Aust Institute: Victorian coal-fired power generation at record low

loy yang, underwriting, latrobe valley
Loy Yang, Victoria. Image: Dorothy Chiron /

New research shows that coal-fired electricity generation is on the decline across the National Electricity Market (NEM), particularly in Victoria where the continued shut down of the Loy Yang A power station has put Victorian coal generation levels at their lowest since the National Energy Market commenced 21 years ago.

The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program has released its latest National Energy Emissions Audit, analysing the electricity sector over the previous month.

Key findings:

  • Total annual electricity generation from coal peaked nationally in January 2009, since then: black coal generation has dropped nine per cent, brown coal generation has fallen 41 per cent, gas generation has increased by only three per cent and overall generation has fallen nine per cent.
  • Victorian coal generation is at its lowest levels since the start of the National Electricity Market 21 years ago, mainly due to the closure of Hazelwood and several smaller stations and, at present, to the continued unavailability of unit 2 at Loy Yang A. 
  • During August, September and October 2019, new wind and solar generation from both grid-scale and rooftop, reached new record monthly levels.
  • On October 26, 2019, total renewable share hit a high of 47.3 per cent of NEM generation for a thirty-minute period.

Energy expert and author of the audit Dr Hugh Saddler says Australia’s coal fleet is aging and requires more and more “sick leave” with power stations like Loy Yang A in Victoria continually out of action.

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“Since coal generation peaked nationally across the NEM in 2009, coal-fired power has fallen dramatically, gas generation has remained about the same and renewables have almost completely filled the gap,” Dr Sadler says.

“Australia’s three pumped hydro facilities are being used more often, which will only continue to increase with scheduled ownership changes and expansion plans.

“Of all the seasons, more electricity is used is during the winter months, but its during summers that peak demand is most concerning, and that will continue to be a consideration this summer, especially in the absence of an agreed national climate and energy strategy.”

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The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program director Richie Merzian said, “With Australia anticipating a summer of unprecedented heat, it is likely that Australia’s coal fleet will struggle once again to provide reliable electricity generation to the NEM.”

“Last week, COAG Energy Ministers could have considered a long overdue climate and energy strategy to deliver the affordable, reliable and low emissions electricity most Australians want and deserve,” Mr Merzian said.

Read the report here.

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