Upcoming Scorching Summer Sees Australia Turn to Renewables

This Australian summer is expected to see a surge in electricity demand due to heatwaves, potentially reaching decade-high levels. However, regulatory authorities express confidence that additional capacity from renewable energy sources will mitigate the risk of blackouts.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) summer readiness report, released on Wednesday, projects a grid serving the eastern states with 1,500 megawatts more scheduled generation capacity, compared to the previous year. This increase remains substantial despite the closure of the Liddell coal-fired power station in New South Wales in April. Additionally, the report anticipates an additional 2,000MW of generation capacity from new wind and solar farms compared to the 2022-23 summer.

The forecast warns of hot and dry El Niño conditions, posing an elevated risk of bushfires and extreme heat. AEMO’s executive general manager for operations, Michael Gatt, emphasises that the rise in generation availability and the procurement of additional reserves will help address reliability pressures in the event of increased demand.

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Climate patterns in both western and eastern Australia are setting the stage for a hotter and drier-than-average summer. The Bureau of Meteorology notes that the August-October period was the driest in records dating back to 1900. El Niño weather patterns are expected to contribute to reduced rainfall and heightened temperatures in eastern Australia.

Households are also contributing to generation capacity, adding approximately 2,256MW of new rooftop solar power in the first nine months of 2023, with an anticipated addition of about 750MW by year-end.

Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen highlights collaborative efforts across governments, AEMO, and the energy sector to enhance preparedness for the upcoming summer. AEMO’s forecasts identify Victoria and South Australia as having the greatest risk of electricity supply falling short of the grid’s reliability measure.

Despite these preparations, the report acknowledges that the risk of load shedding persists, especially in regions where high-demand days coincide with low renewable energy availability or scheduled generation and network outages. Victoria and South Australia are expected to experience more high-impact outages than last year.

At a time when global temperatures are fluctuating and unpredictable, the reliance upon a solid base of renewable energy infrastructure could not be more important.