How much progress has been made in WA transitioning the SWIS to renewables?
Last calendar year, 2021, renewables made up 32% of the energy mix delivered on the SWIS grid. This was made up of wind (12.9%), rooftop solarPV (12.1%) and utility scale solarPV (0.8%). The remaining 68% of energy served on the SWIS was made up from fossil fuel generation sources. These were coal (36.4%) and gas (37.3%). By comparison in the National Energy Market (NEM) which covers the eastern states, SA and Tasmania, renewables made up 31.4% of the mix, coal 62.8% and gas 5.7% of the mix.
Growth of renewables & decline of fossil fuels, 2016 - 2021
Wind energy saw considerable growth from 2019-21, however there are no new wind projects under construction or with a financial green light. Emerging transmission constraints to favourable resource locations in the north may be a limiting factor.
Rooftop solar has continued to grow off the small base in 2015 but is facing the dual headwinds of changes to Synergy's Feed in Tariffs (FiTs) for new installers and the rapidly increasing saturation of the midday energy market from PV. These constraints on wind and solar going forward indicate that renewables are not on track to meet full decarbonisation of the SWIS this decade (or even a high level like 90%).
Energy produced on the SWIS grid by technology type, 2016 - 2021
A large amount of wind energy was as added from 2019-21 with three new wind farms commissioned in the north of the SWIS. This followed six years of no additions of wind at all 2014-18. Rooftop solar continues to grow year on year and accounts for the largest addition of renewables by technology type over the past six years.
Significant energy market reforms are required in WA to facilitate the development of new wind farm development and load-shifting storage to make best use of existing and new PV exports. Other states in Australia (Vic, NSW, QLD) are embracing Renewable Energy Zone (REZ) planning. REZs are a way of driving the new infrastructure required to support development of new utility scale wind, solar and storage can become feasible and sufficiently de-risked commercially. This creates the opportunities such that private developers and state owned developers (e.g. Clean Co and Snowy Hydro) can move forwards with confidence for large scale renewables and storage projects that typically have 20-40 year lifespans.
In comparison, the state leading on the renewables transition, South Australia, wind energy makes up the largest component of their grid energy mix with 41% from 22 operational wind farm, 2 more under construction and a (claimed) ~7 GW under development. Rooftop PV solar is 14% of their mix and utility solar accounted for 5% in 2020-21 from 4 solar farms and 2 more under construction and (claimed) ~8 GW under development. South Australia has 4 operational battery energy storage systems (BESS) and two under construction for more than 200MW installed capacity. BESS accounted for 0.6% of electricity generated in the State in 2020-21. A further 4GW of BESS projects are under development.