The Northern Territory has world-class renewable energy sources. But only a fraction of these resources have been accessed. Here's what you need to know about our energy system and its future potential.
We normally think of the Northern Territory electricity chain as being divided into three main providers. These three parts of the chain are largely provided by three government-owned corporations:
Generation: Like a factory, the NT's main electricity generator Territory Generation produces electricity in bulk to meet the demand of the grid. Last financial year, Territory Generation’s combined output from gas, diesel and solar facilities was 1,694 Gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity.
Distribution: Like a delivery truck, the NT's network provider Power and Water Corporation transports electricity from generation plants to homes and businesses. They take care of a local network of electricity poles and wires.
Retail: Like a shop front, the NT's main electricity retailer Jacana Energy purchases electricity in bulk from generators and turns it into a range of retail products to meet customer needs.
But renewable energy is transforming this system. For example, consider rooftop solar on your home. No longer are you simply an energy customer, you're also an energy generator!
How much of the NT's electricity is generated from renewable energy sources?
At the moment most of the Territory's electricity supply comes from gas-fired generation, which is a fossil fuel. The proportion of renewables in the system fluctuates, with the government putting this figure at "less than 10%".
Territory Generation owns and operates eight mainly gas and diesel-powered stations across the NT, with a combined installed capacity of 593 MW. They also contract an additional 5.1MW from independent power producers, 4.1MW of which is solar, plus 1MW gas produced from the Shoal Bay landfill site.
The current Territory Government has a policy of achieving 50% renewables for electricity supply by 2030, "whilst maintaining secure, reliable and least-cost electricity for consumers and taxpayers".
The NT has an abundance of solar energy resources, particularly in locations south of Darwin due to comparatively less cloud cover in the wet season. We have more limited opportunities for wind and hydro, compared to other parts of the country, due to our climate and geography.
Territory Generation predict that solar generation capacity in the NT will grow from about 30MW at present to over 140MW by 2022/23.
When it comes to renewable energy, how does the NT compare to other states and territories?
For the fifth year running, the NT has come up last or near the bottom in most metrics in the Climate Council's annual State of Play review, which tracks the progress of Australian states and territories across a range of renewable energy targets and criteria.
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