Power Demand across the NEM

In Queensland, power demand picked up in October as the weather warmed up, but November was cooler than usual, which meant demand dropped again as air con units were switched off – resulting in less electricity usage. Demand picked up again in December, though it was still lower than peak times in the 2016 period.

In NSW, the average demand in October and November was a little below the levels from the same time in 2016 due to warm weather conditions, but maximum demand in October was almost 13% higher than the previous year. November’s lack of hot days meant slightly lower peak demand, and levels were steady in December compared to 2016.

Victorian electricity demand levels in October were in line with the previous year, though the warmer than average November conditions lifted monthly demand by 3% and peaked at an increase of over 12%. December’s daily demand was 4.5% higher than 2016, and the maximum demand peak when Melbourne reached 38 degrees was 16% higher.

South Australia saw average monthly demand up 4% due to warm weather, and maximum demand peaking more than 25% higher when Adelaide hit 39 degrees. December saw a drop in average daily demand compared to 2016, though the maximum demand was a bit higher. Daily demand in the state continues to be impacted by the introduction of new solar technologies.

Supply side factors

In NSW and Queensland, a number of planned outages were completed and coal-fired capacity returned to service. Lower wind farm output meant higher gas-fired generation, and spot price outcomes were robust in all regions but Queensland. Black and brown coal were up in December as units returned to service in NSW and Victoria.

Wind farm output in all regions in October and November decreased from the previous months. In Queensland, generation was up significantly due to completed maintenance power outages, and saw an increase in energy flowing into NSW, especially as Origin’s Darling Downs gas-fired station returned in mid-October after a couple of months offline.

NSW experienced coal outages through these months, but saw the return of Bayswater and Liddell remaining at half-load, and an increase in black coal output in December. Snowy Hydro conserved water at its major stations, restricting generation output.

Planned and unplanned outages in Victoria, and lower wind generation in South Australia saw increased reliance on gas and interstate imports. Loy Yang A has remained offline since mid-October, and Yallourn remained out of service through October and November, though Energy Australia offset the latter with more operations in Newport and Jeeralang. The Neoen battery’s installation in South Australia at the end of November has bolstered the state’s supply.

Tasmania’s rainfall was below average through this period, resulting in Hydro Tasmania reducing output and increasing gas-fired generation. Lower regional demand in December was matched by lower hydro output.

Spot Price Outcomes

Coal-fired generators in NSW and Queensland maintained their influence over spot price outcomes, and the Snowy Hydro also influenced outcomes in NSW.

Average daily power prices in the NEM were 6-8c/KWh on moderate demand days and 9-12c/KWh when peak demand was stronger. Victoria and South Australia saw half-hourly maximum spot prices of $14.5c/kWh and $20.3c/kWh respectively, when hot weather drove both regions to peak demand in late November.

High wind generation output, particularly during low demand periods overnight and on weekends, has resulted in lower spot price outcomes in Victoria and South Australia, including the odd negative spot price.

December across the board was generally stronger in the first half of the month, easing off into the holiday period. The average monthly spot price in Queensland increased slightly on the back of higher summer demand, and Victoria and South Australia’s average prices stayed low as returning brown coal generation improved capacity.

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