Coalition "fed" dodgy numbers on wind energy to Murdoch media | RenewEconomy

Coalition “fed” dodgy numbers on wind energy to Murdoch media

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South Australia’s conservative opposition said to be source of dodgy numbers behind The Australian’s erroneous front page story on wind energy in the state.

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It appears that the South Australian conservative opposition may have been the original source for the dodgy numbers that formed the basis of an erroneous front page story on The Australian this week about wind generation in the state.

RenewEconomy understands from several sources that the South Australia opposition Liberal Party, a big opponent of wind energy, obtained data from the Australian Energy Market Operator and then “stuffed the numbers up” quite spectacularly, and passed its mistaken conclusions on to The Australian.


As RenewEconomy pointed out in its article on Wednesday, the numbers quoted by The Australian in its “exclusive” attack on wind energy were not only wrong, they were completely non-sensical, claiming wind production figures that were nearly four times total capacity.

Interestingly, the numbers quoted in the article were later changed, the amount produced in the early morning slashed from 5,780MW to 189.72MW, and the “negative output” from wind turbines in the afternoon cut from -50MW to -2MW, although they are still not entirely correct.

The claim in the original article went from this:

“While all wind farms in South Australia were producing about 5780MW between 6am and 7am, by 1pm the energy generation was in deficit as the turbines consumed more power than they created. By mid-afternoon, energy generation by all wind farms was minus-50MW.”

One source told us that the online version of the story was then changed to 1780MW and still -50MW (but didn’t get a screen shot). But then it finally reappeared as this:

“While all wind farms in South Australia were producing about 189.72MW between 6am and 7am, by 1pm the energy generation was in deficit as the turbines consumed more power than they created. By 2.20pm, energy generation by all wind farms was minus -2 MW.”

Our analysis of the data, confirmed by both the Melbourne Energy Institute and the regulators, show there was no deficit at 1pm.

RenewEconomy noted in its article that the errors were so bad that they might have been funny, were it not for the fact that so many in the conservative side of politics, and mainstream media too, accept them at face value.

It’s somewhat ironic, then, that the numbers could be sourced from the Coalition. In the frenzied attack on renewable energy, the Coalition and the Murdoch media across Australia appear to feed off each others myths and mistakes.

But it is a major concern. It is not just in South Australia where the Coalition is launching a major attack on renewables. In the Northern Territory, Country Liberal Party chief minister Adam Giles is making renewable energy a major part of his re-election campaign, despite quoting numbers about solar cost that we have noted are absurd.

In Victoria and in Queensland, the Coalition is lambasting the Labor governments for having set 50 per cent renewable energy targets. In NSW, the Coalition government has created the “worst investment” climate for renewable energy in the country.

Surely, this seeps through and influences the federal Coalition, which has already canned the carbon price, cut the renewable energy target and overseen a slide down the country’s rankings in climate policy and energy efficiency.

Indeed, the Energy Supply Council, which represent AGL Energy and Origin Energy and other fossil fuel generators, wants state targets abandoned. They want the less ambitious federal target to be observed in all states.

And the misinformation in the media continues apace. Another bunch of articles in the Murdoch media on Friday continue to make the same mistakes and ignore the role of gas-fired generation.

“Ill wind of renewables saps economy’s power”, “Going green at what cost”, and “The legacy of Mike Rann’s earth Hour vision risks turning off light for SA” are just a couple of samples.

It has even seeped through to the ABC. One of its South Australian broadcasters, Matthew Abraham, applauded the error-ridden The Australian article earlier this week, saying it was a “cracker of a yarn”. The article has also been cited by other Murdoch journalists as if it were true.

Readers have also complained to RenewEconomy that even local ABC news readers have been blaming wind energy as a “statement of fact.”

The Northern Territory News was certainly sucked in, writing in an editorial entitled “Going Green At What Cost”: “Wind turbines reportedly use more power than they generate in some climatic conditions in SA.” So does any generator when it is not operating.

This has prompted the Clean Energy Council, which represents the wind and solar industry, and other renewable energy sources, to call for a national summit to put a few facts on the table, to “set the record straight” and to help map a pathway to a clean energy future.

“The complexity of the electricity market makes is prone to misunderstanding,” the CEC says in a newly published briefing, in something of an understatement.

As RenewEconomy has pointed out on numerous occasions, there is very little correlation with the increased uptake of renewable energy and high electricity prices in South Australia, which are caused by its long-standing reliance on gas-fired generation and limited competition in the market.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 9.30.25 am

The CEC published this graph to illustrate the direct correlation between wholesale gas and electricity prices to date and expected future trends. The slight rise in 2012 to 2014 is explained by the impact of the carbon tax.

The CEC notes that the recent increases are not a surprise – sharp increases in gas prices resulting from increasing LNG exports was forecast by AEMO’s 2016 Gas Statement of Opportunities and more recently by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

And, as RenewEconomy has also pointed out this week, investigation of settlement prices finds they are no more volatile now than they have been historically in South Australia.

“It is not a mistake that reducing supply tends to increased dispatch price volatility. This is a deliberate design characteristic of the electricity market,” the CEC says.

“The gradual shut-down of ageing coal-fired power stations is something that will need to be actively managed in the coming decades, given Australia’s commitments to cutting carbon emissions.”

It says that volatile dispatch prices are best managed by increasing competition in fast-acting generation technologies including small renewable energy and storage systems.

“To date the electricity market has largely ignored these smaller actors and energy market reform now must focus on enabling them to contribute to the broader electricity market’s needs.”

Indeed, as RenewEconomy has also reported, proposed rule changes that could remove what regulator describe as “market distortions” and help reduce wholesale prices and encourage battery storage technology have been fiercely opposed by the likes of AGL Energy, Origin Energy, and their lobby group.

Meanwhile, AGL Energy and others are recommending changes that the industry fears could simply reinforce the dominance of the gas-fired generators over the market, and increase their revenue sources.

The Australia Institute has this week brought attention to the bidding practices, and in its lead story today RenewEconomy focuses on the profits made by the gas generators in recent weeks. Here is the full analysis.

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  1. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    The SA opposition could employ real scientists and engineers to go over their dodgy figures, but I suspect they wouldn’t know how … and it’s not relevant to the story they want to put out.So glad I don’t pay real money to read The Australian … prefer to browse RE for a quick dishing of what’s happening in tinfoil hat land.

  2. Finn Peacock 4 years ago

    My local MP, David Spiers, is a SA Liberal. I’ll ask him why his colleagues are feeding lies to the press and who was responsible. Watch this space.

  3. Alan S 4 years ago

    It’s a surprise to hear that the SA Lib opposition has any opinion about energy management. When Matt Abraham and other ABC presenters have interviewed him about the cost of electricity, opposition leader Stephen Marshall has never presented any policy or concrete alternative to what Labour is doing.
    Picking up at least $328,000 a year for sitting there just saying ‘No’ to everything isn’t a bad gig so Stephen wouldn’t want to take too much responsibility.

  4. johnnewton 4 years ago

    I heard the numbers quoted on ABC RN. So not just the Conservative side.

    • KGB 4 years ago


  5. johnnewton 4 years ago

    And just re-read that that was not unusual. The Big Lie, the old Goebbels trick.

  6. arne-nl 4 years ago

    Forget Exxon, Trump, The Koch brothers, Lamar Smith.

    Rupert Murdoch is the no 1 climate criminal.

    • Apocalypso 4 years ago

      I suspect that he’ll die on the job very soon.

  7. Analitik 4 years ago

    Did you and the Melbourne Energy Institute source your data from the AEMO dispatch records in the file following?

    I did a check of the 18 SA wind farm outputs from 1pm though to 3:30pm and while you are correct that the 1pm output total is not negative (I have it as just over 7MW), I do get totals that are negative at 2:05pm and between 2:15pm and 2:30pm (technically up to 2:40pm but the amounts are only around -70kW).

    The peak negative output total I found was -1.81MW at 2:20pm which is makes the revised online article in The Australian correct after rounding.

    Could you please provide your (or the MEI) totals for comparison?

  8. Ian 4 years ago

    Coalition and the Murdoch press….just different sorts of slime.
    Need some laws about truth in reporting, and same size and location printed apologies when exposed for lying.

    • Ian 4 years ago

      Ian2. There are ethical standards of which you seek. Look up Australian Press Council and the Australian Journalists Association. It might be time to fetch down these documents and dust them off and maybe send copies to the Murdoch press!

    • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

      Our traditional press freedoms should not be an excuse for poorly fact checked journalism. They don’t seem to be terribly caring about the damage they do to our secular liberal democratic values.

  9. Ian Franklin 4 years ago

    The Murdoch press which, as most of you know, holds a monopoly on the print media in SA, have long been running a campaign against renewables in this state. This is reflected in both commentary and in published letters, which exhibit a distinct and hysterical bias against renewable energy, usually by climate change deniers. Often we hear arguments that readers have enough sense to make up their own minds. I don’t believe it, as the propaganda campaign is unrelenting. Perhaps many people have enough sense to ignore the extreme views of Bolt, Kenny and McCrann, but today David Penberthy, a right wing, but usually not rabid, commentator weighed in with a Gish Gallop of the mythology of the anti-renewable campaigners. I doubt that most casual readers have the time or the inclination to disentangle the lies and the misrepresentations presented in these articles. Even the media commentariat, including the ABC, uncritically regurgitate the crap thrown up by the Murdoch press. And, now, we have the liberal opposition attacking renewable energy on totally specious grounds. Are they dupes of the fossil fuel lobbyists, or are so determined to overthrow the Labor government that they will use any means necessary?

  10. Tomfoolery 4 years ago

    The Australian Financial Review has been blaming wind for the price surges in its articles on thr matter too. It’s just embarrassing how little research these journalists get up to when it comes to renewables.

  11. Takumi Moto 4 years ago

    Mathew Abraham is a stooge. He gets everything wrong by default. But can somebody explain how a wind turbine can consume more energy than it produces? It is driven by the wind isn’t it?

    • iampeter 4 years ago

      They need to be kept heated when not spinning to avoid icing, they need sensors running to know when the wind is at the right speeds, they need motors to turn them into the wind before they can start spinning, pitch-control to ensure blades are spinning at right speeds, an assortment of lights, sensors, pumps, cooler, filtering system in the gearbox, hydraulic brakes if the wind speed gets to high and probably many other things more knowledge-able people can provide. All this needs energy.

      This together with the cost of building, installing and maintaining them will never be repaid in the lifetime of the wind turbines operations. This makes them net consuming – not energy producing contraptions.

      • Giles 4 years ago

        This is how much a turbine produces in a month, and how much it consumes. For Peter’s benefit, the consumption is the smaller tab on the right. Funnily enough, coal plants use vastly more of their own production to keep their machinery going.

        • iampeter 4 years ago

          This a misleading graph showing a net positive overall. But what does that graph look like when no wind is blowing? There is just the consumed column with nothing generated.

          Where is the energy coming from to keep the turbine in working order during these times? Solar that has even more intermittent problems than wind? Batteries that have somehow stored energy that can’t be produced by a net-consuming product? Backup fossil fuels maybe? 🙂

          Bottom line is you don’t need any graphs, engineering knowledge, science background to be able to see that a less reliable, lower output and more expensive product is not a good idea.

          • Giles 4 years ago

            It’s the total generated over a year (and not a month as i had said previously). So that includes days when it was producing a lot, and days when producing little. Ditto for consumption, it includes total consumption for the year, including days when not generating. The graph is pretty clear, even for those without engineering knowledge or a science background.

          • iampeter 4 years ago

            I know but we’re talking about just the time the wind isn’t blowing and so the turbine isn’t generating any energy. Takumi was asking how it can consume energy and that’s what I was listing. When the wind isn’t blowing the wind turbine has to have energy provided from elsewhere off the grid.

            This problem of unplanned and intermittent shut downs cannot be equated to a planned maintenance shut down of a coal power plant.

          • Giles 4 years ago

            The output of wind farms is variable but quite predictable. Fossil fuel plants have lots of unplanned outages, such as when a Torrens Island gas unit tripped and sent prices soaring above $1500/MWh, or when Loy Yang A and Loy Yang B had to close down capacity at short notice due to quality issues, or when Eraring had to close a unit due to other issue. all occurred in recent weeks which is why fossil fuel generation needs back up, the same back-up being used now, although less often.

          • iampeter 4 years ago

            Come on Giles, I get your an advocate of wind but you can’t make the suggestion wind is more reliable than fossil fuels. Any issues with fossil fuels cannot equate to the issues with wind. You don’t need to take my word for it, trust your bleeding eyes. We’ve got real-time, real-life, empirical evidence provided by SA.

            Also any issues with fossil fuel production in this country need to be put at the foot of our Government and environmentalist groups who have turned the public against fossil fuels and have also promised to have it shut down in this country. You can’t blame fossil fuel businesses for cutting back in this political environment which will predictably lead to lower quality services.

          • Giles 4 years ago

            I am just pointing out that fossil fuels need as much back up as renewables. And what happened in South Australia? Did the lights go out? No/ Did the price go up? Yes. But they used to go this high every second day before wind and solar. what was the cause then and now? hi gas prices.

          • Brian Tehan 4 years ago

            The public have “turned against fossil fuels” because they produce co2, which is heating up the planet which will make some parts of the planet uninhabitable and much of the remaining land much less productive. So the solution is to use power sources that don’t produce co2. All the issues with variation of output etc are solvable with existing technology.

      • Tom 4 years ago

        You’ve been fed some false information mate. Google “V120 LCA” for some lifetime numbers. Energy payback is about 6 months for new build in Australia. Worse in EU because of their mediocre resource, up to 10 months.
        Icing not a problem in Australia. Pitching, sensors and pumps consume bugger all. We are comparing 20 kW maximum standby consumption to 3000 kW maximum production and 1000-1350 kW average production.

  12. Jimbo 4 years ago

    How is it that the ABC can be so captivated by the falsehoods that the Liberals put out there? Murdoch I can understand, but something should be done about the ABC.

    • afd 4 years ago

      Are you sure? The ABC called it a ‘yarn’. A lot of spinning goes in to making yarn.

      • Jimbo 4 years ago

        With the ABC repeating what the Murdoch press reports, how do you expect to see the ABC as being objective? With the recent appointments Abbott and now Turnbull have made, and their backgrounds including the Murdoch empire, one cannot be surprised.

    • lin 4 years ago

      Howard, Abbott and Turnbull HAVE been doing something about their ABC. Stacking the board with stooges and apologists, installing compliant management and sacking journalists who don’t self censor themselves into line with the new management. The same process has been happening at Fairfax too, so before election day, we heard a chorus of Vote For Mal from all quarters, little mention of dying reefs, kelp and mangroves, no decent debate about education or health policy, and nothing at all about climate policy. Our mass media has become a propaganda machine that would have Orwell rolling in his grave.

      • Jimbo 4 years ago

        Thank you Lin. You obviously noticed long before me that the ABC has been lost to far right politics. I had noticed disgusting and clear bias with Leigh Sales on 7.30 Report and similar behavior with Virginia Trioli. After discarding the ABC I began to notice that others had seen the same bias.

  13. afd 4 years ago

    Do you really think “cracker of a yarn” is applause for accuracy? There’s a lot of ‘spin’ in a ‘yarn’, literally and metaphorically. A ‘yarn’ is a ‘tall story’, substantially fabricated or exaggerated. That’s the way my grandparents used the term, anyway.

  14. Cooma Doug 4 years ago

    It is simple enough using maths and a little knowledge of grid management, to show that renewable energy and load side technology will provide cheaper, more reliable energy.

  15. Rob 4 years ago

    Lets face it, Murdoch media platforms are used to peddle right-wing, conservative ideaology and policies. And they don’t care if they have to lie to make their viewpoints sound credible. It’s a pity so many Australians are sucked in by their deceit.

  16. iampeter 4 years ago

    Whether or not this story in The Australian is true doesn’t change the fact that when wind doesn’t blow, wind turbines cannot provide electricity, which means they cannot provide base-load power and the money that has been put into them via all sorts of government channels cannot be repaid. When taking all of their true costs into account these things are net consumers of energy (and other products) – not producers of energy. They are just a cost on Australian taxpayers.

    Also I don’t understand the hating on the Coalition. They have put in place almost all the environmentalist legislation in this countries history. Off the top of my head they have:
    1. Introduced the Climate office (first Gov department of weather)
    2. Introduced the Renewable Energy Target which has helped cripple fossil fuel businesses in this country while propping up alternative energy
    3. First to propose cap and trade, even though Labor later introduced their own version. However, I’m confident that if Howard had won one more term we would have had the Coalitions cap and trade earlier than the Labor one
    4. Even though the Abott Gov scrapped Labor’s cap and trade they replaced it with equally disastrous direct action and the “safety mechanism” has come into affect as of the 1st of July this year meaning we officially have cap and trade in Australia

    You’ll note there hasn’t been much publicity on this but then the Coalition does need to maintain the fantasy that they are not just another interventionist, big government, left-wing party. You guys should love them.

    In short until we get the gov out of energy we have a future of many more price spikes and black outs coming for SA as well as the rest of Australia in due course. I’m curious to see who will be blamed once there are no more fossil fuel companies left in Australia.

  17. BsrKr11 4 years ago

    we are going to lose this fight- ignorance and fear are governing our culture now- rational evidence based arguments are no longer able to persuade the masses- they are morons and don’t want to hear they have to change their lives…. this is the root of our problems .. it is not a technical issue- it is cultural issue now and anyone who understands history can see the exceptional similarity between our times and the time running up to the world wars at the begining of the 20th century. As individuals we are going to have to prepare as best as we can for the inevitable fall that will arrive shortly in a deflationary collapse of the global economy… good luck

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