Electricity demand, emissions driven up by CSG

ELECTRICITY generation, demand and consumption continues to increase nationally following a seventeen month upward trend, with total demand from the National Energy Market now 2.5% higher than the low point recorded for the year ending February 2015.

Haydn Black

This is the highest rate of demand growth in more than a decade thanks to Queensland’s CSG fields.

Electricity use in the Queensland CSG fields continues to be the main driver of demand growth in the NEM, up 9% since November 2014 to four terawatt hours.

A steep rate of demand growth was considered normal for the electricity industry up until 2004, fell away for a decade, in part due to greater energy efficiency.

The April 2016 Carbon Emissions Index Report by pitt&sherry and The Australia Institute indicates that emissions from electricity generation have increased once more to an annual level of 5.5% higher than in the year to June 2014, largely driven by growing black coal generation in Queensland, to supply the rapidly growing demand in that state, and more modest increases in New South Wales to make up for steadily falling imports of Queensland black coal electricity.

While coal is up, so too is renewable generation, which now accounts for 13.2% of NEM energy generation.

Three recently commissioned utility-scale solar farms in NSW contributed 0.7% of NSW generation and 0.2% of total NEM generation in the month of March.

Abnormally high average summer temperatures also contributed to demand growth.

Looking at Tasmania, which has been suffering from the loss of the key Basslink cable, the onset of the colder winter months presents a greater challenge to electricity supply in the state was the cold weather settles in and Basslink now unlikely to be back in action until early June.

Demand for electricity in Tasmania is dominated by a handful of large industrial users, which normally account for about 60% of total annual consumption.

In normal circumstances, electricity demand would be expected to increase sharply within a few weeks from now.

While the 57MW gas unit at Bell Bay has been pressed back into service, the Tasmanian government will need to rely on 200MW of emergency diesel generators to make up the shortfall.

Big users have cut their demand where possible, but as the crisis enters its fifth month, the big users such as Tamar Valley smelters Bell Bay Aluminium and TEMCO, and Norske Skog's papermill at Boyer are increasingly feeling the pain.

Pitt&Sherry expressed a hope that after the immediate crisis the state could look at ways to reduce future winter residential electricity demand, while also reducing householders’ costs and improving their thermal comfort, to households and improving thermal comfort by upgrading the energy performance of its housing stock and shifting to more efficient heating equipment.

Hydro Tasmania has recently commenced advertising for conservation of energy by Tasmanians with newspaper advertisements.

Dr Hugh Saddler, senior principal - energy strategies at pitt&sherry said the use of modern reverse cycle air conditioners is a “far more economic option for heating than electric resistance heaters and produces less emissions, compared to gas, even in mainland states dependent on coal fired power stations”

On the supply side, increased generation and faster uptake of rooftop solar generation should also be important components of any plan to provide enhanced electricity supply security for the future, he said.