The share of Australia's main electricity market supplied by wind power hit a record level last month, contributing significantly to a decline in greenhouse gas emissions.
According to energy consultancy Pitt & Sherry, wind power’s share of the nation’s main electricity market rose to an unprecedented 4.6 per cent in April, logging an increase of one percentage point compared to the same period last year.
This record breaking contribution to electricity generation by wind power helped to compensate for the slack created by dwindling usage of conventional fossil fuels, as coal approached its record low with a contribution of 73.8 per cent.
A number of key black coal-fired power plants in NSW are currently running well below capacity. For over a year now, Liddell has been operating at under 50 per cent, and Bayswater at around 75 per cent, as the carbon tax makes coal power less appealing on cost grounds.
As a result of this decline in coal usage, green house gas emissions generated by the National Electricity Market in April fell 3.5 per cent compared to April of the previous year, equivalent to a reduction of approximately 5.8 million tonnes.
Wind power’s record-breaking month arrives just as the Coalition’s increasingly demonstrable aversion to the renewable energy creates jitters for the industry.
Treasurer Joe Hockey described wind farms as “utterly offensive” as well as “a blight on the landscape” during a recent interview with popular radio host Alan Jones, making reference in particular to the Bungendore wind farm near Lake George, which lies on the route between Sydney and the nation’s capital.
Hockey went on the say that while the government was unable to shut the wind power facilities in question due to locked-in schemes, it had nonetheless resolved to reduce “massive duplication.” The treasurer also flagged further cuts to climate change initiatives in the budget.
The Abbott government has long made clear its plans expunge both the carbon tax and the Renewable Energy Target (RET), both of which have served to significantly abet the development of the clean power sector in Australia.
The carbon tax, which currently stands at $24.15 ton, has diminished the appeal of energy sources which generate significant greenhouse gas emissions, such as black coal-fired plants, by rendering them more expensive.
While RET will dramatically raise the contribution made by renewable energy to power generation should it remain in place, concern over its future have left investors in wind power in a state of trepidation.
Senvion Australia, developer of the massive 600-megawatt Ceres wind farm in South Australia, said at the start of April that the RET view had undermined investor confidence in the project, leading to potential delays to the commencement of construction.
In March, Spanish wind power giant Acciona announced that $750 million in Victoria-based had been put on hold due to uncertainty surrounding the fate of RET.