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Solar is beating out coal in Australia, pushing down emissions

[SYDNEY] Record-high renewables growth is transforming Australia's electricity landscape, pushing out coal plants and lowering prices and emissions.

Solar and wind output during the fourth quarter within the five jurisdictions that make up the National Electricity Market increased 39 per cent from a year earlier, the Australian Energy Market Operator said Monday in its quarterly report. That helped cut power-generation emissions 5 per cent to the lowest in data going back to 2001 and slashed wholesale prices by almost a fifth.

"Record variable renewable energy generation growth in 2019 is expected to continue into 2020, as the large amount of new capacity currently being accredited is likely to reach full generation by mid-2020," AEMO said in the report. "During December 2019 (and into January 2020), extreme heat, generator and transmission line outages, and bushfires tested the NEM power system and led to price volatility."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government has faced increased criticism over its lack of a coherent climate policy following the devastating bushfires that swept across the country this summer. Over the weekend it confirmed its staunch support of the coal industry in the face of a growing backlash against the fuel by giving financial backing to a study into a new plant.

In Western Australia, which is not part of the national market, a 47 per cent year-on-year increase in wind generation in the quarter outpaced growth in coal and rooftop solar, according to the report.

BLOOMBERG