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Biggest threat to Australia’s energy supply – fossil fuel ideologues

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Australia’s Energy Market Operator might count the failure of large fossil fuel generators in summer heatwaves as one of the biggest threats to Australia’s electricity supply in coming years, but what about the threat coming from fossil fuel ideologues?

heat wave demand response

Victoria-based radio and TV personality, Tom Elliott, this week expressed his hope that the state would “suffer from a giant statewide blackout on a super hot day this coming summer,” as a sort of just desserts for policymakers and any others out there who advocate for the shift to distributed renewables and away from coal.

“Such a blackout will be uncomfortable at best and deadly at worst,” Elliott concedes. “Yet it’s exactly what we need to put our energy policies back on track,” he writes in an editorial published on the 3AW website on Wednesday.

His piece was titled “We need a blackout this summer”, which he said would force experts to “acknowledge that renewable power is nice in theory but doesn’t always work in practice.”

And Elliott – who goes on to argue that if we remain determined to shut down coal-fired power stations, the only viable alternatives are gas and/or nuclear – is not alone in wishing for some sort of black-out related, epiphany-triggering coal comeuppance.

On Wednesday, we heard Barnaby Joyce musing that a few hours stuck in a lift, busting for a pee, would snap renewable energy advocates out of their green stupor and put them back on the coal bandwagon.

“I’ll tell you what happens when people get caught in a lift, somewhere between floor 24 and 25, and they’re there for a few hours,” he said in a speech to the Minerals Week Seminar. “At one stage or another, if they’re there long enough, someone wants to go to the bathroom.

“This becomes an absolute seminal point of where their attitude to how power is generated changes. This becomes a seminal point about their views on the coal industry, and therefore the mining industry.”

The threat to grid supplies when such ideologues are also in control of certain generation assets. It might be all too easy to declare a boiler tube busted or some other problem that takes away capacity at critical time.

No wonder AEMO wants a strategic reserve and more fast and smart response on the demand side.  

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  • Bill Holliday

    I doubt whether mid summer when PV output is at its highest would be a good time for the coal lobby to try this stunt, but perhaps two can play at this game:
    Seeing how little the renewables crowd have been appreciated recently, I think we should all turn off the power to our grid inverters for a day. They might be persuaded then that our electrons are worth something.

    • Chris Ford

      That’d just be proof to this type of idiot that renewables are unreliable. Coal plant goes down and causes blackout = shows how much we need coal. Renewable plant goes down = shows how unreliable renewables are. Go figure.

      • solarguy

        Not if it’s made public in the first instance in all media.

  • Peter G

    Too right Sophie, what a sham! The depth of ideological fixity by half the COALition leadership is barely outdone by the energy illiteracy of most of the Backbench.
    But then I suppose we are getting the best representation that money can buy, as Upton Sinclair put it “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it”

  • Robin_Harrison

    Treat the ideologues to logic and reason in a 5 second grab.
    How would you like your energy? Clean and cheap or dirty and expensive?
    At the same time be alert to dirty deeds, particularly around mid-summer.

  • riley222

    Looks like dirty tricks are going to mark the next few months , and maybe years.
    Amazing how dead set against renewables some people are .
    Instead of pushing for renewables and storage we have proposals for gas, nuclear and coal, anything but trying to facilitate renewables and storage.
    We’re at a pivot point in our energy decisions, lets hope we don’t end up with an even worse mess.
    The ideologues are adept at destroying the hard work and ideas of others, they’ve been on top for a while now, the country can’t afford them any more, we’re literally seeing the country go down the drain with their influence and deliberate ignorance .
    Enough, get on with renewables and serious amounts of storage.

  • Brian Tehan

    He’s a chip off the old block. John Elliot’s son. He’s always been a Liberal but he used to channel some inner city cool, riding his bike to and from his Fitzroy pad. Now he’s trying to compete with Andrew Dolt for the nuttiest extreme right commentary in his column in the “Hun” and on 3aw, appealing to right wing pensioners. Bit sad really.

  • MrMauricio

    Just at the basic level electricity generators do not want investment in huge capital hungry plants that are idle.So we are never going to have a big surplus of generation-it has to closely match demand.Demand is declining and has been for many years now.A bigger concern would be grid stability in extreme conditions-again an old style over extended grid..Old obsolete coal plants have ZERO or negative value due to their outdated designs and constant maintenance costs.Inefficient Liddell for example has a 50% operational rate.Renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy,can be stored and greatly reduces social costs like water diversions for cooling depriving natural flow and agriculture ,lung-damaging particulates,mercury and other harmful emissions AND greenhouse gases,disposal of fly thousands of tonnes of ash and risks of fire in the open cut mines as well as dust and rehabilitation all(borne by wider society unfairly). WHY would fossil fuels have ANY place in future electricity generation decision making??? ANSWER-rent seeking fossil fuel companies buying the government who care nothing for a healthy future for future generations

  • Ian

    Is the Tom Elliott of this story warning us of a future planned false flag event? Should people be buying solar and storage in preparation for this?

    • Barri Mundee

      Quite agree Ian and I think its the reliance on market that is the problem here. Supposedly it ensures a supply response to demand. Except it often does not. There needs to be a greater degree of co-operation, information sharing and planning if the system is to actually to work in the best interests of end users of electricity – not just the industry players.

    • Cooma Doug

      That fake black out will not happen. I have been at the centre of blackout inquiries on a few events where I was at the centre of the event.
      The scrutiny of investigation is so very detailed and unavoidable. A deliberate blackout would be easier to find than a natural event.

  • Peter Mills

    And how many people around the world and in Australia DIE from the effects of fossil fuels generation/pollution/climate change effects (happening right now off Florida)….. I rest my case

  • Cooma Doug

    There are actions that can be taken within the rules that increase risk. But deliberate action to cause an event will stand out clearer than any natural event. The rules can be changed to reduce gouging and increase security, but the process of event investigation will find all the grubs.