Australian outlook: solar’s impact felt across range of energy metrics, data shows

Analysis of Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) data by analysts Green Energy Markets has highlighted the growing impact solar power is having on the nation’s electricity consumption rates and patterns.

According to the data, overall NEM power consumption rose by 0.8% in 2016, continuing the recent uptick in electricity consumption evident in Australia since 2015, ending years of falling consumption. However, the analysis shows that the increase in consumption would have been as high as 1.8% were it not for solar – and energy efficiency measures – making themselves felt.

The data reveals that the growing prevalence of solar power in Australia, much of it consumed at source by homeowners, aided by energy efficiency measures generated a 1% reduction in total consumption, finds Green Energy Markets.

Excluding rooftop PV, renewable power generation accounted for 14.7% of total generation in 2016, up from 12.2% share in 2015. Combined with falling consumption of fossil fuels, this growth helped to bring down greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 1.3%.

Large-scale solar capacity also showed encouraging signs of growth last year, with notable ground-mounted installations such as the Moree and Mugga Lane and Barcaldine solar parks coming online, adding 56 MW, 13 MW and 25 MW of solar power respectively.

Rooftop solar PV capacity, meanwhile, grew by a further 620 MW in 2016 according to the NEM data, mirroring the same amount added in 2015 and generating 856 GWh in total energy capacity. Combined with large-scale solar, Australia’s installed solar base in 2016 contributed 1,851 GWh of electricity to the nation, the stats show.

Large-scale solar in Australia is poised for something of a breakthrough year in 2017, with data from Sustainable Energy Research Analytics (SERA) forecasting investment in the sector to reach AUS$1.3 billion this year, rising to AUS$2 billion in 2018.

As much as 1 GW of large-scale solar capacity is expected to reach financial close this year, and the data shows that in excess of 3.7 GW of grand ground-mounted projects are at various stages of development nationwide.

In terms of actual installations, conservative estimates expect large-scale solar to grow 202 MW this year, increasing to 700 MW in 2018.