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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Politicians “shocked” at the power crisis waiting in the Australian electricity grid

Did some politicans just wake up? The news today is that our Energy Minister may realize Australia is conducting a wild experiment with our electricity grid, and may have managed to convince other Australian federal politicians of the risk.

Coalition MPs shocked by energy threat

The Australian: Robert Gottleibsen (even Gottleibsen gets it).

When Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg walked into the Coalition party room with his energy policy earlier this week he faced a sea of hostile faces. But they left the room shocked. At last, the government politicians understood that Australia faces a long term blackout power crisis the like of which has never been seen in modern times.

It’s one thing to read commentaries warning of what is ahead but another to see a minister use confidential information from independent power authorities and regulators to show the desperate state of affairs that is looming for the nation. And then Frydenberg went to the ALP and showed them the same material.

Frydenberg was, if anything, even more alarming than me …  [says Gottleibsen who wrote about how the "Energy crisis risk is criminal. March 2017"].

Between 2012 and 2017 Australia has [...]

Some South Australian farmers going fully diesel for electricity

Maybe they’ll get one like this one? Circa 1934.*

Green management of the South Australian grid scores another big success for the environment:

SURGING power prices are pushing South Australian dairy farmers such as James and Robyn Mann to go off-grid.

The Manns’ electricity costs have more than doubled in five years, from about $200,000 per annum to $500,000.

Due to the high prices, the family will this summer switch to diesel power to run their 116-stand rotary dairy and 14 irrigation centre pivots at Wye in the lower south east of South Australia.

The Manns are among Australia’s top 10 dairy producers, in terms of volume, milking up to 2300 cows and producing 19-21 million litres annually.

If only South Australia had more “cheap” solar and wind power, their electricity might be as low cost as the coal-fired Victorians:

Their move comes as South Australia’s dairy lobby has calculated the state’s dairy farmers paid about 40 per cent more for power than their Victorian neighbours last season.

The Mann’s are definitely going diesel this summer, but may set up a mixed solar-diesel-battery plan in the long run:

Rooftop solar destroying baseload profitability and proud of it

What other heavily subsidized industry brags about its ability to provide a product for one quarter of the time it’s needed? Vale sunny-day-solar!

Pick a day, an hour, and what are the chances solar will be there for you? A lot less than one in four, because last Monday’s peak in South Australia was an all time record. Every day in the last year was worse.

And so much for cheap… the price when solar power peaked was still close to $50/MWh. Compare that to most of the years of the national electricity market operating when average prices were $30/Mwh.

The price dip at 6am (the black-line bottomless gully), has nothing to do with solar, but was caused by wind power. Far from being useful, essential, or productive, solar and wind power are playing havoc with a normal market, destroying the chance for cheap, reliable energy to find a place. As long as we force the market to accept this non-dispatchable  supply, we are actively punishing reliable power. What investor in reliable energy would look at this and head to South Australia?”

 

Giles Parkinson was excited at Reneweconomy: Rooftop solar provides 48% of South Australia power, pushing grid [...]

Electricity cost train-wreck arrives in Australia

Something very “seismic” has happened to our electricity prices.

Paul McArdle of WattClarity goes through each state looking at quarterly trends and prices, and remarks that things are going “off the chart”. We had some electricity crises in Australia in the last 12 months, and 2016 was a significantly more expensive than all previous years bar the major drought year of 2007. But ominously, prices haven’t come down in what should be a “normal” quarter. In Tasmania there was a crisis last year when dams ran dry, and the undersea Bass cable broke. But this quarter, prices are only $3.20/MWh lower than the crisis levels of Q2 2016 despite water in dams and a working cable to Victoria. Something has gone seriously wrong with our electrical grid and market. In both Victoria and South Australia prices are higher on average than any previous April-June quarter in the 19 year history of the National Electricity Market. In Queensland and New South Wales, prices are at the “second highest”.

McArdle goes to some length to explain that this is not “one factor”, which seems obvious and fair — Its the combination of the closure of Hazelwood and Port Augusta coal generators; the [...]

AEMO Report blames renewables: SA Blackout due to lack of “synchronous inertia”

The Final AEMO Report on the big-SA Blackout deals up some hard truths, and contradicts its earlier claim that the “energy mix” didn’t matter. The key theme here is about the system inertia. The Blackout on Sept 28 last year was an accident waiting to happen, and it wasn’t storm damage to lines that caused it.  The blackout would not have happened if wind power had not been so dominant.

The transition to a 35% wind powered system left the SA grid very vulnerable. On Sept 28 last year, the safety settings on wind turbines were overly sensitive and when voltages “bumped” the turbines shut off suddenly, but those shutoffs hit the system too fast, and that caused the interconnector to shut off too, sacrificing SA to protect the rest of the national grid. The settings themselves are not the main issue — because they can be changed to prevent a repeat. It is a fixable problem — what is harder to fix, is the lack of inertia, and the sheer complexity. These are the biggest challenges of any renewables grid. We can fix even those problems, but at what cost in order to change the weather 100 years [...]

SA Blackout: a grid crippled by complexity

South Australia suffered it’s fifth blackout in five months last week. The AEMO report on that incident came out today. There are lots of faults, errors and small problems, and one overriding theme — it’s too complex:

AEMO (Grid market managers) thought they’d have more wind power. It fell to only 2% of “total output.” There was a computer glitch which “load shed” more people than necessary. Oops. SA Power Network apologized today. Demand was higher than expected.  The gas plant generators at Port Lincoln were ““not available due to a communications system problem”. (Whatever that means.) That was 73MW out of action. One turbine at Torrens Gas plant was out for maintenance (120MW gone). Another was running 50MW low because of the heat. (Seriously, these machines operate at hundreds of degrees and work at 35C but not so well at 42C? (Or whatever it was). Color me skeptical. Perhaps some grid engineers can comment and tell us if this is normal?

So in a modern renewable grid we have variations in supply and demand that are of the order of the average grid load and at the whim of The Wind. What could possibly go wrong?

Finally the SA [...]

It’s that bad — talk of “declaring emergencies” and nationalizing South Australian electricity

Smell the desperation

Here in Oz, political lives are in turmoil. Suddenly “load shedding” is the topic de jour, and there are hit lists of suburbs in the firing line. It’s a long list.  Welcome to your green future.

The language is ramping up.  The SA state government is talking of a “dramatic intervention in the electricity market”.

The plans are “advanced” but they apparently don’t know what that intervention is. It could be a script for “Yes Minister”:

 Premier Jay Weatherill said the plans were well advanced, and all options remained on the table.

“One option is to completely nationalise the system,” Mr Weatherill said.

“That’s an extraordinary option. It would involve breaking contracts and exposing us to sovereign risk and the South Australian taxpayers to extraordinary sums of money. “It’s not a preferred option but we’re ruling nothing out at this point.”

Even if there were no more blackouts in SA, how much stress is added by not knowing if the electricity will be cut off without warning? How many people are preemptively running air conditioners early or all day?

The situation has changed so much that even Malcolm Turnbull, the man [...]

South Australian electricity is coming your way

Yesterday 90,000 customers lost power in SA (making it Blackout Round 5 since the big one last September).

This time it was due to load shedding.

SA power woes to spread nation-wide, starting with Victoria, Australian Energy Council warns

The Federal Government needs to take urgent action to improve its energy policies before the rest of Australia falls victim to the type of large-scale blackouts experienced in South Australia, the Australian Energy Council has warned.

It’s not just that renewables muck up the electricity supply (with frequency and instability issues), they also drive a pike through the energy market. These are two separate disruptors. We’ve seen inexplicable spikes in power prices in SA in seasons when it shouldn’t happen, but this might be a new form of volatility. Wind power produced 900MW earlier in the day, but that fell to below 100MW within 6 hours (which is not that usual, see the post yesterday for the graph). The problem, apparently, was that no one thought it was worth turning on their generators?

SA has enough generation (if only it was running), but when the crunch came, the market failed:

It asked for more power generators to [...]

Rolling blackouts ordered in SA in 40C heat

South Australia, with 40% renewables, is lucky this has been a mild summer.*

Welcome to your load-shedding future:

Rolling blackouts ordered in Adelaide as city swelters

Widespread power blackouts were imposed across Adelaide and parts of South Australia with heatwave conditions forcing authorities to impose load shedding.

About 40,000 properties were without electricity supplies for about 30 minutes because of what SA Power Networks said was a direction by the Australian Energy Market Regulator.  — The Australian

Premier Jay Weatherill blamed the AEMO for not ordering a gas power station to come online.

Electricity prices spiked to $13,440 MWh. Total demand was about 3,000MW. Things are expected to be the same tomorrow.

At 6pm tonight wind power was producing less than 100MW (about 7% of its rated capacity):

Look at the price spike and the forecast for tomorrow:

AEMO, Electricity Prices, Feb 8, 2016

Perhaps with better planning and more money they can reduce the need for planned blackouts — but why bother?I guess they’ll have those gas powered stations running tomorrow.

It has been smack on average at Adelaide Airport at 28.1C for January 2017.

*The Wind power graph was supplied in WA time, so [...]

More bad luck for South Australia, yet another blackout, 300 powerlines down, 125,000 homes cut off

A fifth of South Australia lost power yesterday due to a nasty storm.

You would think with all the climate models predicting more of every kind of extreme weather that South Australia, of all places, which is spending millions to prevent this sort of weather, would have upgraded their transmission lines to cope with it? Then again, maybe the models didn’t exactly predict these, not-so-extreme 120km/hr gusts.

Still Adelaide has a good desal plant to help them cope with climate change.

That wasn’t the case back in 1948 when a cyclone went through.

Roofs were blown off, flash floods occurred and a frigate washed ashore in 1948. (Click to read it all).

For the poor people of the west coast of SA, this may be their fourth blackout in four months. Some had another blackout last week due to lightning and a wind gust of “up to 111km/hr”.  It doesn’t look like this has anything to do with renewables, it appears to be inadequate infrastructure and probably the return of a natural weather cycle (Adelaide was hit by a cyclone in 1948, widespread damage in 1954, much damage in 1927, and in 1910 and 1916):

Almost one-fifth [...]