Coal plants are some of the largest contributors to the energy sector’s hefty environmental footprint. Transitioning the sector away from these dirty fossil fuels can go a long way in helping us become a carbon-neutral world.
While Australia still has a considerable number of coal plants, coal’s demise is getting closer by the day. This is demonstrated by a new milestone reached by the country’s national electricity market last week when solar power outstripped coal power for the first time since the market was set up two decades ago.
As reported by The Guardian, the crossover point lasted for only a few minutes, as low demand and sunny skies on Sunday last week meant the contribution from coal plunged to a record low of 9,315MW, while solar provided the dominant share with 9,427MW, or 57 percent of Australia’s national electricity generation.
“This is what I unofficially call ‘record season’,” said Dylan McConnell, a research fellow at the University of Melbourne. “It’s actually still pretty early in the season [to get these numbers] but in spring or the shoulder seasons you have the combination of low demand because there’s no heating or cooling, and then nice weather on the weekend. Those factors combine, and you get these giant shares of renewable energy that generally push out coal.”
Australia still has a lot of work to do to green up its energy sector in order to be in line with Paris Agreement commitments. Still, the new milestone shows that with appropriate government action, the country could meet its climate targets sooner than expected.