Thanks in part to Australia’s home solar power revolution, the prospects for new fossil fuel based power generation investment look rather bleak over the next decade in much of the nation.
The recently published Electricity Statement of Opportunities (ESOO) from the Australian Energy Market Operator AEMO says the rise of residential rooftop solar, increasing energy efficiency in response to electricity price hikes and more large scale renewable energy development “is expected to defer new thermal electricity generation investment.”
The AEMO forecasts no reserve deficits in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, or Tasmania until after 2022–23, but possibly a deficit in Queensland in 2019–20; when additional investment in generation may be required to maintain electricity supply reliability within the National Electricity Market (NEM) Reliability Standard.
Of the 522.7 MW of new large-scale generation added to the NEM’s generation capacity in the 2012-13 reporting timeframe, the vast majority of the new capacity came from wind power.
Rooftop solar panels are treated as a demand offset for supply–demand balance, and are not included in the 522.7MW figure. However, in 2012-13, the AEMO estimates 774 MW of rooftop PV generation capacity was installed in the NEM.
During the same period, 870 MW of Queensland coal-fired generation (Tarong Power Station Units 2 and 4, plus Collinsville Power Station) was either mothballed or was decommissioned.
Of the 1,000 MW in new large scale generation committed since last year’s ESOO; 95% consists of wind generation and 5% solar generation.
The purpose of the Electricity Statement of Opportunities is to provide technical, market data and information regarding opportunities in the National Electricity Market. The full 2013 ESOO can be downloaded here (PDF).
While coal fired generation’s fall from grace in Australia is a welcome development – we’re still a Typhoid Mary of sorts; exporting huge quantities of the emissions intensive fuel.
However, coal’s prospects are beginning to look a little bleak elsewhere too; with developed nations curbing support and the World Bank recently stating it would only provide financial assistance for new greenfield coal based power generation in developing countries in “rare circumstances”.
Whether the turning of the tide will occur fast enough to avoid the worst of the effects of climate change remain to be seen – and the love affair with gas could derail efforts.