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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.” Translated, that means the AEMO has organised 884MW of controlled blackouts to prevent the system breaking. What’s the cost!

For the next three hours Victoria is short of reserve by an eye-watering 1090MW. There is an Actual Lack of Reserve, level 1 (LOR1): “The Actual LOR1 condition is forecast to exist until 1800 hrs. The contingency capacity reserve required is 1120 MW. The minimum reserve available is 32 MW. South Australia has been upgraded to a LOR2 (2nd level) requiring 350MW but having only 32MW available. (Why the exact same number?). The next level up, LOR3 would  mean “unexpected load shedding blackouts are likely.

These industries would not be shutting down and prices would not be this high if Hazelwood power station was still open, last March it was producing 1,400MW at $30/MWh.

Total NEM demand is just about 30,000MW, but this is far from being a record high (which I recall as being around 35,000MW). Fossil Fuels are producing 25,000MW of the total, or 83%.

Right now, Australia’s entire East Coast wind fleet is working at 20% capacity, and producing about 700MW and falling.


Vic, Electricity Price, AEMO, Jan 19th, 2018. Graph.



SA, Electricity Price, AEMO, Jan 19th, 2018. Graph.


Or you can watch the state level electricity flows. Right now SA — the leading international star of renewable energy — is getting 350MW from Victoria, which is in turn, getting 700 MW from NSW and Tasmania. Queensland is sending 1,000 MW to keep the rest of the grid alive. Look at those prices! Tasmania, through some miracle of government run markets, is paying people to take electricity during these highest peak, most valuable hours of the year, when every other generator is about to earn millions.

Go figure?


State Flows, Electricity, AEMO, Graph, Jan 19th, 2018.

Apart from wasting millions of dollars, the Australian NEM might get through today just fine. But if anything goes wrong…

Australian Electricity Generation by source:

Australian, Electricity Production, Source, Jan 19th, 2018, Graph.

Questions for the crowd:

  1. What were the highest MW peak demand days for the whole NEM and individual states ever recorded?
  2. How much will SA energy companies pay for electricity this afternoon?
  3. Who will calculate the total cost for electricity, for paying people to not use it, for lost productivity, for lost opportunities (companies that wouldv’e but now won’t invest in Victoria or SA and the jobs lost)?

The art of blaming coal

In the news at the moment people are saying coal is unreliable. But in the current bipartisan hostile anti-coal government scene —  who would invest in and repair old stations? The rest of the world is building new coal. Only in Australia is there a bizarre subsidy-bubble where renewables make more “sense”. (OK, sorry, obviously the UK and Germany — also bonkers. Probably Spain, Italy, Denmark too.)

TonyFromOz points out that only 3 of 49 coal units are out of action:

Australia has 16 coal fired power plants and 49 Units at those plants. Currently, just three of those Units are off line. One is Liddell Number Two, now down for more than seven Months, and I have questions whether it will ever come back on line if the plan is to close the plant down, so why would they bother fixing it back up and realistically wasting the money if they plan to close it down. Then there are two Units in Queensland down, one at Gladstone and the other at Kogan Creek.

So, that takes 1520MW out of the system. That leaves us with the total Nameplate for the remaining Units at 21500MW.

Yesterday at around 4PM, just on Peak Power time, those 46 Units were generating 20200MW. So, they were, all of them, running virtually flat out, generating at a Capacity Factor of 94%. Barring a few plants in Queensland, all of them are older than the best case hoped for lifespan of 25 years for wind plants.

 UPDATE: The Sydney Morning Herald is blaming the failure of one coal station for the high prices yesterday:  h/t Dave B

Cole Latimer — The Australian Energy Market Operator has kicked off emergency measures to protect power supply after Victoria’s Loy Yang B brown coal-fired power station failed on Thursday afternoon, sending electricity spot prices soaring.

As temperatures rose around southern Australia Loy Yang B’s generators failed at around 4pm, instantly taking around 528 megawatts of energy out of the state’s grid.

The price rises to the cap were predicted by the AEMO yesterday before Loy Yang B’s generator problem. The prices simply did what the AEMO said they would. How can this be due to coal power?


LATE NOTE: Explanation  of  AEMO Terms

LOR1 – Lack of Reserve: The safety margin is smaller than it should be, but services won’t be affected (as long as nothing breaks).

LOR2: Things are even more marginal, and services will (hopefully) not be affected. The AEMO can start bringing in diesels and “demand response” type activities. (ie. This costs real money).

LOR3:  Even more serious, and load shedding is possible.

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