The Price of ‘Love’: Wind ‘Powered’ State Plugs into Mega-Battery as Power Prices Rocket

When you pump your credentials as the world’s renewable energy superpower, it’s pretty hard to avoid the fact that your constituents pay the highest retail power prices in the world. Wind and sun worshippers can’t have it both ways: either South Australia is Australia’s wind power capital and that fact explains why its consumers are being belted, or some other alien force needs to be identified as the culprit.

The latest wheeze amongst the wind cult is to blame coal-fired power plants. Which doesn’t seem to gel with the fact that when Victoria’s 1,600 MW Hazelwood plant closed earlier this year, Victorian wholesale power prices jumped by 25%, overnight.

As they say, never let the facts get in the way of a good story, hey Giles?

Sure enough the owners of conventional generation plant are regularly engaged in power price gouging, whenever wind power output collapses, a point picked up in this piece.

AGL ‘raping, gouging’ under green guise: Richard Cottee
The Australian
Matt Chambers
8 December 2017

Central Petroleum chief Richard Cottee has delivered an extra­ordinary attack on AGL Energy’s plans to close the Liddell power station in the NSW Hunter Valley in 2022, accusing the power giant of pursuing higher power prices to drive up profit under the guise of a clean energy agenda.

AGL chief executive Andy Vesey has committed to provide to Malcolm Turnbull by December 12 a detailed plan to replace Liddell with reliable non-coal generation, after the Prime Minister demanded the energy boss take a request to his board to extend the life of Liddell or sell it to someone who would.

Since the Prime Minister’s September request, AGL chairman Graeme Hunt and Mr Vesey, who say AGL will shut all its coal generation by 2050, have made it clear they have no intention of extending the life of the ageing power plant.

Instead, they plan to replace it with a mixture of gas power, renewables, demand management and batteries.

Mr Cottee, a former Queensland Gas Company executive who also ran Queensland state generator CS Energy when it built three baseload power plants, said Liddell’s closure would increase volatility and prices.

“With Liddell closing, the volatility of the electricity market will increase — there will be more ‘vol. events’,” he told a Sydney Mining Club lunch yesterday.

He described these “vol. events” as when power prices spiked to more than $250 per MWh, saying that the power system was designed to deal with only three or four of these a year.

When power sold for the upper National Electricity Market limit of $14,000 per MWh, it was the equivalent of selling gas for $1500 per gigajoule, he said.

“If you can increase the number of vol. events by decreasing reliable generation, you will have a very profitable model,” Mr Cottee said.

“If you can combine sanctimonious rectitude with capitalist greed, you are absolutely superb … you are saving the planet while raping the population … gouging is done for a morally higher purpose, is what it appears to me as what could be happening.”

AGL, which has previously said extending Liddell would be too expensive and that it could provide a reliable transition plan, declined to comment yesterday. …
The Australian

Matt Chambers went on to cover a run of spin from AGL about its renewables ‘street-cred’ and a blame-shifting pitch from the AER. Price gouging by conventional generators principally depends on the inevitable failure of the wind and sun to deliver power around the clock – the key reason for SA’s rocketing power prices: South Australia’s Unbridled Wind Power Insanity: Wind Power Collapses see Spot Prices Rocket from $70 to $13,800 per MWh

Now that Jay Weatherill has plugged into his $150m Elon Musk mega-battery, we can’t wait to hear the excuses when power prices rocket again (inevitable) and South Australians are plunged into darkness when the wind stops blowing (just as inevitable). Here’s The Australian’s Nick Cater, collecting some of Jay Weatherill’s more pathetic excuses.

Weatherill’s green power push leaves SA in the dark
The Australian
Nick Cater
5 December 2017

Jay Weatherill switched on the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery last week, the showpiece in his $500 million plan to keep the lights on until next year’s election.

“This is history in the making,” the Premier declared with an unnerving tone of triumphalism. “South Australia is now leading the world in dispatchable renewable energy.”

Sadly, the battery’s stored energy wasn’t sufficiently dispatch­able to relieve the gloom of 208 neighbouring households that endured a blackout lasting several hours the day the battery was turned on.

There are blackouts, apparently, and then there are blackouts. The ones on Friday were caused by storm damage, the type of blackout from which batteries provide no relief, we were told.

Turning on a light switch and seeing nothing happen is a familiar experience in regional SA, particularly in the north and west coast, which 18 months ago was amply served by the Northern power plant at Port Augusta. Today there is hardly a pub beyond Gepps Cross without a diesel generator.

A blackout lasting several hours in Port Pirie last month, an event so routine it hardly makes the news any more, caused loss of stock at one the city’s two main supermarkets, the one that hadn’t invested in its own generators.

Weatherill has yet to admit that the closure of Northern power, with the loss of 520 megawatt generating capacity, had anything to do with the blackouts that have afflicted SA for the past 18 months.

The destabilising effect of the wind and solar plants with their fitful offerings of non-synchronous power are irrelevant to the energy crisis in Weatherill’s book.

Instead he adopts the tactic favoured by leaders clinging to power in failed states and points the bone at dark, malevolent forces. He accuses the power companies of “pursuing profits at the expense of reliable, affordable power”.

He denounces the mendicancy of neighbouring states. A blackout last December was caused by “a fault on the Victorian side of the border”.

He blames the Turnbull government, claiming “South Australians have been let down by a broken National Energy Market”.

Most of all he blames the weather gods, who deliver their wrath more frequently on SA than any other state, directing mighty winds and lightning strikes to the weakest points about the grid.

With his frequent complaint about high gas prices, Weatherill may have a point.

The Andrews government in Victoria has banned not only the extraction of natural gas on its soil but also the exploration for gas, conventional or unconventional, creating a shortage that has forced up prices.

Weatherill is trying to fix it in the only way he knows, by handing out subsidies, $24m this year, to lure gas producers to the Cooper Basin.

If any further proof were needed of the madness of the anti-carbon command economy, this one should be added to the exhibit list. One state government takes a principled stand to stop gas being extracted, another takes a principled stand to subsidise its extraction. Two premiers are riding high horses in different directions, and neither of them in the right direction, which would be, if they had any sense, in the direction of a free market.

The notion that governments can micromanage the economy by taxes, subsidies and regulation was abandoned long ago across the broader economy.

Now subsidies for renewable energy are being abandoned, too, in sensible jurisdictions. The EU will abandon fixed energy targets from 2020. In Germany, Angela Merkel’s government has experienced what the Chancellor calls a paradigm shift, recognising the trillion dollars spent on renewable energy subsidies in the past 20 years have pushed prices unacceptably high and disrupted supply. The German government has capped the capacity of wind farms and dropped a proposed levy for coal-fired power stations.

In the US, the overlapping subsidies designed to promote Barack Obama’s “new energy economy” have fallen into disrepute. A 2013 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded “several existing provisions have perverse effects, while others yield little reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of revenue loss”.

Instead the US energy market has been transformed by a healthy free market in natural gas. Ten years ago the price of natural gas regularly hit $US10/million BTU (MMBtu). Now prices are below $3/MMBtu.

Ironically, despite withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, the US will actually meet its targets.

The federal government in Australia is therefore in good company in its decision to wind back energy subsidies and inject some free-market realism back into the discussion.

If Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg had accepted the Finkel review’s recommendations for a clean energy target, he would have been flying in the face of evidence from around the world. Grand gestures, backed by subsidies, put up prices and have perverse consequences. Renewable energy’s future will depend on its ability to support itself.

The wisest course for Labor would be to join the worldwide trend against subsidies and back Frydenberg’s legislation when it comes before parliament. Bill Shorten would be smart to begin the crab-walk away from its 50 per cent renewable energy target, which can be achieved only at enormous cost through explicit and implicit subsidies.

With an election barely three months away, the Weatherill government has no intention of breaking the subsidy habit. The Australian Energy Market Operator warns of the likelihood of blackouts this summer if any part of SA’s fragile electricity grid were to falter. Weatherill is using every Band-Aid solution he can lay his hands on to ensure that doesn’t happen, spending $550m his government doesn’t have.

Two banks of emergency generators — powered by diesel — have been installed, paid for, naturally, by the government. There is no shortage of places to put them in the de-industrialised landscape of greater Adelaide. One sits in vacant space at the former Holden plant in Elizabeth — itself a monument to the futility of subsidies.

The other is on the site of the former Port Stanvac oil refinery at Lonsdale, now home to the Adelaide desalination plant, a state-government panic measure from an earlier election.

Rent seeking should never be encouraged, of course, but it is worth noting that Alinta Energy had offered to keep Northern running in return for a lazy $25m — less than a 20th of the cost of Weatherill’s cobbled-together plan.
The Australian

[The price of love]:

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Jackie Rovensky says:

    So AGL is looking at installing Batteries at Liddell, this is irrespective of the fact they have not been shown to be useful. With Weatherill here in SA, belatedly accepting that fact and buying diesel generators to back up the Big Battery which was to back up the Wind turbines which we were constantly told – at one time – could meet all our needs without back up base load!!!
    That wind has been shown to be useless as a secure and cost effective energy source seems to have been brushed aside by Governments.
    Why hasn’t Weatherill come clean and told the people of SA the push for renewables was a mistake and he and his Government have failed the SA public.
    They are even giving away money they down have – to be paid back by us in taxes and levy’s – to gas mining companies, such as Beach Energy to start mining – who grab it with open arms knowing they don’t really need it but if its on offer – why not take it.
    As for AGL they need to take note of what happened in Belgium a short while ago – when a ‘Little’ Big battery that was being tested blew up.
    AGL has decided to go down the gas field as well, so even they are accepting renewables cannot meet needs without a base load backup.
    However, their insistence on closing Liddell is driven because they know if they infect fields with more and more turbines and then add a useless battery to catch the spare wind – when it blows – will keep them in the subsidies game, gouging us all.
    Turnbull needs to take note of what he has unleashed with a policy that allows the renewables industry to continue to suck this nation dry knowing they will continue to be funded by our money in the form of subsidies simply by adding something that they and the rest of us know will not be any use to save the Grid when the wind doesn’t blow.

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