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Victorian networks blow a fuse in heatwave – Coalition blows its mind on Twitter

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Conservatives love a summer blackout. And with two-thirds of peak blackout season already gone, they were not going to miss the opportunity presented by last night’s outages across Victoria to point the finger at renewable energy, the state Labor government’s support of renewables, and most of all last year’s closure of the privately owned Hazelwood coal-fired power plant.

The only slight hitch in this ingenious plan is that none of the above had anything at all to do with it.

On Sunday, the state reached record grid demand for a Sunday in the midst of the heatwave, but around 55,000 Victorians suffered without power at various times on Sunday evening – and many continue to do so on Monday – after faults across the state’s distribution networks.

As explained by the Energy Networks Association, the assorted network companies, and the Australian Energy Market Operator, the blackouts were caused by faults in the *delivery* of the electricity – and not the *supply* or generation of it.

That is, as absolutely everyone in the state turned their air conditioners up to 11 to cope with temperatures hovering around 40°C – and an overnight low of around 30°C – the state’s “poles and wires” (mostly substation fuses) systems were overwhelmed by demand that peaked at around 9,144MW: “the highest operational demand for a Sunday, ever,” says AEMO.

United Energy, Powercor and CitiPower spokeswoman Emma Tyner said “the prolonged high temperatures and humidity through the weekend significantly increased electricity demand at many locations across the network which resulted in multiple power outages,” she said.

“In most cases, substation fuse faults were the main cause of the outages.”

AusNet spokesman Hugo Armstrong said: ”There are a lot fuses blowing in the hot weather and a significant power pull with people having put in air-conditioners they didn’t tell us about.”

So to summarise, the outages had nothing to do with insufficient power being generated, by renewables or otherwise.

The state’s remaining coal plants did not go missing in the heat, as they have done so often before; and the state’s rooftop solar capacity – as illustrated in Dylan McConnell’s chart below – helped to push the day’s peak out to 7.30pm, quite probably ensuring Victorians did not endure an even longer, more painful blackout.

As AEMO noted, even when power demand reached its record peak on Sunday, there was still plenty of power in the market operator’s reserves – 1,384MW (not including the strategic RERT reserve). They just couldn’t deliver it to everyone, because of the unforeseen distribution faults.

But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good smear campaign?

While the government and AEMO turned their focus to the electricity companies who appear to have – at great expense to consumers – gold-plated all but certain key parts of their distribution networks, state and federal Coalition members got busy making things up.

Even our deputy PM, and chief coal power industry propper-upper, Barbaby Joyce couldn’t resist weighing in. He’s only human, after all.

Thankfully, there are plenty of people on Twitter who know quite a bit about how the national electricity market works, and were able to set the record straight. Here are some of the best Tweets doing just that:

State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio also had some things to say on Twitter. First, quite calmly…

…and then a bit more pointedly:

And finally…

  

Pocket
  • DevMac

    “politics over policy” – Matthew Guy MP

    The irony is so thick it could carry enough electricity to power Victoria through a heatwave.

  • john

    The facts do not matter when the message is FUD.

  • Andrew Reilly

    You’re saying that our famously over engineered (“gold plated”) distribution network was the weak link? Even better value for money than we thought.

  • Robert Westinghouse

    Children!!! – instead of fixing the problem they just point the finger keep their heads in their bottoms and remain self-centred and ignorant. No amount of finger pointing will fix the problem. GROW-UP…accept you have caused the problem and fix it….

    • trackdaze

      Unfortunately too many fall for the dogwhistling.

      Wise up voters,wise up

  • Diego Fuentes

    And Victorians will fall the fraudulent Liberal Party comments, elect them, then continue to have blackouts and Labor will continue to receive the blame, whilst the Liberal Party impedes renewables investment and people lose their jobs.

  • dono

    If fuses are the weak link could we put politicians in as a replacement?

    • mick

      nah sorry mate they’re the missing link

    • nakedChimp

      they wouldn’t have the right rating

      • Hettie

        But wouldn’t it be fun to watch them sizzle.

  • Andrew Roydhouse

    What is so disappointing is that too many people believe what the MPs say.

    So many think that if they cannot trust the Federal Govt or State Govt than we’re no better off than North Korea or Russia – so they choose to believe what they hear as the alternative (that our Govts lie frequently and cannot be trusted regardless of what side of politics) is even more appalling to believe.

    Gee, cannot wait for the ABC to report that Trump’s claims of ‘fake news’ are proven by Australian politicians such as Barnaby, Bill and Gladys!

    Nothing like deliberately lying to further your political (or donor’s) career!

    • Barri Mundee

      You can see a propaganda campaign was unleashed after these distribution-caused outages. The average person is probably not up with the technicalities and so are disinclined to question the allegations.

      One consequence of fixed term elections in Victoria is that oppositions know when the next election will be and can prepare and we are seeing some of the first salvos in the upcoming battle. Truth will be a casualty.

  • solarguy

    Guys, look just install higher rated fuses you morons. How could you let your customer’s down like that, after all you knew what the current draw would be and it’s not as if you haven’t got the money.

    And to the Lying Nasty Party, you bastards don’t deserve to be in parliament, when your porky pies are so bloody obvious. Hell do ya think that will help your re-election chances.

    Tosser’s!

    • Joe

      My Solarman, yes to all that. Today on My ABC News 24 I saw Premier Dan give a presser giving the facts on the outages. Supply was not the issue, there was plenty of Supply. The issue was with the delivery systems. And then there was a representative ( forgot his name ) from the Networks in an interview saying the only way to guarantee 100% supply 100% of the time is to spend an enormous amount of money that consumers will will cop and so the ocassionaly blackout is just reality….and there you have if folks, straight from the horse’s mouth!

      • solarguy

        Can’t guarantee 100% of the time, but certainly stay up with game and install bigger fuses. They should have anticipated more people would buy A/C’s in a warming world. No excuses.

        • Joe

          …the default excuse is always coming from the right wing nutters..It’s ALWAYS the fault of wind and solar.

        • itdoesntaddup

          You also need bigger transformers, and maybe beefier power supply lines. The fuses are there to stop those other things from blowing – which is a) much more expensive and b) may take quite a while to fix.

          • Rod

            The problem (probably) is that the transformers aren’t getting an opportunity to cool down overnight.
            In SA in the 90s we had similar problems and had a program of adding cooling fins and fans to substation based transformers.
            I also found an interesting SAPN document showing an actual plan for demand management in 2004. They had time of day usage for 19 suburbs. I’m guessing it never saw the light of day.

      • Joe

        Additional info….that dude that I mentioned from the Networks is Andrew Dillon representing Energy Networks Australia.

    • trackdaze

      Fuses are there to protect something else so you need to uprate that first.

      • solarguy

        Well that’s right mate, I should have added that fact.

  • lin

    How do you know a Liberal politician is lying?
    Their lips are moving.
    These hypocritical morons are a waste of oxygen and should be ignored at every available opportunity.
    Unfortunately our midstream media seek “balance”, and halfway between the truth and a lie is still a lie.

    • nakedChimp

      nope, the media is not seeking ‘balance’, they seek domination of the incumbents. That’s why the media (which in Oz is mostly a private monopoly by now) sprouts that stuff. Key-towing to the highest current bidder and interests.

  • Hettie

    Ok, all you Victorian readers. To save the Andrews Gov’t, you must write letters to the newspapers. All of them.
    Heading, “It’s the fuses, Stupid!”
    Simple, short letters that state very clearly that there was ample supply, thanks to all the rooftop solar, but the failure of the system was that in the heat, with the huge demand, many substations simply blew multiple fuses.
    People can understand that.
    Keep telling them.
    No complicated frequency and ancillary services talk. Just the combination of high heat and high demand with old fuses.
    Everyone (I hope) knows that if you plug in 4 outlet power boards piggybacked with more power boards, and run TV and video and computer with printer and external hard drive and router especially and and and and a 10kw aircon, the circuit will trip.

    So tell them. And tell them again.

    And get the kids to write it all over Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. After all, they will have to live on this planet longer than us, and most of them really would like it to be habitable.

    They know that renewables are part of the answer, not part of the problem. So encourage them to encourage their friends to ensure that their parents and voting age siblings are told the simple truth.
    The system was overloaded, and overheated, and the fuses blew.
    Gold plated taps, with clapped out leather washers.

    • Joe

      Vote 1, Young Hettie for Parliament…you have at least one vote..Mine.

      • Hettie

        Joe, I spent a good deal of my working life in the pharmaceutical industry, in sales and marketing. If there is one skill I have, it is translating matters seen by most as arcane, into simple terms, readily understood, and then reinforcing that with an analogy to something even simpler and we’ll known.
        Then there is the marketing. Getting that simple message out to the buying (voting) public.
        Knowing who are the influences, how to hook them, and land them.
        Readers here are well placed to start a ball rolling, but, I fear, don’t see themselves as able, or even having a duty, to influence public opinion. And yet I believe that we all have a duty to work for the best outcome for the country and the planet.
        The most accessible way to do that is letters to the papers. The great risk is in the temptation to be technical, to show how much you know, instead of speaking a very simple truth in easily understood terms.
        So make me a campaign manager, but there is no way known that I would subject my aged self to the horrors or political life.

  • Chris Fraser

    When a coal-loving conservative politician seeks to use Twitter to hold forth on their anti-renewable energy dogma, they really need to preface every comment with “I have no idea if this is true but ….. “

  • Rod

    Andrews decided to give the Feds the go ahead to continue NEG modelling rather than telling them to stick it like SA did.
    I wonder if he is regretting that decision and how he will lean next COAG energy meeting.

    • Hettie

      I suspect he was giving them enough rope to hang themselves.

    • mick

      i dont understand why any of the coag reps gave a 3 letter brain fart any credibility at all

      • Rod

        I think there were a lot of people surprised by Vic’s stand but I will bet Jay and Tom were livid.

  • Chris Fraser

    Aha, but at least NOW the head-in-sand network service providers DO know of the presence of all those aircons they supposedly weren’t told about. Continue with your highly anticipatory conservative modelling and good luck. Pity you couldn’t use some of the $50 Billion we gave you to check the Fuses !

  • trackdaze

    More Distributed solar and batteries would help the network cope!

  • Charles Hunter

    ‘AusNet spokesman Hugo Armstrong said: ”There are a lot fuses blowing in the hot weather and a significant power pull with people having put in air-conditioners they didn’t tell us about.”’

    Since when does anyone have to tell a distributor a blind thing about what is connected behind the meter (save for installing/upgrading a grid-connected micro embedded generation system such as PV)?

    I’m genuinely curious. Are there requirements for householders to notify distributors about particular items and where does one find this list? I could not find anything on this topic on my distributor’s web site.

    Alternatively, is Hugo whinging about really big AC units such as those in shopping centres?

    • Ren Stimpy

      Isn’t it all about Smart Meters? Victoria is the Smart Meter state, which makes sense. In NSW and Qld the network operators can assume most buildings have an air conditioner, but in Victoria that was not the case in the past, but now climate is changing the equation (becoming hotter and dryer). Buildings which install an air conditioner should also install a Smart Meter in Vic.

      • Annette

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        • Ren Stimpy

          Yes dear.

          • Hettie

            Ren, you do offensive very well.

          • Ren Stimpy

            Unfortunately spam bots don’t take offense. Well not yet anyway, but who knows what the future of AI has in store for us.

          • Hettie

            Ah. I had not investigated Lisa’s comment before reacting. You are aware, I hope, that “Yes dear,” is the ultimate, patronising, male put down of an uppity woman?
            Having looked at Lisa’s comment, I see that you were justified. Offend away.

          • Joe

            Where did Liza disappear to?

          • Ren Stimpy

            Is it just me or does that picture of “Liza” look like that ‘movie’ star who Trump paid hush money to keep quiet about their fling?

          • Joe

            From memory she did look rather fetching. Just the sort that Trumpie would like to grab by the …..?

          • Calamity_Jean

            Considering that “she” is a spambot, I hope it had its computer shorted out and its program erased.

          • Joe

            As much as I hate spam but I did sort of enjoy seeing young Liza pop up now and again with her lastest offerings. Liza was a change from the too frequent anti RE Trolli posts.

      • itdoesntaddup

        You mean s they can’t use their air conditioner when they really need it? Not much different to a blackout, except you pay extra in your bills for the smart meter.

        • Ren Stimpy

          Sure they can with no constraint, and you know it. They just help the network with Smart Meters which lowers their collective costs.

          • itdoesntaddup

            The only way they can “help the network” is by curtailing consumption, and you know it.

          • Hettie

            Misinformation about demand management is rife. You claim to know a great deal about the electricity market, and shoot yourself in the foot most times that you post.
            And you know perfectly well that as far as domestic consumers are concerned, demand management will consist of adjusting aircon settings by a degree or two at times of peak demand, modifying the times that pool pumps operate, or that water heating operates.
            You seem to forget that readers and posters here are at least moderately well informed. So save your trolling for those who might believe you.

          • itdoesntaddup

            I’m sorry if you don’t understand the words “curtailing consumption”, but you then go on to give several examples of it anyway, so in reality you’re agreeing with me.

          • Joe

            Hettie ignore the ‘hecantthinkstraight’ dude. Just a stooge of the anti RE brigade.

          • Hettie

            Quite. Just thought it was time someone gave him a serve.

          • Joe

            You ‘Aced’ him!

          • Ren Stimpy

            You are quite wrong. Curtailing consumption is only an option – if a Smart Meter owner doesn’t want their Smart Meter to curtail their consumption they are not obliged to. So to repeat, no constraint, and you know it.

            Curtailment of consumption for Smart Meter owners who choose to do that (to save money) is done in such way that has little noticeable effect on the function of their air conditioner, for example the AC might be turned off for 10 minutes in each hour.

            The benefit of Smart Meters as relates to this article is providing network operators with more data on which they can make better decisions to reduce costly demand peaks in a harmless or minimial-effect way, which saves everybody money in the long run.

            https://www.choice.com.au/home-improvement/energy-saving/power-meters/articles/smart-meters-how-do-they-work

          • itdoesntaddup

            No-one even bothered with the idea of smart meters until we started getting around to unreliables dominated grids. Then they’re suddenly needed to try to cut the risk of system blackouts. They’re expensive, and the appliances they control must have extra cost components to obey smart meter commands. It would be far cheaper to ensure that we have sufficient dispatchable capacity instead.

          • Mike Westerman

            No one bothered with inoculations until we understood bacterial disease. What an inane line of reasoning.

            Smart meters mean people start to make smart decision about their impact on the world and other people, just as congestion charging does for transport.

    • Chris Fraser

      No they are not required to advise the Network provider if they buy an air conditioner. Everyone is supposedly entitled to receive 80 Amps whenever they want it. And even aircon doesn’t max it out. It’s just that they Assume you don’t need high loadings at the same time that everyone else wants high loadings. And now on a hot day this turns out to be magical thinking.

      • nakedChimp

        Which should/would be mostly offset by people installing PV.

        • Chris Fraser

          And PV owners thus avoid becoming part of the problem.

          • Joe

            We / PV owners have never been part of the ‘problem’, have we.

        • Calamity_Jean

          Especially if part of the PV is installed facing west.

      • Hettie

        Should have read this of yours before going guessing.

    • Island fisher

      When any electrical work is performed in Vic a certificate must be lodged with ESV on this there is box with yes/no answer “have you installed air conditioning” expect to see a lot of prosecutions for no CES provided in the near future

      • Charles Hunter

        Please forgive my NSW-based ignorance but does the “have you installed air conditioning?” question mean (a) “some or all of the electrical work covered by this certificate involved the installation of an air conditioner?”, or (b) “some electrical work was done at these premises. It had nothing to do with air conditioning but the contractor happened to notice that there was an air conditioner in the house”, or (c) both “a” and “b”?

        In other words, is the intention to only capture newly-installed AC units or to progressively figure out where all the AC units in the state are over time as routine electrical work is performed?

        Wonder when this kind of thing will start happening in other states?

        On this topic (of certificates of work), I got both electrical and plumbing certificates when I replaced a gas HWS with an electric heat-pump based unit. Those certificates were needed to claim the STCs, but I was not required to send copies to anyone else and neither the electrical contractor nor the plumber mentioned any need for them to forward copies to anyone. Given that I had to submit “original” certificates for the STCs and that both the contractor’s and my signatures were required, if the contractors had had separate lodgement obligations I’m guessing I would have had to sign two “originals”, which I didn’t.

        Heat-pumps for HWS are similar to the compressors in AC units, are they not? In any event, my HWS heat-pump is mostly driven by my PV array. The unit is on a time-switch preventing it from trying to heat at night because (a) I don’t see the sense in consuming grid power to heat water and, (b) the “<40dB" is still a bit noisy in the quiet of the evening and I have no wish to annoy the neighbours.

        • Island fisher

          Only applies to new AC units, I assume that ESV forward this collated data to to the distco’s

    • Joe

      Buy and a TV, tell the AusNet. Buy a kitchen microwave, tell the AusNet, Buy a kitchen toaster, tell the AusNet, Buy new Aircon, tell the AusNet…..on it can go of course. I’m sure it will be a massive job creator…all those office clerks needed to log all those appliance purchases. At least the Network will guarantee 100% supply 100% of the time, yes.

    • Hettie

      Most aircon needs a higher amperage circuit than other domestic circuits. An additional installation cost, and possibly that circuit should be reported to the relevant network manager. And very seldom is so reported.
      Wild speculation on my part, as a possible explanation for Armstrong’s implied belief that he should have been aware of all the new aircon.
      Dunno. Just guessing.

    • Matthew Cole

      I think what they were doing was to either get the Vic government the blame or if that didnt stick then blame the consumer. To hell with blaming those actually responsible…the network providers.

  • Radbug

    The Liberals have missed the bus carrying the electorate. It will take another 3 electoral cycles for them to catch it again.

    • Joe

      Not if it is an…EV Bus…they’re never catching that one..

  • Debunking and exposing the Coalition’s lies here is not nearly enough. Even those who got the eventual truth on twitter probably represent a small proportion of those put offside by the original lies. On top of exposing the lies, we have to get one helluva lot better at disseminating the truth – or we will just keep on getting the government we deserve. Assholes governing slackasses – there’s a perfect symmetry to it.

    • Hettie

      So write to the papers, get the kids to post on social media, be part of the truth telling effort.

      • Ros Sculac

        Our local press (Murdoch owned) rarely publishes letters or texts that are not pro coal. It is a waste of time to try to get the message across.

        • Joe

          I live on the Northern Beaches, Sydney. Our local paper is The Manly Daily, it is one of Rupert’s. It is a good local newspaper but never a letter on RE is to be seen. I think most of the local papers in Sydney are under Rupert’s umbrella.

        • Hettie

          Lots of online papers. The Guardian, Independent Australian, New Matilda, Saturday Paper. No pay walls, good comments sections.
          Look around.

        • neroden

          Is there a way to convince people to dump the Murdoch propaganda rags into the trash bin, or to use them for firelighters? If people stop buying the garbage then Murdoch will eventually stop publishing it.

      • Joe

        Young Hettie please see my note to Ros Sulac below.

      • Hi Hettie,
        Absolutely! I didn’t see your other comment below before I made my own. I did look over the comments before adding my two bits worth, but overlooked yours if it was there.

        Decades ago, whoever owned the mass media controlled the conversation. With the rise of social media that no longer has to be the case . Somehow we have to find a way to motivate and incentivize the truth-sharing sufficiently that it does actually happen on the scale needed.

        • Hettie

          All good.

        • Hettie

          Exactly. I posted on Facebook this morning, and that gas been shared twice. I’ll keep plugging at it . Also in Greens pages, groups that hate the Coalition, groups that are interested in climate issues. Very easy to copy a post and paste it in multiple places.
          I get notified when my post is shared, but not when others share from the share. Who knows how it grows.
          All we can do is try.

        • Hettie

          You are forgiven.
          The way comments are arranged on this site is hard to fathom. If the originating comments were arranged in chronological order, with replies below them, also in c.o., but with replies to the replies in threads, not just c.o., it would all be much easier to keep track of. I have great difficulty making sense of the flow.
          So I just run off at the keyboard when I get the urge.

      • ChannelSixtyNine69

        I’ve been banned on Murdoch rags, Twitter, Facebook and Daily Mail. Apparently they don’t like abrasive humour.

        • Hettie

          When so many media organs object to your posts, it might be worth considering the possibility that your posting style is out of step with community standards, miserably low though they are.
          Perhaps you might try to be more objective, less abrasive. It could well be you who is out of step, not the rest of the world.

  • Michael Murray

    So just do what your dad taught you to do. Take out the fuse, stick in a thick bit of fencing wire, replace the fuse.

    • Hettie

      If you can still do that at your place, it’s time the whole house was rewired before it burns down.

      • Michael Murray

        No we are good. We have circuit breakers.

        • Hettie

          That’s a relief.

  • Michael Murray

    Someone over on The Guardian was asking why SA didn’t have trouble. What’s changed since previous years? The wind turbine software was fixed but they don’t run much in a heatwave. The diesel backup was installed but the government claimed it wasn’t turned on. Gas generation at Pelican Point is up. Did AEMO use any of the demand response they setup ? Anything else going on besides luck !

  • John Saint-Smith

    Clearly what Victoria needs in the future is more defence industry contracts to cash in on the rising tide of climate driven conflict, more coal-fired power stations to make sure the crops don’t run out of CO2, and a big pumped hydro dam to fill with strategic reserves of fossil-fuelled electricity. Hell, a job is a job, who cares whose children you kill along the way? The only government which is insane enough to deliver that is the Lazy NEGative Party. Vote 1 for extinction.

    But in the short term, you’ve got a Labor government to blame for the heat waves.

  • nakedChimp

    Well, this will just cause more requests by people for solar/batteries.

  • neroden

    Can the lying MPs be prosecuted for spreading dishonest propaganda?

    • Hettie

      That would be a MAJOR win for democracy!

  • Peter Wynn

    The only obsession the Coalition has with power is being out of it. They cannot handle the fact that global warming is a reality, renewables are increasing in popularity and the profits of filthy coal moguls are decreasing. They take every chance to bash renewables they can. I seem to remember a guy, well, two guys, actually, who talked about the “big Lie” and that they wouldn’t believe that anyone would have the cheek to make one up. Their names were Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels. Some may say that you lose an argument mentioning them, but the Big Lie is on par with the Big Lie being told here.