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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Another day, another blackout — Lightning is too much for Australian grid now

Last Saturday at 1pm both Queensland and South Australia were cut off from the national grid. In Sydney 45,000 homes lost power for a couple of hours. Shops had to close. Trains were stopped. Passengers were stranded. Traffic signals were not working on major roads. Chaos. Industrial users shut down in a mass of 725MW of load shedding.

Apparently this was due to lightning.

Once upon a time, Australian states were self sufficient, now interconnectors allow us to share problems:

Two states “Islanded” simultaneously

Two vital interstate power interconnectors blew without warning at the weekend, causing blackouts and critical industrial incidents and isolating two states from the national electricity grid, in a dramatic reminder to Scott Morrison just days into his prime ministership of the nation’s energy policy paralysis.

Queensland and South Australia were exporting power across the interconnectors when they were simultaneously tripped on Saturday, forcing power to be cut to big industrial users and retail customers in NSW and Victoria.

The nation’s biggest single-site power user, the Tomago aluminium smelter in the NSW Hunter Valley, lost power without warning, halting two pot lines for up to an hour. Alcoa’s Portland smelter in [...]

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.

On the NEG — Turnbull, Frydenberg: Who is running this country? You or Andrew Vesey?

End the taboo: The obvious solution to our expensive unreliable electricity is to fix old coal plants

The proposed NEG (National Energy Guarantee) will cut a pathetic sliver off our obscene bills. Malcolm Turnbull thinks Australians will be grateful for $100 off. We pay $3,700 a year for an average 4 bed house (and it’s heated with gas)?  Are they kidding?

No one is even discussing the most obvious, cheap way to cut our electricity bills. Fix the old coal plants. As Ian Waters, engineer, says “Enlightened, motivated people can do it!” Just getting Liddell back up to full power would deliver another 800MW of cheap, despatchable, and reliable power. Wouldn’t that be “handy”?

All the talk of new coal ignores the cheapest source of electricity around the nation. Our star infrastructure, gift of the older generation to the younger, are our old coal power stations, paid off over decades and still powering the nation.

Ian Waters, describes below how the NEG serves the big retailers not the consumers, and it’s in their interest to run old coal plants into the dust. (Our electricity market is so screwed thanks to the RET. [...]

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 [...]

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, [...]

AEMC wants input on how to save Australia’s Electricity Grid — Due Monday Feb 6th

AEMC is the Australian Energy Market Commission. It’s “the rule maker for Australian Electricity and gas markets”. They make the National Electricity, Gas, and Energy Retail rules. There are a lot of government bureacracies. AEMC sound more influential than most, and they are asking for consultation, but by Monday. There will be a chance to comment in March, but I know some readers have material already written that is relevant. Sorry about the short notice.

AEMC invites consultation on ways to deliver a reliable supply of energy at the lowest cost

Stakeholders are encouraged to provide input on the Interim report.

[...]

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 [...]

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 [...]