SA’s plan to import electricity from Victoria a threat to stability: AEMO
21 January 2017
A plan for South Australia to import more baseload power from Victoria to ease its power crisis has been suspended by the national electricity market operator because of a “potential stability issue” linked to the state’s wind-reliant grid.
This comes as almost 60,000 homes and businesses were without power in South Australia on Thursday night, with 5000 still disconnected yesterday afternoon, after a storm caused the state’s fourth major blackout in as many months.
The storm was the seventh severe weather event since July to smash South Australia’s electricity infrastructure, including the cyclonic system that contributed to a devastating statewide blackout in September.
The Australian Energy Market Operator, which has been investigating the statewide blackout, issued a notice to the electricity market of a “potential stability issue” when high power imports coincide with high levels of wind generation.
This had led to a review of transfer limits across the newly upgraded Heywood interconnector, from which South Australia imports baseload power from Victoria, and caused AEMO to “defer” a plan to gradually increase capacity. In the interim, flows from Victoria to South Australia will be limited to a maximum of 600 megawatts.
The September blackout happened after severe storms knocked out transmission lines and a wind-reliant grid could not cope with the sudden, large deviation in frequency, tripping the interconnector to Victoria that South Australia relies on for its stable baseload power.
South Australia’s Labor government, which has a renewable energy target of 50 per cent by 2025, encouraged the closure of its last coal-fired power station in May last year, as its renewable energy mix rose above 40 per cent.
Despite recent unusual weather conditions in which the state has repeatedly been battered by strong winds, heavy rain and lightning strikes, householders and business owners are increasingly frustrated by the extended outages as they pay the nation’s highest electricity prices and live with the most unreliable supply.
Many blame the Weatherill government, including high-profile business leaders such as BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie, who has said South Australia’s unreliable energy supply system was unacceptable and needed to be fixed, because it was affecting investment and jobs.
BankSA chief executive Nick Reade tweeted: “Power out again. Our resilience in SA to the slightest storm is next to nothing.”
Mr Reade told The Weekend Australian that “last night’s tweet was whilst in the dark reflecting on our collective challenge”.
Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said there had been an “unprecedented period of devastating storms … that has caused widespread and repeated damage to power distribution assets from fallen trees and lightning strikes”.
As some scientists yesterday blamed global warming for more summer storms in southern Australia, weather bureau meteorologist Matt Collopy said the latest storm gave some centres their wettest January day on record, with several regions having their wettest January for more than 20 years.
Paul Roberts, a spokesman for electricity distribution company SA Power Networks, said that there had been “significant damage to the electricity network, particularly for metropolitan area customers … we’re really getting unprecedented weather, it’s been crazy.”
The only thing ‘crazy’ about South Australia is its power pricing and supply disaster, caused by its patently ludicrous and yet dogged attempt to run on a ‘technology’ abandoned centuries ago, for pretty obvious reasons.
The “potential stability issue” that caused the AEMO to reduce the volume of power flowing over the interconnector from Victoria is explained in our post: Why Weather Dependent, Intermittent & Unreliable Wind Power is as ‘Useful as a Chocolate Teapot’
Jay Weatherill wants to solve his energy debacle by figuratively throwing an extension cord over his neighbours’ side fence, tapping into reliable coal-fired power in Victoria and potentially NSW and Queensland. The interconnectors proposed will take seven years to build and cost more than $4 billion.
Weatherill is like that annoying, scatterbrained neighbour in a block of flats that is forever running out of basics like sugar and milk.
Constantly pestering his neighbours to cover his state’s power demand, whenever there is a total and totally unpredictable collapse in wind power output (whether because the wind is blowing too fast – due to so-called ‘crazy’ weather; or because there is simply no wind at all) hardly suggests a Premier with a grip on the task at hand.
The AEMO’s decision to curtail the volume of power flowing over the interconnector (an obvious attempt to protect the power supply in Victoria) is a pretty fair sign that Weatherill’s neighbours have had enough.
Why should Victorians suffer the same routine load shedding and blackouts that South Australia does, just because South Australia’s Labor government became obsessed with trying to run on sunshine and breezes back in 2002?
With local businesses and householders furious about an erratic power supply and the highest power prices in the nation, by a mile – and with his neighbours ready to quarantine the disaster to South Australia, Jay Weatherill is a man fast running out of friends and luck. But, as they say, you reap what you sow.