September 2, 2020 Read More →

Rising renewable generation in Australia undercutting economics of coal-fired power plants

The Guardian:

Coal power plants in New South Wales are running less than 60% of the time due to an influx of renewable energy, increasing the likelihood some could become economically unviable and close earlier than planned.

An analysis by Hugh Saddler, an energy consultant and ANU honorary associate professor, also found coal generation in Queensland had dropped to less than 70% of capacity as more cheap solar and wind came online.

Saddler said the resulting fall in revenue for coal plant owners, and the wear and tear involved in ramping up and down decades-old generators designed to be run constantly, increased the likelihood of breakdowns and early closures in the years ahead.

AGL’s Liddell coal plant is scheduled to close by early 2023 after the company resisted a campaign by the Morrison government for it to extend its life. Saddler said the fall in demand for coal over the past two years suggested other plants that have yet to confirm closure plans could follow.

He said coal could be running at 50% capacity in NSW by 2022 and 60% capacity in Queensland by 2025 on current trends.

“Ageing coal power stations like Liddell will find it increasingly difficult to stay afloat if they are only being used half the time, and that is the direction we appear to be heading in NSW in the next two years,” Saddler said. “If there are extended breakdowns, as we had at Loy Yang A in Victoria last year, it may not be economic for owners to keep a plant going.”

[Adam Morton]

More: Influx of renewables sees coal power plants run well below capacity, increasing chance of closures

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