Wind turbines on a farm near Bungendore
Wind turbines on a farm near Bungendore, NSW. Image by Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

Minuscule wind and solar production claim needs a jolt of truth

Georgina Jerums July 15, 2022
WHAT WAS CLAIMED

Wind and solar power contribute less than two per cent of the National Electricity Market's (NEM) total energy.

OUR VERDICT

False. Experts say, and data shows, wind and solar generate about one-fifth of the NEM's power.

A Facebook post claims wind and solar power contribute less than two per cent of the National Electricity Market’s energy production.

The post on a Facebook page called Climate Change is Crap states National Electricity Market (NEM) figures from June 17 showed solar and wind made up 1.9 per cent of electricity creation, without providing evidence or links to the source of the data.

Text at the bottom of the June 19 post reads: “And the lemmings running Australia think that Wind & Solar will provide enough baseload power NOW OR EVER.”  

The claim is false. Data from the NEM’s fuel mix dashboard for June 17 shows wind and solar generated more than 10 per cent of the total energy on that day, while experts told AAP FactCheck the two renewable sources consistently produce an even greater percentage of the NEM’s total power.

Across the last 12 months it is estimated all solar and wind sources provided more than 25 per cent of power for the NEM.

AAP FactCheck contacted the Facebook page to verify the source of its data, but received no response.

A screenshot of the post on the group's Facebook page
 A renewable energy expert says the figures were likely taken from a short period late at night. 

The NEM covers the east coast of Australia, stretching to South Australia in the south and including Tasmania. It supplies around 80 per cent of the nation’s electricity, excluding the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

The 1.9 per cent claim (one per cent wind and 0.9 per cent solar) is not only false for June 17, but is also way out for the past 12 months, which experts say is the time period needed for an accurate reading of energy production, rather than 24 hours.

NEM, which uses renewables estimates data from  Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), says wind generated seven per cent and solar four per cent of total electricity over the 24 hours on June 17 (archived screenshot).

Over the past 12 months wind generated 13 per cent and solar five per cent (archived screenshot).

The NEM dashboard does not include rooftop solar. Australia has one of the highest per-capita rooftop solar installation rates globally with more than 16GW installed across more than three million households.

The Australian Energy Regulator reported that in 2020 rooftop solar met 6.4 per cent of the NEM’s total electricity requirements.

The openNEM website, which collates data from the AEMO and the Australian PV Institute estimates the combined rooftop solar and utility solar provided 8.2 per cent of the NEM’s power on June 17 and 13.4 per cent for the last 12 months.

Confirming AAP FactCheck’s reading of the NEM data, University of NSW renewable energy researcher Iain Macgill said the post’s claim was “very wrong” and a 12-month analysis was crucial to discover the contribution of wind and solar.

“I imagine they might have chosen a particular dispatch period (five to 30 minutes) because cold, still evenings across the eastern states can mean no solar and very modest wind generation,” Professor Macgill said in an email.

“Of course, there are other dispatch periods where renewables are providing over 50 per cent of NEM electricity.”

He noted a mix of renewables – predominantly wind and solar given their low costs, but also hydro and biomass – could replace most, but not all, coal and gas energy sources over the next few decades provided there was greater investment in flexible resources including storage (short and long term) and fast-start generators.

Akhtar Kalam, an electrical engineering professor from Victoria University, told AAP FactCheck the figures cited in the post were incorrect.

He added that renewables can “definitely make up the massive gap” which will be left by gas and coal in the next 25 years.

The Verdict

A Facebook post’s claim that wind and solar energy account for less than two per cent of Australia’s electricity production is false. Experts told AAP FactCheck the real figure is much higher, a view supported by official data, which shows output for the two renewable sources consistently provide about one-fifth of the nation’s energy.

False – The claim is incorrect.

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