NEM.
Whilst this trend is promising, comprehensive renewable energy targets and a reduction in fossil fuel investments are needed to keep Australia moving toward clean, green energy.
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