Brown coal generation hits record low, as black coal units trip in Queensland heatwave

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Brown coal generation hits record low, as coal units in heatwave affected Queensland and NSW experience multiple trips.

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The amount of electricity produced by Australia’s ageing and polluting brown coal generators in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley were at a record low last week, partly because of an explosion at the Yallourn facility that killed a worker earlier this month.

Data forwarded by Dylan McConnell from the Climate and Energy College indicates that the state’s big brown coal generators produced just 510GWh in the past week, compared to around 700-800GWh in a normal week.

Two units from Yallourn remain offline as a WorkSafe investigation continues. Another unit is also off-line at Loy Yang A. During the week, brown coal accounted for 13.9 per cent of Australia’s generation, with wind and solar providing 16.3 per cent, and all renewables 24.7 per cent.

The slump in generation came in the lead-up to the state election on Saturday, which saw a resounding victory for the incumbent Labor government, which has an ambitious program to reach 40 per cent renewable energy share by 2025 and 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

It came as black coal generators in Queensland and NSW continued to have problems, reporting multiple trips over the weekend as the ageing machines struggled to cope with heat, particularly in Queensland where the north is experiencing record temperatures.

According to The Australia Institute, which has documented coal unit trips for the past year, two coal-fired generators struggled badly in the heat over the weekend, particularly at Callide and Tarong.

Fortunately, solar was playing a key role in Queensland as the Callide plant tripped out on Sunday and was lost for most of the afternoon.

“Complete breakdown at Callide Power Station – output reduced to zero! With increasing heatwaves due to global warming, reliance on coal is increasing liability. Ironically increasing heat is being driven by coal in the first place,” TAI tweeted.

But ti wasn’t the only generator having issues, with Tarong also experiencing multiple trips.

“More Queensland heatwave breakdowns yesterday. 3 trips within 8 hours at Tarong Power Station. Doesn’t bode well for forecast extreme summer. Hotter summers due to global warming (driven by coal in 1st place) mean more breakdowns & risks blackouts.” TAI noted.

And in NSW, the Vales Point generator was also having problems. As TAI notes, the current owners bought the plant for less than the cost of an average home in Sydney, but want government funds to extend its life for another decade or two.

“Vintage 1970s NSW coal plant Vales Point wobbling along yesterday. Previously sold for $1m, less than the cost of av. Syd house. New owner wants handouts to keep it going to 2049! We like retro things too, but keeping NSW reliant on old coal plants is ridiculous,” TAI said.

 

 

 

 

 

Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of RenewEconomy.com.au, and is also the founder of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and founder/editor of www.TheDriven.io. Giles has been a journalist for 35 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.

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