Coalition's stunning hypocrisy - and ignorance - on renewable energy | RenewEconomy

Coalition’s stunning hypocrisy – and ignorance – on renewable energy

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Greg Hunt insists that coal power could have saved South Australia. The biggest coal fired generator in Australia says otherwise. But mainstream media is hunting renewable energy in packs, and it is all getting rather silly.

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The Coalition appears to have abandoned all pretence that it supports renewable energy, now contradicting assurances by the grid owner and market operator – and now the biggest generator in the country – that the source of energy was not at fault for the massive blackout in South Australia last week.

After prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and energy minister Josh Frydenberg used the opportunity to use the blackout to try and force the Labor states to abandon their own renewable energy targets, they were joint by industry, science and innovation minister Greg Hunt on Monday.


In an opinion piece written for the Australian Financial Review, and reported as the front page lead “SA blackout could have been avoided” – Hunt claimed that a coal fired generator could have kept the lights on in Olympic Dam and Whyalla and avoided much of the damage, and he also chastised the states for chasing unrealistic targets.

First on the targets:

“The South Australian and Victorian governments are seeking to drive out baseload power out of their systems for ideological reasons,” Hunt said, adding that their respective targets (50 per cent renewable energy by 2050 and 40 per cent by 2025) could only be achieved by driving out baseload generation.

This is what Hunt said last December, while environment minister and speaking in Paris during the climate talks:

 “I have encouraged the states that if they want to do something extra, (they should) apply reverse auctions to the renewable energy target in the way the Australian Capital Territory has done.”

So there’s a change of tune. On one hand urging the states to do more. Then, chastising them for doing exactly that.

As for the statements about the ability of coal power to withstand the catastrophic event that brought down 23 transmission towers in 5 different locations and took out three of the four major lines linking South Australia’s north to the south east, Hunt appears to be taking his cue from the fossil fuel lobby.

He wrote in the AFR:

“As the Australian Industry Group has observed, if SA policy had not deliberately forced the Northern base load power station offline, supply to Whyalla’s Arrium Steel plant and to BHP’s Olympic Dam smelting operations would almost certainly have been continuous. This would not only have saved millions of dollars of lost income, but provided a basis for future investment security.

This, of course, is contradicted by Electranet, the Australian Energy Market Operator, and today also by AGL Energy, which has the biggest portfolio of coal fired generators in the country, and has the dominant market position in South Australia.
“It doesn’t make any difference what is hanging off the end of those wires,” AGL chief executive Andrew Vesey told the All Energy conference in Melbourne on Tuesday. “When you lose significant transmission and have significant change in real time between load and supply, bad things happen.”
RenewEconomy asked Hunt’s office why it thought that a coal fired power station could have kept the power on, and resisted the massive loss of infrastructure that caused the sudden loss of supply and caused the entire network to trip, including the interconnector linking the state with Victoria.
Hunt’s office replied:
The transmission lines from Port Augusta to Whyalla were not damaged by the storm. Power is only being impacted because of the damage on the other side of the gulf and the need to maintain stability in the network.

“Therefore if Port Augusta had retained base load generation this could have been available to assist in maintaining both the lines North and South West of Port Augusta.”

Energy experts say this is nonsense, saying it reveals a fundamental failure to understand how the system works. The catastrophic failure of the transmission system would have left the coal fired generators without much of their load, causing exactly the same sudden change in frequency and voltage that would cause any generator to trip.
“The minister’s comments show a fundamental lack of understanding around how the system works and responds to such a dramatic fault, and what it takes to perform a “black start”/restart the system,” said Melbourne Energy Institute’s Dylan McConnell.
As Vesey said on Tuesday: “They (supply and demand) have to be in balance in real time.”  When they are not, he repeated, “bad things happen.” He went on to say that if Australia wanted the best system security, they would be better off with local generation and microgrids, and they could only do that with more renewable energy.
We asked Hunt’s office again what they thought would happen when a big generator suddenly lost most of its load, but we didn’t get a response. Just to repeat: this is the office of the Australian federal minister of science, industry and innovation.
Electranet and the Australian Energy Market Operator have made it clear that the source of the energy – coal, wind or gas – made no difference to the outcome, such was the stunning nature of the event.
But since it happened, the Coalition has been able to orchestrate a campaign that deliberately sows doubt about these claims.
The Murdoch media fell into line and David Salter chronicles how virtually every commentator sought to blame renewables even though some of the news stories “admitted” that renewables were not at fault. It’s depressing reading from the “dependable twice weekly doomsday Judith Sloan …

“Successive Labor administrations have embarked on the folly of thinking that the state’s economic future could be based on willful over-promotion of intermittent, expensive and unreliable renewable energy. South Australia has paid a high price for this deluded approach.”

To political reporter Sid Maher, who elevated this nonsense to the level of wishful surmise:

“Wednesday night’s total failure of power in South Australia … is a disaster for renewable energy zealots and should be a wake-up call for political leaders. Energy experts told The Australian yesterday the cascading shutdown … could have been caused by wind farms closing in sequence as the storm hit.”

We chronicled last week, here and here, how the ABC also blamed renewables, with political correspondent Chris Uhlmann and filtering down to its news reports. The Conversation followed this up with its own criticism of Uhlmann.
We also pointed out how Fairfax energy reporter Brian Robins did the same, and the AFR took up the cudgels on Monday, with its page two columnist Jennifer Hewett writing: “It seems likely that a full blackout of the state could have been avoided” if it had coal fired caseload generation. She didn’t say how or why.
The Coalition, with media support, appears to be taken the line successfully adopted by Donald Trump, where if you simply repeat a whole bunch of mis-truths, something will stick. And how.
The idea appears to be to throw as much confusion and doubt about renewable energy, and then exploit a publish backlash to force a slowdown in policy. So far, though, the states are resisting.
But the more worrying factor is this: that the government and the fossil fuel lobby is succeeding – with the help of Fairfax, the Murdoch media, the ABC, and of course talk-back radio – in filling the newspaper, the airwaves and the internet with ill-informed and misleading rubbish.
As Clean Energy Council CEO Kane Thornton said: “No form of electricity generation can provide power to consumers when the electricity grid is lying on the ground.”
The reality is that the challenges will only be addressed by new market rules, making the grid fit for the 21st Century, as the Victoria energy minister Lily d’Ambrosio and AGL’s Vesey pointed out today, and by encouraging new technologies and practices.
As energy expert Alan Pears has pointed out, the South Australia government has tried several times to get the CoAG Energy Council to implement demand side bidding, which would have reduced the impacts of the recent interruption, and the gas price blip.
This though, under lobbying from the fossil fuel industry, which has opposed other initiatives, was rejected by CoAG.
“If the feds want to criticise the South Australia government, there is a case to blame the members of CoAG energy council at least as much, for their focus on the welfare of (in some cases state owned) energy companies at the expense of the Australian community,” Pears said by email. “Such short memories.”
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  1. Chris kime 4 years ago

    What an irresponsible bunch tossers this government has turned out to be.lying through there teeth to apease the rw,ers.
    Energy security can ony be achieved through
    A rapid move to renewables.the gov know
    this. so get on board and and serve in the best interest of all australians not the dead
    And buried ff industry.they will leave us high and dry..

  2. Jake Frederics 4 years ago

    There is not a single country in the world that gets a significant percentage of energy from wind without resorting to some kind of base load generation or import from another country.

    Wind power is great to augment generation capacity but you want it at 10-20% of total grid capacity in a small geographic area such as the setup in SA. If all the wind generation based in SA was spread throughout the country it would have no negative impact on base load and/or demand swing.

    We should embrace green technology but also take care to implement it conservatively to ensure security.

      • Jake Frederics 4 years ago

        ……..each month, every month…..every hour…..don’t think so. Yes, for producing enough but did it actually power every home? What about industry?

        See, no real context here. All I am saying is we have to be sensible in the implementation. Wind energy has a solid role to play.

        • JustThink4Once 4 years ago

          Your points are all valid. A mix of generation sources is inevitable, certainly in the short to mid term. Sensible implementation however is not the same as demonizing and resorting to outright lies, which is what the naysayers have been reduced to.

        • Kenshō 4 years ago

          In the past Australians have traditionally used wind to pump water into header tanks and also for generating power fed into batteries. Battery storage, pumped hydro and molten salt are all options for storage. Why blame the configuration of the generator? People either want to look at viable solutions or want to have a fixed intellectual position. It’s their motivation. It is the same as solar. People can find a way forward if they wish. With your property you wanted power at night so installed storage. Storage means baseload power.

    • Peter G 4 years ago

      “In 2015 wind turbines generated 23% of Ireland’s average electricity demand, one of the highest electric grid penetration values in the world”

      With an isolated grid Ireland is seeking to increase wind penetration year on year. Rather than suggest it cant be done (so as a rational not to do it) the Irish are proactively revising the rules and technology of the grid to suit information age control and communications technology.

      Many of our coal stations are 50 years old, our grids frequency control setpoints are based around centrifugal steam valve technology that is hundreds of years old.

      To you suggestion that we ‘ensure security’, I say at what price? and paid for buy whom?. I am old enough to remember the last couple of electricity security crisis moments and the vast treasure expended on overbuilding power stations then transmission infrastructure that resulted. Australia has very expensive retail electricity today as a result.

      • Jake Frederics 4 years ago

        23% is less than a quarter. I am not “anti-renewable”; in fact, I run solar/hybrid/battery system and with very little additional effort I can go off-grid. Ideally wind power has to be distributed in order to generate a more consistent “average” supply connected to a national grid.

        Wind, Solar in combination with a few strategy next generation mega sized coal (4GW+) plants could work well in the medium term. Don’t let me even get started on the nuclear potential in Aus 🙂

        • Mark Roest 4 years ago

          Might as well get you started. The main reason for nuclear is to have an ample supply for weapons which if we use them, result in annihilation of life on earth (due to escalation by people who can’t stand ‘losing’). Coal and oil are poisoning the planet with fever. This portal is for people who accept the latter idea, and I think the former — why else would the UK government support Hinkley when they admit that wind is a fraction the cost?
          By the way, thousands or tens of thousands of uranium miners in the US got lung cancer, and the government refused to pay for treatment because they were native peoples.

        • Peter G 4 years ago

          Jake, you seem to have a bit of cart before horse.

          Ireland is increasing wind penetration each year as they technically revise the operation of their grid, they are doing it seriously and responsibly.
          By comparison we in Australia are squabbling over relatively petty rule changes and have a federal government running a fear campaign.

          Your suggestion of 10%-20% limit is out of date – the limit will increase annually! Who will be loaning money for new large and inflexible thermal plant in this environment??

          As for 4GW generators… One reason our coal plants are sized the way they are is that spinning reserve in needed for contingency frequency support sized to the largest unit connected to the system (i.e. if it falls over). This is why coal plants are so much smaller in WA – because the system is smaller. Australia’s grid is thin – large concentrated generation is unsuited to such a grid and would be very expensive to backup and transmission costs and/or losses would be substantial.

          Not long ago system operators on Oz treated wind if it needed spinning reserve of the same quality as the contingency reserve (i.e. short timeframe <5 sec or <30 sec). With experience, weather data, and better technology variations in wind output have now proved quite predicable allowing longer time frames for support, this results in less costly reserve. Also the wide dispersal of the wind generators has proved to temper variation in the aggregated wind supply.

          A 4GW generator would increase the magnitude of failure risk increase wasteful ancillary support and make our gird less secure.

          • Jake Frederics 4 years ago

            Fact of the matter is that a large thermal near or between one of the major centers makes sense. It is also cleaner than the current generation of plants (yes, I know this is relative).

            You suggest my 10-20% is outdated yet you are using the best case scenario; Ireland for your 20%plus argument……and remember Ireland still has a grid connection to mainland UK….

          • Peter G 4 years ago

            Hi Jake
            Coal has been located near the supply for the past seventy years (LaTrobe, Hunter, Collie) as it was more economic to move the power than the coal. I don’t believe there are any viable proposals for new coal of any size to replace our aging fleet – even on a brownfield site. The plan seems to be to allow the FF gen-tailers to rent seek from their depreciated plant, not to make new coal investment.

            The figure for Ireland is from last year, and is increasing every year from a very low base. My point is that they are addressing and overcoming the technical issues systematically – so the practical cap on wind becomes not what they produced last year but what they have in the pipeline to produce in 4-5 years time. These investments are being made now based on what they plan to achieve. I saw the head of network strategy give a presentation last year, he was indicating a very high theoretical penetration of wind feasible and economic.

          • Marcus 4 years ago

            If you want to look at a different example. In the USA Iowa uses 31% wind in 2015 and is planning to greatly increase that with a new 2GW wind farm approved to be built.

    • solarguy 4 years ago

      Unbelievable ignorance from yet another luddite.

      • Jake Frederics 4 years ago

        …ok, please back this up with fact. Where are these wind powered countries. Please help me.

        • Marcus 4 years ago

          If you want to look at a different example. In the USA Iowa uses 31% wind in 2015 and is planning to greatly increase that with a new 2GW wind farm approved to be built.

          • Jake Frederics 4 years ago

            …. Once again, Iowa is a state! Not a country and connected to a large national grid. I find it strange that I made very valid statements barely pointing out CURRENT challenges with wind power and getting such aggressive negative comment.

            Technology will improve but as of today it would be difficult to power (for argument sake) 40% of a country with wind. You need a mix, and probably a couple of dirty coal/nuclear plants.

          • Catprog 4 years ago

            You mean like South Australia is a state and connected to a large national grid?

          • Jake Frederics 4 years ago

            Yes, no reason why SA can’t have a larger percentage of wind generation that the other states. If all of them ups to 40% in a short time we will have some issues though….but good on them for taking the initiative at least.

          • Kenshō 4 years ago

            Bullshit. Why do you keep focusing upon the generator part of the system without considering storage? You have storage on your own property so what is the hangup at the macro level?

          • Jake Frederics 4 years ago

            Sorry my aggressive friend but as of today probably more that 95% of energy stored is via gravity systems (read pump hydro). I am sure sure what will be less green; coal or massive amounts of batteries. (lithium and gadolinium, the mining of which have their own environmental problems). Alternative forms of gravity storage shows a lot of potential.

            Don’t think storing energy to power a single dwelling has any resemblance to the storage requirement of a large grid.

          • Kenshō 4 years ago

            I personally don’t care which storage is more green as long as it is integrated into the grid. Your wrong on property scale systems not being applicable to a grid, as it’s the same type of equipment that is scaled up for microgrids, read distributed grids of the future. My inverter/charger can be purchased in higher powered models, wired in parallel and three phase applications for large residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial and community based solutions, as well as managing PV, grid, wind in the one system. Whatever limit you conceive does not exist. the reason must be you have some significant centralised thinking remaining in your application of a distributed paradigm. The distributed paradigm is the one of interest to me as it is more likely to have social justice values incorporated as well as green.

        • Marcus 4 years ago

          Plus, who said it had to be powered 100% by wind? thats a stupid argument. I reliable grid would have wind, solar (panels and CSP), bio gas and more. the different types help. smooth the flow. wind and solar have opposite peaks (day vs night, winter vs summer) and CSP has storage. Wave would be a type of base load if we can ever make it work.

        • Kenshō 4 years ago

          Hi Jake, there’s clearly allot of myths being thrown around in mainstream media about baseload generation and intermittency of renewables. Solar guy is an installer and has run out of patience with the sheer ocean of misperceptions being fed to us. That’s why we’re all here on this website. There’s many informed people beyond what big business want to tell us to keep their way of life as is.
          Have you grown up in the country? I did. I’ve been accustomed to seeing rural Australian folk use wind mills to pump water up from the ground to a header tank. No one complained about intermittency. People just put in the right size header tank. Another application is using wind to generate power to feed into a battery. It’s really looking at the applications we want to run on our properties. As we apply them on a micro scale, this also raises awareness and makes it easier to address the macro or regional or country level. I’ve put in strategies here so we’ve backup water, power and some fresh food. It’s really satisfying being able to harvest our own resources.

    • Mark Roest 4 years ago

      Hello Jake, I suggest you look just a bit into the future, by way of the widely available charts of the rapidly falling costs of batteries. Add enough batteries, and variable wind or solar energy is no longer variable, unless you have a multi-day-long, dense-cloud-cover storm, or a dead calm for days.

  3. JustThink4Once 4 years ago

    It’s laughable that the biggest proponents of “market forces” have a problem when vested interests stand to lose. Actively trying to protect those that fail to innovate or can’t, merely exposes the vapid belief in their own stated philosophy.

  4. Peter G 4 years ago

    Thanks Giles, the quality of our leadership is excellently illustrated with your referencing his earlier comments.

    The ABC are also at it again this morning with another ignorant headline and article:

    “Renewable energy: Tom Koutsantonis unapologetic wind uptake in SA making electricity security ‘complex’.”

    The unattributed article then goes on to publish his July submission advocating for rule changes to get better frequency control outcomes as something he might be apologetic for…

    Where is Dr Karl !

  5. solarguy 4 years ago

    Thanks for another great article Giles. Yes it makes us all want to puke, these lying sons of b……es, are beyond a joke. Not all on talkback radio agree with government and have been telling the truth, including John Laws.

    I had the chance to get onto the 2SM super radio show on Saturday and spoke to the host Dean Mackin, who is an One Nation supporter and he agreed with me that RE had nothing to do with it and also agreed more distributed RE would have limited the blackout.

    A small victory!

  6. Greg 4 years ago

    Is there any feedback on the 50hz synchronization issue that is the most repeated line I am seeing? Is this *really* the sum total reason for disconnection? Could wind turbines not supply energy without a fossil generator regulating?

    • Andrew 4 years ago

      Greg, my limited understanding is that it comes down to the technology of the wind turbine generator. Often wind turbines generators are asynchronous (induction generators) and need an operating grid to synchronize with. However this does not have to be the case. E.g. Double Fed Induction Generator (DFIG) technology allows wind turbines to provide
      frequency and voltage control. I understand this is required in some countries such as the UK. I have put some links below that may be of interest.

      • Greg 4 years ago

        Thank you – I’m keen to read up a bit on this. It seems to me that this isnt an issue in some areas around the world, and its unconfirmed if it is actually an issue for Australian wind generators as far as I can tell also. But given its the number 1 complaint in relation to Wind that I am seeing in relation to SA, it seems to me like tis something we should really have a handle on.

        • Carl Raymond S 4 years ago

          That’s what I’m finding so disappointing. Even if the finger could be pointed at RE, what I want to hear is, ‘sorry, bit of a problem, it will be fixed, nothing will stand between us and sustainable energy’. What the LNP have done is made it loud and clear they side with fossil fuels. They had two options, get with the program, or get out of the way. They’ve rejected option one. This is where we tell them to get out of the way (perhaps not so politely). Our children deserve better.

        • Andrew 4 years ago

          Greg, this may be of interest.

          see section 2.5 “Inertia and frequency control”

          “Participation in frequency control arrangements in the NEM is voluntary, and AEMO’s experience is that wind
          generators choose not to participate”

          “The ability of wind generation to provide both ‘synthetic’ inertia and power system frequency control services has
          been discussed in academic literature and prototype models have been demonstrated successfully, however no
          wind generation currently installed in the NEM has elected to provide these services.”

          • Mark Roest 4 years ago

            I think this may change when the wind farms can add inexpensive, high quality and high performance batteries in sufficient quantity to be able to shift loads (at least a few hours of supply); that also can support frequency regulation. The Swedish pioneers did, if I remember correctly, do some synchronized generators, but it limited the power band utilization. Now, turbines can feed everything they can get into a battery, not bothered by variability, and send out just the right amount, at just the right frequency. Sorry I don’t know the technical specifics.

    • Peter G 4 years ago

      In a word no, but that is also the case for many fossil generators too. There seems to be a wide misunderstanding about the 50Hz. The system almost never runs exactly at 50Hz because frequency variation is used to balance supply with load. When demand increases generators find it harder to spin and slow down. When a frequency regulating generator slows a droop controller puts more steam in to speed it back up – so to regulate the frequency around 50hz. This is a steam technology but is now done electronically too.
      Only a few controlled generators can run droop on a system otherwise there are hysteresis issues.

    • solarguy 4 years ago

      No matter what the generation source Greg, it can’t get into the grid unless it synchronizes. The best way to explain it is this. A grid connected solar PV system for instance uses the electronics of the inverter to count the beat of the ac sine wave or pulses, once it has matched that 50 cycles per second beat, it dances in but at a slightly higher voltage.
      So there is no issue.

    • Ken Fabian 4 years ago

      Wind generation can be synchronous but it sounds like it’s a bit more expensive, but like so much Renewable Energy technology, getting cheaper.

      • Analitik 4 years ago

        No, the reason that the wind turbines operate asynchronously is to give them a wide operating range. If they were locked to the grid frequency, they would only operate efficiently over a much more limited range of wind speeds.

        Synthetic inertia circuit are available for some models of wind turbines but none are deployed in Australia as they are more expensive. They also have a long recovery period after providing over current (they can do this for up to about 10 seconds) as the rotor is greatly slowed.

        • Ken Fabian 4 years ago

          Certainly there are costs, including to efficiency to making it synchronous using current technologies but wind power, like all renewable technologies, are undergoing rapid change. Given that we are engaged in a transition over time – during which we can expect technologies to improve as the proportion of Renewable energy in the mix grows – the LNP presumption that incorporating greater amounts of wind generation in the future must make overall supply unreliable and that adapting the system to be renewable ready will not be possible is some of the worst kind of climate and energy politicking.

          Officially the LNP accepts the science on climate and the need to transition away from fossil fuels. Turnbull has stated the intention to sign on to the Paris climate agreement. How is this government supporting that transition and their own stated climate policy goals if they oppose ambitious low emissions energy targets?

          I can only continue to think that in truth the leadership of the LNP does not accept accept the science but are sidestepping the criticism and ridicule that would bring by knowingly misleading the public and disguising their resistance to committing to any actual transition pathways with these kinds of fabricated and orchestrated campaigns. It’s clear that that they continue to seek to separate energy issues from that of climate change and are using the readily foreseeable hurdles as excuses to oppose and obstruct rather than sound reasons to commit to support for overcoming them.

  7. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    There is not one LNP Ministry that is qualified to make comment, let alone policy on energy transmission or decarbonising. COAG should agree this one has to be given to the experts.

  8. Rob G 4 years ago

    Giles, are you sure you called the right number? I understand the mineral’s council have a number very similar to Greg Hunt’s office – almost identical, in fact.

    Truth be told, this anti-renewable position will hurt them in the polls. Remember, we had Barnaby Joyce singing wind powers praises BEFORE the election and claiming he now accepts the science of climate change. That suggests to me that even the LNP realise their anti-renewable stance sits at odds with the electorate. This sudden assault tells me their true colours have not changed – they simply feel ‘safe’ in their recent election win. They ought to be more careful….

  9. howardpatr 4 years ago

    How embarrassing it was to listen to Christian Porter, on Q&A, go on about the different approaches taken by the states to the renewable energy. He seemed completely and utterly oblivious that the state of affairs he was complaining about are a consequence of the LNP being unable, or more likely, unwilling to develop a national policy.

  10. MaxG 4 years ago

    Usually you elect the brightest to run the country; but when most are undereducated — as Howard once stated — we are at the top of the ranks in the Third world country category; then there is no surprise we have like it was already mentioned: tossers, liars, I say idiots at the helm. We should change the law to make them personally liable for their decisions.
    One thing I wanted to share, is this TED link, which I think is where AU should be heading to become a better place.Only one hint: abolish the military and use the money for health and education… and of course non-fossil energy sources.

  11. Farmer Dave 4 years ago

    It is very hard not to get both angry and depressed about the events Giles has chronicled so well. However, it could be worse: we might not have Giles and his co-contributors to tell us what is really going on, which would be even worse than the current situation.

    The fundamental isue is that we simply have no choice but to stop using fossil fuels. The only questions are how fast we phase them out, and how much more damage we do to our climate before we stabilise, and then start reducing global carbon dioxide concentrations. The laws of physics are implacable, and care not a whit for what we think about the outcomes. If we increase the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, more heat will be trapped in the earth/atmosphere system, and the increased energy will drive the climate to places we will not like.

    The one bright spot in this big picture is that because the renewable energy flows we want to capture (such as wind and sunlight) are dispersed, we will need to use very many instances of the same equipment, and thus the benefits of mass production will apply, and the equipment to capture energy from wind and sun will get cheaper and cheaper, hastening the inevitable transition.

    The conservatives in our political parties who do not understand these two fundamental truths will eventually be swept away by the great tide of events. As far as I am concerned, that cannot come soon enough.

  12. Malcolm M 4 years ago

    There is some truth in Greg Hunt’s position. If the Northern power station had not closed, it could have supported the industrial and mining loads at Whyalla, Port Pirie and Roxby Downs, which are all north of the damaged transmission towers. According to Wattclarity, power demand in SA’s northern region immediately prior the blackout was 319 MW, whereas Northern’s capacity was 520 MW. Northern also had the capacity to provide grid stability services, so once its boilers had heated up after the blackout, it could have supported the entire northern region of the State as an islanded network. The large industrial consumers would only have been without power for a few hours rather than days.

    Nevertheless, its closure was a decision of Alinta rather than the SA of Federal governments. It had unsustainably high maintenance costs, and wasn’t making sufficient money despite achieving an average power price of $50/MWh, which eastern States coal stations could only dream of. Subsidies for renewables through the RET was only part of the story.

    • Giles 4 years ago

      So, that’s a big call. A couple of points to make. You appear to conceded that a trip was inevitable, which is not what Hunt said, he said the provision of power would be continuous. There is also some debate about Northern’s ability to offer black start services. In theory it could, but I am told that in a couple of trials they were unsuccessful. The difficulties in getting a brown coal generator to ramp up from a black start and match load when isolated from other generators are enormous.

      • Malcolm M 4 years ago

        The coal lobby would be in a difficult position if Northern had been “available”, but failing to black start an isolated northern network. There were also a lot of problems with reliability, which could have taken out one or both generators.

        A feature of the blackout that has so far escaped attention is that the Port Lincoln generators were able to support the town until there was a problem with them. Do their owners (GDF Suez) not maintain them properly, so when they’re really needed they are not available ?

  13. Kenshō 4 years ago

    So getting back to the history of this website, where are the smart grid advocates now? Are they finally willing to admit how unrealistic their advocated strategies were? With ARENA, is their next tranche of projects going to involve storage? Renewable energy is no longer merely a technical problem to be solved. An awareness tipping point in the mass media, political awareness and mainstream awareness is necessary. What strategies would help those awareness goals along? Help people feel confident with renewable energy? How can we get some non-intermittent successful and solid examples of renewable energy? We need approaches to create grounds for confidence in renewable energy, not pipe-dreams or approaches that can be dismissed as intermittent or blamed for not being able to remain standing in the midst of other failures on the grid.

  14. Kenshō 4 years ago

    With Uhlmann and his attacks on wind as a generator, an engineer in that field who designs and configures wind turbines for grids needs to answer these attacks. We need to know the pros and cons of the wind generators we already have and if they can be reconfigured for additional features. Regardless of whether wind had a role in the state wide outage, we need to know how wind can be reconfigured to help provide grid stability in the future. If not, we need other grid stability approaches suitable for renewable energy – if we are to avoid simply powering up another fossil fuel generator. To the wind engineers who perhaps think it not their responsibility to address public concerns, watch your field die if you don’t.

  15. Cooma Doug 4 years ago

    This political game is a very serious problem. Back in 1900, construction was the manager of politics. They took us down the road building rather than public transport option. They turned major cities into cement, wall to wall. Check out Houston Texas.

    There were no fears like global warming back then but the money people won the day. The majority at the time wanted the governments around the world to focus on public transport.
    Today the need to change the thinking is much more critical and the politics much more corrupted.

    Listenning to government comments on the power industry today is really annoying. They are so ignorant and corrupted.

  16. neroden 4 years ago

    You need to contact ABC and tell them that in order to be balanced they need to have you on the show. Then you need to outright say that the Coalition is lying, and quote Electranet, AEMO, and AGL.

    It’s important to say that the Coalition is *outright lying*. You should also contact your member of Parliament, because under the English tradition, the government can (and should) be censured, impeached, or forced to resign for this.

    Better yet, contact the Senate opposition. They have the power to open a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s campaign of disinformation and lies.

    • Kenshō 4 years ago

      The ABC website doesn’t have a forum like this one, so it appears they can print what they want with no feedback on how the public feel and no public accountability. One comment on here suggested parts of the ABC have become a tool of conservative politics. The whole dynamic appears like a fairly entrenched battleground. Being completely frank, the genuinely less intelligent side have no enlightened self interest to work in harmony with the environment.. Just self interest.

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