Australia’s national electricity market reportedly hit a new landmark last week after solar power surpassed energy output from coal-fired plants for the first time since the industry was established two decades ago.
According to credible reports, the crossover point stayed only for a few minutes, as low demand and clear skies on Sunday plummeted coal's contribution to a record low of 9,315MW soon after high-noon, while solar contributed the dominant of the 9,427MW.
Dylan McConnell, a climate and energy college research fellow from the University of Melbourne, stated that renewable energy accounted for 57% of national power output for a short time.
McConnell unofficially referred to it as 'record season'. According to McConnell, it is still early in the season to achieve these figures, but in the spring or shoulder seasons, the nation will have a mix of low demand due to the lack of heating or cooling, as well as beautiful weather on the weekends. When all these factors come together, the nation gets huge shares of renewable energy that generally pushed coal out.
While the achievement was just momentary, and Australia is still far from attaining the peak clean energy, prices of energy went negative on Sunday between 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Though the precise price varied by jurisdiction, it meant that producers were being paid to consume, or that they were paying to stay running.
Coal generators, unlike more agile solar and wind producers, suffer the most when prices fall. The expenses of shutting down and restarting coal plants are exorbitant, therefore operators will prefer to keep them operating even if they are losing money.
According to energy researcher Simon Holmes à Court, the overall share of renewable energy – solar, wind, and hydro – would have been greater in the energy mix if wind generators had not chosen to shut down to avoid the price increase.