Renewable generation soars on high winds

Wednesday, 19 September, 2012

Research from carbon analytics firm RepuTex shows power generation from Australia’s renewable energy sector has risen dramatically over recent months, on the back of strong winds across Australia’s eastern seaboard and reduced output from brown coal generators.

According to RepuTex, renewable energy output has jumped more than 50% above 2011 monthly averages, with strong output leading to a 7% reduction in emissions intensity across Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM).

“Wind generation has picked up markedly over 2012, running 57% higher this month than August 2011 due largely to stronger winds and increased capacity in southern states. Earlier this month we saw South Australia buffeted by gale force winds, with 85% of the state’s power generation coming directly from wind sources, so the capacity is now there to take advantage of the weather conditions, particularly in SA and Victoria,” said RepuTex Senior Analyst Cory Jemison.

Renewable generators have been aided by the ongoing flooding at Victoria’s Yallourn Power Station, which continues to generate at half its normal levels.

“Yallourn’s capacity continues to be compromised due to flooding in the Latrobe Valley in June. While we’re seeing output increase, they’re still generating at about half its normal levels,” said Jemison.

The news is a mixed blessing for Yallourn’s owners, with RepuTex forecasting the generator’s carbon liabilities to fall by $33.5 million owing to its reduced output.

“Emissions from Yallourn are now down 1.5 million tonnes of carbon in July and August compared to the same period last year, lowering its carbon liability by approximately $33.5 million.

“If we consider the reduced coal output and the increased renewable generation, then add into the mix the announced closure of coal assets owned by Rio Tinto and BMA, we forecast the removal of around 4.6 million tonnes of emissions from the Australian carbon market for FY 2013 - or about 1.5% of total market emissions, so this activity is leading to a fairly dynamic market.”

According to RepuTex, BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, whose Gregory open-cut coal mine in Queensland has been running since 1979, will close in October due to low coal prices, high costs and the high Australian dollar. Emissions from the complex will be reduced by around 200 kilotonnes per year, with BMA’s average annual liability to be reduced by over $4 million.

Rio Tinto’s Blair Athol mine in Queensland will shut down by December, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by around 160,000 tonnes per year.

BHP Billiton’s decision to shelve its $30 billion expansion of the Olympic Dam has also impacted the Australian emissions profile. The mine expansion would have initially added 1.1 megatonnes to Australia’s emissions per year, eventually rising to 2 million tonnes, or 24% of current non-coal-related mining emissions.

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