A reduction in electricity demand has led to Queensland’s largest power generator to announce it will withdraw two of its coal fired units from service for at least two years or until wholesale electricity demand improves.
Stanwell Corporation Limited, the owner of Tarong Power Station said it was operating in an over-supplied energy market with lower than forecast electricity demand, which led to the decision to mothball two of the four units at the facility.
A Queensland government owned corporation, Stanwell has a generation capacity of more than 4000 megawatts (MW), which has been operating on average at 60 per cent capacity.
Aside from the 1400 MW Tarong Power Station, Stanwell’s other coal fired assets including the 1460 MW Stanwell Power Station near Rockhampton and the 443 MW Tarong North Power Station.
At full output, annual greenhouse emissions from Tarong Power Station and Tarong North Power Station are in the region off 13 million tonnes, with the 1980’s era Tarong facility being the biggest contributor.
The reduction in demand for coal-fired electricity is a result of consumers becoming more energy efficient and Queensland’s love affair with home solar power.
Queensland isn’t the only state seeing a drop in mains electricity consumption thanks in part to uptake of solar panels. In August, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) stated South Australia’s consumption of mains grid supplied power decreased by approximately 5% (700 GWh) in 2011-12 and is around 10% lower than forecast.
According to a June report from REC Agents Association (RAA), over the last three years electricity consumption in the eastern states’ National Electricity Market (NEM) has dropped by 3.2 % (6,565 GWh).
Solar power hasn’t just contributed to seeing a reduction in coal based electricity demand, but has also pushed down the price of wholesale electricity. Unfortunately, that benefit has not flowed on to end consumers who have instead been slugged with continuing and major electricity price rises in recent years.