Australia’s power generators produced 251,000 gigawatt hours of electricity in the 12 months from September 2009 to October this year, according to a new report by the Clean Energy Council.
It says that 91.33 per cent of production was fossil-fuelled and the bulk of the balance generated by the hydro-electric sector, boosted by increased rainfall in key catchment areas.
The CEC reports that hydro-power contributed 13,793 GWh to production versus 4,985 GWh for wind farms and 2,500 GWh for bio-energy.
Rooftop solar power, the energy headline-hogger in the mainstream media, contributed 464 GWh and was hailed by the CEC in a media statement for becoming “the Hills Hoist of the 21st Century.”
New renewable development had a modest year, with just 210 MW of capacity being added compared with 993 MW in the previous 12 months. Three wind farms contributed most of the 2009-10 additions, all in south Australia: Hallett 2, Clements Gap and Lake Bonney 3 added 168 MW.
Looking forward, the CEC points to 11 new projects under construction, seven of them wind farms, expected to add 1,045 MW of capacity during 2011. The largest is the 420 MW Macarthur wind farm in Victoria, followed by the 168 MW Musselroe project in Tasmania, and two wind developments in South Australia — Hallet 4 (132 MW) and Waterloo (111 MW).
The CEC’s list of installed renewable capacity by State demonstrates the dominance of hydro-electric power in the sector on the eastern seaboard. In NSW hydro accounts for 4,544 MW out of 4,992 MW, in Tasmania for 2,316 MW out of 2,468 MW, and in Victoria for 828 MW out of 1,417 MW.
The CEC says there are approximately 10,000 MW of clean energy projects in some form of development, including going through approvals processes, across Australia. To this can be added the work of the “hot rock” geothermal industry, which is expected to spend more than $2.1 billion on exploration and “proof of concept” activity by 2014.
A more rounded perspective on new generation activity across Australia can be found in the ABARE report on resource developments published last month.
ABARE reports that, in the six months to October 2010, four generation projects were completed: two wind farms with a total capacity of 140 MW and two gas-fired power stations, the 630 MW Darling Downs plant in Queensland and a 120 MW plant at Kwinana in Western Australia.
The federal agency adds that there are 16 generation projects at an advanced stage of development: five of them gas-fired, one an extension of a long-established coal plant, eight wind farms and two augmentation projects in the Snowy Mountains Scheme. The largest of them is the 550 MW Mortlake gas generator in western Victoria, due for completion in 2011, followed by the 240 MW expansion of the NSW government’s Eraring coal-fired power station and a 200 MW refurbishment of the WA government’s gas-fired Kwinana operation. The fossil-fuelled developments add up to 1,473 MW.
On the renewables side, reports ABARE, the 10 projects, including the Macarthur wind farm, amount to 1,154 MW.
Looking further ahead, ABARE says it can find 148 generation development proposals nationally, of which 49 are fossil-fuelled and account for just over 21,000MW of capacity — while 79 are wind farms, with a total capacity of 11,488 MW.
This list includes the mooted 2,000 MW baseload development for NSW, burning either coal or gas, two coal seam-gas fired developments in southern Queensland of 1,510 MW and the 840 MW gas-fired Tarrone project for western Victoria.
Many factors will influence the prospects of the less-advanced projects. One, for example, is a 1,000 MW gas-fired power station TRUenergy proposes to build at Yallourn in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley — a development reliant on major changes in carbon policy, including introduction of a carbon price and satisfactory resolution of the argument between the federal government and Valley power producers over compensation for brown coal plants forced to close.
What’s clear from viewing the full picture is that fossil fuels will continue to dominate the generation scene in the decade ahead, supported by hydro-electric power, while renewable energy news will continue to win the media limelight.