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NSW grid struggles as coal goes missing after bad trips

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The bad week for coal power in the eastern states continued on Friday, with the multiple trips of coal generators earlier in the week extending to an absence of more than 4,700MW of coal units in NSW grid, sending wholesale prices soaring.

The Australian Energy Market Operator issued a “lack of reserve” forecast for NSW on Friday for the fifth consecutive day. On two of those days – Tuesday and Thursday – the AEMO declared “actual LOR2” conditions, which means if one more big coal unit was to trip, then load shedding would be likely.

LOR2 conditions are also normally a trigger for the Murdoch media and conservative commentators to go into melt-down over the perilous state of the grid.

And in doing so they rarely fail to mention the insidious dangers of the left-wing greenie plot/scam/hoax/conspiracy to impose wind and solar on an unwilling population, in the name of doing something on climate change that is not happening/not our fault/can’t be stopped/not worth worrying about.But the events in NSW and elsewhere on the east coast this week are all about coal. The first LOR2 appears to have followed trips from two units at Liddell, the ageing clunker of a coal-fired generator that the federal government demands to be kept running in the interest of grid reliability.

On Wednesday, there was a spectacular cascade of unit trips from coal and gas generators in Queensland and Victoria (top graph – courtesy of Climate and Energy College) that took out 1,400MW of capacity without notice.

And on Friday, there were coal units down all over the place in NSW as AEMO issued another LOR2 warning for the most coal dependent grid in the world, and later relaxed that to a possible LOR1 as Snowy and gas generators fired up.

According to Fairfax Media, the Tomago aluminium smelter said it had been forced to halt each of three potlines this week – one on Tuesday and two on Thursday – because of a lack of reserve across the grid serving eastern states.

Matt Howell, Tomago’s chief executive, told Fairfax Media on Friday lunchtime, the company was concerned it may face another curtailment of operations later in the day.  Tomago accounts for about a tenth of the state’s electricity use.

The nearby Bayswater coal generator had three units out, the Liddell coal generator had one unit out and another struggling to reach full capacity, the Mt Piper coal generator had one of its two units out, and the Vales Point coal generator also had one of its two units out.

In all, there was approximately 4700MW of coal units in NSW that were not generating as prices soared to the market cap on Thursday and remained around $300/MWh for much of Friday. That’s out of a total registered capacity of 10,240MW, and demand of under 10GW.

AGL Energy had more than 1000MW missing from Liddell at one stage, and just over 2000MW missing from Bayswater.

That must have seemed like a lost opportunity for the country’s biggest coal generator given that wholesale prices were averaging around $300/MWh in the middle of the day, after spiking to the market cap of $14,200/MWh twice on Thursday evening.  

Pocket
  • LN

    The first LOR2 was also due to the extension of a transmission outage which removed ~1000MW of transfer capacity into NSW

    • rob

      AEMO has started RERT for NSW! SYSTEM BLACK please please please for NSW…..sorry for mums and dads but sweet KARMA for us here in S.A…… I’m not religious but I’m so preying/praying for some revenge! Sorry not Sorry!

      • Jon Albiez

        What? You’re actually hoping people lose supply, including the sick and vulnerable?

        • rob

          YUP KARMA IS A BITCH! YOUR COALITION MATES deserve it and the political backlash it will have! We in S.A. have copped so much crap re renewables it is not funny…….and if you read my comment it actually says sorry to all the mum and dads!

          • mick

            agreed mate if the east coasts political dickheads had been a little bit honest,given murdoch no ammo,lib vanstone family causing a gerrymanda seats distribution we would have kept a good progressive premier instead of the morons we stuck with till the next election

          • Ren Stimpy

            Jay increased his vote at the election but the redistribution f**ked him.

            The new SA Liberal govt will continue with solar/renewable growth and the export-interconnector to NSW and the Tesla home storage deal, etc. etc. Don’t throw the baby out with the political bathwater yet.

      • LN

        They didn’t actually trigger any RERT, just made sure it was available in case there was a contingency.

  • Tom

    Vales Point tripped last night too ~640 MW

  • Joe

    Hmmm, strange, NOT, that we haven’t heard a peep from the Joshua and the rest of the Coalition Fossil Fools about the Coalers tripping. We only ever hear from them when they launch a public spray against Renewables.

    • jeffhre

      “On Wednesday, there was a spectacular cascade of unit trips from coal and gas generators in Queensland and Victoria (top graph – courtesy of Climate and Energy College) that took out 1,400MW of capacity without notice.”

      Aren’t we on notice by the coalition leaders and every backbencher alive (and apparently a few dead) that renewables and specifically the insanity in SA, are the true cause of all grid problems?

  • Peter F

    I wondered what was going on while wind and hydro generation were good.
    In fact wind averaged above 60% since about 8 PM on Wednesday. One thing that the Australian and its followers seem to have right is that we need more generation, because some of the existing stuff is too unreliable. Even adjusting for Liddell’s reduced rating. it seems NSW power plants can only be relied on for about 5,600 MW from a nameplate 9.900 less than 60% reliable.

  • Malcolm M

    Two large shutdowns missing from the first Figure
    – Mt Piper unit 1 began shutting down just after Kogan Ck tripped, resulting in the removal of 530 MW
    – Bayswater unit 4 shut down shortly after 9 pm

    Then on 7 June
    – Bayswater Unit 2 shut down (660 MW)
    – Vales Point unit 6 tripped mid morning (640 MW)
    – Liddell unit 2 halved its output during the evening peak (from 420 to 220 MW)

    The gap in output has been largely filled by Tumut 3, which is emptying the upper storage (Eucumbene) much more rapidly than usual, and filling the lower dam (Blowering) much earlier than normal. Eucumbene is now below 30%, which is unusually low for this time of the year, while Blowering is at 59% of capacity and has risen steeply since the start of June. Irrigators won’t be happy if it spills before the irrigation season.

    • Jon Albiez

      I’m actually surprised they’ve kept VPGS offline and have been running Colongra somewhat conservatively. And you’re right, spill isn’t going to be popular.

  • rob

    This makes me so so so happy………. go on SYSTEM BLACK for NSW! KARMA Biatches #sarules

    • Steven Gannon

      The problem is that for NSW, it has already adversely impacted on one of the states’ biggest factories, and pushed up prices.

      • rob

        Fine by me…….but will we see it in any newspapers tomorrow……..I can give you the answer right now……NO!

        • Steven Gannon

          But Fairfax have already done that. It goes without saying that the Murdoch press won’t.

          • rob

            what is fairfacts……..a minor player in a newscorp world

          • Steven Gannon

            Oh whatever.

        • Ren Stimpy

          Give yourself an uppercut rob.

      • Greg Hudson

        Let the smelter install their own PV and Wind if supply is a problem…

        • Joe

          The Tomago head guy didn’t sound too bothered,business as usual when Coalers clunk it and the threat of the Aloominone getting stuck in the pots.

  • rob

    Come on AEMO make it level 3!

    • Joe

      DEFCON 5?

  • Steven Gannon

    It’s good to see Fairfax reporting on this. I wonder what kind of farce “the faction” will come up with next.

  • RobertO

    Hi All, the best thing NSW can do is keep on installing new RE power supplies. Each little bit helps, Sapphire and Silverton are both slowly adding new supply (and most other types are far too slow to help, ie new interconnect to SA maybe 5 years away).

    • rob

      Sorry Roberto but if I had my way s.a. my home shouldn’t export at all ……stuff the dirty black and brown up NSW backside….. where it belongs! Have a few system blacks….who cares …..certainly not S.A. after the way we have been treated by other states, the media and especially the COALition……. you have made you own bed now suffer the consequences!

      • RobertO

        Hi rob, I think we have the most corrupt pollies in the OECD. We as in NSW may have to pay that price (they are already chasing the ex labour MP for the $100 million (+++) that he took from NSW (very slowly though).
        Our Fed Gov may be just as bad with the coal ash group (RWNJ’s and the rest of the mob).

  • Ian

    Yawn, even this coal/big-industry schadenfreude event is boring!

  • Earl

    They know coal is going away, they are not engaging in expensive maintenance. Its will only speed coals demise. Maximum profits to the end.

    • Malcolm M

      These incidents will almost certainly cause some internal repricing of output from NSW coal-fired stations. The plant availability factor has probably been overestimated, and the overhead costs underestimated. This in addition to strong export coal prices equivalent to $48/MWh for fuel alone, for any coal that needs to be purchased on the spot market.

  • Les Johnston

    There must be a point where generator failures trigger price rises sufficient to raise profits for company operators. Under this scenario, reducing proactive critical maintenance leads to higher profits and consumers pay for it. With the very aging coal generators in NSW, consumer costs will only reduce in the future if distributed renewable energy has an increase share of generation capacity. Privatisation of electricity supply driven by profit maximising is bound to trigger blackouts unless penalties for plant failures are raised and enforced.

    • Greg Hudson

      IMO What needs to be done is reduce the maximum price available from $14k/MWh to $5k (Make it less worthwhile to game the system)

      • Les Johnston

        IPART could act to regulate prices just as it has proposed a FIT of 8c/kW for household solar. Maybe the coal generators would claim this was unfair and a restriction on trade.

        • RobertO

          Hi Les Johnston, Given that the Fed Gov wants Liddell kept going for another 5 years, that IPART would have to be acceptable result (we have buckley’s and none of any pollies doing anything for us consumers accept helping push prices upwards to help big business make insane profits).

        • Greg Hudson

          How could it be a restriction on trade when there is already a capped price of $14k/MWh reducing it to $5k would just help prevent gaming, not be a [new] restriction.

      • Graeme Harrison

        That is what the ISDS provisions in the TPP are there for – as soon as a government ‘limits’ the returns to a company with even one US shareholder, the company can sue the state and get fully reimbursed for this ‘incursion’ into what should be a completely libertarian market. [/sarc]

        • Greg Hudson

          For one thing, we are in Australia, so anything referencing the US is irrelevant.
          Secondly, there is ‘already’ a $14k limit, so reducing it to $5k is just a step lower, not a ‘different’ idea.
          Thirdly, the Govt controls what’s happening, not the distributors, or retailers. If they aren’t happy, too bad.
          Personally, I’d be happy to be part of a VPP (Virtual Power Plant) making $14/kWh (yes, that is the correct figure) BUT… is it ethical ? Not in my opinion. I’d rather have more small wins at $5 than a giant one at $14. (not that any VPP* would ever return that to end users – take Reposit as an example)
          *=Virtual Power Plant

  • Channel 7 has just reported (6pm news on Sunday) how the week of cloudy weather has affected solar power output, risking power shortages. No mention of fossil fool generator fails!

    • Joe

      And where was Channel Nines ‘Energy Expert’, Chris Uhlmann? The Uhlmann has been very quiet in recent times.

  • solarguy

    I tripped a few times, but never lost power. Coal is a bummer man.

  • itdoesntaddup
  • Ertimus J Waffle

    It’s unbelievable the rubbish spruked here by morons who have absolutely no idea about power generation and have never even stepped inside a coal fired power station. The future for electricity generation in Australia looks very bleak indeed if the fools commenting here are anything to go on.

    • Chris Drongers

      What does your comment mean?

    • Robert Comerford

      It is amazing the morons that appear here under fake names
      I do indeed know what the inside of a filthy polluting coal fired power station looks like.
      Despite the efforts of fossil fuel addicts the world of power generation is moving to a cleaner, sustainable future.