Another day, another total wind power output collapse, another statewide blackout. Sure the political spin doctors called it ‘load shedding’, but for the 90,000 families left boiling in the dark, watching their perishables perish the result is precisely the same.
The wind cult and its fellow travellers descended into apoplexy, when conventional generators failed to fire up in time to cover the fact that their obsession with these things is a delusion: close to 1,000MW disappeared in the space of a few short hours, forcing the grid manager to send hundreds of thousands of people back to the Dark Ages.
Blackouts caused by wind power output collapses are now such a common feature of South Australian life, the latest suburban must have is a diesel generator.
As we have been detailing this week, political fear, loathing and recriminations are the order of the day. We’ll start with a couple of pieces from The Australian.
Surprise SA heat spike caught AEMO on the hop
11 February 2017
The Australian Energy Market Operator has admitted it left it too late to order a gas-fired generator in Adelaide to begin producing electricity, after unexpected weather conditions and a series of technical failures left South Australia without enough power this week.
Appearing before a Senate inquiry yesterday, AEMO general manager David Swift fended off accusations the organisation had been “asleep at the wheel” when the state was faced with a surge in demand on Wednesday that led to forced blackouts affecting 90,000 properties.
Mr Swift said factors including the collapse of wind power, technical problems at three small generators and temperatures almost 5C hotter than forecast had led the market operator to underestimate the power shortfall.
Once it realised more electricity would be needed, it was too late to order Engie, operator of the Pelican Point generator, to fire up its second unit.
“We did see the demand would be high — we just didn’t get it exactly right,” Mr Swift said.
When asked by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young how the operator had “stuffed it up so badly”, Mr Swift said the conditions were difficult to predict.
“There are many moving parts. You are trying to predict the behaviour of (demand), the behaviour of the solar, the other generators, some of which failed, and the behaviour of the wind.
“Our analysis shows Wednesday was the highest demand ever in South Australia by quite a significant margin.”
He said wind power collapsed “dramatically” and when the sun set and solar power was no longer being fed into the network, the state was left exposed.
While the operator had foreseen shortages coming and had called on the market to provide a response, there was not enough power offered by electricity generators, Mr Swift said.
At 5.39pm, when the operator contacted Pelican Point’s control room, “it was too late to start the last generator and no one had responded to the market signals”.
“We did not foresee the need for that plant early enough to give it an instruction in time to be able to start,” he said.
Mr Swift also told the inquiry South Australia was particularly susceptible to power shortages because of its geography and the state’s “world-leading percentage of solar and wind generation”.
“Because of the nature of being at the end of the grid (South Australia) is vulnerable to being islanded, which is not the case in other states,” he said.
The hotter temperatures also frustrated the operator’s predictions: every one degree increase in temperature translates to an extra 100Mw of electricity demand.
Defending its decision not to offer a second generator to the market on Wednesday, Engie said that under the National Electricity Market rules, generators could not bid a plant into the market if supply could not be guaranteed.
“In this case, the second Pelican Point unit has no gas contracts in place, which means Engie is unable to make the plant available to the market through the bidding system operated by AEMO,” a spokesman said.
“There is no commercial rationale to operate the second Pelican Point unit … for a small number of days across the year.”
The Greens lunatic-in-chief, Sarah Hanson-Young was predictably incensed that market forces and reality had conspired to expose the true merits of her beloved wind turbines for all to see. A sanctimonious windbag and monstrous hypocrite at the best of times, Hanson-Young couldn’t care less what South Australians have to pay for electricity, only that they should all fall into line and worship the Sun and Wind Gods as she does.
Meanwhile, back on earth, South Australia’s hapless Labor government had been given fair warning 8 months ago that wind power output collapses would inevitably result in more State-wide blackouts.
SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis in the dark over power warning
11 February 2017
The Weatherill government was warned eight months ago about the conditions that led to this week’s South Australian blackouts.
A confidential internal briefing paper said forecast low reserves of electricity generation were likely to lead to such power cuts.
The report notes there are “low reserve conditions in South Australia for summer 2016-17”, with a corresponding graph showing peak power generation reserve shortfalls between January 30 and February 14.
The report warned that given the closure of South Australia’s last coal-fired power station last May, “there are times when maximum daily demand is projected to exceed supply from scheduled generation in South Australia”.
“At these times, the region will rely on imports (via interconnection) and wind generation to meet operational demand,” the report by state Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis’s Department of State Development says.
“Under lower wind conditions, there would be supply shortfalls in the state if additional imports from Victoria were not available. The level of imports will be subject to the availability and capacity of the interconnector, and the coincidence of high demand in Victoria.”
The report from last June, obtained under freedom of information laws, notes that in South Australia between 2004-05 and 2014-15 there had been an average annual growth in wind power of 44.1 per cent, while rooftop solar had grown an annual average of 89.2 per cent between 2008-09 and 2014-15.
“Wind and rooftop PV actual generation capabilities are highly dependent on weather conditions at any given time,” the report says.
The Treasurer yesterday said he was unaware of any such warnings, though the report was released by his department. “I haven’t seen the forecasts,” he said.
Up to 90,000 properties in Adelaide and across regional parts of the state lost power in sweltering heat on Wednesday when the Australian Energy Market Operator ordered electricity distribution company SA Power Networks to reduce demand by 100 megawatts.
AEMO manager David Swift told a Senate inquiry in Canberra yesterday that demand for power in South Australia had risen from 1800Mw on Tuesday to more than 3000Mw on Wednesday as temperatures soared. At the same time, three thermal generation plants went offline, wind generation fell dramatically and solar power started to wane.
State opposition energy spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the Weatherill government had ignored repeated warnings of potential blackouts.
“The government’s own department warned that they were heading towards crashing into a brick wall, but it wasn’t until they hit the brick wall that they decided to take drastic action,” he said.
But Mr Koutsantonis yesterday dismissed concerns about supply, saying South Australia had nearly 3000Mw of thermal generation and “abundant renewable energy in solar and wind”.
Mr Koutsantonis yesterday claimed representatives from Adelaide’s Pelican Point gas-fired power station had phoned AEMO officials on Wednesday to offer extra generation but that AEMO had refused because it was more efficient to load shed. But Pelican Point operator Engie denied it had offered a second generator to the market on Wednesday.
The AEMO last night said that based on its investigations it “does not accept public statements being made questioning AEMO’s capability or that we didn’t manage the power system in a safe, secure state”. “Further, AEMO does not accept the assertions that some generators that were available to enter into the market could not do so,” it said.
Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg last night said: “AEMO has now exposed Labor’s desperate and shameless attempt to shift blame for their own policy failures.
“It’s been their ideological pursuit of renewables at any cost which has contributed to the instability of the energy system.”
Josh Frydenberg’s bratty, schoolboy ‘hey, quick look over there’ approach to politics reveals him to be a political lightweight, incapable of grappling with the policy that destroyed South Australia’s once affordable and reliable power supply. That policy is the Federal government’s Large-Scale RET.
However it’s Tom Koutsantonis and his bully-boy bluff and bluster that is on STT’s radar in this post.
In the aftermath of yet another round of blackouts, Koutsantonis started railing and ranting about the perceived ‘failure’ of Engie (aka GDF Suez) to have its 485 MW Pelican Point Combined Cycle Gas Turbine plant up and running, ready to take up the slack in an instant when SA’s 18 wind farms (with a notional capacity 1,576 MW) decided to down tools.
As Koutsantonis and his fellow travellers are having difficulty understanding how markets operate, we’ll go back to first principles, starting with this observation from a canny young Scot, named Adam Smith:
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”
That observation was penned in 1776 and 240 years later is no less pertinent.
Indeed, the observations made by the AEMO’s spokesman in the first article above prove the inescapable fact that no business lasts long if it seeks to run on benevolence rather than acting in its own self-interest. As the AEMO spokesman put it:
“[I]n this case, the second Pelican Point unit has no gas contracts in place, which means Engie is unable to make the plant available to the market through the bidding system operated by AEMO. There is no commercial rationale to operate the second Pelican Point unit … for a small number of days across the year.”
There is no commercial rationale for any power generator to contract to purchase gas in advance, thereby guaranteeing to take it from the supplier and pay for it at the contracted price, unless that power generator is going to burn that fuel during the term specified in the contract. Why would any business guarantee to purchase any input unless they were guaranteed to use it?
Nor is there any commercial rationale for a power generator to simply burn gas or coal in the hope that they might, at some unknown point in the future, be able to deliver power to the grid and charge for what they deliver.
This might come as a news flash to Tom Koutsantonis, but conventional generators do not get paid for burning gas or coal; they get paid for dispatching power to the grid.
In South Australia, when the wind is blowing conventional generators are unable to sell power to the extent that wind power output is being generated and accordingly do not deliver power to the grid, to that extent. Compare the output from SA’s wind farms in July with the output over the same period from AGL’s 1,280 MW Torrens Island gas-steam plant:
That perverse market behaviour is all due to the subsidies paid to wind power outfits under the Federal LRET (see our post here). And SA’s routine load shedding and blackouts are an inevitable consequence of that legislation.
At an economic level what’s been proposed by Tom Koutsantonis is commercial suicide for power generators.
In the absence of a guaranteed payment for operating and remaining online (what are called ‘capacity payments’) no conventional base-load power generator is going burn fuel, pay staff and wear out their plant and equipment for the joy of doing so: that kind of benevolence doesn’t tend to go down that well with their shareholders.
Apparently Koutsantonis believes that he can bully power generators into benevolent action to save his political skin.
What’s really being proposed by Koutsantonis is like telling a restaurant – run a by diligent and competent owner – to be ready and willing to receive customers 7 days a week, with cooks in the kitchen, waiters and waitresses at the tables, three course meals placed on those tables and fine wine resting in glasses, but then telling the owner that he is not permitted to open his doors to diners, until the restaurant down the road runs out of food and wine and is forced to close its doors.
In this case, the competing restaurant is run by a mad man, who fails to roster enough staff, employs a cook that gets drunk daily and who fails to fill his larder or cellar with enough stock to guarantee that he can open his restaurant every day. However, it’s never known in advance when this lunatic is going to open for business or when he’ll be forced to close his doors to diners.
Meanwhile, however, the diligent restaurant owner is forced to pay wages, energy bills, taxes, pay suppliers for the produce and wine, all expended and wasted in the often vain hope that sometime soon the powers that be will let him open his doors to diners so that his efforts to feed the public might translate to revenue and, heaven knows, a profit.
Modern politics is peopled with Arts/Law graduates or former union thugs, neither of whom have the foggiest idea about how to run a business, let alone how to run one profitably.
And it’s that class of morally bankrupt idiots that have destroyed South Australia’s once reliable and affordable power supply. Welcome to your wind powered future!