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Uhlmann’s bizarre prediction of “national blackout” if we pursue wind and solar

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The ABC is supposed to have a ban on advertising. But even if it was allowed, money couldn’t buy the sort of advocacy the fossil fuel industry and incumbent energy interests are receiving this week from the network’s chief political correspondent, Chris Uhlmann.

On Thursday, we took Uhlmann to task for the way he reported the blackout event in South Australia, and his suggestion that the state’s large portfolio of wind energy assets were at fault.

Later that day, Uhlmann doubled down, in an article on the ABC website, and then on a major piece to camera on the flagship 7pm TV news. The result, presented as “analysis” and to the layman as a collection of “facts”, was more than the fossil fuel industry could ever wish for.

Uhlmann insisted that wind energy may yet have been at fault for the blackout, despite the clear conclusions from the market operator and grid owners that it wouldn’t have mattered if the energy was green, black or brown, the network would still have gone down in such a catastrophic weather event.

Then, after a wander through the definitions of oblique terms such as “synchronous” and “asynchronous” energy – that looked and sounded like it was lifted from a lobby group’s playbook –  Uhlmann argued that if the country continues to pursue wind and solar, then the whole nation could be blacked out.

“Rushing to a target to parade green credentials exposes the electricity network to a serious security risk and, in the long run, risks permanent reputational damage to the renewable energy cause. The grid is being transformed, and that transformation needs to be managed sensibly, or the entire nation might go to black.”

That plays right into the hands of the coal and gas lobby, and their defenders, the Coalition government and other right wing politicians who want to slow down or even stop the deployment of wind and solar, and who want to prevent individual states from adding more renewable energy.

Instability and system problems is exactly what the incumbent business interests want the public to believe will happen, but like his previous efforts on Wednesday, this was just nonsense.

It represents old fashioned views about how an energy system should operate. It’s true that many in the industry still think that way, either because they are locked in 20th century technology and practices, or because their narrow business interests demand that it be so.

It wasn’t so very long ago that utilities and energy experts were saying it was impossible to accomodate more than 10 per cent wind or solar into a grid, then it was 20 per cent.

Now, even the head of China’s State grid says that accommodating very high levels is not a technical issue, but a “cultural one.” The head of UK’s national grid has suggested that large centralised generators will soon be all but redundant.

The world is moving rapidly away from the sort of dumb grid that Australia relies upon to a smart grid that embraces renewables, battery storage and other smart technologies that may well have avoided the scale of the blackout that occurred in South Australia.

The truth is, Australian can have a 100 per cent renewable energy electricity system. AEMO did a report three years ago and said there was no technical barrier to such ambition.

Still, Uhlmann wanted the public to think that South Australia may not have lost power if it had relied on coal and gas instead of wind energy. He seems to have forgotten that 23 towers in five locations, affecting three major power lines, were lying on the ground, ripped out by the storm.

As Simon Emms from Electranet made clear on Thursday, when you take more than 700MW of generation out of the system in a matter of seconds, no grid that he knew of could have kept going – no matter what colour the power is, green, black or brown, the result would have been the same.

(Some energy analysts do wonder if large amounts of battery storage might have been able to save the day, because of their ability to respond in milliseconds, unlike coal and gas generators. Indeed, the population of South Australia could probably be thankful that they didn’t have to rely on coal generators to regain power, because that could have been a long process waiting for the coal plant to crank up again).

A little bit of research would have shown that, contrary to the claims of the fossil fuel industry repeated rote-like by Uhlmann, wind energy, and solar for that matter, can help provide the synchronous generation and other ancillary services crucial to keeping a grid stable, and do so in Europe and north America.

In fact in Germany, they have found that the costs of balancing the system actually decreases as the amount of renewable energy rises, and as forecasting improves and competition is increased. They actually need less back-up, not more, and balancing costs have fallen by 50 per cent over a five year period.

Screen Shot 2016-09-30 at 12.07.44 PM

 

In Australia, wind and solar farms could do so too – it’s a matter of configuration – and AEMO is looking at those possibilities, including wind, solar and battery storage, and released a paper on that just last month.

But currently there is no market for it. One of the reasons is that the gas generators and others want to keep that market for themselves.

They are petrified of the impact on their business models and the loss in revenue of the sort illustrated in that graph above. In small numbers, they can still charge what they want for providing those services, as they did during recent network upgrades, and also here.

As the report on Germany said: “The design of balancing power markets constitutes an unnecessary entry barrier to this market, and prices in balancing and imbalance markets do not regularly reflect marginal costs. With appropriate market design, variable renewable wind and solar not only consume but can also provide balancing services.”

Another option is to move to smart technology and battery storage, which can also provide the sort of ancillary services that Uhlmann suggests can only come from fossil fuels.

In Germany, the battery storage developer Younicos suggests it could replace all the coal generators by providing the same services they do. Battery storage is now being used commonly in north America to provide those services.

But in Australia that is not yet happening, because the sort of interest groups feeding Uhlmann his lines about asynchronous generation are fighting tooth and nail to stop changes in rules that would encourage battery storage and remove the market power from gas fired generators, in the same way they have fought carbon pricing, renewable energy targets and energy efficiency schemes.

In the last few weeks, they won a significant victory by convincing the rule maker not to change the rules to make it easier for demand response technologies, where large and small energy users agree to reduce their load to keep the system in balance, to compete with fossil fuel generators.

Now those same vested interests are fighting changes to rules, focusing on bidding practices and settlement periods, that could remove some of the horrendous price spikes seen in South Australia in July.

But there you go. The lobbyists have been desperately keen to sow doubt in the minds of the population about the risks of renewable energy. Uhlmann delivered in spades, and we’re taking him to task because his position demands he do better. A lot better.

To suggest that the whole nation faces a blackout is the sort of fear-mongering you’d expect in trashy tabloids or the Murdoch media, or the far-right blogs that proliferate on the net.

It is extraordinary that anyone would want to make that remarkable suggestion as a piece of analysis, and astonishing that anyone would agree to publish or broadcast it on a national platform. As someone must have said at some point: Money can’t buy shit like that.  

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  • Rob

    Uhlman has earned himself a footnote in history with his bizarre anti-wind advocacy. It’s on the public record and it will be scrutinised by generations that follow. He will not be remembered fondly.

    • solarguy

      And neither Turnbull, Frydenburg, Joyce, Hunt and Xenaphon. The government has lost even more credibility with these blatant lies. They all thought they would fool the people, but have been caught out big time.
      There has been no better proof that the right wing nitwits are on the FF payroll for all to see.
      Shame you geese. Bill Shorten has been given a big club to beat Turnbull and all over the head with. No mercy Bill!

      • Robin_Harrison

        It remains to be seen what Shorten does about it. Remember they get bucket loads from FF too.
        It would be good if he let loose but I won’t hold my breath.

        • solarguy

          Well Robin he already has. He now has a big stick and lets hope he uses it continuously. It really is too good a gift for Labor and the Greens, isn’t it.

          • Robin_Harrison

            Your faith in our adversarial political system and our politicians is touching.
            The advice from this old sceptic is, brace yourself for the inevitable disappointment in this system and those people.
            In fact you need to keep a file on those disappointments because we seem incapable of remembering them, constantly drawn in by the glittering false promise of their snake oil.
            Remember Labor get bucket loads from the fossil fuel industry too.

          • solarguy

            Faith in our political system, no not quite. All parties make promises that they don’t or can’t keep for sure. I myself have been under the sun for 57yrs now and have remembered a lot disappointments. The one thing that is most striking of the LNP of recent years is the utter lies there willing to tell in order to get a vote. Also of note, is there complete disregard for the working people and it’s getting worse, so is their incompetence.

          • Robin_Harrison

            **The one thing that is most striking of the LNP of recent years is the utter lies there willing to tell in order to get a vote.**

            A supporter of the right could have made exactly the same statement about the left with equal sincerity, and they do. You both only notice the lies from the other unprincipled lying thief.

            Our adversarial, dualist political system splits society almost exactly in half and, while we are arguing, ‘business as usual’ romps along on its merry way completely unrestricted. Our political system effectively silences the voice of the people.

            Do we accept that as an unexpected coincidence of a basically sound system, or is it worth questioning the soundness of the system?
            What has been the effect on all our social operating systems of the wealthy and influential? After all, they have been the main creators and developers of them.
            Given the results I doubt they had their altruist hats on.

            There is a world of difference between what these systems are supposed to be about and what they actually are.

          • solarguy

            You are making silly assumptions about what I notice. I notice lies from all parties, their misconceptions etc.
            You can question the system all you like but you won’t change it, but you may be able to effect some change in thinking.
            My advise to you is join a party and try and make a difference at branch level. The rich have always been influential, but then so have the working class at times. Have you noticed that?

          • Robin_Harrison

            No silly assumptions. The only reason you are able to claim your side is better is because you are willing to overlook some of their shortcomings.
            You say we can’t change the system but it’s not carved in stone. It’s an artificial system created by humans, entirely changeable. What’s more that system is unsustainable which by definition means that, one way or another, it’s going to stop.
            If you think joining a party and trying to effect change at branch level is realistic all I can say is, keep drinking the koolaid.

          • solarguy

            Ah yes they are silly assumptions! I’m not willing to overlook your shortcomings, I know the type you are, only interested in bitching and doing nothing about it. Well if you think you can change the system then go ahead and make it happen and stop bitching to me.

          • Robin_Harrison

            ** I know the type you are, only interested in bitching and doing nothing about it.**
            A wild assumption on your part, possibly due to you thinking the only way to do something about that system is to engage with it. That tells me you still think the system has credibility which, in turn, explains your anger when I say it doesn’t.

            I’m doing plenty about it and part of what I’m doing is pointing out the glaring problems of our dysfunctional political system which are certainly not serving us, the people, and that includes you.

            Keep believing the bullshit if you wish but me bitching at you is in your imagination.

          • solarguy

            And what are you doing, I’d love to know, please tell. Is it to your mates at the pub or in your imagination. Just exactly how are you going to change the world of politics?

          • Robin_Harrison

            Certainly not by continuing to believe the bullshit. But you do whatever you like.

          • solarguy

            As I thought, your a tosser, a wanna be. And you talk to me as if you have the answers, now who’s full bullshit. Your just a pawn in the game.

          • Robin_Harrison

            So long as you keep believing the bullshit the unprincipled lying thieves on both sides will keep taking advantage of you. Those mongrels get off scot free in your eyes while you are busy trying to shoot the messenger.
            Have fun in your ideological servitude.

          • Alastair Leith

            Shorten just went out and undermined one of his best front benchers in Mark Butler by suggesting the 50% by 2030 wasn’t necessarily ALP policy and an EIS could be “better”. Wont be holding my breath for Shorten to break ranks with fossil or the more resistive unions.

    • Alastair Leith

      bit player. having his moment in the Sun.

      Ch 9 are champing at the bit for their Richard Wilkins wannabe to come home to mama.

    • Cooma Doug

      Could we get Giles on the 7.30 report. His articles are very good as I understand it.

      • Nicko

        Agreed.

        But Giles needs to pretend he is from the IPA or masquerade as Malcolm Roberts…only then the ABC will have him, and in a flash!

      • Alastair Leith

        Richard Dennis never gets invited onto QandA, The Drum was as far as they’d tolerate rational evidence informed debate.

    • Nicko

      Yes, but Uhlmann is on the national broadcaster. It’s role is blatantly partisan. OK, it has been migrating right for ages, but the Uhlmann has shown his colours here.

      Will the ABC support him (sadly, yes) or reign him in (sadly, no).

      • Alastair Leith

        can’t disagree with that

  • David leitch

    Well written Giles. A lot of useful information there. I’d also add its not just AEMO that did the study on 100% renewables and said it was technically feasible, there have also been a bunch of UNSW and U.Syd studies saying the same thing.

    • Alastair Leith

      It’s beyond question now 100% RE is feasible and at reasonable cost in Australia considering the alternatives (on track for lost of all Australian endemic species in >95% of the land mass by 2070 is what I saw on a CSIRO graph presented in a CSIRO CC talk last night, oceans similar story) .

      It’s now just a question of policy mechanisms (ASAP must be the priority) and timelines.

      And this is just electricity sector we are talking about. ZCA Land Use Report found 56% of national emissions are from land use using a more rigorous accounting methodology than UNFCCC uses (90% of that is associated with ruminant livestock). Transport; buildings (EE and PV); industrial process…

      • david_fta

        It’s now just a question of policy mechanisms … and timelines.

        Correct.

        The Denialism run out of News Corpse (thanks Chris Mitchell, rest assured we’ll be thinking of you long into your retirement, well done Michelle Guthrie) through the Lying is Normal Party has allowed the most shithouse climate policy in the world (emission trading) the inside running.

        Correct policy is a simple Consumption Tax on Fossil Carbon (FCCT) with tax holidays on all other taxes. Just introduce the FCCT at low enough rate to not disrupt the economy, then increase each and every year until nobody is still using fossil fuels.

    • John Knox

      Not to mention BZE (or did I just do that???) 😉

  • suthnsun

    I hope Giles is writing an article on MT’s extraordinarily inappropriate and misleading response to the weather.(and people’s suffering).

  • MikeH

    As someone from South Australia pointed out elswhere, the state is still in a state of emergency with quite a few homes and businesses without power and subject to flooding. The ABC is the emergency network so people have to listen to Uhlman (& others) lying about the cause being wind power while they deal with the emergency.

  • MrMauricio

    Chris Uhlman has been unwatchable for a very long time with his right wing views and shallow masquerade as an independent commentator.Just join the LNP/One Nation will ya-and take Sales with you!!!

    • Alastair Leith

      it;s not just his ideological bias its his reduction of the once ok ABC flagship political interview to a session of gotcha moments and tit for tat wordplay. in a word: useless. Sure Mark Scott and his ilk very satisfied with Uhlmann

  • Michael Qualmann

    We are becoming the land of missed opportunities and clown-like politicians. Sad to see the ABC’s Uhlmann bucking under the governemnt & coal/gas lobby whip (There is no difference between government and C&G lobby!). I have my doubts whether Labor will use the opportunity to ‘club’ Turnbull – after all, they’ve been swaying like a candle in wind before and are beholden to the c&g lobby as well. It’ll be up to ordinary people to turn the tide by living the change, even if it comes at a cost.

    • Cooma Doug

      Watching Uhlmann reminded me of Mr Squiggle and if he was drawing a picture drunk.

  • Ken Jones

    Chris Uhlmann has shamefully jumped on the anti-renewables bandwagon with Turnbull, Frydenburg, Joyce, Hunt and Xenaphon while the people of SA suffer. At least misinformation is the day job of the latter five. Uhlmann is supposed to bring journalistic values to his day job but his “analysis” is simply self-serving speculation dressed up as analysis.

    • john

      Ken my experience with journalists is that they are lamentably not able to understand anything to do with figures let alone a mechanical or scientific problem.
      They are social commentators with no knowledge what so ever end of story.

      • Alastair Leith

        It was a target of opportunity for the vested interests and their attack-puppet in CU, that simple.

        Remember when VP Dick Cheney lied on radio “Saddam did it, he had to have” mere hours after 911 attacks? Retracted it eventually but the seed was planted in the popular imagination and recruiting booths in malls all over USA were over subscribed within days.

  • Phil Gorman

    The COAL-ition innovative bullshit pump primed by Barnacle Choice,
    Slick Xenophobe and Mal Feasance is being enthusiastically worked by the
    enthusiastic rump pump of the Ford Estate. The ABC is run by a Newscorp high flyer and the SBS depends on the advertising dollar. The sensationalist narratives that passes for current affairs have hit a new low.

    You can fool most of the people most of the time but you can’t fool
    all of the people all of the time. This time the Neo-liberal Repertory Players have surely gone a farce too far. If there’s an ounce of sense surviving in Australia this shitty extravaganza must surely blow-back big time.

  • john

    It is rather sad to witness the said person on the ABC having no idea about the subject however he is a journalist and lets remember they do not have a clue as his statements or his conclusions prove.
    The more worrying aspect of this is Federal leaders and Ministers who also show lamentable knowledge.
    I think we need an IQ test for people to be elected because in a time of explaining and giving guidance in a sensible and truthful manner the Ministers of the crown have shown themselves to be minions of the clown variety.

    • Cooma Doug

      You are being unfair to jounalists. They are in a role with primary purpose of informing the public of the facts. The professional jounalist (professionalism: ..elimination of error) has responsibilty to eliminate error from their presentations.

    • Alastair Leith

      Giles Parkinson is a journalist and a very fine one. Best in Australia on energy policy and the clean energy transition I wouldn’t hesitate to nominate. Different league to CU altogether of course. And smarts aren’t morals. When I meet really smart people (in distinction to otherwise intelligent, somewhat enlightened people) I always ask them now: ‘what are you doing to save what’s left of the climate?’. Many of them talk about making more money doing what they do or what they consider the hopelessness of the climate cause, the usual rationalisations for moral ambiguity and cognitive dissonance.

  • bedlam bay

    Uhlman is a toxic journalist who is ABC’s answer to NewsCorpse journalism,. His arrogant and abrasive interviewing style made 7:30 unwatchable. He must be made to account on his latest tabloid outrage.

    • john

      He is a social commentator not expected to have a clue as he has proved.

    • Lee

      This is the advent of the ‘Murdochisation’ of the ABC, previously Australia’s last bastion of real journalism. It all just makes me sad.

    • Alastair Leith

      Yeah Guthrie has unleashed the inner Uhlman, oh the tears.

  • Cooma Doug

    I was with a couple of old colleagues from the Grid this morning and they are looking forward to media watch next monday. They had a picture of Uuurrrlmann on the dart board.

    • Alastair Leith

      I wasnt aware ABC’s favoured children ever ended up on the menu. I bet Uhlmann is doing sav cab with Guthrie not on the canteen grub any longer.

  • Mags

    Chris is right, that this transition needs to be managed wisely. Otherwise we are going to get in a huge mess. Not because of renewables, which we need tons more of, but because there is no plan as to how we move from one generating source to another in a sensible way. It is a hugely complex issue. This government will NEVER make such a plan as they are only interested in supporting their mining backers. So we will have to wait Chris until we get a sensible government.

    • david_fta

      Actually, there’s a way to make it a very simple issue. Just have a simple Consumption Tax on Fossil Carbon (FCCT) with tax holidays on all other taxes. Just introduce the FCCT at low enough rate to not disrupt the economy, then increase each and every year until nobody is still using fossil fuels.

      For example, if you introduce the FCCT at $100 per tonne contained carbon (ie $27.78 per tonne emitted CO2), then increase it by $100 per tonne contained carbon each year thereafter, then after only 2 years it will already be cheaper for power companies to replace their coal-fired generators with solar thermal power stations (my calculation, based on figures from https://theconversation.com/renewables-are-getting-cheaper-all-the-time-heres-why-64799).

    • Alastair Leith

      What makes you think SA isnt managing the transition well? Certainly doing much better than my present state of WA. Do you think AEMO let privatised network owners (foreign owned) slacken of on redundacy infrastructure. Prior to this AEMO had an 99.998% up time standard to crow about, did profitability for corporate monopolies influence regulatory standards

  • Kenshō

    “To suggest that the whole nation faces a blackout is the sort of fear-mongering you’d expect in trashy tabloids”

    It is in fact the exact opposite of what Uhlmann is suggesting: To the extent we cling to centralised generation is the extent we remain vulnerable to natural disaster. Conversely, to the extent renewable energy powers all our utilities and houses, is the extent we still have a local electricity source for water pumping, refrigeration and communications, albeit a smaller electricity source – when those long runs of poles and wires are effected by wind, flood or fire.

  • Peter Davies

    Thinking through today why I feel so angry about statements linking renewables with the blackout (a blatant untruth), it is because this basic lack of honesty seems now to be accepted as just politics…as if this somehow makes it less of a fraudulent proposition where some kind of advantage is being gained by misrepresentation of the facts.

    • Kenshō

      If this national blackout has to happen, it doesn’t take much to have a light globe shining in protest.

      • Peter Davies

        True, and my own days on the grid are numbered…

        • Kenshō

          I’ve got 6 panels and 4 batteries. They got me through two 6 hour grid outages so far. Did have to run some appliances consecutively – kettle, hotplate, microwave. Everything else went on as normal. Because both outages were during the day, the batteries barely budged from 100%.

          • Peter Davies

            We have a biomass gasifier that is regarded by scientists and engineers who have seen it as the best of its kind and which needs its own class acknowledged. Soon we hope to have a small 2-3 kWe ultra low maintenance thermal genset added, though it can run IC engine units already. Currently building a new semi automatic version domestic scale version to provide all heating, hot water and power. As biomass is stored solar energy we will be weather and daylight independent…:)

    • solarguy

      Mate as far as I’m concerned, it’s the CRIME OF THE CENTURY!

      • Peter Davies

        Yeah disappointment undimmed a few days on…even wrote directly today to tell him what I thought…

  • Jimbo

    The ABC has again shown us that it is no longer a National Broadcaster worth having. Once the far right took control they lost me. Ullmann is a waste of space, along with the rest of the news service.

  • Kenshō

    Sometimes ideology gets in the way. The bottom line is if the power goes out, two of the three people here want to be able to make coffee. A payback is nice. Though the security of having simple choices is a wondrous gift of technology.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7582392e42e9b922625ad7c5669c9dcb275b7628180cc90468aa88e38471fbd0.jpg

  • Kenshō
  • Mike Murray

    I’m definitely on the side of renewables so this is not an antagonistic post – I’m just fairly ignorant on the techical aspects of wind power and need clarification.
    Ullman’s main point seems to be that wind power is asynchronous and that could be disasterous for the grid without stabilisation.
    Giles doesn’t address that point head-on – he just dismisses Ullman’s use of the terms as “oblique” without refuting his claim.
    Please can someone address Ullman’s claim directly – is the ‘asynchronousness’ of wind power a major problem or are there ways around it other than having FF back-up?

    • Kenshō

      Hi Mike, I’m an electronics technician not specialising in wind power, however wind power or fossil fuel power could not in themselves be regarded as asynchronous or synchronous because they are simply the mechanical effort that is used to rotate a coil of wire in the presence of a magnet, producing electricity. It doesn’t matter what type of mechanical effort is used, it then needs to use a gearbox, various electrical conversion and control circuitry to produce a consistent electrical frequency in a narrow band around 50 Hertz or 50 cycles per second. This doesn’t mean the crankshaft of a diesel engine or a wind turbine has to turn at that speed or be synchronised to 50 Hertz as it’s not a direct drive. All that’s necessary is if one generator has already started, all the other generators are needed to synchronise with it before supplying power to the load. I’m guessing now, though because wind came after coal and gas, the wind turbines are probably currently setup to sync with an active grid, like a grid-connect inverter needs to sync with an active grid. It doesn’t have to be configured that way. A wind generator can be setup however the engineer wishes to. It could continue to supply a consistent 50Hz AC to a grid even if all the fossil fuel generators had died. It could be setup to sync with an active grid. It could be setup to place the power in a battery and have the power dispatched as needed. It’s up to engineers to determine how the wind is best configured in relation to the network, and as the network evolves, rather than politicians blaming the power source.

      “In electricity generation, a generator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy for use in an external circuit. The source of mechanical energy may vary widely from a hand crank to an internal combustion engine. Generators provide nearly all of the power for electric power grids.”
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_generator

      • Peter Davies

        Excellent.

      • Mike Murray

        Hi Giles and Kensho – thanks very much

    • So maybe i didn’t make the point clear enough. In Australia, they are asynchronous because as i pointed out, they are not asked and there is no market for them to provide those services, They can provide those services if required or if there is an economic incentive, as they do in other countries. The other point is that these services do not need to come only from coal or gas plants, which is where the coalition, xenophon and uhlmann seem to suggest. they can come from battery storage too. But as i pointed out, that needs change to the market design, and the incumbent fossil fuel generators are fighting that tooth and nail, for obvious economic reasons.

  • Howard Witt

    Turnbull & Uhlman accuses States of being Ideology Driven.

    The passion to get a realistic Carbon Pricing policy implemented
    – Should be Ideologically Driven.

    An Ideology which included a Total Commitment to leave future generations with
    – A Liveable World.

    Help us explain to all in parliament that this should be the foundations for the legislate they enact.

    See you All in Canberra for the CCL National Conference & Lobby Days

    Howard
    Volunteer,
    Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Australia) http://www.ccl.org.au

    • Kenshō

      “Ideology is a collection of beliefs held by an individual, group or society.”
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology

      Turnbull has indicated he sees “ideology” as a negative buzzword. It is because the level of “beliefs” is generally held by psychologists and scientists to be less integral level of intelligence, often founded on unconscious or irrational assumptions akin to religion etc. If you wish to have success, I think its more skilful to approach your target audience (coalition government) in a way they see as being credible. STEM is currently in vogue with the coalition government and our chief scientist, so they will be interested in empirical methodologies, presentation of facts, evidence based reasons for the position your putting forward. Additionally, it seems likely you will need to argue based upon their values not your own, so convince them environmental goals and economic goals are synergistic, rather than being polarised and choosing their most important imperative – economic goals. It is the approach of counselling, to begin with empathy and rapport with your target audience, then seek to build in common ground around where your org is interested in going.

      • Peter Davies

        Yep, have watched the Stem argument develop, even know many of the advocates who cluster in little groups you probably could call Stem Cells with a perfectly straight face. I support them and the argument, though apparently I am regarded as a Ronin, or so I am told. The approach you outline is perfectly logical and reasonable, except it won’t work because the political machines you are educating are two faced with non-transparent agenda’s inimical to what you are trying to achieve as success is perceived as threatening existing industry incumbents. For political groupings whose mantra is “free markets above all” they sure do love the big stick of “competitive advantage” to beat down any emerging small players and keep the market amongst friends…

        • Kenshō

          I agree 100%. A coalition government would only ever support environmental goals if it saw no other way of moving forward economic goals.

  • Kenshō

    In the light of the SA disaster and attacks on wind as a technology, is it possible to get an electrical engineer who specialises in wind turbines, to tell Australia the pros and cons of what we already have and any recommendations from here? It seems necessary to address the PM’s fears.

  • Andrea

    Giles I am interested in the statement from Electranet “when you take more than 700MW of generation out of the system in a matter of seconds, no grid that he knew of could have kept going”. Surely he exaggerates. The Bayswater Power Stations have 660MW units – there has to be enough contingency FCAS in the system to deal with the sudden loss of such a unit. Indeed in July 2009, Bayswater units and a few others went down (presumably very quickly) and NSW lost 3200 MW of generation. It had to resort to load shedding (about 1000MW) but the state didn’t black out.
    The problem in SA this week seems to be that not only did they lose 700 MW from the state, they also lost the interconnectors (which were importing at nearly full capacity). Even if the interconnectors had not tripped, there was little possibility of importing FCAS from Victoria due to capacity constraint.
    I think the issue is if SA hadn’t been so dependent on Vic imports that day, and was generating about 1000MW of wind power and about 1000MW of gas-fired power, could the state blackout have been prevented.

    • Kenshō

      Details. Theory. The grid/s need structural changes.

      • Andrea

        So does the National Electricity Market! It seems that using the cheapest generator was more important than system security on a stormy day.

    • MG

      Yes – answering ‘why the Heywood interconnector went down’ is probably the most interesting outstanding question. At the time of the blackout, AEMO was procuring FCAS globally, meaning that, according to AEMO’s modeling, there should have been enough FCAS to account for failure of the largest single ‘credible contingency’ in any part of the NEM. So if Heywood had stayed online, it’s possible/probable (don’t want to speculate) that global FCAS (across from VIC) could have filled the gap and kept the lights on in SA. However, it’s likely that the failure (3 of 4 transmission lines blown over) is a true ‘non-credible contingency’ i.e. an unforeseeable event that AEMO does not procure FCAS for (as event’s occurrence is unknown/rare and procuring extra FCAS is expensive)

      • Kenshō

        What if the Heywood interconnector tripped due to the speed the transmission lines were blown over, even though the capacity may have been there to supply the rise in demand? If so this would highlight the benefit of batteries as a superior form of FCAS than trying to grab power from other kinds of spinning reserve. Hence regions with interconnectors could continue to rely upon those for their FCAS whereas areas far away could be the first priority areas for battery storage (and RE) e.g. Eyre Peninsula.

  • Kenshō

    Even though I’m only an electronics technician with three degrees in social welfare and so on, what I think is going on with the grid in this country, is utilities and regulators are reluctant to break the grid into areas where local renewable energy would be interdependent with a larger grid. This would facilitate fault finding using what we used to call the “half split method” for fault finding electrical circuits – and also give local areas like the Eyre Peninsula some emergency backup if the larger HV powerlines went down. As said I’m no linesman, utility level analyst or nor am I an electrical engineer. I do care about people in local communities. I can’t see why vulnerable areas cannot have their local area or region able to be electrically isolated with circuit breakers in natural disaster, so local areas could have some provision of RE/storage. The best example of this general principle is mobile phone towers. They often have a grid connection as well as a UPS or battery backup. The battery backup is merely to enable emergency crews of linesman and engineers to respond, before towns or regions run out of water in reservoirs, can’t pump sewerage, have no power, NBN, landline or mobile phone coverage. As this seems so basic and straight forward to me, I assume networks are struggling with the centralised paradigm and reluctant to embrace the distributed paradigm of local generation/storage. This in my view is the main learning from the crisis SA has so emphatically experienced.

    • Andrea

      I was a mechanical engineer with an interest in wind power so I am no expert either. But I think what you are suggesting Kenshō is not straight forward. Once the smaller grid is islanded, it would still need to balance supply and demand. (It may be able to withstand slightly larger frequency disturbances.) So unless you had a significant amount of storage and/or flexible generators, you would need to control demand. This could be done with load shedding, or perhaps with controlling some high demand end uses (refrigeration, heating and cooling?) Having significant storage within each microgrid also requires a huge use of resources. Hence it is not as sustainable as when storage options are shared throughout the wider network.

      • Kenshō

        Sharing storage on the wider network would be cheaper in terms of the provision of storage, although superstorms or major network problems could still be transferred throughout the whole state in another “system black”. I think a midway position is breaking the network into regions by allocating generation/storage in each region. I think there’s an emerging consensus that a state wide “system black” is unacceptable. In my view each region needs storage or FCAS of some kind. The emerging options appear to be:
        a) the proposed solar tower/molten salt at Port Augusta,
        b) Lyon has proposed large PV/storage around the country,
        c) battery storage at the substation level: “The competitive process that followed has resulted in Tesla being selected “to provide a 20 MW/80 MWh Powerpack system at the Southern California Edison Mira Loma substation,”
        http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/tesla-wins-contract-largest-lithium-ion-battery-storage-installation-world-61917
        d) if any of the present wind farms are models where storage can be added evaluate cost of that versus other alternatives,
        e) areas with immediate access to existing interconnecters may be less of a priority for the above measures, as they have less runs of poles and wires to a potential source of FCAS in the event of a natural disaster.

        In my view, engineers need a strategic and targeted fiscal approach where the grid/s can survive in regions. Naturally the most vulnerable communities need to be fitted out first. e.g. that might be Eyre Peninsula.

      • Kenshō

        There’s no problem balancing supply and demand with RE that goes into batteries. Only mechanical generators have inertia. RE that comes out of a battery ramps up and down at the speed of electrons building and relaxing an electromagnetic field. The only limit is the peak output of the inverter/chargers and how long the battery will last. Any hours added to uptime in an emergency gives workers time to respond.

  • Matt S

    Make a complaint to the ABC.
    They have a code of practice that demands they be objective and unbiased in their coverage. Uhlmann has failed in both regards in his coverage on this story. Jumping to conclusions on the role of RE in causing the black-out despite any evidence backing that up is one piece of evidence. Secondly, the subsequent piece he did around RE not being synchronous and questioning whether fossil generators would have responded differently dresses up ignorance in technical jargon. AEMO procures a fixed amount of contingency FCAS, the service used to respond to sudden loss of supply. However, the loss of Northern transmission, meant that there was an almost instant loss of some 700MW. The system is designed around redundancy, but this is far greater than n-1. Conversely, if Victoria suffered multiple losses of our transmission lines to the La Trobe valley, I imagine we would suffer similar issues.
    The ABC is a public broadcaster, and we must hold them accountable when they spout objectionable nonsense.

  • Kenshō

    Ullmann is at it again on the ABC trying to leverage a letter from Koutsantonis. Someone needs to find out where this concern with “synchronous” generators is coming from. Wind can be configured any way an engineer determines. Wind can offer FCAS. Solar can offer FCAS. The fact is, adding storage to wind and solar offers far superior FCAS than any fossil fuel generator because mechanical generators have inbuilt inertia, whereas the inverter getting power out of a battery ramps up and down at almost instantaneous speed limited only by the speed of electrons and electromagnetic fields building. The whole argument seems constructed on a false premise that fossil fuel is synchronous and RE isn’t. My inverter/charger synchronises with the grid and can generate it’s own stable voltage amplitude and frequency from a battery. Just fix the grid rules so storage can be added and stop the bullshit and whinging.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-04/electricity-security-complex-in-sa-says-koutsantonis/7899302?section=environment

    From the technical reading I did about wind turbines, the only reason some wind generators were originally called “synchronous” in comparison to “asynchronous”, is asynchronous were more efficient because they don’t have a direct drive from the blades to the frequency generation. Decoupling the mechanical blades from the electrical side merely makes the wind generator more efficient. This has nothing to do with grid security or reliability of output which is determined by the control circuitry and whether the wind turbine has storage added. The wind turbine itself does not have any inherent disadvantage and nor does solar. A fossil fuel generator has the same intermittency as wind or solar when fuel isn’t shovelled into its turbine. Whereas fossil fuel needs coal and gas continually shovelled in, wind and solar need the provision of storage. The storage can be any combination of batteries, pumped hydro or molten salt. All in all, only RE can surpass the problem of superstorms causing catastrophic failure of centralised generation infrastructure, by transforming the grid/s with distributed generation/storage…

  • Kenshō

    Think about this way Uhlmann. In Australia’s history, Australians used wind turbines to pump water into a header tank or pump electricity into a battery. Did anyone assert the products of wind energy were inherently intermittent???

  • Adam Gallon

    Seems like he was remarkably prescient.