South Australian power prices down thanks to renewables

Wind turbines and solar panels against beautiful sky (gamuda)
Image: Shutterstock

The South Australian Government has welcomed a significant reduction in South Australia’s wholesale energy price, as revealed in a newly-published report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

In a positive sign for households, renewable energy is driving down the price of electricity in South Australia, according to the Quarterly Energy Dynamics report.

Related article: Epic Energy to deliver new 220MWh battery in South Australia

Plentiful solar and wind during spring reduced reliance on gas-fired generation, which had forced prices higher because of international energy price shocks prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

AEMO reported that wholesale prices in South Australia almost halved from $64/MWh in the December quarter of 2022 to $33/MWh in the same quarter in 2023.

AEMO attributed the fall to increased power from rooftop solar and grid-scale renewable generators.

Wholesale costs make up about a third of the bill retailers charge households. Cheaper wholesale costs will put pressure on the Australian Energy Regulator to lower annual benchmark pricing for households and should lead to retailers offering better deals.

Renewables also helped decouple South Australia from the eastern states, where ageing coal-fired generation is becoming less reliable.

The AEMO quarterly report found:

  • Prices in SA were half or less than the prices in the black-coal-dependent states of Queensland (average $68/MWh) and NSW ($66/MWh).
  • SA prices were also lower than in Tasmania ($50/MWh) and just slightly above Victoria ($26/MWh)
  • Gas-fired generation in SA fell to record low, averaging 231MW, down 21per cent from Q4 2022. Torrens Island Power Station dropped most year-on-year, from an average of 84MW to 50MW.
  • For the first time in the National Electricity Market (NEM), there was a period of negative operational demand – that is, rooftop solar generated more electricity than was needed for the entire state. This was for the half-hour ending 13:30 on 31 December 2023, where demand was minus 26MW. This was the first time that rooftop solar exceeded demand for AEMO’s half-hour pricing blocks.
  • East coast wholesale gas prices continue to trend downwards, averaging $10.83 per gigajoule (GJ) for the quarter, significantly lower than Q4 2022’s $17.79/GJ, though slightly higher than $10.41/GJ in Q3 2022.

The December quarter showed South Australia had the second cheapest wholesale prices among the NEM states.

Related article: South Australia passes bill to accelerate hydrogen projects

South Australian Premier Tom Koutsantonis called for energy retailers to pass price cuts on to consumers, saying, “South Australia’s high proportion of renewables—which exceeded 75% of generation in 2023—is key to South Australian prices being far lower than the black coal states of NSW and Queensland.

“Generation and network costs are by far the biggest components of household electricity bills. Retailers must acknowledge that their costs have fallen and pass on that price cut to households and businesses.”

Previous articleCharles Darwin Uni celebrates hydrogen first in the NT
Next articleSmart Energy expands operations across Qld and NSW