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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Post Hazelwood: Snowy Hydro dam now three quarters empty

They’re running our largest Hydro Lake down

The large Hazelwood Coal Units closed a year ago,  so the Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme has been working hard to fill the holes in the unreliable generation that replaced it. And they’ve been collecting tidy profits from earning RET certificates too.

What could possibly go wrong?

This — levels of Lake Eucumbene have fallen to 24%. This is the lowest since 2010. It’s not the lowest ever (so that’s alright then).

The rain will just fill it right up, unless there is an El Nino. Don’t look now… Odds are “above average”.

Who I say, who could have predicted this?!

Graham Lloyd, The Australian

Snowy Hydro’s biggest storage dam has fallen to less than 25 per cent capacity due to poor rains and high electricity generation following the closure of the ­Hazelwood coal power station in Victoria.

Lake Eucumbene is now at its lowest level since 2010 and on its way to a repeat of 2007 when electricity generation had to be stopped in favour of a heavily ­polluting fossil-fuel generator in Victoria.

The Hydro chief said they had been generating more to “take advantage of tight [...]

Hydro storage is an anti-generator that destroys 20-30% of the electricity fed into it

We’re planning to spend $5,000 million on something to smooth out the bumps from unreliable generators. It is entirely unnecessary in a system where coal supplies the baseload and we have not created artificial rules forcing people to use green electrons in preference over stable and predictable ones. Most estimates of costs from wind and solar ignore the hidden costs — the destructive effect on the whole grid.

Wikipedia on Pumped Storage Hydroelectricity:

“the round-trip energy efficiency of PSH varies between 70%–80%,[4][5][6][7] with some sources claiming up to 87%.[8]

h/t Peter Rees, Michael Crawford, Ian Waters.

Even after Snowy Hydro 2.0, power will cost $90/MWh

Joe Kelly, The Australian last week:

Energy project financier David Carland — the executive director of Australian Resources Development Limited — argues that once the Snowy Hydro project is operating it will provide only partial back-up energy at a high cost.

Using Snowy Hydro’s modelling assumptions, Dr Carland’s calculations show the “levelised cost of energy” — or unit-cost of electricity over the lifetime of an asset — will deliver power significantly in excess of $90/MWh, after allowing for the cost of storage, cycle losses and the initial cost of buying energy at off-peak [...]

Snowy Hydro goes activist, lobbies for renewables to boost profits, beat enemy “Coal”

Spot the vested interest

The biggest competitor for hydro in Australia is cheap old coal power. Surprise me, Snowy Hydro jumped into the national energy debate a few days ago on behalf of taxpayers themselves.

With Turnbull offering five-billion-dollar gravy to build an unnecessary hydro storage battery, it is no surprise to hear Snowy Hydro pretending that Australia needs more intermittent unreliables.  The more solar and wind rock the system, the more Big-Hydro is needed to stabilize the boat. The big question is why hardly any journalists or politicians seem able to spot the obvious vested interest:

Ben Packham, The Australian:

Snowy 2.0 declares wind and solar power ‘clearly cheaper’ than coal

The government-owned company building Malcolm Turnbull’s Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project has added fuel to the energy wars by declaring wind and solar are clearly cheaper options than coal.

And if you owned Hydro stocks, you’d say that too. Coal is every generators enemy for a reason. It’s cheaper than they are.

See the tiny numbers above the columns in this graph? Those are actual settlement prices — tiny wholesale bargain sales of coal fired electrons at 1c per kilowatt hour.

Surprise: Australia closed a cheap coal generator and electricity got 85% more expensive

Last year one of our largest coal power plants suddenly closed, with only five months warning, catching the market by surprise and taking out 5% of our cheapest generation. (This kind of improbable anti-free-market feat shows just how screwed our national market is). The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has looked at the effect the closure of Hazelwood had on electricity prices and concluded that closing cheap brown-coal plants and replacing them with black coal and gas will make electricity prices rise. This will come as no surprise to anyone who can count to 100.

Dan Harrison at the ABC reports:

A year on from the closure of the 1600 megawatt-sized plant in the Latrobe Valley, the report from the Australian Energy Regulator found wholesale prices in Victoria were up 85 per cent on 2016.

Because electricity retailers use hedging for wholesale prices, the rise in retail prices is still feeding through. In the wash, the wholesale increase is expected to add 16% to retail prices this financial year compared to last year. After that, through some miracle, the AEMC expects prices to come back down from Exorbitant to Slightly Lower Than Exorbitant in the next two years thanks to an [...]

Climate control gone wrong: Tasmanian Hydro seeded clouds before disastrous floods

Greedy Green Hubris gone wrong? It took months of bad choices to achieve this Gold-Star Moment in Bad Management:

Tasmania’s state-owned Hydro-electric power generator could face legal action for damages after admitting it cloud-seeded in or near water catchments the day ­before disastrous flooding, although heavy rain was forecast.

Tasmania  shut their only fossil fuel power plant in August last year, and relied on renewable energy and one sole Basslink electricity cable to mainland Australia. The cable was supposed to be a back up supply but was bringing in 40% of Tasmania’s electricity, and it broke in December. But a green and greedy approach in Tasmania meant that the state had already run its dams down to 26% levels by selling too much electricity to the mainland at high “renewable” subsidized prices. That was a low level at the start of summer, normally a drier season in Tasmania. After the Basslink cable broke, the dam levels fell to a precipitous 13%, so fast that the green state had to bring in diesel generators just to keep the lights on. They also switched back on the Tamar Gas plant in late January. So much for being the “100% [...]

Renewable energy is a $250 billion dollar industry that makes about 3% of our electricity

In June this year the UNEP report announced that Global Renewable Energy investment reached $257 Billion in  2011. It’s so large it rivals the $302 billion invested in fossil fuel power. But how much electricity do we get for all that money? When the details are pulled from the fog, a quarter of a trillion dollars appears to produce only about 3% of all our global electricity, and even less of our global energy. All that money, so few gigawatts.

The 2012 UNEP report “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment” compares the

“…despite an increasingly tough competitive landscape for manufacturers, total investment in renewable power and fuels last year increased by 17% to a record $257 billion, a six-fold increase on the 2004 figure and 94% higher than the total in 2007, the year before the world financial crisis.”

Renewables growth has slowed somewhat:

“Although last year’s 17% increase was significantly smaller than the 37% growth recorded in 2010, it was achieved at a time of rapidly falling prices for renewable energy equipment and severe pressure on fiscal budgets in the developed world.”

The last couple of quarters have not been good for [...]