Hi Wal, thanks for watching. Coal-fired plants are being built in different parts of the world, but so too is renewable energy capacity. In 2017 alone, renewable capacity additions accounted for more than two-thirds of global net electricity capacity growth, with solar photovoltaics expanding by 97 gigawatts – over half of which occurred in China alongside its coal sector. According to the International Energy Agency’s 2018–2023 forecast, solar PV is set to dominate renewable capacity growth over the next six years, with utility-scale projects representing an estimated 55% of this growth. To see how much growth is occurring in the world’s renewable energy space, you can take a look at the IEA’s findings here: https://www.iea.org/renewables2018/power/ To your point about Australia’s plants, New South Wales’ ageing coal and gas plants broke down 27 times over the last year, leading to a number of groups calling for more installation of renewable energy. You can read more about that here: https://reneweconomy.com.au/nsw-under-pressure-to-move-quickly-on-renewables-as-coal-clunkers-fail-52833/. While there may be some uncertainty surrounding energy policy in Australia, we may soon see yet more renewable energy capacity in Australia to help offset the closure and seeming instability of our remaining plants.

On What does cheap solar mean for utilities? -

Hi Ian, thanks for your comment. You’re correct: rain, like sunshine, is intermittent. Engineers continue to work towards improving the intermittent nature of renewables and we anticipate that this could improve over time with the effective complementarity of, as you mentioned, a mix of renewables and storage along with traditional resources. While energy policy in Australia may currently seem uncertain, we anticipate that we may soon see yet more renewable energy capacity in Australia – particularly in the face of the increasing unreliability of the country’s ageing coal and gas plants. Last year, we wrote an article about the nature of energy intermittency – perhaps you might find it interesting: https://www.newenergysolar.com.au/renewable-insights/renewable-energy/the-keys-to-solving-renewable-intermittency.

On What does cheap solar mean for utilities? -

Hi Michael, thanks for your feedback. The act of transitioning towards renewable energy and managing intermittency issues is a balancing act – but one we anticipate will continue to improve over time. While coal-fired power stations are being built in some parts of the world, renewable energy capacity has also increased. A report from the Renewable Energy Agency shares some statistics on renewable energy capacity in 2018: https://www.irena.org/publications/2018/Mar/Renewable-Capacity-Statistics-2018. As we discussed, coal is in decline and solar is currently the cheapest source of new energy. In some parts of the world, maintaining and operating existing coal plants can be more expensive than constructing certain renewable energy projects. Solar’s increasing cost competitiveness is driven by a number of factors, from households to communities, corporates and state governments – many of which recognise the impacts of climate change, seek to lower their electricity prices and reduce their carbon footprint. We’ve written a number of articles on our site about such things as corporate involvement, intermittency and the decline of coal. Perhaps you might find these interesting: https://www.newenergysolar.com.au/renewable-insights.

On What does cheap solar mean for utilities? -

Hi Kim, thanks for your feedback. The stability of systems and energy intermittency issues are certainly matters that engineers continue to work on. As technology continues to evolve in response to the uptake of renewables, and as complementarity between resources continues to shift, we anticipate that the intermittent nature of renewables (in conjunction with traditional resources) will even out – leading to fewer outages over time. We believe that the effective and eventual complementarity of renewables and traditional resources can help solve problems of intermittency and help manage weather conditions. Last year, we wrote an article on the nature of renewable energy intermittency, which may shed some more light on this topic: https://www.newenergysolar.com.au/renewable-insights/renewable-energy/the-keys-to-solving-renewable-intermittency.

On What does cheap solar mean for utilities? -

Hi Bill, thanks for your feedback. Just to add to the feedback from William, decommissioning does require careful consideration. The good news is that a large proportion of a utility-scale solar power plant can be recycled (e.g. aluminium, steel and glass). The recycling costs of those materials can often cover the cost of the decommissioning. Further, unlike a coal-fired power station, the underlying land should be free of contaminants. An examination of the decommissioning issues was undertaken in this report by the International Renewable Energy Agency: https://www.irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2016/IRENA_IEAPVPS_End-of-Life_Solar_PV_Panels_2016.pdf

On Solar has evolved. Has your portfolio? -

Hi William, thanks for your feedback. Many independent engineers will sign off on a 30-plus year life for a utility-scale solar farm and we budget the ongoing maintenance and replacement of equipment for that lifetime. Ongoing costs are considerably lower than a traditional coal-fired power station. However, what we were saying was that in terms of replacing base load, there ideally needs to be a bundle of renewables, pump storage, gas-fired generation and, eventually, batteries. It certainly will be a different electricity system going forward and there is some interesting work being done on this point by the California Independent System operator, which is managing a significant uptake of renewables. There is also some useful work being done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US: https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy17osti/68349.pdf You are right – panel performance will degrade at between (on average) 0.25%–0.5% per annum, but even at the end of 30 years, most manufacturers believe the panels will still be producing an average of 70% of day one production. A very useful source on panel reliability is provided by DNV GL: https://www.dnvgl.com/news/2018-pv-module-reliability-scorecard-121786

On Solar has evolved. Has your portfolio? -