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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SA: Still at risk of blackout, one third of solar PV “switching off” to save state, needs $1.5b interconnector bandaid to NSW

A $1,500 million dollar emergency line  is needed to rescue South Australia from renewable blackouts.  Image: Marcus Wong Wongm


Why do so few see the enormous subsidy cost of keeping the South Australian electricity experiment alive?

Having got too much intermittent, unreliable electricity, the state is still in danger of another statewide blackout. One third of the solar panels on homes are being switched off automatically because the electricity they provide is not just useless, but dangerous. What the state needs is baseload power, but the solution we’re told is to spend another incredible $1.5billion dollars on an interconnector with NSW, presumably so SA gets a lifeline to the reliable coal power in Queensland.

That’s a $1,500,000,000 repair bill for an unreliable system that cost a fortune to build, but is unsustainable without a giant bandaid.

Price rises coming in NSW and QLD:

As more unreliable generation and random green electrons infect the NSW and Qld grids, their cheap baseload providers will also find it harder to compete. The increased downtime will chew out some of their profit margins, but their costs will be almost the same. So, as sure as the sun rises, they will have to raise their [...]

Victoria blows up cheapest electricity generator in the state

In 2017 in its last month of operation, the 53 year old Hazelwood coal plant was still operating reliably 24 hours a day at around $30/MWhr and producing 1360MW of electricity. Despite its age, it could peak at 86% of its original rated output.

After Hazelwood closed, wholesale prices jumped 85% in Victoria. And the annual average spot wholesale price in Victoria in the last year was $100/MWH.

So naturally Victoria wants to build more wind power, and blow up old reliable coal. Every single week in January, when electricity demand peaks in Australia, there were days when one old coal plant could have provided more electricity than all 57 new wind farms on the National Electricity Market could.

How much did it cost to build 57 not-there-when-you-need-it wind farms?


The output of all the wind farms in Australia still isn’t enough to reliably produce more than one 50 year old coal plant.


In its lifetime Hazelwood made $15 billion dollars worth of electricity (or 520TWH). It paid for itself many times over.


h/t David B, Serp




Tasmania wins Freeloader Climate Fashion Award for aim to “be 200% renewable” by 2040

The Tasmanian Government has just announced they will be “200% renewable” by 2040 — a feat only possible because they have an umbilical cord to hostages in the mainland who have to pay for irrelevant surges in electricity that arrive when they don’t need it. The same hostages will send back fossil powered electricity every week to keep Tasmania running when the wind and sun stop and the water is worth more in the dam than out of it. Not to mention container-ships of GST cash to support the state with the second highest unemployment in the nation.

This is the same state that went 100% renewable for three months in 2015 and launched itself into an electricity crisis. They decommissioned the last fossil fuel power station, just in time to get islanded by a break in their umbilical cable and thence had to order flying squads of diesel generators to keep the lights on at a cost of at least $140m. They also had to restart the same plant they just closed. The state lost half a billion dollars in the crisis – nearly twice the cost of the newish gas plant which had only built in 2009.


SA renewable electricity market mayhem as frequency stabilizing costs hit record breaking $90 million

Since SA was islanded the costs just to keep the frequency stable are as much as the energy itself

Two weeks ago the Australian grid had a major near miss, and South Australia has been isolated from the rest of the nation ever since. It was supposed to be connected again in two weeks, but repairs to the 6 high voltage towers that fell over, evidently will be longer. Strangely, apparently no news outlet has mentioned this in the last two weeks.

While SA has been the renewables star of the world for two weeks, there’s been mayhem in the market. Instead of cheap electricity with 50% renewables it’s chaos. Allan O’Neill explains that the cost of stabilizing the grid has gone through the roof. It’s so bad, and generators have to contribute to balance their output, that solar and wind power are holding back from supply because they can’t afford to pay the costs to cover their share of frequency stability.

But when South Australia became islanded by the transmission line collapse, FCAS requirements for that region could only be supplied from local providers – and there is only a small subset of participants in South Australia [...]

What do we call it when the State turns off your air conditioner? A “Peaksmart” moment

You can’t make this stuff up.

The Government advertising bureau — the ABC — is telling Queenslanders that it’s good for them if the government switches off their air conditioning. As we pay more than ever for electricity, we also lose control of even our household appliances. If we get something back for the overpriced service, the propaganda unit calls this a payment, and a benefit. If you have a Christmas party and 30 guests and you can’t use your own air conditioner, don’t forget, the State knows best. If it causes “whitenoise” interference, adds one more failure point, or causes people to turn their air conditioners down in temperature preemptively, or program them to come on earlier, who cares?

If the ABC says something is smart, we know it’s …

Power companies will soon be paying you to cut your energy use

Stephen Long, ABC

The units installed on the walls of his apartment look the same as any other air conditioners, but there is a difference. They’re fitted with “PeakSmart” technology. It allows the electricity network company to send a signal that turns the air conditioning down for a [...]

Jeopardy: What happens when your single largest generator is uncontrolled and coordinated by clouds? Watch Western Australia

Western Australia is a giant experiment: Even the Energy Experts are saying solar is  jeopardizing the grid — it’s “dumb”

Watch this space — blackout coming, 3 years and counting…

The Western Australian grid is a separate island from the rest of the nation. It’s roughly a 2.5 GW system for 2.5 million people. WA is getting into trouble faster than nearly anywhere else. Solar PV is now up to …. something larger than 850MW (which is the size of the coal fired generator). The ABC doesn’t tell us what the real figure is (according to the AEMO it’s around 1300MW, and growing at 120MW a year). There are no interconnectors to rescue WA, just the taxpayer or hapless electricity consumer.

Unreliable solar is now the largest single generator in the Western Australian grid. It’s not only bad because there are no other states to dump the excess energy on, or to save the state, but despite the vast size nearly everyone lives within 100 kms (60 miles). So when the sun peaks for one it nearly peaks for all. When the clouds roll over, especially when those nice north-south aligned fronts roll in, it covers most of the [...]

Japan: The precautionary principle killed more people than the Fukushima nuclear disaster

The panicked closure of nuclear power in Japan pushed electricity prices up. The UN agrees that no people died from radiation in the Fukushima event, but the frenzied over-evacuation killed up to 2,000 people. After that, higher electricity prices led to at least 1280 extra deaths in the 21 largest cities. That translates into 4,500 deaths if the mortality rate was similar across the rest of the country.

Japan nuclear shutdown did ‘more harm than good’, study finds

World Nuclear News

Be Cautious with the Precautionary Principle: Evidence from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident, by Matthew Neidell, Shinsuke Uchida and Marcella Veronesi. A discussion paper by the Germany-based IZA Institute of Labor Economics.

“Our estimated increase in mortality from higher electricity prices significantly outweighs the mortality from the accident itself, suggesting the decision to cease nuclear production caused more harm than good.”

The authors calculated that these higher electricity prices resulted in at least an additional 1280 deaths during 2011-2014. This is higher than a previously documented estimate of 1232 deaths which occurred as a result of the evacuation after the accident, they say.

“Since our data [on mortality related to higher [...]

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 [...]

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, [...]

More renewables, more record prices

Once again, bad luck for renewables. The AEMO put out their report for the first quarter of 2019. Despite a massive growth in renewables, power prices are still not falling as predicted.

The report highlights that record high spot wholesale electricity prices were set in Victoria and South Australia, and nearly in everywhere else as well:

• Victoria and South Australia’s quarterly average spot wholesale electricity prices of $166/MWh and $163/MWh were their highest on record.

• Victoria and New South Wales recorded their highest underlying energy price on record, while Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania recorded their seconded highest energy prices on record.

These record highs were not just billion dollar price spikes, but the actual underlying energy prices as well.

Looks like a trend here:

Wholesale electricity prices, NEM, Australia, Q1, 2019 | Click to enlarge.

The news gets reported but somehow coal and heat get the blame?

Record power bills in NSW, Vic

Perry Williams, The Australian

Power prices in NSW and Victoria soared to their highest level on record in the first quarter of 2019, with the jump blamed on high coal and gas tariffs and searing summer [...]

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, [...]

Solar Power at $70 is still twice the price of brown coal

More fake news: Miners are only switching to solar because they can’t get access to cheap coal fired power.

“Miners switch on to renewables”

A better headline would be: Renewable targets make electricity so expensive miners are forced to switch to renewables.

The money quote:

Emily Alford is a principal consultant at Oakley Greenwood …  [she] told The Weekend Australian that solar generation cost about $200 a megawatt hour five years ago, and had dropped to about $70-$80 now.

Compare that to 53 year old Hazelwood coal power which was selling electricity for $30/MWh in it’s last month of operation. When brown coal stations set the price in Victoria they were winning bids at prices like $13/MWh.The cheapest electricity in the world comes from 30 year old brown coal plants.

The $70-$80 estimate is artificially low. Unreliable power makes the other baseload generators more expensive, adding $30/MWh to gas generators for example. Because the back up generators have to be there, not earning money while solar feeds in, they have to charge more to recoup those costs in a shorter working period. Doh. So add that cost to solar, not the gas.

Compare the real costs and weep:

I’ll repost [...]