Energy Insiders Podcast September 11

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The Coalition’s attempts to try and force AGL Energy to either keep the Liddell coal fired power station open, or sell it to someone who would, is one of the most extraordinary acts of an extraordinary period in energy politics in Australia.

Chloe Munro, the former head of the Clean Energy Regulator, a panel member of the Finkel Review and the newly-appointed chair of AEMO expert advisory panel describes it as “mystifying.”

That’s because it seems to ignore many of the recommendations adopted in the Finkel review, and the actual content of the two AEM reports delivered last week.

Munro tells Energy Insiders on our weekly podcast that it shows the big “communication” challenge for the energy industry – and the need to focus not on “baseload”, but “dispatchable” energy, as suggested by AEMO.

“That’s why AEMO talks about flexible and dispatchable resources,” Muncro says. “That doesn’t sound very much like Keeping Liddell open. “

David Leitch, ITK analyst and RenewEconomy contributor, was  scathing, describing the latest intervention from the parliamentary floor as “Venezuelan” (read his full analysis here)

“I find it toally objectionable – that you can stand up in parliament – and make an announcement without any regard to process,” Leitch says in the podcast.

It is a fascinating conversation Munro also explains the goals behind the newly appointed advisory board, which seeks to “get the best minds” working on the technical issues of the energy transition and help speed up the process.

Munro also explains why the reliability standards should also be reviewed – actually they are – because of the confusing messages it sends to consumers, and its ability to cause reactive policy measures.

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  • Alex Hromas

    Its not the only captain’s pick the Snowy pumped hydro is another. Of course we can build lots of pumped hydro in the Snowy scheme but should we. Its a long way from most of the future power generators with attendant power line upgrade costs and losses and other pumped storage sites and technologies will probably be cheaper by the time it is complete. We truly have a parliament of fools

    • solarguy

      I strongly agree!

      • Graeme McLeay

        Indeed! Snowy will take a long time and be expensive. A company in the US is using rail cars…you “pump” them up and they generate electricity on the way down, All you need is the hills and a bit of rail infrastructure plus the motors (electric of course). It’s scalable, up to 2-3GW and the environmental footprint is small

        • solarguy

          Yes I’ve heard of that idea, sounds good.

  • Chris

    David, you might want to reconsider your advice about “response” times of battery synthetic inertia, and rotating generators mechanical inertia.

    Rotating generators have an inertial mass. They don’t respond to a change in load – in 200mS, or any other time. Their rotational velocity, and hence frequency, will change proportional to load change and time and inversely proportional to rotational inertia. Their ability to resist changing frequency is quite modest.

    However, the discussion of of inertia is largely exaggerated as the amount of rotational inertia is so low in the system – a matter of seconds, rather than minutes – that the frequency will be out of specification before any FCAS rotating equipment can respond to a large step change in load, or generator supply – as seen in SA black, or WA the generator loss.

    The problem of frequency stability is caused by having non-synchronous devices such as rotating generators, not solved by their presence. The irony is that the generators are not synchronous. They take a long time to synchronise, and have to be disconnected if they lose synchrony.

    Synthetic inertia of a battery must take a non-zero time time respond to a change in frequency. They are simply a fast responding governor – much faster than any rotating generator. But as you say, they can respond in as little as 100mS. They can be programmed to run at any frequency, irrespective of load.

    All this ignores an important question of how frequency will be controlled in a network of independent generators when the percentage of rotating generators declines. Current frequency control assumes the existence of rotating equipment. In the future we could simply lock the non rotating generator inverters to a known frequency – as we currently do for time in computer networks around the world. No need to “follow” the frequency/phase of a frequency control service. In fact, no need for FCAS at all.

    • David leitch


      Thank you for your comments. I am not a power engineer, but I have been talking to people who are. Probably I’ve misunderstood what they are saying.

      However I don’t see that what you are saying is at odds with my comments. The ultimate objective is to control frequency (and voltage). Fast response batteries can provide power to stabilise frequency and can respond to loss/increase of frequency caused by decline or increase in rotation speed of thermal generators. Or is that not the case?

      • Chris

        Sure, my initial point centered mainly on the use of the word “respond”. Generators, through the action of a governor, can respond, but their response time is so slow that the system frequency is almost certain to go outside the limit.

        System frequency stability relies on the inertia. Inertia does not “respond”, but instead (instantly) resists a change via it’s inertial energy. However this energy is so modest that a significant step change must cause load or generator shedding.

        Modern gas generators have much lower inertia per MW than older generators – even less than wind turbines, but they are connected to the grid to follow the system frequency and therefore cannot provide inertia.

        As you argue, batteries are ideally suited to frequency stability control because they can respond much faster than any FF governed generator, and a small battery will have orders of magnitude greater synthetic inertia.

        I imagine that the electricity system is likely to change quickly and their appears to be little insight into how system design, or absence of it, might affect things such as stability.

        PS: I’m a grumpy old retired electrical engineer who thinks the trusted old wisdom of power engineering has passed it’s use by date, and they might have something to learn from the IT industry!

        • David leitch

          One expert I talked to suggested we get rid of inertia and synthetic inertia and substituted analog and digital inertia.

          • Chris

            Not wanting to extend this conversation unnecessarily …. I think that the term “synthetic” is unhelpful – as if there is something second rate about it. To be formally correct, inertial “response”, and governor response are completely different animals. A governor is a device that relies on feedback of measurement which is compared with the desired set point. By necessity there must be a difference between actual and desired output and a time lag in response.

            How frequency is controlled is an interesting issue and too complex to include in this conversation, but I am convinced that the current mechanisms will be found wanting in the coming years. It is an aspect of wider issue of dynamics of a geographically dispersed system which is likely to be unstable in the face of large transient changes.

            Better not continue! I value your contributions on the NEM.