Tarong Power Station, one of Queensland’s largest, has been forced to close half of its 1,400MW capacity due to reduced demand and the need to reduce carbon emissions in an over-supplied energy market reports RenewEconomy.
Lower demand was officially recognised by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in June 2012 when it was shown that energy demands on the National Electricity Market were 5.7 per cent lower than forecast in 2011/12 because of the combined effect of energy efficiency measures, solar PV, and lower manufacturing.
The surge in rooftop solar panels, changing demand patterns, the introduction of the carbon price and the building of large scale renewable energy projects are all contributing factors.
For two years running in Queensland demand has fallen.
Its energy demand was expected to grow at 4.1 per cent a year over the next decade but these forecasts have been revised down to 2.9 per cent a year.
On average during 2011/12, Queensland had 4,500MW of capacity more than it needed. This means that the state’s entire 4,000MW portfolio of mostly coal and gas fired generation was surplus to requirements for much of the year.
NSW’s ageing 600MW Munmorah power station in NSW, the 125MW Swanbank B power station in Queensland, the 240MW Playford B and the 520MW Northern brown coal generators in South Australia have closed. Energy Brix has also reduced output. Northern recently reopened but will operate in the immediate future only in summer, when demand is higher.
The lower demand has pushed wholesale electricity prices lower, and pricing regulators in South Australia and NSW are now acting to ensure these falls are passed on to consumers.
Black coal generation has fallen significantly in recent months, and brown coal generation is also starting to be impacted, with a corresponding fall in emissions. The average capacity for coal-fired generators in Queensland in the last 12 months was just 55 per cent.
The closure of coal-fired generation is happening at a rapid rate across the US due to:
“the plunging cost of natural gas, boots-on-the-ground campaigns from anti-coal activists, and, to a lesser degree, the ambiguous specter of EPA pollution regulations.”
Will electricity prices come down here I wonder?