Back to the Future: Wind ‘Powered’ South Australia to Run on Diesel Generators

The way we were … and where SA is right now …


There will be STT followers old enough to remember when country towns and regional centres relied upon an enormous diesel generator as their sole power supply. No doubt better than nothing, local diesel generators were soon replaced by coal-fired power plant and extensive distribution grids; reliability increased, power prices fell and the rest, as they say, is history – or so it seemed.

Now, having destroyed the affordable and reliable power system once created by Sir Tom Playford, South Australia’s vapid Premier, Jay Weatherill is taking his State back to the future.

As it quickly became apparent that his power ‘plan’ to throw $150 million at a 100 MW Tesla battery – that would power South Australia for all of four minutes – was little more than a thought bubble, like Bobby McGee, Weatherill determined to ‘thumb a diesel down’.

‘Dirty’ deeds with diesel generators done real quick, if not dirt cheap
The Australian
Michael Owen
16 March 2017

Taxpayers in South Australia face being slugged tens of millions of dollars for dirty carbon dioxide-emitting diesel generators the Weatherill government wants shipped in by December to prevent­ pre-election blackouts.

Premier Jay Weatherill has contracted the privately owned SA Power Networks, despite it being an electricity distributor rather than a generator, to install 200 megawatts of back-up “interim­” generation across the state by ­December.

It cost the Tasmanian government more than $11 million a month to run 100MW of diesel power generators early last year when its interconnection to the mainland was down and low dam levels affected its hydro-electric scheme.

The South Australian move is aimed at ensuring there are no more embarrassing blackouts befor­e the state’s Labor government seeks a historic fifth term at an election set for March 17 next year.

Mr Weatherill, an ideolog­ical opponent of dirty fuels such as coal, released a $550m “self-sufficien­t” six-point energy plan on Tuesday that included a $360m gas-fired power plant and $150m renewable technology fund, but key elements may not be in place by next summer.

Taking no chances of further blackouts cruelling his prospect of re-election, the Premier insisted the state could not afford to wait on energy security and he must act with “urgency”.

Energy experts say 200MW of diesel generation would produce about 0.745kg Co2 per kWh. This compares with brown coal at 0.98kg of Co2/kWh and natural gas at 0.555kg of Co2/kWh. However, the exact amount of emissions produced is dependent on how efficient individual generators are.

Mr Weatherill said yesterday that the state government would ­“prefer to have cleaner forms of generation” but made no apologies for turning to dirty diesel generators as a temporary fix.

SAPN, in a brief statement to The Australian yesterday, said preliminary talks had been held with the government about the Premier’s plan to “install temporary generation by December 1 to support­ energy supply for the community next summer”.

Spokesman Paul Roberts said SAPN would “assist the government to procure and install 200MW of generation at yet-to-be-finalised locations and ensure safe connection into the SA distrib­ution network”.

He said the December 1 goal was “challenging and will require early identification of sufficient generation; suitable sites; and expedite­d approvals from government, and regulatory and energy market bodies”.

Mr Weatherill said next summer would be challenging for the state, with the closure at the end of this month of Victoria’s coal-fired Hazelwood Power Station, upon which South Australia relies via an interconnector for stable baseload power.

“Hazelwood closing will put a lot of pressure on Victoria’s ­capacity to assist,” he said.

“We want to be less reliant on Victoria and NSW and we’ve got to act immediately. Summer is going to be difficult. We want the battery there before summer.

“If I can get the (gas-fired) genera­tor here before summer that would be great, but that is going to be tough.”

Mr Weatherill conceded yesterday that the interim temporary generation would likely involve diesel-powered generators, but sought to blame SAPN.

“We’ll be asking SA Power Networks to essentially provide for that; now how they meet that need is a matter for them,” he said.

Mr Weatherill has said the $550m cost of his energy plan would be covered by the state’s projected budget surpluses.

Asked yesterday if his plan included the money required to pay for the back-up diesel generators, the Premier said: “Sure, that’s contained within the envelope.

“You’ll see how we account for that in the (state) budget.”

Steps had already been taken to start procuring the temporary generation, he said. “We need to make sure there is no gap between sourcing some temporary generation and getting it connected.

“We want generators that can meet South Australia’s needs, we don’t have a preference.”

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said he was gobsmacked that burning dirty diesel fuel was part of the Premier’s energy plan.

“First Jay Weatherill forced individ­ual consumers to buy back-up diesel generators, now he’s forcing the entire state to be reliant on back-up diesel generators,” Mr Marshall said.

“Since Jay Weatherill forced the (coal-fired) Northern Power Station to close down, South Australians have suffered blackouts, price hikes and now tax rises to pay for that foolish decision.”

The Premier and Energy Minister and Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis donned hi-vis vests at Adelaide airport yesterday to inspect­ a rooftop solar array, as they announced a two-week window­ for local and international businesses to express an interest in building Australia’s biggest battery­, with about $120m of taxpayers’ money on offer.

Billionaire Tesla boss Elon Musk has already expressed interest in the project, along with local companies such as South Australia’s Zen Energy.
The Australian

Jay Weatherill’s move to keep the lights on in SA using dozens of diesel generators is a staggering concession that his state’s wind power experiment has failed.

Almost as staggering is the cost of running a diesel generator, compared to an efficient coal-fired power plant on $/MWh basis. Modern diesel plant will at its near-optimal 65-70% loading, generate 3 KWh per litre.

With diesel at $1.30 per litre that means a MWh of diesel generation (in terms of fuel cost alone) will cost South Australians $433 (333  litres being needed for 1 MWh @ $1.30 per litre), compared with coal-fired power, which costs less than $50 per MWh to deliver, day in, day out. On those numbers, Weatherill’s power plan brings with it a staggering cost going way beyond the $550 million needed just to set it up.

The irony in all of this is that the so-called ‘wind power capital’ will come to rely even more heavily on coal-fired power delivered via interconnectors from Victoria and 200 MW worth of diesel generation, on those numerous occasions when wind power output collapses on a total and totally unpredictable basis.

Note to Jay: coal, gas and diesel all come from the same family – they’re all called ‘fossil fuels’ – and it’s that family that will be keeping the lights on in South Australia for years to come. Welcome to your diesel powered future!

Jay Weatherill’s wind power obsession sends SA Back to the Future.

23 thoughts on “Back to the Future: Wind ‘Powered’ South Australia to Run on Diesel Generators

  1. Diesel generators were replaced by coal-fired power plants because diesel generators emit dirty carbon dioxide. I think this was the right decision. I think we should have to install wind generators!

  2. After all this time
    The dollars that have lined so many pockets
    How much longer is this going to be aloud to continue.
    There are people homeless and starving.
    Stop this please.

  3. Hello from Denmark: What about Nuclear Power ??
    You have a lot of uranium down there, and NP will work “perfect” even when the wind is sleeping. Better than diesel Generators, I think.

  4. Back to the Future:
    Pelican Point in SA has a new lease on life as Engie will begin to operate on full steam after securing commitment with Origin Energy to purchase gas powered energy – will come on line from July 1st 2017.
    This will ensure stability to the market in SA with reliable supply.
    So what now happens to Weatherill’s proposed multi million dollar new gas power station with a battery back-up which is intended to operate occasionally with a few minutes of battery backup for emergency’s.

  5. SA is already using diesel, if you notice on NEM WATCH when it is still and hot, diesel generation shows up in their graphic. Someone told me it comes from the back up power from the desal plant. If that is true the irony is overwhelming as desal plants are quite “dirty”. If I recall with all renewables being built it was a simple OFFSET, looks like unicorns now!!

  6. Hi,

    I started a PETITION “SA PREMIER JAY WEATHERILL : Demand the RESIGNATION of the Energy Minister for HIGH POWER PRICES CAUSING SA’s JOBS CRISIS and 15,000 household POWER DISCONNECTIONS, frequent POWER BLACKOUTS and the JULY 2016 POWER CRISIS” and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name.

    Our goal is to reach 200 signatures and we need more support.

    You can read more and sign the petition here:

    Please share this petition with anyone you think may be interested in signing it.

    Thankyou for your time.

    1. Estherfonc your petition has been sabotaged by
      Anything criticising the ‘green’ industry is suppressed.
      You won’t get many signatures because they’ll variously be blocked or deleted.
      Good luck but you need to find another petition forum!

  7. Reminds me of that famous AC?DC tune, “Dirty Diesels not dirt cheap”. Surely by now it must be a favourite of Jay Weatherill and his merry band of economy wreckers.

  8. “We want to be less reliant on Victoria and NSW and we’ve got to act immediately. Summer is going to be difficult. We want the battery there before summer.

    Did he really say that! SA has already laid bare the the fact that wind power is lousy for meeting peak demand, it may also be about to destroy the battery myth.

    I can hear the sound of owners of proper power stations packing their bags. Does the govt really think that backing a few at the expense of others is going to help in the long term, or is it just a ploy to get re-elected?

    1. Weather ill is an idiot.

      His 375 mw gas, 200 mw diesel and 100 mw battery
      only equals the mw’s SA gets from the Victorian interconnector.
      With that out of action all next summer due to hazelwood closing and victoria needing the power, we in SA will still not have enough power.

      The 100mw battery will go bang the first time its used. A note on diesel and the stupidity of greens. A relative of mine has a chicken farm on Tasmania and has a diesel generator as back up to his sheds that contain 40000 chickens, which would all die in 4 hours without power.

      He did the maths and found he can run his entire operation full time on diesel and save $13000 a year by dumping the grid.

      Renewable energy is mad!

  9. ‘Australia’ – place with the dumbest, fattest people on planet earth. Need lots of air conditioning to survive- sad thing that.

  10. Hmmmm, so he is spending multiple millions of dollars, to supply the state with fossil fuel power, to replace the cost efficient coal power stations, that he wanted shut down? Silly man! Should’ve just kept going with the coal, instead of relying on the wind gods! Maybe he should’ve prayed to the wind gods a bit harder?

    1. He wasn’t praying to the wind gods, he was (and his predecessor) playing the RET and RECs corrupted investment vehicle for all it is worth in collusion with the union backed Industry Super Funds whilst milking the delusional Green vote. Ideology, money and greed are a potent lure for politicians of any persuasion who are values free zones and ultimately care nought for the citizens they purport to represent. Witness the neighbours (and some greedy hosts too) of wind’farms’ who are fu..ed over by opportunistic governments the world over, and the power consumers who pay the retailers the RECs back in their power bills. And now he is trying to turbocharge his elections with diesel, the hypocrisy FFS!!

      And all because of a situation of a dishonest governments own making!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. I really am astonished that, even after all of this, the opinion polls still show only a narrow Liberal victory is likely. Truly, South Australians deserve their fate.

  12. Sounds like they are going backwards in SA! lol

    Being a caravaner I have found a lot of isolated places in the NT, North Qld and NW WA still run on Diesel Genes in the Caravan parks etc because they are not connected to the Grid in those places. It seems strange considering the fumes these Diesel Generators put out and the cost of Diesel etc. I thought the idea was to stop emissions not to increase them? Strange people these RET enthusiasts. 😦

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