rss
27

Hazelwood, 12 months on, and the fear-mongers have been proved wrong

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 What a difference a year makes.

 Today marks the one year anniversary of the closure of Hazelwood power station, long known to be Australia’s dirtiest power station and one of the dirtiest in the world.

New analysis shows that Victoria’s electricity supply held up without Hazelwood through a hot summer and avoided over four million tonnes of CO2. The state also has a pipeline of clean energy projects to make the grid cleaner and more stable in coming years.

Since the closure announcement in November 2016, we’ve been a subjected to a frenzy of speculation about what would happen to our power supply, with a particular focus on whether we could make it through the summer without the lights going out.

At times, you could be forgiven for thinking there were some politicians and commentators who were actively cheering for blackouts.

To avoid operating in the evidence-free zone of climate deniers, Environment Victoria commissioned Green Energy Markets to analyse how Victoria’s electricity generation system handled the loss of an old 1600 MW power station. 

As it turns out, the fearmongers were wrong.
 
How the generation mix changed

In the final year of Hazelwood’s operation, Victoria exported over 5000 GWh of electricity, equivalent to around 60% of Hazelwood’s output.

Since the closure, Victoria’s remaining coal generators increased their output only slightly and wind power remained about the same. Output from gas power stations increased, offsetting part of Hazelwood’s production but also a 1000 GWh drop in hydro output.

The significant change was that Victoria stopped exporting so much electricity, on balance importing slightly more than we exported over the year.
 
The report notes that behind-the-meter changes (203 MW of rooftop solar and 500 GWh worth of energy saving through the Victorian Energy Upgrades Program) also contributed to a cleaner grid.
How the change in generation affected emissions
 
When you take the dirtiest power station out of the grid, whatever replaces it is necessarily going to be cleaner. The Green Energy Markets report is the first quantification of exactly how much cleaner Australia became thanks to Hazelwood’s closure.

Within Victoria’s borders, there was a 12 million tonne reduction in CO2 – the balance between losing Hazelwood’s 14 million tonnes against an additional million tonnes each from coal and gas generators respectively.

With the rest of the NEM no longer importing much of Victoria’s highly polluting brown coal, output from black coal generators in NSW needed to increase, but this still left us 4 million tonnes ahead. This makes the closure of Hazelwood one of the most significant steps in Australia’s history to tackle global warming.
#CoalFail continued
 
Regular readers of RenewEconomy will be well aware of the repeated failures of large units at coal-burning power stations over summer. The Green Energy Market report shows that, on a number of occasions this summer, units at Loy Yang A and Yallourn were offline simultaneously.
 
Despite this variable supply from remaining coal generators, the 105 break-glass-in-case-of-emergency diesel generators were never switched on. When things were tight on 19 January, there was brief demand response from the Portland aluminium smelter.
 
Changes still coming in Victoria’s generation mix
According to the analysis, Victoria has 1594 MW of large scale wind and solar projects under construction, which are expected to deliver 4712 GWh once fully online. Together with continued growth in rooftop solar, energy efficiency and new battery storage, Victoria’s electricity system will only become cleaner and more stable in the coming years.
And while today’s report from the Australian Energy Regulator points to the increase in power prices post-Hazelwood closure, there is clear evidence (for example, Ernst & Young’s modeling on the Victorian Renewable Energy Target) that the continued growth of renewables will drive these prices down.
There is no denying that Hazelwood’s retirement has posed challenges, both for the energy system and for the community of the Latrobe Valley (though we are also hearing Latrobe Valley residents reporting much cleaner air and bluer skies).
The lesson from these challenges is that the retirement of coal-burning power stations is a process that needs to be planned and managed, not resisted. Pretending that remaining coal generators will stay open forever is unhelpful and will only serve to make the inevitable transition bumpier.
Dr Nicholas Aberle is Campaigns Manager at Environment Victoria. The report is available for download here.

  

Pocket
  • MikeH

    Good article Nick. For all the success of RE, we need constant reminders that helping the communities that have relied on coal for jobs is a critical part of the energy transition.

    • Barri Mundee

      There is no doubt that there has been an impact on the Latrobe Valley economy with the loss of jobs now that Hazelwood is shut. Both the Victorian and Federal governments have put resources into mitigating the impact but the loss of blue collar jobs still bites in an area that had relatively high unemployment before the closure.

      Some local business people, conservative politicians and citizens have been vocal in pushing for someone (who?) to build a new “high efficiency” brown coal station or other uses of brown coal (eg conversion to urea). Announcements of some promising development crop up regularly but never get beyond that stage. Thankfully!

      The area needs to move and accept the reality that brown coal’s days have passed.

      • Hettie

        Unlike AGL, which has planned for the replacement of the output from Liddell, with clean projects that will inevitably provide new jobs, with a lead up of 5 years from the announced closure, the French owners of Hazelwood had no stake in Australia or its employees.
        Faced with a huge maintenance cost to keep the plant open, they decided not to. 6 months notice of closure, and gone.
        No kudos to the Feds in either case. And no guarantee from AGL that they will use displaced Liddell workers for their solar, wind etc projects, but we can hope they will do so.

        • Barri Mundee

          There had been speculation about Hazelwood’s closure for years. I welcomed the closure but have deep concerns on the medium term impacts on local employment. A number of businesses gave shut their doors in the last 12 months. This area has been at this point before in the 90’s when the Kennett Coalition state government sold off the power industry and did SFA to ease the transition. The area has never fully recovered.

          Engie cannot just walk away and if a mailout to Latrobe Valley citizens is to be believed “Our Report to the Community” which I have just read, they are meeting their statutory obligations.

          Work to cover the batters of the open cut mine with clay and soil, seeding with grass is partly completed. By 20/21 the open cut will be ready to be filled with water and eventually become a lake. Surrounding land is planned to be returned to farmland and recreational use.

          Mine excavation equipment is being dismantled, tenders are soon to be let for the demolition of the power station, hopefully using local contractors. Government EPA auditors and hygienist are regularly on site to ensure hazardous materials such as asbestos (the station’s steam pipes) and BCP’s and polluting oils etc that may have leached into the ground over the operating life of the plant.

          I sincerely hope this will be a model for the phaseout of brown coal as a fuel.

          • Hettie

            Barrier, “speculation for years” is by no means even comparable to a clear announcement, with date 5 years hence, of closure, with a clear and detailed plan for replacement of output.

          • Barri Mundee

            Yes I agree.

        • DogzOwn

          But SEC scheduled replacement of Hazelwood as long ago as 2005. was so much shock because “the writing faded off the wall?” How much longer before Yallourn is closed and what plans are in place for new employment?

          • Glynn Palmer

            Yallourn reaches retirement age in 2030.

            However the need to power Snowy 2 may give it an extended life, if the trend of renewables construction is flattened in response to the NEG.

  • Joe

    And the residents will be breathing cleaner air and suffering less respiratory illness. And no need to worry about coal stockpiles catching fire raining a blanket of soot, ash and heavy metals down upon the countryside. Now, who again is sorry that Hazelwood has shutdown?

    • Barri Mundee

      Not too many but the loss of jobs is an issue.

      • MaxG

        Jobs — another perpetuating lie… the pace of automation is killing any prospects of jobs. The majority (including the politicians of all colour) have nothing on the agenda… and when mass unemployment takes place, they will blame the renewables.

        • Alastair Leith

          Greens MPs have a policy on Universal Basic Income. And loads of discussions going on around automation, cities of the future, economies of the future, this at every level of the party organisations (Greens are a federation of state Greens parties).

          • MaxG

            OK, I take this one the chin… still, what weight do the Greens have in this country? Hence, it literally means nothing what they are talking about, given the two party polarisation we have. — Similar to me talking about this for 30 years; all I get is strange looks.

          • neroden

            Well, in the Senate where you have proportional representation, the Greens have a big voice.

            Unfortunately you don’t have proportional representation for the House of Commons — you should. If you did, the Greens would have some influence.

          • RobertO

            Hi neroden, Porportional representation has back fires in some cases. Tas has the same number of Senators as NSW

            From Wikipida I copied this,

            “Each state elects the same number of senators, meaning there is equal representation for each of the Australian states, regardless of population, so the Senate, like many upper Houses, does not adhere to the principle of “one vote one value”. Tasmania, with a population of around 500,000, elects the same number of senators as New South Wales, which has a population of over 7 million. Because of this imbalance, governments favoured by the more populous states are occasionally frustrated by the extra power the smaller states have in the Senate, to the degree that former Prime Minister Paul Keating famously referred to the Senate’s members as “unrepresentative swill”

  • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe

    Benefits are great, but will voters believe it or the comforting lies of the right?

  • Sir Pete o Possums Reek

    I would like to think that General Monash would be proud 🙂
    Actually I am sure he would be quite chuffed.

  • RobS
  • Crankydaks

    Apart from energy prices doubling in two years, unemployment on the increase, many agos and business closures and last but not least Engie laughing all the way to the bank, I guess it has been a success.

    • Rod

      Energy prices doubled? I’m sure you have a citation to go with that baloney?

      • Crankydaks

        Two years ago price per MW average around $35, currently around $95 per MW. The only baloney is between your ears. Just follow AEMO data dashboard and see for yourself.

  • Electric Boogaloo

    Well who ever would have thought that a report you commissioned would have the results you wanted?

    Funny how there’s no mention of what happened to prices though….

    • Rod

      What happened to prices? I guess if you are talking about SA you may have a point.
      Let me know if you want me to explain the actual factual, actual AEMO figures. Well you asked, so I guess I provided the answers but not the ones you asked for….funny that……………………………………………

      Avg Spot
      Inc %
      2016
      NSW1
      51.60

      2017
      NSW1
      81.22
      57.40%

      2016
      QLD1
      59.99

      2017
      QLD1
      93.12
      55.23%

      2016
      SA1
      61.67

      2017
      SA1
      108.66
      76.20%

      2016
      TAS1
      102.70

      2017
      TAS1
      75.40
      -26.58%

      2016
      VIC1
      46.14

      2017
      VIC1
      66.58
      44.30%

  • neroden

    Time top build more solar and wind. 4712 GWh is a good start, but it’s only a start!

  • Jonathon Sarah

    Origin N.S.W. experienced record production of electricity from black coal; 500+ megawatts of emergency diesel generators were hired on standby rates in Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria at great cost. The replacement generation is single cycle gas turbines operating at ~20% and ~30% efficiency, smokin! Electricity prices are up. There are active planning permits for >1,120MW of single cycle gas turbines…Australia’s total CO2 emissions are up; due to CO2 emissions from natural gas production; production emissions and fugitive emissions of which are not being attributed electricity generation…tobacco…asbestos…natural gas…Move on…

    • The LNP and their bad policy is a large burden on Australians.