7 renewable energy lessons from South Australia

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • A mix of renewable energy sources has helped South Australia smash its sustainable power goals, says a new report.
  • In 2020, renewables delivered 60% of the state’s energy needs.
  • By 2050, it wants to generate 500% of its energy needs from renewable sources.

It’s one-and-a-half times bigger than the US state of Texas, almost as big as Egypt and has a population of 1.7 million people. The state of South Australia is also a global leader in the use of renewable energy.

The use of renewable energy will play a crucial part in helping the world hit the targets set at the Paris Climate Agreement to tackle climate change, including halting the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels and working to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

The progress made by South Australia could help the rest of the world find a faster route to a successful energy transition, according to a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

Called A Grid Dominated by Wind and Solar Is Possible, South Australia: A Window Into the Future, here are seven takeaways from the report.

1. Most – and sometimes all – annual demand can be met by wind and solar.

The South Australia state government set a 2020 target of getting 26% of the state’s energy from renewables. It smashed that goal, with renewables delivering 60% of its energy needs. In October of that year, 100% of the state’s energy came from renewable sources – just for one hour, but it marks an impressive turnaround for a region that was 100% reliant on fossil fuel as recently as 2006.

Key to its success has been a commitment to a mix of renewable sources, the IEEFA says. “South Australia therefore provides valuable lessons for the rest of the world, showing what is possible with variable renewable energy (VRE) and distributed energy resources (DER) integration.”

a map showing energy sources for power in australia
60% of Annual Demand Has Been Provided by Wind and Solar and 100% In Certain Time Periods. Image: Australian Energy Market Operator/IEEFA

2. Renewables adoption can be driven by government policy and market features.

South Australia is known for its sunshine and reliably strong winds. But having a lot of sun doesn’t automatically mean a lot of solar power. For that, there needs to be the right legislative processes in place. The Australian federal government introduced its Renewable Energy Target (RET) in 2001, along with a Renewable Energy Certification scheme aimed at encouraging new installations. “Many early projects incentivized by [RET] were installed in South Australia as the market was attractive to investors and developers,” the IEEFA report says.

3. Ambitious plans can spark economic growth.

The South Australian government has set its sights on producing 500% of its energy from renewables by 2050 and becoming a net exporter of greener power.

The neighbouring states of New South Wales and Victoria are among its intended targets, IEEFA says, with additional plans to export “green hydrogen, green steel and other low emissions products internationally”.

Such a goal lead to new investments grid transmission capacity, renewable energy infrastructure and green manufacturing capability, spurring change.

4. Renewables can help deliver sub-zero wholesale electricity prices.

Wholesale electricity prices for South Australia were the lowest in the Australian National Electricity Market in the final quarter of 2020. So low that the price of electricity fell to minus-$9 per megawatt hour (MWh) between 10am and 3.30pm during the first quarter of 2021.

a chart showing the negative daytime prices in south australia
South Australia’s electricity prices fell into the negative early in 2021. Image: AEMO

Not only has this enabled renewable companies to undercut traditional coal and gas generating businesses, it has “rapidly driven down wholesale electricity spot prices in line with the merit order effect (due to lower-cost electricity being available in the wholesale market), especially in the middle of the day when prices are often negative,” the report says.

5. Renewables grids can deliver system reliability and security.

“Overall South Australia has met its reliability standard for the past 15 years,” IEEFA says. The only exception was in 2008-09 when “extreme temperatures in Victoria and South Australia reduced the availability of the interconnector between the two states”.

Continuing to maintain supplies will mean having an infrastructure that can accommodate a larger number of generators and the distributed nature of energy resources, the report says. It cites 253 occasions when the Australian Energy Market Operator had to intervene in the market during 2019-20 (compared to 153 times in 2018-19) to direct “synchronous generators to maintain the system in a secure operating state”.

6. Batteries can support system reliability and energy security.

South Australia has four grid-scale batteries on-stream and two more being built. This includes the world’s largest battery energy storage system, according to IEEFA – the Hornsdale Power Reserve, which was installed in 2017 by Tesla and Neoen.

The report describes the Hornsdale battery as “a technical success, helping to keep the lights on when faults have occurred in the grid”. IEEFA also points out that the site has recouped its capital cost in just over two years of operation.

7. A distributed network can help support rooftop solar.

An estimated 40.3% of households in South Australia have rooftop solar panels. To ensure their safe and effective incorporation into the grid, the ebb and flow of electricity across the distributed network must be carefully managed.

Last year, South Australia introduced a regulation to enable operators to remotely disconnect rooftop solar inverters. This is not an approach favoured by IEEFA, the report points out. Instead, the organization recommends the use of dynamic operating envelopes or DOEs. “DOEs allow distributed energy resources to import and export within the constraints of distribution networks on a five-minute basis, set 24 hours in advance,” IEEFA says.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

EU and China to do more in common if the global scene gets worse

Click and Download: your app is ready to help you save lives

WHO reports ‘very strong progress’ in battling DR Congo Ebola outbreak

New Eurobarometer survey shows: The majority of Europeans think the EU should propose additional measures to address air quality problems

Public Health equality in a trench

10 ways cities are tackling the global affordable housing crisis

Germany tries to save Europe from war between Ukraine and Russia

Long-term EU budget: It is not possible to do more with less, say MEPs

UN chief saddened at news of death of former US President George H.W. Bush

End discrimination against women and children affected by leprosy

Drought in southern Africa: EU releases over €22 million in humanitarian aid

These tech start-ups are changing what it means to farm

Attack on Saudi facilities risks dragging Yemen into ‘regional conflagration’: UN Envoy

Celebrating the Customs Union: the world’s largest trading bloc turns 50

How to outsmart bias when you’re recruiting

Primary Healthcare vs Specialization Careers, how to promote PHC to the Young Health Workforce?

Haitian Foreign Minister calls for development reboot to close ‘striking gap’ between promises and action on ending poverty

This is how drones and other ‘tradetech’ are transforming international trade

European Democracy Action Plan: making EU democracies stronger

Why we need a blockchain bill of rights

Prospect of a nuclear war ‘higher than it has been in generations’, warns UN

Antitrust: Commission imposes binding obligations on Gazprom to enable free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets

How 3 MENA business leaders are building resilient companies post-COVID-19

Thousands of health professionals call on world leaders to prioritize a greener future, post-pandemic

Kenya wants to run entirely on green energy by 2020

COVID vaccination campaign. What are the challenges?

Greece bailout ends but with no substantial effect on citizens’ life

1 million citizens try to create a new EU institution

What the next 20 years will mean for jobs – and how to prepare

Statement by Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, on the announcement to postpone the COP26

EU and US take decisive step to end aircraft dispute

How COVID-19 is making companies act for the long term

We need tech solutions that value human interaction more than ever

Grievous violations continue against Myanmar civilians, Human Rights Council hears

The West and Russia accomplished the dismembering and the economic destruction of Ukraine

Guterres lauds UN peacekeeping, highlights need to bridge ‘critical’ gaps

How cities are failing to be inclusive – and what they can do about it

We must stop turning a blind eye to the world’s health crises

London wants to treat violent crime like a disease

Cybersecurity Act: build trust in digital technologies

MasterCard @ MWC14: Innovation in times of regulatory uncertainty

The digital revolution will transform the steel industry

‘Protracted crisis’ in Venezuela leads to ‘alarming escalation of tensions’: UN political chief

From battlefields to boardrooms: 3 steps to building high-morale teams

‘Act now with ambition and urgency’ to tackle the world’s ‘grave climate emergency’, UN chief urges UAE meeting

African cooperation on peace ‘increasingly strong’, Security Council told

European Green Deal: Commission presents actions to boost organic production

State aid: Commission approves €790 million Croatian guarantee scheme for companies with export activities affected by coronavirus outbreak

How COVID-19 might help us win the fight against climate change

Civilians suffering due to sanctions must be spared ‘collective punishment’ urges UN rights expert

5 urgent actions in the fightback against ransomware

The UN came of age with the nuclear bomb. Time for it to step up to the AI era

How can we prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 5 lessons from innovative schools around the world

How digital identity can improve lives in a post-COVID-19 world

How we measure stakeholder capitalism will determine our recovery

Commission disburses €14.1 billion under SURE to 12 Member States

How distorted is the EU labour market by this crisis?

UN study projects $32 billion loss for UK post no-deal Brexit

One for all? Are physicians prepared to deliver care to the LGBTQIA+ community?

Trade surplus up production down in Eurozone

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s