JoNova

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


Handbooks

The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper


Advertising

micropace


GoldNerds

The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



Archives

Books

Both AGL, Origin warn renewables threaten grid, create chaos, drive off baseload, cause higher cost

Another Hazelwood-size batch of renewables coming on line in Australia by 2020.

That’s 1600MW of random subsidized energy dropping into a market that is artificially priced to value weather-changing potential over reliability. Now, even the bosses of two gentailers which both benefit from renewables subsidies are warning things are chaotic, going to get turbulent and more expensive. Why do they admit this? Probably because they want the government to add another layer of policy interference to reward “firm capacity” which they both also own.

Instead, lets get the government and the RET octopus off our grid. Surely we can set up a market that allows players who want electricity at 9am tomorrow to pay more for generators which can actually guarantee to be there. All the market players who don’t care when or if electricity arrives can buy the unreliable energy. Which businesses, industries or homes can use electricity that arrives at midday and random other times, remembering that wind power drops to 5% of capacity for days sometimes:

Renewables threaten volatile power supply, says AGL, Origin bosses

Perry Williams, Matt Chambers, The Australian

Power giants AGL Energy and Origin Energy have raised concerns over a surge [...]

At 40C Victoria has a one in three chance of blackouts in summer

In Victoria, 40C used to be known as “A Hot Day”, but  now thanks to climate change it’s called an “extreme condition”  (wasn’t it meant to become a common event?) Nevermind.

The AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) has pretty much warned us the Victorian electrical grid can no longer cope with “a hot day”.

[The AEMO] predicts a one-in-three chance of load shedding under extreme conditions this summer unless additional action is taken.

“Specifically, temperatures of 40C or more in Victoria could be the catalyst for extreme, one-in-10-year electricity demand conditions.

“Particularly when these temperatures are experienced towards the end of the day when business demand is still relatively high, residential demand is increasing, and rooftop PV’s contribution is declining.”

So since solar PV is useless in this situation, the Victorian government is spending one billion dollars installing Solar PV. One billion dollars of generation that is guaranteed not to work when we need it.

Will the new PM, Scott Morrison, be able to solve this problem? Thousands of engineers can.

Once upon a time even the brainless inanimate free market did.

h/t Dave B, Pat

PS: Still travelling.

“No bias here” says Aust Energy Market chief while planning 100% for unnecessary, pointless renewables transition

Pull the other one.

No Bias — Audrey Zibelman,

Audrey Zibelman, the improbable green-lawyer manager of our National Energy Market claims her advice is not biased towards renewables. This is the same Zibelman who tells us that “resisting the energy transition is like trying to resist the internet.” As if governments had to legislate “An Internet Target” and mandate we do 16% of our shopping online. The same Zibelman believes  “we’re the last generation on earth who can really do something about climate change.” She thinks she’s changing global weather with our power grid. By 2100 historians will have people rolling in the aisles with that one. What were they thinking?*

Her bias is so all encompassing she can’t imagine a world twenty years hence which still runs on coal and gas and views the temporary experiment with unreliables as a disastrous, predictable mistake, a historic dead-end. Renewables are the B-size-batteries, the hydrogen-filled-air-ships and the X-rays for shoe shops that didn’t take over the world. She assumes that the forced “transition” to renewables is inevitable, natural and necessary. What if it’s an artificial, uneconomic, unnecessary accident of profit hungry industry rent-seekers and  fatuous virtue signaling fools?

Hands up who [...]

UK: smart meters are expected to save a whopping £11 annually

No one needed a smart meter when we had smart baseload.  Beware Australians, despite the promises and threats, smart meters may or may not make UK customers a paltry saving. When all is said and done it’s not even clear the benefits outweigh the costs.

 People who have smart meters installed are expected to save an average of £11 annually on their energy bills, much less than originally hoped. A report from a parliamentary group now predicts a dual fuel saving of £26.

Customer pays, but energy firms save more:

Customers have financed the smart meter programme by paying a levy on their energy bills, while suppliers have frequently blamed the levy for rising costs. However, the report claimed most of the eventual savings would be made by energy firms, rather than consumers.

It is an £11 billion programme. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears the country would be richer if the government just gave back £170 to each person instead.

Smart meter looks like a dumb elephant:

The report also said that:

More than half of smart meters “go dumb” after switching, meaning they stop communicating with the supplier [...]

Spent $1.5 billion on an interconnector to get a tiny cut in obscenely inflated electricity bills!

What costs $1,500m, makes no electricity, but “saves money”?

South Australia has used federal subsidies to build more wind power than it can use. They’ve spent half a billion already on diesel powered jet engines and a  battery that can power the state for “minutes”. For 139 hours last year the state produced so much wind power it supplied 100% of the states electricity needs and then some, and the problem of excess electricity is only getting worse as wind generation keeps increasing and solar PV uptake is rampant.

When government rules and regs have created an inefficient, expensive problem, what do we do? More of it. A new report suggests that South Australia needs a direct transmission line to NSW which will cost $1.5b. We could spend that on a reliable generator instead, or get the government out of the way and let the private sector do it for us, but instead we need to pay for another transmission line to connect up different zones-of-subsidy-rent seekers and hope we get $30 off the bill? It’s a savings in the statistic margin of error…

South Australia didn’t even have an interconnector til 1990. Now with decentralized and renewable power they [...]

Even AEMO head admits solar panels are a big “disrupter” in Australia – fears big players may abandon grid

The land of the sunburnt country finds that the rapid uptake of solar is a headache, disrupting the grid, adding variability, making management more complicated. Read right through. The head of the AEMO gives an upbeat talk, but the ominous message is that solar panels are flooding in, there are lots of problems, and not only are baseload generators leaving the market, but there may come a day when things are so ludicrously expensive that big energy customers leave to generate their own too. Is that what the death of a grid looks like?

 

Audrey Zibelman is the head of the AEMO – Australian Energy Market Operator – which has the responsibility of managing the electricity and gas market and grid stability for all Australians. To hear her, you’d think the future is renewable, the transition is not being artificially forced on the market, and there is no alternative to alternative energy.

Zibelman tosses out pat free-market lines with a straight face, saying at 17:20 that we never really want governments to “pick a technology”, ignoring that this whole transition, all of it, is only happening because governments “picked a technology”.

Listen at 21:30 to get an [...]

Another way to destroy a grid: add a million electric vehicles

New electric vehicles have big fat batteries, which will help solve the problem known as “charge anxiety” (let’s call that the Flat-Bat-Fear).

The new fat-batteries, however, have the small catch that they need two days to trickle charge. Hmm. Then there is the other catch that each slow charger (7KW) is equivalent to adding nearly three houses to the grid.     ur Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg predicts there will be one million electric cars on Australian roads by 2030.

You might think this is slow motion train wreck, but we might avoid this if households opt for fast 50KW chargers. In that case we can do the train-wreck at top speed.

Each fast charger will apparently be “like” adding the equivalent of 20, count them, 20 homes.

This is fearmongering obviously — no one is going to want a fast charger when they could leave the car in the garage for 48 hours instead.

New Zealand report claims new generation electric vehicles threaten the power network

Ben Packham, The Australian

New Zealand’s biggest energy distributor, Vector, warned electric vehicle chargers “put a large electrical load on the network”, with even 2.4kW “trickle” chargers adding the equivalent of one additional [...]

Electricity prices fell for forty years in Australia, then renewables came…

Electricity prices declined for forty years. Obviously that had to stop.

Here’s is the last 65 years of Australian electricity prices — indexed and adjusted for inflation. During the coal boom, Australian electricity prices declined decade after decade.  As renewables and national energy bureaucracies grew, so did the price of electricity. Must be a coincidence…

Today all the hard-won masterful efficiency gains of the fifties, sixties and seventies have effectively been reversed in full.

Indexed Real Consumer Electricity Prices, Australia, 1955-2017.

For most of the 20th Century the Australian grid was hotch potch of separate state grids and mini grids. (South Australia was only connected in 1990). In 1998 the NEM (National Energy Market) began, a feat that finally made bad management possible on a large scale. Though after decades of efficiency gains, Australians would have to wait years to see new higher “world leading” prices. For the first years of the NEM prices stayed around $30/MWh.

But sooner or later  a national system is a sitting duck for one small mind to come along and truly muck things up.

Please spread this graph far and wide.

Thanks to a Dr Michael Crawford who did the original, [...]

Political Vandals: Victoria, the diesel state, bans, hides, cheap cleaner gas, blames fuses, air conditioners

How much do we hate Lignite Gas?

Victoria is suffering the largest rises in wholesale electricity prices in the country, as it sits on large gas fields that it won’t touch. Why — geniuses hope to reduce global droughts and floods and sea level in 2100.

Robert Gottleibsen savages the state governments that conducted the renewables experiment without mentioning the real costs or the cheap alternatives.

If Victoria allowed its gas to be developed the energy scene in Australia would be transformed, as would the outlook for the nation.

But that’s not much consolation for those in vast areas of rural NSW and Victoria plus suburban Melbourne and small areas of South Australia who suffered blackouts or reduced power on Sunday night. It’s true part of the outages were caused by fuses, but the outages were too widespread. It’s another smokescreen.

If similar conditions are repeated on weekdays and/or extend over several days the blackouts will be devastating as a result of the political vandalism. Government spin doctors and others are desperately trying to conceal the truth about the damage governments headed by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (plus her predecessors [...]

Who would have thought? Nations with more renewables have more expensive electricity

The Mystery: The most resource rich nation on Earth has the highest electricity prices?!

Ask anyone and get confused: It’s poles and wires, gaming of the system by capitalist pigs, excessive taxes, privatization, and record gas prices. The CleanEnergy Council  tells us that Australia has one of the longest electricity networks in the world — we need lots of poles! And so we do. But once upon a time Australia had the cheapest electricity in the world and we still had lots of poles. Not only were miles of poles and wires, there were also capitalist pigs, excessive taxes, and privatized generators. There were wild gas price spikes too, (during which we probably just burned more coal).

Evidently, something else has changed. Something seismic that wiped out all the bids below $50/MWh. 

Perhaps it has something to do with the 2,106 turbines in 79 wind farms that on random windy days might make 4,325MW that didn’t exist in Australia in 1999 when electricity was cheap and our total national wind power was 2.3 megawatts?

Another clue might be the 1.8 million new solar PV installations, which theoretically generate 7 gigawatts of electricity at noon on cloudless days if all [...]

Bonfire Electricity Bills! Two day heat wave burns nearly $400m: $45 per head in Vic, $70 each in SA.

While geniuses are bragging that the Australian grid survived two normal hot summer days without falling over, they don’t mention the flaming spectacle of the cost.

Tom Quirk and Paul Miskelly, after a couple of suggestions from me, have calculated the full staggering electricity bill at $119m for SA and $267m for Victoria, making it nearly a $400 million dollar bonfire — for two days that were neither the hottest ever, or records for peak electricity use.  See their work and details below.

To put this in perspective, a whole new gas plant could have been built for around $230 million. Instead of vaporising this money, Australians could have constructed one whole new gas generation plant, paid it off, and had money left over to give away free electricity.

Every household of four in Victoria just lost something like $170 of productivity for two days of electricity, and in South Australia, $280. Respectively, $45 per Victorian and $70 per South Australian. While businesses also share this burden, ultimately companies are made of people, and this is productivity lost to both states. The losers are shareholders, customers, and employees. Some will be interstate, but the pain flows back. The price is [...]

Peak heat: Electricity prices lifting off; industry shutting off in Australia. Hospitals switching off lights, “Code Yellow Alert”.

UPDATE: MELBOURNE hospitals are enacting emergency procedures to prepare for the potential loss of power. Hospitals are switching off non-essential electrical equipment, including some lights, to minimize energy use. This is a “Code Yellow” alert asking hospitals to check their back up generators are ready.  The Victorian Minister insists this is not about the “threat” of blackouts, but because hospitals need to be “good corporate citizens”. Pull the other one. At the very least, this is about reducing electricity bills.   h/t Chris in Hervey Bay.

See further UPDATES on “The art of blaming coal” at the bottom.

How much fun can you have? The AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) projects that as temperatures hit 42C in Victoria, prices are forecast to rise over 100 fold. The AEMO is furiously busy issuing market notices.

The ABC tells us it is 42C, that Portland Alumina has reduced production, but for an ‘undisclosed price’ (why can’t taxpayers know what they are paying this group, not to produce aluminium today?) Meanwhile the AEMO has put the RERT plan into action: “Under the RERT scheme, AEMO has contracted 884 megawatts of “demand side response” across Victoria, NSW and South Australia.” [...]

Summer heat — electricity prices hit cap of $14 per KWhr in SA, almost there in Victoria

Watching the AEMO dashboard as a hot summer day hits

Is this the summer crunch-time that the the National Grid managers have been fearing?

Today things are not running smoothly in the green states of Victoria and SA where prices this minute have hit $14,000 per MW hour, or $14 per KWh. These are wholesale prices. Right now heads of major industries are watching the dashboard, turning off everything they can turn off, or switching on the diesel generators, or counting hundreds of thousands or even millions being added to their bills if production cannot stop.

Demand Management schemes (a form of load shedding) will be running to reduce demand — air conditioners will be remotely switched down.

How much of the productive brain power of Vic and SA is distracted from more useful tasks today?

The AEMO has put out an Actual Lack of Reserve Notice (LOR1) saying that Victoria is 300 MW short: “The contingency capacity reserve required is 1100 MW. The minimum reserve available is 815 MW”. Another notice of a “non-credible contingency event” (a code for “something broke”) reports that a busbar, transformer, and line have tripped or opened in Victoria, unplanned.

Victoria

[...]

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

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.

[...]

Within 5 minutes a wave of hot water systems switch on in SA adding 250MW of demand to the grid

We are creatures of habit. Look at the spike caused at 11:32pm as something like 27,000 hot water tanks in South Australia suddenly switch on to use cheaper off-peak electricity. This spike is entirely due to pricing plans. It’s entirely avoidable too, but at least it’s predictable. “Scheduled”.

This peak, allegedly, is only a problem if SA is “islanded” — meaning if it can’t rely on the coal generators in Victoria.

Yesterday people were asking why the South Australian demand was peaking at 1am (and why two hours were strangely missing from that graph). “Hot water” is the answer (at least to the first part).

SA Hot water systems add sudden 250MW of demand at 11:30pm. Graph.

This graph comes from the AEMO report in Feb 2016. What follows is their electro-nitty-gritty:

Based on previous experience, and as demonstrated in a separation event on 1 November 2015, maintaining the SA power system in a secure operating state is challenging if there are large changes to the supply-demand balance during a period of islanding.

There is a risk of automatic under frequency load shedding if SA is being operated as an island during the hot water demand peak, [...]