Due to the covid-19 outbreak and its impact, there is a fall in electricity demand in Australia like elsewhere that has provided an opportunity for the renewable sector to take the center stage. Australia, with changes to its regulations, possesses the technical capability to safely run its power grid with 75% of electricity from wind and solar by 2025. The options of integrating more renewables into the power system while maintaining grid security are increasing but the implementation of such integration will be on hold until the current operating settings and market frameworks change, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.  

The overall share of renewable electricity in the National Electricity Market (NEM) reached 26% in the past month. On Easter Sunday for 10 minutes, Rooftop solar PV provided 23.7% of all the power demand, followed by wind at 15.7%, large-scale solar with 8.8%, and hydro at 1.9%. In all, renewables provided for 50.2% of the power to Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. 

Somik Das, senior power analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The share of intermittent sources such as wind and solar is increasing rapidly in the overall electricity mix in Australia. The country already possesses the capability to integrate the increased influx of renewables to its electric system. However, to increase the share of renewables to 75% in the overall supply mix, challenges such as changes in frequency with the addition of variable distributed generation should be managed.” 

There had been concerns in the past that Australia’s grid, which was initially designed to connect to a handful of large-scale generators, would not manage to incorporate the renewable generation from solar panels and wind turbines. It was believed that Australia’s grid is ill-prepared to store and transmit electricity generated from renewable energy, and the present regulations provide no incentive for gas and battery providers to bridge the gap in supply when generation from renewables falls short.

But with the recent milestone achieved by renewable generation, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) believes that by bringing about careful changes in the regulatory framework of power generation, it can overcome these concerns. 

Das concludes: “Australia is expected to add around 25GW of renewable capacity with the majority from wind and solar during 2020-25. To be able to absorb more renewables into the system, there needs to be a serious change in approach from being resistant to cheap and variable electricity, to be more flexible and adapt to changes in its regulatory structure effectively to be able to integrate 75% renewables into the grid.   

“Otherwise, AEMO will have to impose curbs on renewable energy to ensure grid stability. This will curtail the contribution from wind and solar resources to 50% or 60% of their potential even though they are the cheapest source of generating electricity.”