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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South Africa grid struggling with national rolling blackouts: Strikes, corruption and no respect for coal power

This is Fall of Rome type stuff — everything is coming undone

National rolling blackouts have been occurring for days in South Africa and are forecast to continue for another week at least. One engineer warns they are just a step away from a total blackout and says it will be very difficult to reawaken the entire system. Traffic lights are failing, trains are stopping, and mobiles phones, ATMs and fuel pumps may not work. With unemployment at a shocking 35% already, the million dollar losses from blackouts make for a dark feedback loop.

The immediate cause is strikes for wage claims and terrible maintenance leading to major power outages lasting as long as nine hours. But Green targets and activism only makes it worse because there’s no interest in maintaining plants properly which are planned for closure. South Africa runs mostly on old coal plants, and one of the largest plants is closing (supposedly) as soon as September. And the wind and solar power they have often isn’t helping with the peak loads either.

There is vandalism from every direction. At the bottom end, apparently up to half the people in Soweto are not even paying for electricity […]

Europe wants coal: Austria, Netherlands, switch on old coal plants, Poland pays for coal to homes

In an emergency everyone wants coal

Just like that — Europe is hitting the panic button. Thank the Russians for demanding rubles for their gas and threatening supply. Not only has Germany decided to rescue old coal plants, but so has Austria, which had gone blissfully “coal free” two years ago. How long did that fairytale last? In the Netherlands coal power plants were forced for years to run at only 35% capacity by government ruling, but now, suddenly, full tilt is fine. Sweden and Denmark have both issued an “early warning” to flag potential energy shortages.

In Poland, energy prices are so expensive that three weeks ago the government told people to go and collect wood from forests to keep their homes warm. Last week they the government said it would pay a large part of the cost of buying three tons of coal for each household. It’s that bad.

Much of the EU rely on Russian gas for about 40% of their supplies. The Austrians have storage sites for gas so large they can hold an entire years worth, but they are only 39% full and they want to double that before November.

Germany is now calling this […]

It’s that desperate: Even bitter German Greens say we must “burn more coal”

Amazing how fast the Sacred Cows get pushed aside. Until a few months ago, Germany had been planning to close its last nuclear plants and gas production had been falling for 20 years. But the Russians are cutting back the gas feed and even the German Greens understand what will happen by winter if they don’t have enough energy. Though on twitter, a lot of commentators are wondering why they don’t reopen the nuclear plants they just closed first and why they still plan to shut the last three later this year?

It was never about CO2 was it?

Germany to fire up coal plants as Russia turns down the gas


As Russia reduces its supply of natural gas, Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said Germany must curb its usage. Otherwise, things “could get tight in winter,” he said. Germany must limit its use of gas for electricity production and prioritize the filling of storage facilities to compensate for a drop in supply from Russia, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Sunday.

In a move that goes against the principles of his environmentally-friendly Green Party, the country will also have to increase the […]

In an emergency, we need coal

So it’s a new record. In the 20 years since the National Energy Market formed it has never operated on such a vapor thin margin. Only a few days ago Paul McArdle at WattClarity thought a mere 15% instantaneous reserve plant margin was a headline event, but tonight the grid survived (so far) on a tiny 3% Instantaneous Reserve Plant Margin NEM-wide. Things were so tight the NSW Minister for Energy sought emergency powers to force coal companies to provide fuel to coal generators for the next 30 days on his say so. Presumably next on his list would be emergency powers from God to make the wind blow.

Two years ago Australian taxpayers spend $13 billion a year in climate action (Moran). As researchers at ANU noted, Australia was leading the way — installing more megawatts per person than any other nation on Earth. (Blakers) Despite being the fastest growing and sparsest population, on the most remote nation which was practically a quarry and farm built on coal and uranium deposits, Australian political leaders rushed to compete for green booby prizes in Beautiful Weather Contests.

And the toll from the bonfire in prices is just starting with Iron […]

EnergyAustralia (a Chinese company) tells Government we need a plan to end Australian coal

EnergyAustralia is 100% owned by China Light and Power (CLP Group) and owns a suite of generators that include coal, gas, wind farms and battery storage in Australia. It was sold by the NSW government for $1.4 billion in 2011. According to Wikipedia, the mothership company, CLP, owns “a number of power stations in Asia” and most are either coal-fired or fossil fuel power stations. It also owns Hong Kong Nuclear Investment Company.

Yallourn Power Plant, | Malcolm Paterson, CSIRO


A year ago the same company that announced it was speeding up the closure of Yallourn coal power plant to 2028 instead of 2032, now warns the transition “may not be smooth” and the governments plan to pay incentives to keep them open “may not be enough”. But back in March last year, when EnergyAustralia said it wanted to close Yallorn, it also said that it wanted to show that the transition is possible “without disruption”. In fact the Managing Director raved at the time “”We are determined to show Australia, that it is possible to move from the old to the new in a way that does not leave people behind.”. Blah Blah Blah, eh?

The […]

While Australia is rushing to close coal plants, the UK is thinking of keeping them running

In Australia a Woke tech-billionaire has decided to “keep” the coal assets in AGL in order to destroy them (like that’s the “free market” at work) . But in the rest of the world, coal is $400 a ton and everybody wants it.

Maybe Australians will get so rich selling coal they can afford to use electricity from unreliable generators instead?

Not behaving like a stranded asset. Trading Economics

Britain could keep coal-fired power plants open this winter

LONDON (Reuters) -Some of the British coal-fired power plants slated for closure this year might need to stay open to ensure electricity supply this winter, the government said on Monday.

Countries across Europe are drawing up contingency plans against potential disruption to flows of Russian gas because of the war in Ukraine. Russia typically supplies about 40% of Europe’s gas.

Britain can generate about 50% of its electricity from gas. Although Russia only meets about 4% of Britain’s gas needs, a significant disruption in supply would affect prices in Europe and make it harder for Britain to secure gas from others.

How screwed is that market when they have to “devise” a framework to […]

India going gangbusters on coal — tosses green rules, and wants to reopen 100 old mines

China has already announced it will dig up another 300m tons of coal next year, and now India is planning to boost its own production by 500m extra tons in the next two years.

Coal mine in Dhanbad, India. | Flikr

Amazing what a strong market signal can do


India increasing domestic coal production, cuts environmental green tape

India needs a billion tons of coal a year, and digs up about 770 million tons. Suddenly the plan is to increase that to 1.2 billion tons “in the next two years” and if that means opening 100 old mines and throwing away the green tape, so be it.


Soaring temperatures have prompted higher energy demand in recent weeks and left India facing a 25-million-tonne shortfall…

The government hopes to woo private mining giants—like Vedanta and Adani—to revive more than 100 dormant coal mines previously deemed too expensive to operate, using new technology and fresh capital. …the Environment Ministry said it has allowed a “special dispensation” to the Ministry of Coal to relax certain requirements—like public consultations—so mines could operate at increased capacities. Coal mining projects previously cleared to […]

Australian wholesale electricity prices have doubled in the last year (and it’s because we don’t have enough coal power)

Luckily for Energy Oligarchs, Australian electricity prices have bounced right back to pre-pandemic insanity. Wholesale rates are romping around $170 dollars a megawatt hour in April across the whole national grid…

The media mouthpieces are blaming it on outages of coal turbines — even though wind power fails every week, and solar fails every day. If unreliable generators cause high prices, then Wind is King Fickle. They’re also blaming high coal prices, but coal itself, is a small part of the cost of a two billion dollar plant. Naturally, neither political team has a clue how to fix this. But it’s all so banal — the prices are set at auction, and some fuels are cheap. Add more of the cheap type, and we’d get cheaper electricity.

Right now, if there were more black coal plants setting the price more of the time, electricity would be half the cost. If enough brown coal plants like Hazelwood were still running, the prices would be a fifth. It’s all there in the data that ABC journalists never find. Consider the winning bids by fuel type in Australia for the last quarter of 2021. For Brown Coal, the average winning bid was $11 […]

China boosts coal again: set for record in 2022: Official says energy security trumps carbon neutrality

A week ago our newspapers were full of dire warnings that the Australian coal mining industry was going to be left in the lurch by declining orders from China. “The End of Australia’s coal export boom is Imminent” said the AFR — parroting a report by a group that includes Alex Turnbull, someone known to profit from renewables.

What none of the headlines mentioned was that China is set to hit a new all time record of coal use this year.

China now wants to boost coal production by 300m tons —six times* as much coal as Australia uses each year

China already burns 32 82 times as much coal each year as Australia does. Soon that will be 34 88 times as much. But who’s counting?

China promotes coal in setback for efforts to cut emissions

By Joe McMoncald, AP Business Writer, 25th April 2022

Official plans call for boosting coal production capacity by 300 million tons this year, according to news reports. That is equal to 7% of last year’s output of 4.1 billion tons, which was an increase of 5.7% over 2020.

Chinese officials are blunt about why they need more coal:

Australian electricity price doubles: CEO explains prices up due to lack of coal power

LaTrobe Valley Coal Plant

There’s been mayhem quietly running on the Australian electricity market this month. Shh. April used to be an easy month on electricity markets — it’s not summer and not winter, and nothing is stretched. At least not in theory. But this month prices have been running at $150 – $250 per megawatt hour. This is a big rise, even from last month when prices were often $70 – $120 in the big three states. To put that in perspective, six years ago in March, wholesale electricity prices were a tiny $30 – $60.

Last month a couple of units in a Victorian plant suffered a fire. Then on April 1, a single coal turbine at Liddell was retired, and then there was a wind drought, and now, lo, behold “we have lift-off”! Prices are now consistently running at $200-$300 per MWh, and often spend most of the day above $100. Hey, but it’s only been a few weeks.

Ouch, Ouch, Ouch

Prices are cooking …. AEMO (Click to Enlarge)

Don’t blame Russia: Less coal, means more expensive electricity.

The headline makes it sound like coal outages are to blame, when really the […]