AEMO fesses up on SA blackout

From The Australian:

The nation’s energy market operator is under pressure to fix its ­operations after revealing the key failures that triggered blackouts for 90,000 customers last week, during a heatwave that has escalated a political dispute over ­energy security.

A report into the February 8 outages raises more questions about the rules ­applied to managing the nation’s electricity grid, including the challenge of making reliable forecasts for wind power generation.

The Australian Energy Market Operator yesterday admitted outages across South Australia could have been prevented by faster action to bring on a gas-fired power station, calling into question the current financial ­incentives for conventional generation.

Politicians responded to the AEMO report by laying blame on the competing power sources, but the findings also deepen concerns about the way the network is run and how it can be overhauled to prevent a repeat of the outages.

Here is the flow of events from the full report:

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And charted:

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My questions are:

  • why did AEMO act so slowly from 1500 hours?
  • when it did finally get around to Pelican Point, why did Engie say it would take four hours to light its second turbine? Gas turbines are usually only used as “peaking power plants” and can be switched on and off in minutes. That’s the point.
  • another interconnector may solve the issues short term but you’re still exposed to the dodgy gas suppliers so how much storage is needed?

Comments

  1. jesus christ

    time to renationalise

    leaky valve

    what a load of bs

    you could hold the market price hostage by claiming “leaky valve”

    • Jumping jack flash

      indeed, or any such trite excuse.

      “Mate, I would do it, but you see Bob’s disappeared and nobody else knows how to start the generator. Its a finicky thing and he knows the right spot to kick it.”

      *Price goes up to some ridiculous amount*

      “Wait, wait… whadayaknow, we’ve just found Bob. He was in the woodshed.”

  2. Time for the SA government to stick it to the PM and raise its renewable energy target. These gas and coal fired power plants are too unreliable, the national energy market is a basket case, the government has watched as companies sell our natural resources overseas at lower prices than we can buy them domestically just to pressure state governments into approving fracking and privatisation has resulted in an energy grid that is no longer maintained. I am no expert, but i’d rather put solar panels and batteries in, go off grid and go without if the sun doesn’t shine. The energy market has ceased to be about energy and is now about Enronesqe profiteering.

    • ResearchtimeMEMBER

      Look at the graph before you say something like that diatribe again… evening arrives, solar dies, wind does too… and gas is unable to meet demand!

      Thats the problem when you have no base-load.

      I think some of the above can’t read graphs! They are shooting themselves in the foot. People are writing about things they simply do not understand!

      • Rrrright “gas unable to meet demand”

        In the instance above, sounds like gas is kinda unreliable

        Sounds like a confluence of factors to me

        No gas reservation
        Providers BS-ing about “unavailability” as there was a leaky valve (aka “we want to gouge the market”)

        Time for
        Reserve gas
        Higher RET
        Renationalise grid
        Invest in/subsidise batteries

        “dear grid providers instead of subsidising your sh$t performance/chronic underperformance and instead of indirectly subsidising the fossil fuel industry through a lack of carbon tax (per Kohler’s article this week) we are going to systematically invest in small scale storage and PV so anyone and everyone can be a capture and storage generator. you have X days to update your grid / infrastructure to comply with this or else we will buy the grid from you at a rate we determine to be fair or will legislate its nationalisation.
        yours truly

        SA govt”

      • [email protected]MEMBER

        gas was able to meet demand. gouging…EOS

      • [email protected]MEMBER

        Friday was hotter over a wider area and SA found they could generate 1800MW WITH GAS …no shortage no blackouts.
        http://reneweconomy.com.au/nem-watch/

      • ResearchtimeMEMBER

        Mate – have a look at the graph, gas couldn’t fill the gap! A plant went down, small amount of capacity only! But its was enough to take down a large part of the system. There is no spare capacity, a situation that will only worsen with time.

        Gas should not be used for base load. Need a hell of a lot of gas to match one tonne of coal. SA has done it to its self. If it had 500Mw of coal, which is a relatively small amount – this situation would never happen.

        Better still, massively hot radio-active granites in SA, could easily provide the entire states power – for tens thousands of years, with virally no operating cost (major cost is the drilling and fracking). Better still, its base load and peak!

        And the conclusion – ask for more Government subsidies! The height of hypocrisy…

      • ResearchtimeMEMBER

        Mate – have a look at the graph, gas couldn’t fill the gap! A plant went down, small amount of capacity only! But its was enough to take down a large part of the system. There is no spare capacity, a situation that will only worsen with time.

        Gas should not be used for base load. Need a hell of a lot of gas to match one tonne of coal. SA has done it to its self. If it had 500Mw of coal, which is a relatively small amount – this situation would never happen.

        Better still, massively hot radio-active granites in SA, could easily provide the entire states power – for tens thousands of years of clean renewable energy, with virtually no operating costs (major cost is the drilling and fracking). Better still, its base load and peak!

        And the conclusion – ask for more Government subsidies for wind and solar! The height of hypocrisy…

      • Rt
        I would be a big fan of Geo thermal if it is feasable, makes terrific sense, but…
        wasn’t there a large problem with Geothermal in QLD?
        Something about the acidity eating the pipes that are put down to bring up the thermal heat?

      • ResearchtimeMEMBER

        Not sure of that, heaps of other problems though… sure unconventional will have some teething challenges. Some big breakthroughs in tracing and drilling technologies in the past five years! Need the markets to recover, for some more risk money to come free. Or time to dull the pain of losing previous amounts…

        But just look at conventional geothermal, cheapest source of energy know to man – bar none.

        Better than water falls of cliffs – and other such pie in the sky ideas!

      • [email protected]MEMBER

        they found the MW you’re looking for Friday and Saturday

    • You made me agree with researchtime, and thats pretty harsh.

      As he points out- look at the graph. The problem was not a lack of renewables, it was a lack of power generation. Look @ just after 18:30. Wind and Solar are both fractions of what they were earlier.

      • The point is not IF there was a lack of power generation, the point is WHY there was a lack of power generation.

        Was it because the generation infrastructure was/is genuinely incapable of producing the demanded power ?
        Was it because the generators chose – either immediately at the time, or due to decisions made previously – not to produce the demanded power ?

      • @Drsmithy
        Or were the generators told to NOT turn on the generator by (political) friends in high places ?

      • @Both of you:

        I was responding to this remark:
        >Time for the SA government to stick it to the PM and raise its renewable energy target.

        Renewables werent producing at 18:30..why would increasing the number of them help? (Keeping in mind if we produce too much energy the ROI will get fucked up from cheap energy)

  3. I wonder why Electranet shed 300MW+ instead of 100MW, and even if it was an accident why they didn’t restore 200MW at 18:18 (8 minutes after it started being shed, and when AEMO informed Electranet that they were shedding more than they needed to). Or at 18:30, or at 18:40, when advised that they were overdoing it by AEMO twice more?

    Electranet blacked out 3 times as many customers as they needed to for approx. 40 minutes longer than needed (18:18-19:00), even if you gift them the first 8 minutes (18:10-18:18) of excessive load reduction as a genuine mistake in a moment of panic. (I’m not sure exactly when between 18:49 and 19:08 all load was restored).

    • ResearchtimeMEMBER

      Its not a matter of a switch Tom, if a major part of your system goes down, you first have to find out why. First it was a small failure, which resulted in a larger more catastrophic one!

      Checks have to be made, start up systems be booted, its large and its complicated, and a number of procedures implemented – safety comes first. This is an obvious case of demand exceeding capacity – which incidentally, no one realises, is a very dangerous situation. Blowup a substation – and bang, no power comes on for some unfortunates for a very long time…

      Brother in law in Tassie was telling me of an accident with a sub-station worker (hydro-electric, West Coast), got hit, everyone ran over to him thinking he had died. Asked for a cigarette, said he was felling hot, they undid his zip, but his stomach fused to the zipper and as they undid the zip, his stomach opened and his guts came out. Brother in law said he died instantly – apparently his whole insides were cooked, but according to my brother, he looked fine from the outside. Apparently skin is a very poor conductor.

  4. Stormy WatersMEMBER

    Your As

    1) AEMO was waiting to see if the market would respond…As it turned out more capacity had problems. This is can happen, especially when it’s super hot.

    2) Pelican is a baseload/midmerit CCGT plant not a peaker. The unit in question has also been offline for months. Engine couldn’t recover the cost of putting the gas through both units (with wind suppressing pool prices most of the time) so they mothballed it and onsold the gas. It’s actually pretty impressive that they could source fuel and cold start the unit after a few months offline within four hours. Think hoelw long it takes a flight crew to to complete pre-flight….A power station is much bigger and requires many more checks.

    3) interconnectors are VERY expensive and they they don’t add to supply, just shift it around. Not a magic bullet and would lead to price rises just as surely.

    And just wait until Hazelwood goes next month.

    • thanks for bring some facts and sanity to this discussion, now we can let everyone get back to their “alternative facts” universe where ALL Gas generators are simple Open cycle machines and all operators of Peaking generators making a good living without holding in effect the market at ransom….gosh comments on this site are becoming detached from reality.

    • “And just wait until Hazelwood goes next month.

      Luckily, we have known that Hazelwood was ‘about to close’ for over 20 years now. So we have plans in place……………..

      🙁

      • I expect South Australia’s energy problems to be pushed off the front page of website news when Hazelwood closes. I not sure whether this will be a good thing or a bad thing given the problem in SA is at the forefront of renewable energy and a novel and new approach could not only offer great opportunities but will also likely be the best solution to the problem in the longer term. At least it might take some of the politics out of finding a solution which may help but I guess that comes at the risk of politicians and business leaders losing focus and moving on to the next pressing problem before they have the right solution in place to this problem.

    • [email protected]MEMBER

      pelican point is a gas base load installation ….nuff said ..use the bloody thing and pay engie for it

      • That option sounds easy but could end up being a very expensive option at the end of the day. In the end the energy consumer (or the SA Government) won’t have to only pay Engie for operating Pelican Point but also possibly every other network operator will have a significant claim against the SA Government (that the energy consumer will likely end up paying in the form of increased prices) for the power price being supressed by the SA Government actions. Besides even if damages were some how negated to the other operators this action could have future unintended consequences on electricity produces behaviour that ultimately pushes the energy price even higher in the future.

        A better outcome would primarily include (amongst other actions) finding a way to encourage a new market enterant(s) to supply the energy storage that the system now needs to cover existing non-dispatchable energy providers and making sure that future non-dispatchable power supplies to the network are accompanied by an appropriate level of energy storage.

  5. Look at the chart. Take out the net imports when Hazelwood is out of the picture. Let SA fly alone on its sun and wind. It will be a miserable place to live.

    Heavy industry will despair and be forced to close their doors. Insurance companies will increase their premiums to cover the mounting losses from power outages. Those who can afford it have installed batteries or will. Some will be going the cheaper option with their camping generator.

    If you fit batteries make certain you can island your house because you do not want those who cannot afford batteries sucking any of your valuable storage when you need it most. Be generous and invite them around to watch the big screen in the warmth of your place.

    I am one of the very few who is operating off grid on solar and has done the sums. This is what it looks like:
    https://1drv.ms/i/s!Aq1iAj8Yo7jNgWhZT3VyVmc6zV_2
    That little blue line at the bottom is the NEM 30 minute energy demand. The red line is the energy output of a massive 240GW (yes GW) array located at Broken Hill. The green line is the energy stored in a 700GWh battery. They are the dimensions of a 100% renewable energy supply that can achieve 99.9% reliability in the present NEM without any coal, gas or hydro.

    The grid is rapidly becoming unmanageable. AEMO’s task is approaching impossibility. Hazelwood goes in April. Sun dies in June and wind is a dog’s breakfast always; too little, too much and never just right for very long. The expensive reverse cycle air-conditions that caused the grief last Friday are switched to heating and the system crashes on 24th June or sooner. Those with batteries will be laughing until they get their redundancy notice as their employer goes into administration.

    • “Those with batteries will be laughing until they get their redundancy notice as their employer goes into administration.”

      I expect those with batteries will be laughing until they realise that not only did they need to invest in batteries but also a security fence topped with razor wire and a 24hr armed guard security service. Because they were one of the few houses in their community that decided to invest in batteries and not only did their neighbours lights go out but 90% of the houses in their street also had the lights go out. Energy security also needs to be looked at from a community perspective not just an individual perspective.

      • Maybe you did not get the cynicism in my comment. While renewables are given priority in the dispatch of electricity into the NEM, power costs will continue to climb.

        Local grids in Australia could be set up to supply reliable electricity at about 50C/kWh if distribution and retail costs are eliminated. Go back to the days where the supply is managed by the local council with just a service charge in the rates. If you have your own source you do not pay the service charge. It would only be June (in Australia) when conservation of the power actually mattered unless you are in Darwin then it will be January.

        Energy intensive users need to make their own arrangements either with on site generation or using existing assets that they can connect to and contract separately.

        There is no current way wind and solar can be used to supply heavy industry at an economic price. The unit cost figures quoted for renewable energy are based on the energy produced being used as produced and the load not requiring more energy than they can produce. That arrangement simply cannot support modern society. SA is already saturated with renewables to the point where dispatchable generation is unprofitable so is closing down. Batteries, at present prices, results in expensive energy. Prices are acceptable to low energy intensive users like households if the distribution and retail charges are eliminated, which households can now do if they have the capital.

  6. Sorry. I seem to have stired some things up. Was merely venting my frustrations at blatant meddling by interest groups. You are correct about the graph and what it shows, but its the stories over the last month that wind me up. The prime minister within hours blaming renewables. The minerals council and the fake social media accounts. Politicians taking lumps of coal to parliment. And no-one sitting down to come up with a co-ordinated strategy that works.