This report examines the contribution of wind power to CO₂-e emissions reduction in the NEM in 2014. Using a generation dataset at 5-minute intervals, CO₂-e emissions time-series are estimated for each of 151 thermal generators, giving total emissions from fossil fuel plant of 169.7MtCO₂-e. The best empirical estimate is that wind power avoided 6.2MtCO₂-e, a reduction in total emissions of 3.5%. Wind power contributed 4.5% of system demand and therefore the emissions displacement effectiveness of wind power was 3.5%/4.5% or 78% in 2014.
Several factors acted to limit the effectiveness of wind power in reducing emissions in 2014. A significant fraction of South Australia’s wind output displaced low-emissions gas generation. Wind power tended to displace black coal plant in New South Wales rather than higher-emissions brown coal plant in Victoria. Part-load inefficiency costs and system losses also degraded effectiveness.
Wind power becomes less effective in displacing emissions from thermal plant as installed capacity increases. The evidence in this study suggests that effectiveness in the NEM would fall to ~70% if the proportion of energy provided by wind is doubled from 2014 levels.
The emissions parameters for individual power stations available for this study are approximate, which means that the quantitative results are subject to increased uncertainty. Data requirements for an improved investigation are described and a detailed multi-year study using such data is warranted.
—21 April 2015, Submission to the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines
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