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In Australia, a Surge in Renewables Drives Down Power Prices

At one point in March, renewables briefly supplied two-thirds of Australia’s power, according to the grid operator, which says that the continued growth of wind and solar is driving down costs.

In the first quarter of this year, wholesale electricity prices were zero or negative 12 percent of the time, according Daniel Westerman, CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator. And in some parts of the country, the impact of renewables was even more pronounced. “Between 9 am and 5 pm, wholesale electricity prices were negative in South Australia and Victoria 60 percent and 55 percent of the time, respectively,” Westerman said in a statement.

Solar output in the first quarter of 2023 was up 23 percent over the first quarter of last year, helping to suppress the use of gas power, which hit its lowest level in decades. The continued shift to renewables led to a 5 percent drop in power sector emissions year on year.

The drop comes a year after Australia’s Labor Party took power seeking to promote renewable energy and modernize the electric grid as part of its larger plan to drive down emissions.

Westerman said that greater investment in transmission lines is needed to make full use of wind and solar power. “Constraints are affecting output from regions like Victoria’s Murray River Renewable Energy Zone — that is why we need investment in new transmission,” he said.

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