Rooftop solar helps Queensland avoid new peak demand record

The temperature was not the only number that soared across Queensland on Thursday 5 March: so did power demand. As WattClarity’s Paul McArdle notes, electricity demand reached a peak of 8892MW at approximately 16:50 on Thursday, just 51MW shy of the all-time record for Queensland. Unadjusted for the Australian Photovoltaic Institute (APVI) estimated 173MW of solar input into the grid, McArdle notes that the nominal peak of 9065MW is the highest ever recorded.

Using WattClarity’s NEM-Watch, a software package that tracks Australia’s national electricity market in real time, McArdle shows a steady increase in demand from 08:45 NEM time until the later afternoon hours of March 5. Demand eclipses the 8300 and 8500 MW marks at 15:15 and 15:55, respectively, before edging higher to 8892MW at 16:50.

This latest peak follows on the heels of two recent spikes in electric demand. Demand in Queensland topped out at 8472MW and 8610 MW on 17 December 2014 and 14 January 2015, respectively, spurring questions about whether the state would defy the broader national trend of declining electricity demand. As was the case on 5 March, both of these peaks occurred in the late afternoon hours.

Although high power demand during the summer months (and other hot periods throughout the year) is certainly not a new phenomenon, the timing of these electric peaks has changed somewhat from previous years. The growing prevalence of PV technology in the energy landscape has gradually shifted these peaks towards the late afternoon hours. McArdle points out that peaks are “occurring later in the day than would have been the case several years ago, with solar PV hollowing out scheduled demand when the sun shines strongly.”

It is unclear whether the demand patterns of the last few months will persist in the years ahead, but the latest peaks will almost certainly have spillover effects in demand response and price volatility.

© 2015 Solar Choice Pty Ltd