JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Basslink cable out again, costing Victorians more as prices rise

The Basslink cable has gone down again, and is expected to be out of action til mid-October. Luckily for Tasmania, the dams are at 45% full. However in Victoria, which sits on one of the largest brown coal reserves in the world, currently prices are hitting $300/MWh every morning and every evening at peak time.  This graph below shows 5 minute prices for the last two days in Victoria. Every dollar Victoria saves at lunchtime from solar generation is lost a few hours later, and then some. Though it’s wrong to use the word “saves” at any time of day. The wholesale price of brown coal power for years was $30/MWh, and this below is a wholesale price graph. Even the lunchtime “low prices” are twice as expensive as brown coal which can supply all day, every day and for hundreds of years to come and doesn’t cause voltage surges, frequency instability, or house fires, and doesn’t need backup batteries, demand management schemes, free movie tickets, or dark hospitals.

The AEMO must be counting their lucky stars that this happened at probably the “best” time of year when demand is lower.

….

 

The effect of the Basslink outage [...]

Bluescope spends a billion in US because “cheap energy”

Add another billion to the cost of the Renewable Energy Target?

In the last few days Bluescope Steel (formerly BHP) has confirmed it will spend US$700m (AU$1b) to expand it’s North Star steel mill in Ohio. So there are multiple headlines. But back in February CEO Mark Vassella explained exactly why they were thinking of it, and his first reason was “energy prices”. Last week, high energy prices were even “a tragedy” for Australian manufacturing. This week however, he’s clarified his position by muddying it up. Now there other reasons and the solution is to fix our gas prices. He’s backpedaling and tossing quotes that happen to help the renewables industry.

Perhaps he’s been heavied by his PR and strategy team? Now he’s saying that energy costs matter, but labor costs do too and “we weren’t ever going to put another steel mill in Australia”. He’s even saying energy costs “did not play a role” — the complete opposite. These will become the quotes the renewable energy fans rely on. Apparently, now what he really wants is cheaper gas — which requires a socialist government-driven solution to fix gas prices, and it’s safe for anyone to mention anything that requires [...]

Unexpected UK EarthHour at peak time Friday — just after Wind Power hits new high?

Fragile grids

Over a million people customers lost power in the UK yesterday thanks to the sudden outage of a gas and a wind plant. Some of the country’s biggest railway stations were inoperable.  Passengers were stuck on trains for up to seven hours. Others stayed in hotels, walked miles or paid “hundreds” for taxis. The outpatient sections of Ipswich Hospital were blacked out for 15 minutes when backup generators failed. “At the height of the Friday rush hour, all trains out of King’s Cross were suspended and remained so for most of the evening.” — BBC. Commuters resorted to using their phones as torches to get out of tunnels in the dark.

Urgent Investigation called for into “fiasco”

According to headlines, at this early stage before the investigation all we know for sure is that wind power is definitely not to blame, but Boris might be. (Seriously, it’s the no-deal Brexit that hasn’t happened).

Officially, people are saying in solemn knowing tones that it is “extremely rare”  for two generators to go out at once. But the odd thing about this is how small the loss was. Barfield Gas power is only a 730 MW generator, and Hornsea Wind [...]

The planned electricity shortages begin and duped Australians say “thanks”

Once upon a time Australians were rich enough to afford electricity on demand

Now obedient Australian’s are impressed with getting tiny refund for having voluntary mini-kinda-blackout.

Presumably, people are either desperate or already so trained in paying unnecessarily exorbitant electricity bills that they are grateful just to get a tiny fraction of their electricity payments back as an incentive for switching off when it suits those managing our inadequate infrastructure.

Demand response is a sales term for a voluntarily “doing without”. The ABC describes it as a wonderful new market force held back by selfish corporate greed (wouldn’t you know it?). The ABC doesn’t mention that electricity used to cost much less before we artificially forced renewables onto the grid and drove out the cheap reliable baseload generators or make the remaining ones less efficient and more expensive. But who remembers 1995?  Were ABC researchers even born then?

It’s like 50 years of history doesn’t exist:

Another graph the ABC won’t show on TV

Behind-the-scenes battle over future of Australia’s energy market

It’s called demand response – it allows customers to save thousands of dollars by switching their appliances to lower electricity use at peak times.

[...]

18 years of Renewable Energy Target means an expensive and unstable grid, and still 75% coal

A big new study by electricity grid nerds (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) shows that after all the money and pain of 20 years of forced transition Australia’s electricity has shifted from 85% coal powered to 75% coal powered, which cost billions and as a bonus, made electricity more expensive and unstable. We drove out some brown coal, but swapped it for black coal. Instead of ousting coal power, the extra solar and wind power replaced some gas and hydro.

The authors are genuine independent experts, and the report is incredibly detailed — so this is rare — but still suffers from serious drawbacks:

The team doesn’t question the need for an artificial expensive transition. Almost all the problems they describe are caused by government policies that task our grid with changing the climate as well as producing cheap and reliable electricity. In a grid being ruined by inept policy, the implied solutions almost all involve more regulation and government policy. If our gas prices are too high we could ban sales overseas, but then we lose the export income. The left hand steals from the right. The free market solution is to use another fuel, [...]

Another socialist boom and bust in solar in Victoria

Behold, the Victorian Govt are proving yet again that Soviet-style electricity management can crush lives, hopes and wallets. The free market is never as cruel and destructive as one run on “good intentions” or the desire to win virtue-signaling fashion parades.

The invisible hand of the market was replaced with Daniel Andrews whimsy. This might work if he was smarter than the collective brains of 5 million people. Apparently Andrews assumes serfs people don’t understand the true value of solar panels and the benefits of creating jobs in China, so he has mandated glorious subsidies in the hope of getting nice weather one day, and the desperate punters took them up in droves. The industry boomed. But now they’ve temporarily halted the free gifts, orders have disappeared as the free market returns to accurately valuing solar installations. So the workers are being sacked. The rebates will come back again in July, so business-owners somehow need to get a different income stream for two months, survive the turmoil, and then the golden gravy will run again.

As per usual ABC policy, no free market voices were harmed, interviewed or asked to provide comment:

Victorian solar company reeling after popular rebate [...]

Invisible costs of renewables: “Staggeringly high” $125b for US electricity consumers

A major new “nail in coffin” study shows the more renewables we force onto the market the more expensive electricity gets.

Everyday someone tells us renewables are cheap, but these estimates come from flawed “LCOE” method (at best) supposedly the lifetime cost, but without many indirect costs. Granted, it’s hard to figure out what the bill for renewable energy is. But what really matters to every man and his dog, is the cost effect on the whole system, not a cherry-slice comparison of a few sunny-windy hours a day which doesn’t take into account the effect that renewable energy has on the rest of the 24/7 electricity grid.

Greenstone, McDowell and Nath have analysed all 29 states in the US where there are laws demanding a certain percentage of energy be renewable. On average a 4% increase in renewables led to a price rise of 17% and the impost was wildly high compared to any remotely sensible cost-benefit analysis. Renewables are the car insurance bill that costs 3 times as much as your car. Any serious environmentalist would hate renewables.

Michael Shellenberger, Forbes

The cost to consumers has been staggeringly high: ”All in all, seven years after passage, [...]

Exodus: 10% of Venezuela has left the country

A nation struggling to get the lights on still:

Well that is a first! Lights in a city in #Venezuela are going crazy on and of and on repeat again. #SinLuz #SinAgua. Some people in Venezuela have now gone 210 hours without lights or either running water. pic.twitter.com/CETnHlNYAT

— Sotiri Dimpinoudis ❁‏ (@sotiridi) April 3, 2019

‘New York Times’ Journalist Describes An ‘Almost Unimaginable’ Crisis In Venezuela

New York Times journalist Nicholas Casey was in Maracaibo, Venezuela, in March when the country was hit by a six-day blackout…     “By the fourth day of the power outage, that was when you started to hear shots getting fired in the street,” Casey says. “People were beginning to loot, and the store owners were coming out to defend their stores.”

The U.N. estimates that it’s upwards of 3 million people who have left. Now remember, this is a country of 30 million people. So we’re talking about 10 percent of the population that has gone.

A few weeks with intermittent power and the country is becoming uninhabitable.

When a government tries to print its way out of trouble by giving away “free” money it seems cheap but costs the [...]

Renewables stress: The daily battle just to keep the lights on in Australia

Who’s afraid of a cascading blackout?

Last year investment in unreliable and asynchronous generators doubled in Australia thanks to government decree. For some reason, adding another few gigawatts of iffy capricious infrastructure to a 50GW finely-tuned-system appears to put the whole national grid in a near constant state of emergency. The AEMO (our market operator) had to intervene in the South Australian market eight times in 2016/17, but last year they had to do it 101 times.

This warning comes from the  Australian Energy Market Commission (AMEC) which makes the rules for the national grid. Why are they baring the dirty renewables laundry? Because the answer to the crisis is always bigger government and this is a reason to call for it.

Renewables stress the grid

Perry Williams, The Australian

Australia’s electricity grid is relying on emergency safety nets to keep the lights on, …

The deterioration of the strength of the electricity network — most pronounced in South Australia — is also spreading to southwest NSW, northwest Victoria and north Queensland, adding to wholesale costs incurred by users.

SA’s electricity system is increasingly operating under the direct intervention of the grid [...]

Electric cars are perfect for socialists: Labor plan boosts Big-Gov, but worse for CO2, pollution, coal use, and grid

Labor’s electric car plan means higher emissions, more pollution, more coal use, and threatens the grid but it’s great for socialists.

Fantasy-land: Labor wants half of all new cars sales to be EV’s by 2030. That’s a radical change in a big country that loves its cars and drives great distances. Last year only 0.2% of new car purchases were EV’s. Our grid is already struggling, and extra charging cars would push it over the edge and may add something like $20b a year in extra network and generation costs.

This makes no sense on so many levels: in Australia EV’s are 80% fossil fuel powered and over their lifetime they cause more pollution than internal combustion engines.

Electric Vehicles produce more carbon emissions if the grid that charges them is powered by fossil fuels.

The results reveal that the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of a battery electric vehicle production range from 92.4 to 94.3 GJ and 15.0 to 15.2 t CO2eq, which are about 50% higher than those of an internal combustion engine vehicle, 63.5 GJ and 10.0 t CO2eq. This substantial change can be mainly attributed to the production of traction batteries, the essential components [...]

Power collapses again in Venezuela

What a mess. The power is down again in more than half the country — coming and going. People are desperate for water. Schools, industry and state buildings are closed. The Russians have sent in troops. The US has told them to get out.

It’s easy to take civilization for granted — until you don’t have one.

Urgent: New disruption identified in #Venezuela 40 hours after onset of national power outage; 91% of country now offline reversing partial recovery; incident ongoing #SinLuz #Apagon #27Mar ⬇️https://t.co/7nhWVW9v7a pic.twitter.com/xA8ZRdmagc

— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) March 27, 2019

Update: It has been 55 hours since the onset of nationwide power outages in #Venezuela; 69% of the country remains offline after a new drop in connectivity #SinLuz #Apagon #27Mar ⬇️https://t.co/7nhWVW9v7a pic.twitter.com/7trvLoLqjd

— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) March 28, 2019

 

h/t to Rafe Champion, who links on Catallaxy to my post on how hard it is to restart a grid. And also to Lance’s comment which was so useful I added it as an update to that post and which is now starring on Catallaxy too .  In case you missed his comment, and because it’s so apt, here it is again:

Lance predicted [...]

“Market Bloodbath”: Too many new remote renewables projects means high losses

As Australia push-pumps “renewables” into remote locations some of their incomes are suddenly being cut because the losses (as they transmit across long lines) are higher than they expected. On March 8th the AEMO rerated many generators and this year it’s being called a bloodbath for wind and solar. Some of them,  like AGL’s Silverton wind farm face losses of 20%.

It all revolves around something called Marginal Loss Factors, a value that is set by the AEMO each year for each generator. The rating is reduced by transmission losses over distance and also by “congestion” from other renewables which are popping up in the same remote locations far from the cities and industries that need the electricity they make. This sudden loss of expected income threatens new wind and solar projects (as it should — hello market signal!) Sometimes the loss factors are hard to predict years in advance which makes it difficult to also predict whether a project will return a profit (even despite the guaranteed subsidies).

Another renewable inefficiency strikes — “marginal loss factors”

Generators are paid according to the electricity that arrives rather than what they produce at the plant. (Seems fair). This is called the Marginal [...]

Venezuela’s melt down: Blackout day six and the grid struggles to reboot

Venezuela has 31 million people and has had almost no electricity for six days. There are estimates on Twitter (#sinluz) suggesting that about half is back up as I write, but the stories of chaos, death and disaster are surely just starting to come out as communication lines open.  The water coming out of taps is black, possibly contaminated with oil (are those shots fake?),  the Pepsi plant was stripped bare, see the video. People are desperate:  Shop owners are apparently shooting looters. At least one tweeter claims people are eating zoo animals. One baker took his own life after his shop was overrun and everything was stolen.  It may not be over yet either — the grid  recovered almost as far a few days ago, then collapsed again. Indeed, today explosions have been reported at an electrical substation at La Tiama, as well as other substations. What a debacle, a disaster. Babies in hospitals are being ventilated by hand. Many life support systems are off.

Netblocks tracks connectivity in Venezuala, which seems to be a reasonable proxy for power, and clearly electricity is being rebuilt partially, then collapsing again.

Update: 119 hours after the onset of nationwide power [...]

The cost of one days electricity on the Australian grid is three times (or 50 times) more than it was in 2012

There were no headlines but $300 million dollars was burned at the stake of renewables

Just another day on the exciting Australian NEM.

Friday week ago we had another price spike hitting the $14,500 mandated price cap. On that day South Australians and Victorians paid a blistering $61 million and $210 million respectively. That’s the cost of a single day’s electricity on what was a hot day (but not a record) for Melbourne (38C) and Adelaide (42C). These are temperatures that those cities often reach in summer. It was about 28C in the other three capital cities. Don’t be fooled — high temperatures are not the reason for the price spikes — as it happens, NSW used 22% more electricity than Victoria that day yet paid 90% less.

Thanks to David Bidstrup for calculating these numbers (MSWord file).

But even NSW and Queensland are pay millions too much

You might think NSW and Queensland have reasonable prices for electricity, but lest we forget, what they pay today is still three times more expensive than they would have been if they were paying 2012 prices. Long ago in the renewable dark ages the average price of wholesale electricity was [...]

States with low cost solar and wind paying 1300% more at the moment

Any more free electricity and SA and Victoria will go broke.

In other news a few days ago, the retail price of electricity rose 16% in Victoria and the number of disconnections rose 21%.

In a highly critical report to be released on Tuesday, the Essential Services Commission accused energy retailers of running ineffectual hardship programs that saw customers cut off anyway in most cases.  The commission reported power prices leapt 16 per cent last financial year, feeding a 21 per cent jump in the number of disconnections as 60,732 customers had their power cut off. The ESC said the number of disconnections in the last quarter of the financial year was one of the highest on record. – Sydney Morning Herald

Enjoy all the fun of watching our Australian Electricity Market in operation live as tens of millions of dollars get converted into income for AGL, Energy Australia, ENGIE, Origin and Snowy Hydro. No wonder they love renewables.

States with the most cheap wind and solar pay the most for electricity. Graph. AEMO.

Why do we allow a few companies to own so many different and competing generators across the entire market?

AEMO: State of [...]