Consumption of grid-supplied electricity forecast to flatline

Despite the population expected to grow by as much as 30 per cent in the next 20 years, consumption across the national electricity market will flatline, according to the latest annual forecast from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

This is the first time AEMO has made household energy use and solar production a key component of its annual estimate of future demand. Not surprisingly, the report predicts the expected massive increase in solar and storage to have a huge impact on the shape of the market.

The national energy markets manager forecasts the installation of rooftop solar systems will reach saturation by about 2030, although the output from these systems will expand to as much as 25,000 gigawatt hours by 2035, and will account for around 14 per cent of total demand (some forecasters expect a significantly higher amount).

AEMO also expects energy efficiency to reduce grid demand by a further 27,000GWh.

“We’re using more lighting and air-conditioners, larger televisions, more web-connected devices and bigger fridges and washing machines, but a new generation of energy-efficient consumer products will help cut our power consumption by as much as 15 per cent from present levels within two decades,” AEMO managing director and CEO Matt Zema said.

“In particular, rooftop PV is changing power flows so the maximum electricity demand is projected to occur later in the day when the sunshine is less intense.”

This 2016 National Electricity Forecast Report (NEFR) provides independent electricity consumption forecasts for each National Electricity Market (NEM) region throughout a 20-year forecast period (2016-17 to 2035-36).


Key points:

  • Consumption of grid-supplied electricity is forecast to remain flat for the next 20 years, despite projected 30 per cent growth in population and average growth in the Australian economy, increasing from an estimated 183,258 gigawatt hours (GWh) 2015-16 to 184,467GWh in 2035-36.
  • Australian households are using more electric appliances than ever, and this is forecast to continue. However, these appliances are becoming more energy efficient.
  • Increasing energy efficiency of household appliances is forecast to offset increasing use of electric appliances, flattening the resultant consumption of electricity from the grid.
  • The outlook for grid-supplied electricity is further flattened by forecast strong growth in rooftop PV electricity, which is projected to increase by 350 per cent from current levels by 2035-36. This forecast increase is equivalent to 11 per cent of current operational consumption.


Implications for the power system:

  • Although the use of air-conditioning is forecast to increase, a combination of energy efficiency and rooftop PV is changing patterns of demand. Summer maximum demand for electricity is forecast to occur later in the day and not grow over the next 20 years. Winter maximum demand is forecast to grow faster and become comparable to summer maximum demand from around 2030.
  • Minimum demand for electricity is forecast to remain flat for five years, with the potential for a rapid reduction in the remaining forecast period driven by projected increases in rooftop PV. While the minimum for most regions currently occurs during the overnight period, by the mid-2020s this is forecast to start a shift to midday when the sun is strongest and overhead, with continued growth in rooftop PV forecast to drive reductions in demand from the grid in the middle of the day. This is already the case for South Australia.