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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Welcome to a weather dependent nation — whether you can use your dishwasher depends on the wind

Renewable Crash Test Dummy: Friday edition

For energy-nerds following the Australian experiment, today is a big day. On the up-side, three coal turbines have rebooted adding another 1200MW to the grid. On the down-side, the wind has slowed and 3000MW has disappeared. On the hope-side, another 4 coal turbines may possibly get back in gear by Sunday, and you never know, the wind might pick up. Though it doesn’t look good.

Wind generation. June 16, 2022, Australian NEM. | Anero.id

It doesn’t matter how many wind farms we build when one High Pressure cell arrives to sit on them all

And here is the cell that stops a million dishwashers.

One high cell to stop them all | BOM

This is where all 76 Australia NEM grid wind farms are which could, in theory be generating as much as 9.8GW but are turning out 10% of that now.

Map of Wind generation Australia

Ninety percent of Australians are being asked to be careful with their electricity today while we wait for the wind to start blowing again or the weather to warm up. And millions of dollars is being burned in electricity bills (assuming […]

Still teetering: Blackout warnings across the Australian grid next three days

All the rules are breaking.

The price market broke on Sunday night and now the interconnectors rules are broken too. The whole Eastern five state “National” grid is flying seat of the pants — the reserves are so incredibly thin that there are LOR3 forecasts — meaning Lack Of Reserve Level 3 rolled out for all five states. It doesn’t mean blackouts will happen, but it means all the protective layers of this onion are gone. The system is running bare.

UPDATE: There were some blackouts in Sydney’s northern suburbs last night. “Millions of homes” were apparently told to conserve their power in Brisbane and Sydney. Welcome to RenewableWorld!

ht/ WattsUp, Eric Worrall, and RicDre

The price market broke on Sunday night when for the first time the AEMO imposed somewhat anachronistic price setting clauses it had never used. By fixing the wholesale price in Queensland, market bidding suddenly phase-changed into a twilight world where prices were set too low (at an obscenely high $300/MWh, but not high enough now), and generators didn’t want to bid. So offers to supply “Yo-Yo’d” and the AEMO had to run emergency orders of a different kind to […]

Australian grid teeters on edge of blackouts tonight

The Queensland grid is in crisis — the forecast price for nearly the entire next 24 hours is $15,000 per megawatt hour.

I have never seen a graph like this one. It’s a “white knuckle ride” as Paul McArdle describes it. The IRPM (or Instantaneous Reserve Plant Margin) is just 8%. “This shows total Available Generation of 31,679MW ready to supply aggregate ‘Market Demand’ of of 29,201MW at this point … so a surplus of only 2,478MW NEM-wide.” But only last week there was a record day where the grid demand was 32,000MW — the highest winter demand day for years.

AEMO

Reserves are incredibly thin, not just in Queensland, but also in NSW.

AEMO

Market Notices from the AEMO are flowing like confetti. There is an Actual Lack of Reserve Level 2 (LOR2) in Queensland as of 6pm to 8pm. There is an LOR2 running for NSW as well, and an LOR1 for Victoria. If things shift up to LOR3 that means blackouts are likely, and LOR3s are forecast — in QLD tonight and in NSW tomorrow night. The margins are thinner than they look. Because extra generation on one part of the grid may […]

Electricity Hunger Games downunder —  potential sighting of four hour price bonfire

It’s a grid on the edge

Like a meteor-shower, the dinner time performance today may or may not be a spectator event. The fun may start at 4:30pm in Qld, NSW, Vic, SA and Tasmania — a full quinfecta at $15,000 per MW/h. The first wave of winter cold is about to wash over the grid, and those solar panels will fail just as people plug in their heaters, ovens, dryers and kettles and there is a four hour spike at $15,000MWh forecast. The graph below is the forecast for NSW, but it is essentially the same tsunami shape and dimension in every single state of the National Energy Market. Right now I presume there are engineers in the control rooms sweating over alternatives and they may well pull it off. These wildly high spikes have a way of resolving at the last minute. But think for a moment what kind of stakes we’re playing with. Hypothetically, if there was a 12,000MW demand for 4 hours in NSW at $15,000, that’s $720 million dollars worth of electricity. A few days like that would pay for a new coal plant, but no one seems to be listening to that price signal…

[…]

Shocking electricity price rises starting in Australia — so bad that small retailers ask customers to leave

It’s the day before the election and all through the house, electricity bills are doubling…

The price rises are so extraordinary one retailer is asking their customers to leave “in the next 24 hours”.

Across Australia small power suppliers are sending emails to customers right now warning them that their rates are going up next week by eye-watering amounts. Wholesale electricity prices were at a record high in April this year, and it hasn’t improved in May. Prices are hitting $200-$300 per megawatt hour, not as a peak, but as a 24 hour average. In South Australia two days ago, the average for the full day was $1,141. Futures contracts are rapidly taking off and these rises are starting to flow through to customers. Already, the small retailers are bleeding cash, just as they did in the UK, and if wholesale prices don’t come back to Earth soon, they will go out of business.

Reader Brett in South Australia shared an email from Discover Energy. As of next week the standard peak rate will rise from 39 cent per kilowatt hour to 70 cents. Off peak rates rise from 27 to 46. He also adds, “My brother lives in NSW […]

Mayhem on the Australian Grid continues — Record prices, factory shutdowns, emergency warnings

Generation tonight….

Just another week in the Transition we (Don’t) have to have

With 65 Glorious Gigawatts the Australian grid system has a vast excess (theoretically) of generation capacity, yet it’s so fragile that the loss of an interconnector, normal maintenance and a few coal turbines down — has triggered $100 million dollar price spikes. These burning pyres of money are so savage the average cost of wholesale electricity — across a whole day — is lately in the realm of $200- $700 per megawatt hour over most states for 24 hour periods. For the last week, daily prices have been ten times the “old normal”.

And it comes on the back of the most expensive April in the Australian grid history in every mainland state on the National Electricity Market.

Autumn and spring are supposed to be easy days in Australia with peak demand only running at 27,000 MW. Because things are lighter, generators do normal maintenance at this time of year, but at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any room for that in the network. In summer, demand is often 5,000MW higher. Where’s that going to come from?

Factories are shutting down for fear […]

Clueless: 2nd richest man in Australia thinks we have a free market in energy

Mike Cannon-Brookes might be an Australian tech-billionaire who wants to buy out one of our biggest energy companies and get rid of coal, but not only does he apparently not understand electricity grids, he doesn’t even know what a free market is.

In a free market customers could choose not to buy green electrons:

If we had a real free market in energy, we could a tick-that-box on our plan that said “100% coal fired, cheapest available reliable electricity”. Instead, all Australians are forced to buy electricity from a hobbled patchwork grid which has been repurposed as a Global Air Conditioner.

It’s a national grid crafted through “Renewable Energy Targets”, and pure hopium. Hidden in our electricity bills, taxes, and frozen-pea packets at Coles, are multiple subsidies to help wind and solar power. Poor Australians have paid to help put discounted solar panels on their rich neighbors roofs, and are paying for back up, storage, stabilizers, unnecessary two-billion dollar interstate transmission lines, and demand management plans.

Every windless minute at night the poor pay more for electricity than they would have — if the Agents of Weather-changing Sorcery were not allowed to romp freely through the energy market. Once […]

Queensland’s Near Miss: hydrogen may have exploded at a coal plant (and renewables don’t save the day)

Tuesday was a wild day for Queensland Electricity. An explosion struck the Callide C Power Plant triggering a cascade of other plants to switch off within seconds. The massive 2.5GW fall in supply took the grid frequency in Brisbane to a hair raising 49.55Hz. How close did it come to falling over? Half a million people lost power for a couple of hours but a Statewide blackout was averted. Luckily no one was hurt.

Meanwhile the people in power were not saying “Hydrogen”, or “explosion” but the Supercritical Units at Callide are cooled with hydrogen, and there was an explosion. The owner CS Energy called it just “a fire”. But in other news reports people in the nearest town said it was “the loudest explosion they have ever heard”.

Hydrogen, it seems, is used in some coal plants as a coolant, but Holy Hindenberg, it is known to explode. (See Ohio in 2007, Pittsburg in 2017 and India, 2019) . A Union official said it appeared the hydrogen filled generator of the main turbine had suffered a catastrophic failure. And it’s all exquisitely awkward, as David Archibald points out, happening while a two day Hydrogen Conference is on — as […]

France threatens UK electricity supply again, Navies called in

The island of Jersey gets 95% of its electricity via cables from France. The latest post-Brexit fishing dispute got so hot so fast, that a French minister even suggested cutting off the electricity if they didn’t get their way. 60 French fishing vessels were protesting at slow licensing. But naval ships from both sides were even called in to patrol the area, the situation has been defused.

Surely the UK government must be working out that electricity supply is a major tool for foreign disputes. Currently about 10% of the UK electricity comes in via undersea cables*, but that is set to rise to 25%, according to the Daily Mail. Surely alarms are ringing? This is not even the first time this outrageous threat was made. Macron himself threatened it last October too. See “Hands Up! Your money or your Fish!“

There is a very uneasy power balance here: The right to fish in British waters is worth about 650 million euros to EU fishermen, but European energy markets were worth up to £2.3 billion for the UK.

Not only does it leave the UK in a weaker negotiation position, but a selfish foreign player could also ambiguously twist […]

Texas dodged a bullet: Would you like explosions with your blackouts?

Houston Texas, Feb 2021. Image by Fish & Trips

Texas toyed with cascading crises

The Green Experiment could have gone so much worse. Here’s a man who was a gas industry executive involved in a near miss in New England in 1989. The four day blackout sounds bad, but it was a lottery win compared to the worst case scenarios. Not only was a full state-wide blackout possible, which may take months to correct, but the gas system is a bomb waiting to go off too.

ERCOT officials admit they only just averted a blackstart:

Texas was “seconds and minutes” away Texas’ power grid was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months, officials with the entity that operates the grid said Thursday.

— by Erin Douglas, Texas Tribune

The Blackstart in Venezuela took weeks to restart — rebooting an induction motor takes six times the normal current. Energizing a substation can cause explosions. It’s much easier to add load to an operating grid than to rebuild one from scratch. Surges on start up can break things, that fail. It can take rolling rounds […]