Aussie Triumph? Solar Briefly Overtook Coal, then Failed at Sunset
Essay by Eric Worrall
h/t Observa; If only those lazy engineers would figure out how to keep the solar panels working at night, when people actually need the electricity…
Solar briefly overtakes coal in Australia as number one source of power nationally
by political reporter Tom Lowrey
- Solar energy beat out coal as the leading source of power across the energy market for about half an hour on Friday
- Most of the power came from rooftop solar panels, rather than from large-scale solar farms
- Energy experts say it is a sign of things to come as Australia transitions to renewable energy
For about half an hour on Friday, the national energy market caught a glimpse of what a renewables-powered future might look like.
Solar energy eclipsed coal as the lead source of power across the energy market, which includes all states and territories except Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
It was not the first time it had happened, but experts said it was the first time it had happened under relatively “normal” conditions.
It was not caused by a shortage of coal-fired power, and it happened just outside the sunniest time of the year.
Joshua Stabler, from energy consulting firm Energy Edge, said that made it particularly significant.
“This is the first time in business-as-usual that we’ve ever seen coal be dethroned as [the] number-one fuel source in the market,” he said.
“Coal has been at times up to 80 or 90 per cent of the amount of energy coming into the market.
“Which means that this is a big event.”
Coal still dominates the grid during the evening peak, when solar sources are no longer available.
But Richie Merzian, from progressive think tank the Australia Institute, said that was solvable through a transformation across the energy grid.
“We can make more energy on our rooftops in our communities, we can plug in more large-scale renewables, but we need a grid that can accommodate that,” he said.
What I love about this article is not one mention of batteries or storage. Until some genius figures out an affordable energy storage system, none of these green triumphs help ordinary consumers. Renewable capacity will continue to inflate household energy bills.
Whatever coal providers lose to renewables during the day, the more than make up for at night, or during unfavourable weather conditions, when the power they provide dominates the electricity grid.
We can forget about the gigantic Snowy 2 pumped storage system, which was the great green hope until someone bothered to actually run the numbers. Even the deep greens at Sydney Morning Herald nowadays call Snowy 2 a “White Elephant”.
The leverage coal providers hold over the Aussie government is they can simply pack up and leave, and crash the Australian electricity grid, if anyone attempts to interfere with them taking the same profits as they did before renewables entered the market.
We have already seen this leverage play out, during the recent crisis when the Aussie government tried to impose fixed prices on coal plants during a wind drought. We can only guess what coal operators said to government representatives behind closed doors, but the government response was an immediate offer of large capacity subsidies for coal plants, in return for a promise to keep their plants running.
Coal providers demanding the same profit they made before renewables entered the market, and being in a position to force the Australian government to comply, leaves ordinary Australians lumbered with the combined cost of running both the old coal powered electricity system and the new renewable electricity system. These costs will either appear directly in people’s energy bills, or indirectly via federal taxes, which are passed on to coal plant operators in the form of capacity subsidies.
One thing is clear. There will be no end to skyrocketing household electricity bills, so long as the Australian Federal Government keeps trying to inflict useless renewables on the market.