Due to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact, there is a fall in
electricity demand in Australia like elsewhere that has provided an
opportunity for the renewable sector to take the center stage in the
continent. Australia, with changes to its regulations, possesses the
technical capability to safely run its power grid with 75% of
electricity from wind and solar by 2025. The options of integrating more
renewables into the power system while maintaining grid security are
increasing but the implementation of such integration will be on hold
until the current operating settings and market frameworks change, says
GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The overall share of renewable electricity in the National Electricity
Market (NEM) reached 26% in the last one month. On Easter Sunday for 10
minutes, Rooftop solar PV provided 23.7% of all the power demand,
followed by wind at 15.7%, large-scale solar with 8.8%, and hydro at
1.9%. In all, renewables provided for 50.2% of the power to Queensland,
New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

Somik Das, Senior Power Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “The share of
intermittent sources such as wind and solar is increasing rapidly in the
overall electricity mix in Australia. The country already possesses the
capability to integrate the increased influx of renewables to its
electric system. However, to increase the share of renewables to 75% in
the overall supply mix, challenges such as changes in frequency with the
addition of variable distributed generation should be managed.”

There had been concerns in the past that Australia’s grid, which was
initially designed to connect to a handful of large scale generators,
would not manage to incorporate the renewable generation from solar
panels and wind turbines. It was believed that Australia’s grid is
ill-prepared to store and transmit electricity generated from renewable
energy, and the present regulations provide no incentive for gas and
battery providers to bridge the gap in supply when generation from
renewables fall short.

But with the recent milestone achieved by renewable generation, the
Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) believes that by bringing about
careful changes in the regulatory framework of power generation, it can
overcome these concerns.

Das concludes: “Australia is expected to add around 25 GW of renewable
capacity with the majority from wind and solar during 2020-2025. To be
able to absorb more renewables into the system, there needs to be a
serious change in approach from being resistant to cheap and variable
electricity, to be more flexible and adapt to changes in its regulatory
structure effectively to be able to integrate 75% renewables into the
grid.

“Otherwise, AEMO will have to impose curbs on renewable energy to
ensure grid stability. This will curtail the contribution from wind and
solar resources to 50 or 60% of their potential even though they are the
cheapest source of generating electricity.”