Truth has been the first casualty in Australia’s ‘energy crisis’.
Take, for example, Nathan Vass’s claims (National grid has never needed Hunter power more, Opinion 27/9) that South Australia and Victoria rely on “surplus power” from the Hunter to stay in business and keep the lights on.
This is utter rubbish.
In the year to June 30, NSW was the only net importer in the National Electricity Market (NEM), in fact NSW imported 8.5 per cent of its power, exporting only 0.3 per cent.
Over the same period South Australia was a net exporter, importing only 7.8 per cent of its power – a lower proportion than either NSW or Tasmania – and exporting 10.9 per cent, a greater share than any other state.
In the two years since South Australia’s statewide blackout, the pioneering state’s energy transition has continued apace.
South Australia has just passed 50 per cent renewable energy and is on track to generate more than 100 per cent of its annual demand within a decade.
South Australia’s carbon emissions intensity is half that of NSW, and with five planned pumped hydro power stations, continued wind and solar development, and an innovative Virtual Power Plant coming to 50,000 households, the state’s emissions will continue to fall.
The much-hyped Tesla “megabattery” has exceeded both technical and financial expectations, winning praise from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), making a healthy profit and bringing down costs of essential grid services.
But while South Australia’s energy transition charges ahead, coal advocates like Nathan Vass continue to peddle mistruths.
The South Australian blackout was caused by tornadoes – yes, tornadoes in Australia – ripping out 23 transmissions towers.
Multiple power line disturbances caused protection systems around the state to “trip off” – including at some wind farms and the interconnector to Victoria.
Two “black start” generators – paid month-in, month-out to be ready to bootstrap the network – failed in the only moment they were needed this decade, and what would otherwise have been a brief outage stretched out to hours for many South Australians.
Yes, it was a serious event for many, including businesses which had to wait days for power lines to be repaired.
But it’s disingenuous to blame this one-in-50 year extreme weather event on renewable energy.
AEMO learnt some important lessons.
Protection settings and operating procedures have been changed and tested, and the South Australia grid continues to comfortably exceed Australia’s incredibly high 99.998 per cent reliability standard.
Prices did increase by 60 per cent in South Australia in the two years to 2018, as they did in NSW. However, prices have since moderated, more so in SA than NSW.
These increases are well understood to be due to gas price increases and the withdrawal of the Hazelwood power station with insufficient notice.
Vass also misrepresents AEMO’s latest predictions around power system reliability.
Both SA and NSW – in fact all NEM regions – are forecast to easily meet the reliability standard in each of the next 10 years.
These forecasts factor in the closure of Liddell.
Vass’s claim that Liddell’s closure could cause blackouts for 200,000 homes shows a serious lack of technical understanding of AEMO’s reports, a great example of how a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous.
Far from needing NSW’s non-existent surplus “baseload”, when the new Riverland interconnector is built between SA and NSW, power is much more likely to flow eastwards.
The market operator has been very clear, Australia doesn’t need more “baseload” coal generation, but we will need more dispatchable energy in time.
Australia doesn’t need more 'baseload' coal generation, but we will need more dispatchable energy in time.
In June, AEMO completed the largest study ever of our grid.
The technology-neutral, lowest-cost scenario, without any new government policy, sees two-thirds of our remaining coal power being retired by 2040.
Under AEMO’s scenario planning, not a single so-called HELE ( high efficiency, low emission) power station is built – for the simple reason that other sources are now more flexible and much cheaper, yes, including all integration costs.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the national grid does not need the Hunter.
NSW does, for now, but unless the region embraces the generation technologies of the 21st century – no, not coal, but renewables and storage – the region will be left behind.
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