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ABC: Let’s pretend base load power doesn’t exist, call it a dinosaur. Who’s in denial?

Posted By Jo Nova On October 13, 2017 @ 3:58 am In Global Warming,Grids | Comments Disabled

The new phrase that must be neutered is “base load”. It’s like kryptonite for renewables!

Nick Kilvert at the ABC helpfully provides a no-hard-questions mouthpiece and tells us Base load power is the dinosaur in the energy debate.

To serve the Australian taxpayer he quotes a Professor Vassallo, Chair of Sustainable Energy Development (USyd), and CSIRO Energy Director Dr Glenn Platt. Just in case they weren’t green and biased enough he also interviewed Professor Blakers, director of the ANU Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems. Finally he turns to Dr Mark Diesendorf, who is apparently just some guy at UNSW with a team of modelers. (Kilvert doesn’t give us his title, but a two second search suggests he works at the “Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets“. Perhaps it was an oversight, or maybe Kilvert was feeling guilty that every single person he quoted has a career in sustainable energy). Glenn Platt — by the way, is not just “Energy Director” but is described at The Conversation as leading the Energy Transformed Flagship research centre at CSIRO. So that’s four green academics, no one from the coal industry, no skeptics, no other engineers, and no one involved in managing a grid.

So here’s Dr Platt, struggling with the basics of electricity grids:

“The idea of there being an average or ‘base’ electricity load, doesn’t make sense. Let alone having this sort of big, slow-changing power station to meet that load,” says CSIRO Energy Director Dr Glenn Platt.

And here’s today’s energy production across the national grid, where everyone can see that the minimum demand was 18,000MW (just like it was last time TonyfromOz wrote about it here five years ago. That 18,000MW are all the fridges at Coles, the freezers at Woolies, the air conditioning units in every skyscraper or tall building with windows that don’t open. It’s hospitals, night shift workers, smelters, street lights, home heaters or air con, and water heaters.

Baseload power, Australia, NEM, electricity load curve, demand, supply.

Don’t believe your lying eyes.

Source: Aneroid (which gets the data from the AEMO)

Dr Platt is working hard to convince the public that demand is all over the place:

Throughout the day, electricity demand peaks in the morning as people get ready for work, and again in the evening.

But electricity use also changes across the year, maxing out on hot summer days when air-conditioners are at full blast, and bottoming out on mild spring nights.

No mention that the constant unremitting base load is 75% of the peak. Would it change things for the paying public if they knew that?

To craft a story that base load is “old” Prof Anthony Vassallo digs out some historic anedotes:

Coal-fired power stations can take days to fire up from cold to full capacity and when demand slumps during off-peak periods, shutting down isn’t an option.

So when these power plants were being built in Australia, a market solution was created, says Professor Anthony Vassallo, Chair of Sustainable Energy Development at the University of Sydney.

“In the 70s, to stop them from having to turn off overnight, the regulators and the operators offered very, very-low-cost electricity for consumers to run their hot-water systems, which in turn sustained the ‘base load’ on the power station,” he says.

It’s true that people found ways to even out our electricity use by switching on hot water heaters at 11:32pm, but it’s also true that it was cheaper for everyone when they did.

Vassalo frames coal in the worst possible way:

But today, as more and more renewables such as wind are feeding the grid, coal-fired power stations are often forced to pay to keep their turbines running when demand drops.

What he doesn’t say is that coal fired stations are only forced to pay because taxpayers are forced to subsidize renewables. If there was no RET, rooftop or other  subsidy, many renewables plants would never have been built. Who would put solar panels on if they had to pay $4,000 more?

Looks like the dinosaur industry supplies the dinosaur base load

Today’s production: 14,000 out of 18,000 MW was supplied by fossil fuels.

Australian electricity supply, daily load, NEM, October 2017.

The ABC is happy to make sure Australians know the limitations of coal in fine, if imaginary detail:

“Technology has moved on from base load, and now you want flexible power.

Spell it out for us, Prof Blakers, why do we “want” flexible power — is that so we can cope with the artificial “flexible” supply, forced onto the system by mini-Gods who think they can change the weather with solar panels and windmills?

…And that’s what demand management, batteries and pumped hydro is,” says Professor Andrew Blakers, director of the ANU Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems.

So, by golly, why didn’t we use them before –  maybe because they are inefficient, or inconvenient, or waste energy or cost more?

“If you have an increase in demand, a coal power station will take hours [to meet it], a gas turbine 20 to 30 minutes, batteries about a second, demand management about a second, and pumped hydro will take anywhere between 20 seconds and two minutes.”

It’s true coal can’t shift up quickly and gas can (and I hear, within a mere minute or two, not “20 – 30″). But gas also costs twice as much as coal (or even more). Does an academic care? Do taxpayers pay him to give them the whole truth or just the bit that suits him?

“Compete Nonsense” because thousands of computer simulations show that it’s theoretically possible

Theoretically, if you have unlimited funds, we could go “renewable”:

“All this talk about ‘you’ve got to have baseload power stations’ is complete nonsense,” says Dr Mark Diesendorf.





His team at the University of New South Wales ran “thousands of computer simulations” correlating hourly power-consumption data from the National Electricity Market (NEM) in 2010, with the potential power generation of renewables, based on recorded weather data for the same year.

He claims that a combination of existing technologies, including hydro and biofuelled gas turbines, were able to supply the simulated NEM even during “peak demand” — on winter evenings following overcast days.

Kilvert didn’t ask what it would cost. The academics just say “it won’t be cheap”.

Jen Marohasy did a good job going through the finer details of Base Load Electricity a while back.

EDIT – Oops: Kyrpton should have been Kyptonite. Thanks to Ian C, and Tim.

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