Victoria’s brown coal power plants undermining reliability of national grid

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Over summer there were 16 major breakdowns at Victoria’s three brown coal plants, Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B and Yallourn. All of these breakdowns saw hundreds of megawatts of capacity withdrawn from the grid almost instantly. This made Victoria the standout state for power plant breakdowns.
Between the 15th and 21st of January, at the height of summer, there were six breakdowns, an average of one every day.
Even more alarming were two fires. The first was at Loy Yang A on January 6th, within 500m of the mine. The other was in the actual coal pit of Yallourn on February 4th, the anniversary of the Hazelwood fires that burned for 45 days, cost $100 million dollars and endangered the health of 14,000 Morwell residents.
These breakdowns caused blowouts in electricity prices. The Loy Yang B breakdown on January 18th at the height of heatwave peak demand caused wholesale prices to rise to $13000 MWh, estimated to have cost $168 million.
“Victoria’s brown coal power plants are a liability for the National Electricity Market.” Said Ben Oquist, Executive Director of The Australia Institute.
“It is a credit to the workers of these plants that they keep them running as well as they do. However they are now too old, too unreliable, too polluting and too dangerous. It’s time to replace them with up-to-date technology.”
“They may be cheap for the companies to operate, but when they break down in the middle of summer and cause electricity prices to skyrocket, and we all end up paying.”
“They preform particularly badly on hot days. In an era of increasing heatwaves, more breakdowns are inevitable.”
“The Hazelwood fire showed us the devastating costs of fires in brown coal mines. The two fire incidents this year show that the risk of more fires is high and one we shouldn’t be taking,” Oquist said.


  • Andy Gelbart

    Given the unreliability of coal at the most critical times, resulting in huge power spikes, I’m curious as to how the NEG will deal with this. Are they not forcing the retailers to source a certain percentage of supply from “dispatchable” sources – that in reality are not. Should there be an economic penalty? Seems there could be a way to game the system by taking the coal off line and replacing it with high cost generation, especially if the supply came from the same company. Worth looking at?

  • Joe

    Wonderful reading about this product….reliable and safe Coal. Where are The Monash Forum groupies to spread the good news and the Rupert to print it.