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In a short period, renewables provide a record 68.7% of electricity on Australia’s main grid | Energy

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Renewable energy production hit a new record on Friday, briefly providing more than two-thirds of Australia’s main grid electricity.

According to the Australian Energy The market operator (Aemo), the stage was set at 12:30, with a contribution of 68.7%, or 18,882 MW, from renewable sources.

This indicator exceeds the previous record, which was set on September 18, by 4.6 percentage points.

On Friday, 34% of the total electricity on the grid came from distributed solar, surpassing coal’s 22% share.

The renewable energy penetration rate is measured at 30-minute intervals and shows the contribution to the grid over a short period of time.

“It’s very different from 100% renewable energy 24/7,” said Alison Reeve, associate director of the Grattan Institute’s climate change and energy program. “However, it shows how much the network is changing.”

“Five years ago, the most we could get to was 30%, and five years before that, I don’t know if anyone even measured [renewables]it was so little.’

Reeve said one of the challenges of the energy transition was managing variable contributions from renewable sources. “One day it was sunny [at night]the percentage to which you need to ramp up non-renewables is much higher,” she said.

“One of the reasons that’s gradually driving coal-fired power plants out of the market in particular is that they can’t ramp up and down as quickly … they can’t cycle on and off for hours at a time.”

Gas and hydro generators respond more quickly to short deadlines. With gas prices currently high, “when these gas generators come on, they set a pretty high price in the electricity market,” Reeve said.

Hydro generators have recently been limited due to wet weather on Australia’s east coast, she added. “They can’t send too much water downriver because they don’t want to make the flooding worse,” she said.

Another challenge was replacing the “system stability” that coal and gas provide to the electric grid — the ability to ramp down and slightly ramp up generation to “keep the grid voltage balanced,” Reeve said, which would require longer-lasting storage infrastructure like batteries.

“Until we figure out a way to do that balancing role with other things like pumped hydro and batteries, and we have enough of those in the system, there’s going to be a natural upper limit to how much renewable energy penetration we have, especially when you go beyond instantaneous … and start talking about what we can sustain for four to eight hours.”

Reeve described these as “solvable issues” but requiring work out of details, including cost, storage space and service evaluation.

A July report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) found that Australia is among the world’s leaders in low-cost solar power.

After China and India, Australia had the world’s third lowest price for utility-scale solar at US$0.042/kWh (AU$0.065) in 2021. This meant a 21% drop in prices compared to the same period last year.

According to Irena, the average cost of utility-scale solar electricity in Australia has fallen by 90% since 2010.

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