Code Black: Wind & Solar Chaos Guarantee Mass Summer Blackouts (Again)

What ‘getting ready for Summer’ means in South Australia & Victoria.


As Summer approaches, Australia’s wind and solar obsession means more mass blackouts are guaranteed.

During January 2018, load shedding caught power consumers short in South Australia, Victoria and NSW. Energy hungry businesses such as aluminium smelters and even hospitals were forced to power down during a run of scorching days and nights, when temperatures soared and wind power output plummeted: Australia Closes Coal-Fired Power Plants: Hospitals Forced to Cut Power Use & Power Prices Rocket

On the Australia Day long-weekend in January 2019, the barbecue stopper was that week’s round of what’s euphemistically called “demand management”: Soviet era power rationing, an integral part of Australia’s ludicrous attempt to run on sunshine and breezes. If it wasn’t deadly serious, it’d almost be hilarious.

STT spelt out the truly ‘inevitable’ consequence of attempting to run on sunshine and breezes back in November 2018 – Summer Holiday-Hell: Power Consumers Face Staggering Bill Whenever Wind Power Goes AWOL

Well, with more intermittent wind and solar added to the grid since then, the combination of a run of dead calm 42°C days and sunset is bound to leave hundreds of thousands sitting boiling in the dark. You can’t say we didn’t warn you… Now, The Australian is starting to get the message.

Aggressive pursuit of targets over reliability increases risk warns expert
The Australian
Rachel Baxendale and Andrew Clennel
23 August 2019

The Victorian government’s pursuit­ of an aggressive renewable energy target without approp­riate consideration of the impact on reliability — and the federal government’s failure to provide policy certainty — have contributed to a scenario that has households and businesses facing a higher risk of blackouts this summer, according to energy market expert Tony Wood.

The Grattan Institute energy program director and former Origin­ Energy senior executive made the assessment after the Australian Energy Market Operator’s warning that 1.3 million Victoria­n households would be at risk of blackout unless the market operator was able to procure 560MW of emergency reserves.

The procurement of emergency reserves, which involves paying large energy users to load-shed, cost Victorians $32 million during­ January’s blackout, and $51m the previous summer.

“Both the Victorian (Energy) Minister (Lily D’Ambrosio) and … federal minister (Angus Taylor) are wrong in the way they are avoiding blame and not addressing the real issues,” Mr Wood said.

“We were always going to have the closure of the old, cheap, coal-fired power stations. That’s now happening.

“What we’ve not done, as any normal market would, is replace that with new supply that does the same thing.

“The commonwealth has not had stable policy so that people would know what to invest in, and the states, and Victoria in particular, (have) pursued an aggressive renewabl­e energy target without appropriate consideration of the impact on reliability. ’’

Mr Wood said he agreed with Mr Taylor that Victoria should lift its moratorium on gas exploration to free up supply.

“It wouldn’t suddenly bring prices down to where they were 10 years ago, but the current mora­toria and bans on gas are not justified,” he said.

The NSW Coalition government said it was working to bring new gas supplies online.

“The NSW Gas Plan supports the development of a NSW domestic­ gas supply to provide competition, security of supply, and to buffer gas prices from international price fluctuations,” Deputy Premier and Resources Minister John Barilaro said.

“The ($3 billion Santos) Narrabri project is currently undergoing a rigorous planning assessment process. Santos has given assurances that the gas produced from the project would be supplied solely to the east coast domestic gas market, if the project is approv­ed.

“The NSW government recently announced the approval of the $250m Port Kembla Gas Terminal and has declared the Newcastle LNG import terminal as critical state significant infrastructure.

“This is all part of a broader plan to increase gas supplies.’’

Mr Taylor said Premier Daniel And­rews’ government had failed to properly replace ageing Victorian infrastructure, and listed a series of measures he said the federal­ government was taking to deliver reliable power.

These included establishing a taskforce to ensure the Liddell coal-fired power station in NSW remained open, the Snowy 2.0 hydro project, the Retailer Reliability Oblig­ation and the Underwriting New Generation Investment program.

Ms D’Ambrosio said Victoria’s investment in renewable energy would “significantly improve” the state’s energy supply and reliability­ in coming years.

NSW Environment and Energ­y Minister Matt Kean said: “Gas is critical to our state’s ­energy future if we are to keep the lights on and power bills down.”
The Australian

One piece of piffle being pitched up at the moment is that the collapse of the grid this summer will be down to the “failure” of Victoria’s coal-fired power plants. Overlooking, for convenient purposes of course, the massive, daily, chaotic and routine failure of both Victoria and South Australia’s enormous fleet of whirling wonders – as depicted below – courtesy of Aneroid Energy.

Back in the summer of 2018, South Australia’s wind turbines had a combined notional capacity of 1,929MW, and Victoria’s had 1,740MW – bringing the grand total to 3,669 MW across both states.

Notwithstanding all that wonderful ‘capacity’, their combined output was (and still is) often completely trivial, with sudden and precipitous 1,000-2,000MW collapses in the space of minutes – multiples worse than the short-term and temporary loss of a single 200-300MW generator unit within a coal-fired plant with a total capacity of 1500-2,000MW.

As you read on, note that 300MW amounts to 8.2% of combined notional wind power capacity across SA and Victoria; 200MW amounts to 5.4% and 100MW amounts to 2.7%. And zero amounts to, well…

That’s enough to prove our point: depend upon the weather, you can depend upon mass blackouts.

Here’s The Australian’s Robert Gottliebsen (reluctantly) coming to grips with Australia’s self-inflicted wind and solar calamity.

Mild summer or we’re cooked
The Australian
Robert Gottliebsen
22 August 2019

The Australian Energy Market Operator has told only part of the story and has held back the shocking details of the Victorian power scandal — commercial scandal that ranks with the banks.

Accordingly, Victorians and every business that operates in Victoria need to hope and pray that the 2019-20 summer will be mild.

And the energy scandal-ridden Victorian government will join them in those hopes. In the last two or three years the Victorian government has punted that the state’s power system would not break down.

And each time the gambles have been successful and so it believes it can roll the dice again. But in 2019-20 and subsequent years the government actions have actually made the dangers far greater and increased the risk of a total Victorian breakdown, perhaps in the style of South Australia in 2016. If the Victorian situation deteriorates at the same time as it is very hot in NSW and South Australia they too will get caught up in any Victorian disaster.

To detail just how dangerous the risks being taken are I need to first highlight the fact that a few weeks ago (not for the first time) the cost of electricity in Victoria reached an incredible price of $6,000 dollars per megawatt hour because of the shortage of electricity caused by very low renewable output and predictable outages in the Latrobe Valley coal plants. But earlier in the month the price actually went below zero (minus $1,000).

These crazy swings in price are contributing to destroying the system and come about for easily understandable reasons.

First, when the sun shines and the wind blows vast amounts of power are generated, usually well above demand — that is when the price goes into a major negative. When the price goes to nothing or negative coal generators are getting minus revenue for the power they generate and lose heavily so desperately try to reduce their output.

Conversely when the price goes to $6,000 there is a lot of money to be made from coal generation. So the generators go flat out.

In Victoria the Latrobe Valley brown coal generators are old but with good maintenance and proper care they are capable of producing power for some decades.

But with no certainty of their long-term life the owners of the generators spend what is required on the maintenance but no more. And worse still, because of these vast changes in price they are forced to run coal plants more flexibly, like hydro or gas plants. These old coal generators were never designed for such operating style so not surprisingly they are breaking down at a rate that is much higher than would be the case if they were able to operate more consistently.

To make the looming summers more dangerous, coal generators like those in the Latrobe Valley are never at their best when temperatures are high.

Given the maintenance has not substantially exceeded standard levels, the fact that operations have been conducted in a way that does not suit the generators and their age accordingly,the likelihood of them falling over is now much greater than when the Victorian government first decided to roll the dice.

There are a number of ways to offset the high power peaks of a hot summer’s day. Clearly the most obvious is extensive investment in back-up plants but this has not taken place.

In the absence of back-up plants, one strategy is load shedding and the Victorian government along with the NSW have been very successful at doing this. But there is a limit.

Another is to ramp up both gas fired stations and Snowy Hydro. But as things now stand if the wind doesn’t blow and the sun is not shine then these back-up plants will not fill the gap if the Latrobe generators fail, as they have been doing in recent months.

The blackouts will be severe and extended. Of course, Victoria might be once again be lucky.

The federal government’s $4bn Snowy Scheme strategy will reduce the danger but that’s many years away. There is an interim step which should be adopted urgently but even that step will take a number of years to implement.

The Snowy Hydro consists of two basic generating systems: the northern generating system which supplies NSW and the southern generating system which supplies Victoria. Unfortunately and unbelievably they are only weakly connected by transmission lines. If either state runs short of power and needs Snowy hydro then the operators can’t access both sides of the scheme. But even if Victoria could be tapped into the NSW northern systems the transmission lines that carry Snowy energy into Victoria are already overloaded. So we need to first properly connect the northern and southern snowy systems and second increase the capacity of the transmission lines to bring more Snowy power into Victoria.

The $4bn plus Snowy Scheme upgrade involves setting up a third generating system which will buy power in times of low renewable prices and pump water up to levels that enable it to generate power when needed. An essential part of that plan is to connect all three generating systems so not only is there more power but there is more flexibility to deal with a crisis. But that integrated system will not be available until 2025 or 2026. It is vital to bring forward that the grid link and Victorian transmission upgrade even though it will not help next summer.

The Victorian upgrade would also enable other new generation projects to connect to transmission lines.

The expansion of transmission is undertaken by private companies. There is an army of state bureaucrats in both NSW and Victoria who can delay and boost the costs of expanding the transmission grid in each state. NSW has cut through the blockage and given a connection of extra power to its grid a high priority as part of a state transmission strategy. Victoria has responded by saying “she’ll be right mate”. Expanding the grid will make a very small rise in power prices necessary and Victoria does not want that because its current policies have already skyrocketed power costs. What is required of Victoria is to guarantee the companies installing the extra network capacity against the actions of the Victoria bureaucracy (or regulators) to delay the grid. Victoria is refusing to give such a guarantee. Giving bureaucrats power to block the extra power to the grid is beyond belief.

Victoria plans to put even more wind and solar farms in, again with no back-up — nothing. And those farms will make the coal situation even worse and greatly increase the danger of blackouts. My guess is that the state needs an extended blackout (no food, no water) to teach the politicians a lesson. But the voters must pay the price for those lessons.
The Australian

Robert Gottliebsen – like plenty of others who think they’ve got a handle on the causes of the debacle – holds the delusional belief that simply expanding the grid with more interconnectors and criss-crossing the country with even more transmissions lines will overcome the intermittency and unreliability of wind and solar.

The examples we set out above demonstrate that two states, both well and truly interconnected, will share their miseries every time the sun sets and calm weather sets in.

In the beginning, the grid was designed and built with generation concentrated at the fuel source, principally coal, with transmission directed from the generation source to the market, ie the capital cities and regional centres, in that order.

Now, with solar panels and windmills spread out to the back of beyond, and their power delivered in chaotic spurts, the threat to grid reliability is existential.

The blackouts of the past summers as experienced by South Australians and Victorians will simply spread to knockout the most populous state, NSW.

As demand spikes on stinking hot summer’s days the inevitable collapse in wind power output (and solar output as the sun sets) will be like a game of musical chairs; each state clamouring for the last watt of power from the remaining dependable coal-fired plants, and places like South Australia and Victoria firing up their fleet of diesel generators to prevent their very own statewide ‘system blacks’.

The Editor of The Australian, chimed in with this.

Bad policy leaves millions facing summer blackouts
The Australian
23 August 2019

Victorians haven’t forgotten January 25 this year, when temperatures soared above 42C. Shortly after state Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said load shedding would not be necessary, about 200,000 households were blacked out and businesses forced to shut. The Andrews government, tail between its legs, had to admit there simply was not enough power to meet demand. As helpful as a chocolate teapot, Greens leader Richard Di ­Natale blamed over-reliance on coal for the heatwave and backed Ms D’Ambrosio’s calls for people to stop using dishwashers and washing machines and to turn up the temperature on airconditioners. With spring and summer approaching, the Australian Energy Market Operator has warned east coast households and businesses are facing an even higher risk of blackouts with more generator failures likely on hot days, as we reported on yesterday’s front page.

Little apparently was learned from last summer’s fiasco, leaving regulators little time to deal with the states’ — especially Victoria’s — unrelenting push to introduce more intermittent renewable generation into the grid, heedless of the impact that has on the coal-fired generators that still supply more than two-thirds of the power. Remedial action, including speeding up investment in new transmission lines between states, is needed. And there should be a proper debate about the AEMO’s call for an electricity supply reserve to deal with increasingly unreliable and ageing coal and gas-fired generators. The staged closure of AGL’s Liddell coal-fired plant in NSW by 2023 will exacerbate the risks. In addition to causing gross inconvenience and safety issues, energy shortfalls are a serious risk to productivity, jobs and living standards. The AEMO’s warning comes as the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission predicts major industrial users of electricity in NSW and Victoria will continue paying up to three times historic prices for gas next year, despite the prospect of supply shortfalls easing.

Given the abundance of coal, gas, uranium and other resources that should make the nation an energy superpower, Australians are entitled to blame bad management by government, especially at state level, for our energy woes. Long term, solar and other renewable energy sources are likely to become significant contributors of affordable and reliable power. But until technology advances, the states’ ideological obsession with overly ambitious renewable energy targets will leave our major cities on a par with Third World metropolises on searing summer days. Those targets, says Tony Wood, director of the Grattan Institute’s energy program and a former Origin Energy senior executive, have been adopted without considering the impact on reliability and cost. The closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood coal plant in 2017 caused a supply squeeze and price rises. The refusal of some states to open up gas reserves is a major problem.

Scott Morrison has made it clear he wants moratoriums on natural and coal-seam gas exploration to go. Such bans are a brake on prosperity. They are also unscientific, as Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott says. Yet Daniel Andrews, whose government has permanently banned CSG extraction as well as conventional onshore gas exploration until next year, boasts about Victoria’s “clean, green image’’ . The NSW go-slow approach to Santos’ Narrabri gas project, which could provide up to half the state’s gas needs, is delaying vital supplies. For much of the past six years, divisions within the Coalition over energy policy created a policy vacuum. As a result, Canberra has failed to deliver what Mr Wood described as “stable policy to secure investment in new forms of dispatchable power”. On the positive side, the Retailer Reliability Obligation, which came into effect on July 1, salvaged from the national energy guarantee, will hold retailers accountable for reliability of supply. As the Morrison government seeks to balance environmental concerns in urban seats with those of regional voters, it must decide what new power generation projects to back. Dithering will only increase pressure on supply and prices. The Prime Minister wants “enough reliable 24/7 baseload power to ensure that the lights come on when you flick the switch”. It’s not an unreasonable aim in 2019.
The Australian

About stopthesethings

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


  1. Yea now the wind weasels are factoring diesel back up in to guarantee supply what a joke just head towards nukes

  2. To others living in South Australia and Victoria – have you bought your generator (and jerry cans of fuel) to tide over several hours of outage?

  3. Jeff Walther says:

    You know what you call countries/regions whose electrical grid rely on Demand Management?

    The Third World.

  4. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  5. Reblogged this on Climate-

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: