Australia - the unreliable energy superpower

Australians can stop dreaming of one day becoming a clean energy superpower. That day has arrived. In the first weeks of 2020, Australia will tick past 25 gigawatts of wind and solar generation.

That’s the magic “kilowatt per capita” club. Only two other countries have made it there so far: Germany and Denmark. It’s the equivalent of a medium-sized solar system for every Australian household. More than 40 per cent of this capacity has been installed over the past two years, at world record pace.

Australia’s effort is particularly courageous. Building renewables at scale is a lot easier sitting inside Europe, home of the world’s largest electricity grid. It’s easier to get (or offload) power from neighbouring nuclear and hydro generators in France and Scandinavia.

The Renewable Energy Target has been met a year early. Ararat Wind Farm

Australia’s electricity systems, like our continent, are vast and isolated. South Australia has already found itself home to an unwitting experiment in high renewables integration. As renewable penetration spreads nationally, so does the pathology of high renewables.

Wholesale spot electricity prices are now regularly trampolining in Queensland, NSW and Victoria, with prices hitting zero or entering negative territory, and then rocketing back up once the sun has set.

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