Australia’s main grid reaches 50 per cent renewables for first time

Australia’s main grid – known as the National Electricity Market – broke through the 50 per cent benchmark for renewable energy in one trading period on Wednesday, the first time that half of net demand had been met by renewables.

The milestone was reached at 1150 (NEM time, which is AEST), when the combined output of rooftop solar, large-scale wind, and large-scale solar reached 50.2 per cent of the near 25GW being produced on the main grid, which includes Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, but not Western Australia or the Northern Territory.

Rooftop solar provided nearly half the renewables output, or 23.7 per cent, followed by wind (15.7 per cent), large-scale solar (8.8 per cent) and hydro just 1.9 per cent.

The share of renewables might have been bigger were it not for four out of five solar farms in Victoria being constrained to 50 per cent of their output, along with the Broken Hill solar farm, and another solar farm in South Australia , Tailem Bend, was switched off due to low prices.

This graph above from the Energy Transition Hub’s OpenNem widget marks the occasion. It notes that batteries and pumped hydro were also in action, soaking up some of the cheap electricity on offer (prices in some states were hovering near zero at the time).

Indeed, in a later trading interval, while renewables were still contributing 49.7 per cent of net demand, the prices across all the mainland states in the NEM were at zero, or at least just above.