Blackout Nation: Australians Latest Victims of Subsidised Wind & Solar Chaos
That Australia’s Eastern Grid is on the brink of collapse with a complete ‘system black’ on the cards comes as no surprise.
The $7 billion in annual RET subsidies pocketed by wind and solar generators were designed to allow them to underbid Australia’s reliable and affordable coal-fired generators, destroying their profitability and, ultimately, driving them off the grid. As a direct consequence, Australia’s Eastern Grid (that covers QLD, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and SA) is literally on the brink of collapse. The new Federal Labor government is in a flat panic, using Stalinist bully boy tactics in the vain hope of undoing the inevitable consequences of the so-called ‘inevitable transition’ to wind and solar. The market for electricity has been co-opted by governments, and taxpayers will be left to foot an enormous bill to compensate generators forced to dispatch power at a loss, on top of the $billions in subsidies already being paid to unreliable wind and solar.
The daily collapse in solar output (sunset does it every time) and the total collapse in wind power output, that lasts for days whenever a high-pressure system lobs over South-eastern Australia, are being pointedly ignored by the politicos and MSM. Instead, they are railing against coal-fired power plants for their purported failure to deliver on occasions when one or two of their several generating units are down for urgent repairs or scheduled maintenance.
The principal reason for coal generating units requiring urgent repairs is that they are being run like peaking-power generators; with their output being quickly and repeatedly ramped up and down to accommodate repeated, sudden, random and unpredictable collapses in wind power output and wholly predictable collapses in solar power output.
Coal-fired generators were not designed for that kind of abuse; they were designed to dispatch electricity around-the-clock, with additional output being provided to match the load as it increased through the day, reducing output at night when demand fell. Over the last decade, coal-fired generating units have been thrashed to the point of failure as a result.
But, oblivious to the irony, the same crowd that has been telling us that coal-fired power plants are simply ‘stranded assets’ of no use and benefit to anybody, is now directing their owners to deliver power, come what may, and at a price dictated by the government, not the market.
Predictably enough, the owners of dispatchable power generating systems (ie coal and gas plants) have refused to play ball. Something about Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ and the need to make a margin on their labours and expenses. The cheek of them, hey!
Well, sooner or later we all sit down to a banquet of consequences – in this case, freezing in the dark.
Rolling blackouts: Adelaide suburbs next on load shedding hit list revealed
15 June 2022
The Premier has labelled the threat of rolling blackouts across Adelaide as a “market failure on a grand scale”. Here are the suburbs that would be hit first.
Residents across Adelaide’s northwest are next on the blackout hit list if the energy operator orders load shedding to protect the struggling power system.
It comes amid what Premier Peter Malinauskas has called a “market failure on a grand scale”, but his federal counterpart is confident the system can stave off any blackouts unless there are more “unexpected” power station closures.
Properties connected to the Woodville power substation would be first to cop a blackout of 45 minutes if SA Power Networks is ordered by the Australian Energy Market Operator to cut supply to keep the electricity grid stable.
Suburbs next on the hit list are Woodville Gardens, Wingfield, Pennington, Rosewater and Woodville.
If further load shedding is required, residents in suburbs including St Clair, Cheltenham, Woodville North, Ridleyton, Brompton and Bowden would have their power cut next.
Only if directed by AEMO, SA Power Networks conducts manual load shedding, which involves cutting supply to areas for 45 minutes each to help the power grid recover.
The last time manual load shedding occurred in SA was February 2017, when power was cut to more than 90,000 homes and businesses after AEMO ordered a 100-megawatt supply cut.
[Note to Ed: the Feb 2017 debacle was yet another occasion when a total wind power output collapse led to mass load shedding in SA: South Australia Powerless (Again): Sudden 1,000MW Wind Power Output Collapse Leaves 90,000 Families Boiling in the Dark]
SA was spared any blackouts on Tuesday night as the market operator intervened to force energy generators to boost their supply.
AEMO is forecasting very low electricity reserves in SA on Wednesday night and Thursday.
Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the market operator was managing the crisis and could avoid the emergency measures.
“I am pleased that AEMO advises me … we will be able to avoid any load shedding events or any blackouts,” Mr Bowen said.
“Of course that is subject to any unexpected outages in the system.”
Mr Bowen revealed AEMO intervened “heavily” on Tuesday, forcing energy generators to pump more than 5000MW into the grid across the country.
Mr Malinauskas said there was a “degree of confidence” there was enough electricity in the system for now.
“But this remains a very precarious moment for the state’s energy system, as is the case throughout eastern Australia” he told ABC’s Radio National.
“To say we are disappointed by that prospect is I think a gross understatement.”
Mr Malinauskas said it showed a “market failure on a grand scale”.
The market operator on Wednesday morning urged generators across SA, Victoria, NSW and Queensland to continue feeding electricity into the market despite runaway wholesale prices.
Energy generators have been pulling out of the market due to the extremely high wholesale prices, which have been capped at $300MW-hour in all four states.
“Today, AEMO continues to encourage generators across the NEM through our lack of reserve [LOR] notices in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia to bid their availability into the market, rather than being directed to do so,” AEMO said on Wednesday morning.
State Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said generators were pulling out of the market as a “tactic” to force AEMO to issues direction for them to stay on.
If a generator is ordered to increase their output by AEMO, they are automatically compensated under the National Electricity Rules.
Presumably because, as yet, the politicos and so-called ‘Energy Ministers’ can’t control the weather or prevent sunset, the orders made to increase power output won’t apply to the rent-seekers running wind turbines and solar panels.
Because, if they were able to make the wind blow on demand, they would be able to avoid situations like that depicted above – being the output from SA’s fleet of whirling wonders (with a nameplate capacity of 2,142 MW) on 1 June 2022.
A little after midnight SA’s ‘team’ were mustering up 1,311 MW (61% of capacity), but couldn’t keep up their effort for very long. By noon Australia’s SA’s wind farms were battling to generate a trifling 200 MW of wind power; output bounced along the bottom for hours, and had completely flatlined by 6pm – thereafter output was between zero and 4 MW (0-0.00187% – to the nearest decimal point). And, of course, sunset delivered a complete collapse in solar power output.
Funnily enough, the government’s punitive production orders – and huff and puff moral opprobrium – are reserved for the coal-fired power generators that the very same clowns have been trying to put out of business for the best part of 20 years.
Their blatant hypocrisy is only matched by their patent ignorance. The only reason that people being deprived power and paying a fortune for it when it is on offer are not marching in the streets, is that they have absolutely no idea what’s going on.
We’ll cross to the team from Jo Nova for a little more detail on what really is going on.
Still teetering: Blackout warnings across the Australian grid next three days
Jo Nova Blog
14 June 2022
All the rules are breaking.
The price market broke on Sunday night when for the first time the AEMO imposed somewhat anachronistic price setting clauses it had never used. By fixing the wholesale price in Queensland, market bidding suddenly phase-changed into a twilight world where prices were set too low (at an obscenely high $300/MWh, but not high enough now), and generators didn’t want to bid. So offers to supply “Yo-Yo’d” and the AEMO had to run emergency orders of a different kind to force generators to run. In days to come, some bureaucrats will work out later what they should all really be paid post hoc after their compensation claims are filed. The Administered Pricing in Queensland quickly spread to NSW and Victoria and South Australia.
It’s not 100% clear how thin actual generation reserve is, or how much the crisis is due to generators not wanting to bid at these prices. Even the lawyers are busy. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has sent out letters to all the generators today reminding them they have an obligation to provide electricity generation and play nice, and they must not omit intentionally or recklessly anything that might contribute to current (ahem) circumstances.
Last night, the AEMO got through the night (in Queensland)*. But to avoid blackouts the AEMO broke its own rules on interconnector flow to allow some energy through to Queensland. The interconnectors are normally limited by automatic equations which are designed to stop a situation like the total Black-State-SA that occurred in 2016. As I understand it, states need enough reserve power so that the largest single generator can go kaput and trip out without also causing a cascading system collapse. Last night things were so on-the-brink that Queensland didn’t have that reserve. Someone in central control had to override the protection formulas to allow megawatts from NSW to sneak through to Queensland, even though it meant that last layer of protection against a system black was stripped away. Bare knuckle stuff in the control room. It’s fine as long as everything works.
Graphs that show the market is broken
Here the forecast price for the whole of NSW is a blistering $15,100/MWh for nearly every single minute of the next 24 hours, but the actual price is coming in at the mandated $300.00. The Queensland graph looks almost exactly the same. There has not been a day like this…
All those solar panels at midday (with their subsidies) are reducing the price forecast to $12,855, whatever that means.
Teetering on the brink all night, and tomorrow, and in all five states
AEMO Market Notices are like a ticker tape parade. Queensland has warnings issued today running from 4.30pm right through to midnight. NSW is in trouble from 5pm to midnight. Loads that may be interrupted are in the order of 1500MW in both states, though both appear to have made it through the day’s peak load. Currently NSW sits at LOR2 (Lack of Reserve Level 2) and there are forecasts of LOR2 for no less than 7 time periods tonight. Even Victoria is running thin enough that there is a warning of a 218MW forecast of load to be “interrupted”.
WattClarity is struggling to keep up with AEMO Market Notices. The pace is so blistering that dedicated market watchers missed LOR3 forecasts for Tasmania and South Australia — normally something that would be the most exciting news that year, but now, just another blip.
Similar warnings apply for tomorrow night in all three largest states in Australia.
Where is all that global warming?
Today’s peak demand for the grid was 31,200MW — a high reading for winter in Australia. It must be cold on the East Coast today, but luckily there was some 4GW of wind power (green band) which arrived today in time to keep things afloat for the evening peak. There was only 1GW of wind or less overnight last night. So cold windy nights are OK. It’s the cold windless nights that break the system.
Breaking the interconnector safety rules
For a couple of hours from around 6 – 8am this morning Queensland was importing more energy from NSW than was considered safe:
Desperate times call for desperate measures on Monday 13th June 2022
1) NEMDE can’t find a feasible solution to dispatching the NEM for 07:10 this morning without ‘violating’ some constraint equations.
2) This has the effect of allowing more transfers into QLD from NSW than what would be ordinarily considered safe to do so.
3) However it comes with a risk … particularly, in this case, had Kogan tripped during this period we would have been a heightened risk of Voltage Collapse in the grid.
4) Should this have happened, it may well not have been as ‘controlled’ as what might happen if this forecast LOR3 for this evening does not get resolved … rather, what might have happened might be more catastrophic, and longer to recover from (more like the SA System Black).
5) The AEMO’s done this because the market presented them with very few other options…
The graphic included in the post includes a data table with words like “Out=Lismore SVC, avoid Voltage Collapse on loss of Kogan Creek”“. Presumably this translates as we’re over-riding the normal requirements and if Kogan coal trips, the interconnector will load-shed Queensland, and the whole system goes down. (Hey but a “System Black” in Queensland is only billions of dollars and potentially a life and death situation for a few people.)
Various government agencies are currently reminding all the players that they have to play whether they like it or not. It’s a totally Soviet system now, with only the illusion of being a free market.
As an aside, for the true energy-nerds, it appears Australia doesn’t have much in the way of “pre-programmed” blackout capability to deal with this type of crisis. Those are called rather cutely, “Negawatts”. Wattclarity analyzes the Wholesale Demand Response during these extraordinary times, and finds that it essentially amounts to almost nothing. Apart from the two giant aluminum smelters in NSW and Vic that use about 10% of each state’s generation, there were only 12 units registered to provide “wholesale demand response” which is a big total of 59MW in a system that is currently drawing around 30,000MW.
Evidently, it’s harder to get people to voluntarily give up their electricity even when there are payments on offer.
Jo Nova Blog