Gas cartel will destroy EV rollout

Via The Australian:

Energy Networks Australia warned in a submission to the Senate’s recent electric vehicle inquiry that growing numbers of EVs, combined with the nation’s flat energy pricing structure, could worsen energy peaks and exceed the capacity of low-voltage networks.

“Australia’s distribution networks were not designed for any significant uptake of electric ­vehicles and the consequential demand­ for charging,” the peak energy network body said.

“This raises concerns about ­potential impact of electric vehicle mass-charging events on energy security at a time when the system is susceptible to power outages during peak periods of energy demand­.”

The answer to this is as straightforward as it is absent from debate. Peak demand is best managed using gas power. Coal can’t cope with it, it doesn’t fire up quickly enough. Eventually power storage will help but there is just nowhere near enough of it.

Gas fired power is the key (and today only) source of peaking power supply. It fires up instantly, is eminently dispatchable, produces at scale and is much lower carbon output than coal.

In short, for Labor’s EV roll out to work at all, it must first break the east coast gas cartel comprehensively and convincingly enough that investment in additional gas peaking power makes sense.

The Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (ADGSM) must be toughened to a benchmark of export net-back with a permanent fixed price ceiling of $5-6Gj. A new regulator will be required with very significant powers to fine cartel violators. The AEMO and ACCC are shocking failures.

You can’t build an EV roll out on a failed gas market.

David Llewellyn-Smith


  1. kannigetMEMBER

    WTF is an electric vehicle mass charging event? DO they actually think a large number of EV owners will plug their vehicles into a charge point to do 100% all at the same time? How do they cope with Mass kettle usage events? What do they do to mitigate ALL the toasters across the country popping at the same time?

    Roll out Batteries to each house, reduce the feed into the grid so they can stop complaining about it destabilizing the grid, let EV owners charge from the battery first and then dribble the rest in from the grid if needed. As most EV’s will only use about 10 to 20% on a daily basis this should rarely happen if the battery is sized correctly. Then they only have to worry about those situations where the sun dont shine and the wind dont blow for days on end. As we have global warming we wont have to worry about that mythical event for much longer anyway.

    • I’d imagine there would be a usage peak around 5-7pm each day. And I reckon we do get a mass kettle event everyday around 5-7am

      • “TV pickup is a term used in the United Kingdom to refer to a phenomenon that affects electricity generation and transmission networks. It often occurs when a large number of people watch the same TV programmes while taking advantage of breaks in programming to use toilets and operate electrical appliances, thus causing large synchronised surges in national electricity consumption. Electricity networks devote considerable resources to predicting and providing electricity supply for these events, which in the UK, for example, typically impose an extra demand of around 200–400 megawatts (MW) on the Grid. Short-term supply is often obtained from pumped storage reservoirs…”

    • There could even be a mass seniors charging event. Where they all charge their car instead of feeding their spare solar into the grid.
      The argument ignores timing anyway. People will charge at times of the day when demand is down and prices are cheaper.

    • I’m not one to argue against the closer integration of EV’s into the Residential electricity grid however one does need to understand just how much power an EV consumes when compared with a typical household.

      Without Heating Cooling or Pool loads it’s fairly easy to get a typical households electricity usage down to around 8kwh/day, (assuming efficient appliances and a somewhat frugal approach to electricity) with water heating and house heating / cooling and Pool the number creeps up towards 20Kwh/day.
      So lets look at the energy a typical EV uses (say Tesla model S) a 100kwh Tesla has a range of about 500km or about 20kwh per 100km (or 5km / kwh ) I believe the average family car in Australia travels about 20,000km/year which means about 100km/workday.
      If these EV’s are charged at home than 100km = 20kwh which would about double the current electricity consumption of existing Australian households.
      If you’re suggesting that they get charged by PV on the house roof than charging just one EV would consume all the power generated by a 5kw PV array, if most houses have 2 cars and still want to be off-grid (sort of) than the PV array to do this needs to be 15kW.
      Assuming solar irradiation of 1kw/m2 and Pv efficiency of 20% (A 15Kw array would occupy 75sqm of North facing roof space. (it’s a heck of a big house that has 75sqm of North facing roof area)

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        The ideal scenario is to have the car act as batteries : they discharge at night the car get home during 5-7, and recharge again over night from the grid when electricity is cheap.

      • kannigetMEMBER

        I doubt the 100k workday average figure, based your 20,000 klm a year figure they would only work 200 days AND never drive outside work. If the average car usage is 20K then I think a daily average would be more likely to be 320 days of driving averaging to 62Klm. I accept that more driving is likely to occur during the work week so lets make it 80k so in a Telsa thats about 16kwh, in a more affordable car like a hyundai IONIC its about 10kwh.

        If you have a 10Kwh battery, you may have 8kwh of usable charge and the difference would be drawn from the grid over an 8 to 10 hour period. about 300watts an hour…..

        If you dont have a battery and use 100klm a day / 13kwh its still only 1kw an hour overnight and most houses would not see much difference during peak and during the off peak it would be even better.

      • If average Aussies wanted to buy and drive small efficient cars than I would concede that 5km/1kwh was too high.
        However a typical Aussie car buyer today wants a Mid Sized (or bigger) SUV and it will be impossible to power this with an energy budget of 5km/kw.
        Yeah there’s plenty of time over night to add 20kwh of EV charge (2kw*10hours) but when everyone is doing this over the same 10 hours and with two cars per household plus water heating plus house heating (in winter) Our existing residential grid just doesn’t have this much spare capacity.

      • kannigetMEMBER

        in 2010 the majority of cars were general passenger cars and micro cars, now its SUV and Utes, When you consider the price of those cars has hardly changed and the passenger/micros have gone up its not surprising that we now focus on the SUV as we perceive it to be better value.

        SUV’s wont compete long term with the EV passenger cars purely on a fuel basis, EV’s are way too expensive for the general buyer but are already showing strong growth. Get the base prices down and add that to the lower day to day operating costs and I expect it will just increase. Most major markets for cars are either planning or already banning ICE engine based cars from a near future date. Most premium car makers are outlining an electric only future. Making Hiluxs, Cruisers and rangers etc just for our market will make the prices of these go up, making the EV’s more affordable and these ICE based cars move to EV.

        Now that we don’t have a domestic market we have very limited influence over the general direction personal transport takes so we should be putting in place policies to make this transition smoother for the general public and not stand around arguing about why it wont happen.

        Our country has become luddite heaven, ignoring the US almost all the other countries are looking to how they move to the future and we are standing around arguing that we need to have more of the past as a solution. The US will drag its heals and then just give up resisting due to economics, when that happens we dont want to be the only first world country left standing against the tide or we will become a third world country again.

      • all this recharging at night when electricity is cheap worries me. ….like that arrangement wont be gouged at all.
        If this much additional EV load is to be expected at night than Night will be the new Electricity peak rate and sell at a price far higher than daytime electricity. Look at the Duck Curve to understand what WILL happen to mid day electricity pricing.
        So yeah all these people expecting sub 15c/kwh charging costs to justify their EV operations are likely to be in for a rude shock. Now if you want to go one step further you can compare the operational costs of a conventional ICE powered car (say 35% efficient hybrid engine) with the savings one gets from a fully electric car. charged at say 50c/kwh.

      • “Our existing residential grid just doesn’t have this much spare capacity.”

        There is if we time shift. There is plenty of spare electricity during the day. Move ‘off peak’ to the day where it should be with greater PV penetration. So heat water and the house during the day when power prices will approach zero. Most people will need to charge their car once or twice a week. That can be done during the weekend. Car parks will star offering charging stations (they do in most other cities) to power your car during the day (when it is cheap) as well (and give you a portable battery to power your home at night).

        Remember that PV and batteries are halving in price at least every 7 years. So within 10 years 10-15kW PV with a buffer battery will be less than $5k. Most places with a roof will be self-sufficient in power. Power prices during the day will be approaching zero (wholesale). There will be plenty of capacity – even if, by 2030, 1/2 of all cars sold in Aus are EV (this will be done in a canter. Once EV are the same price as ICE they will outsell them. This will be well within the 11 years).

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        So lets look at the energy a typical EV uses (say Tesla model S) a 100kwh Tesla has a range of about 500km or about 20kwh per 100km (or 5km / kwh ) I believe the average family car in Australia travels about 20,000km/year which means about 100km/workday.

        It’s actually well under 15k/year:[email protected]/mf/9208.0

        And I suspect if you were to limit that to people living in larger population centres (say, >100k people) then it’d be pretty close to 10k/year. I reckon the national average gets pulled up quite a bit by a small percentage of people doing relatively massive annual distances (50k/yr+).

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      WTF is an electric vehicle mass charging event? DO they actually think a large number of EV owners will plug their vehicles into a charge point to do 100% all at the same time? How do they cope with Mass kettle usage events? What do they do to mitigate ALL the toasters across the country popping at the same time?

      It’ll happen every afternoon.

      Air conditioners already cause power grid problems because large numbers of people tend to start them up at about the same time.

      Comparing the tens of minutes to hours cars and aircons run for to the 30-odd seconds a toaster or kettle runs for is silly.

      • kannigetMEMBER

        Most aircons are 3Kw to 8Kw and run flat out at the point in time they are turned on until the houses cool.

        Cars charge slowly overnight and only top up the amount used.

        Yes, comparing them to a kettle or toaster is silly but only as silly as comparing them to the way we use our aircons.
        The way we use energy for our air cons is not the same as our EV usage will be. If we get a heat wave we all turn our air cons on…. There will never be a scenario where we all charge our EV’s from 0% to 100% at the same time. To even propose that is ludicrous….
        We have people voicing irregular worst case scenarios to one off events that are more weather related.

        The UK has a much bigger take up of EV’s and are not mass reporting any charge volume issues.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Every afternoon from 5-7pm, hundreds of thousands people are going to get home from work and plug in their EV to recharge 10-30%, just like they turn their aircons on.

        Sure, you could program those chargers to do it later in the evening, but that just time-shifts the same problem.

  2. Yip, the problem is rubbish pricing and endless delays in deployment of modern meters. In its most recent demand forecast, AEMO included a new assumption of “opportunistic” EV charging, resulting in a significant increase in forecast max demand. The solution isn’t more gas, it’s better pricing – encourage EV owners to charge up during the middle of the day when the PV is otherwise being blocked from exporting, or in the middle of a windy night. Managed well, EV uptake can be accommodated from existing and new renewable capacity. No need for new gas capacity – even if gas prices were much lower.

  3. kannigetMEMBER

    As I said, if we had batteries in each house the peak would come from that, charge the battery from the grid or roof at cheap times, put it into the car and then top up with the grid as needed …. No mass charge event, it would be like 10% of off peak hot water systems coming on during the night. The batteries in the house smooth out the power curve allowing the grid to stay relatively predictable. Simples really. Force gas reservations on the cartel will help get prices down but wont stop the gas generators doing what they did a few years back and refusing to spin up a turbine when it was needed.

    • Of course it will. They were only offline because prices were too high. That said, your vision for rooftop is right. It’s just not going to arrive in time.

      • 15 years ago, there was merit in the gas as a transition fuel argument but it has missed the slot. This is because, to be competitive, any new plant needs to be depreciated over ~40 years. But that doesn’t get you to net zero emissions by 2050. Also, the emissions from unconventional gas don’t seem to be measured very reliably which suggests they could be much worse than everyone thinks. The economics of new gas extraction in eastern Australia seem very poor, according to the AEMO’s latest report and I see the Federal budget is actually subsidising exploration in the NT. Absurd. BTW, I completely agree with your thesis about the excess LNG capacity and the lack of domgas. Fixing this could reduce prices for existing gas plant but I just can’t see new gas plant (apart from AGL’s Liddell part replacement) getting up due to wariness of financiers over carbon risks.

  4. Tanya Plibersek on radio 2gb (Alan Jones show just before 7:30am) this morning strongly suggested that Labor would be willing to legislate for domestic gas reservation. She didn’t say the words but the implication was pretty strong. Not her portfolio obviously but interesting nonetheless.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      I’ve been hearing this too.
      No point making it an election issue when the Cartel will immediately mobilise enough money to cost Labor seats if not the whole election.
      Remember what that One Nation guy said about how 10 or 20 mill from the NRA could get ON an extra 7 or 8 seats!
      Our Gas Cartel has got a whole lot more money than that to throw against “enemies”.

      I’ve heard the subject of Gas reservation discussed frequently at ALP functions, branch meeting, Commities and fundraisers by the rank and file AND Federal and state candidates and MPs.
      Its a no brainer really, with all this talk of making the “Big end of town” paying their fair share no other target could deliver a greaterceconomic windfall to ALL Australian People.
      I certainly intend to bang on about a better and enforced Gas Reservation policy across Australia at every Branch, SEC and FEC meeting I attend from now on.

      You could to,

      • morrrieMEMBER

        But gas reservation causes house prices to decline – can’t you see what happening in WA! 🙂

    • Already there according to some of my clients- this partly reflects the diesel fuel rebate. So silliness on silliness.

    • A gas genset is already cheaper too.

      For a price of $15/GJ, divide by 278 to get kWh, and then divide by 0.4 for efficiency.

      So gas can supply power at 13.5 c/kWh, even at extortionate electricity prices. The grid costs are a different matter though.

  5. Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

    This is a weird argument given EVs represent less than 0.1% of cars in Australia. Those with EVs seem to be mostly charging them during the day when their PV solar is producing or charging at work when other PV solar is producing. I look at my driving usage per week which is roughly 200kms, if I owned an EV I could wait to charge it until the weekend with this sort of usage. But other usages and profiles will vary. Personally I cannot wait for EVs to get a little cheaper so I can trade in my ageing Honda and never have to visit the service station again and also enjoy much lower cost car maintenance (EVs have 70-80% less engine components than an ICE).
    From a national security aspect we should be encouraging EVs as Australia produces a fraction of the oil and has almost no refineries left to run its transport fleet.

    • bolstroodMEMBER

      Good comments DtC
      especially national security. The quicker we go to Ev’s and renewables the better.

  6. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    If increased atmospheric CO2 really is an imminent threat to human Civilisation then surely we should be building Nuclear power plants NOW.
    Would be a Good and sencible piece of Govie owned infrastructure/stimulus.
    Good for our Countries energy security, future increased productivity and we get to say we’re saving the planet to boot!
    What’s stopping us?

    It’s over 70 year old technology!

    “thorium-based power “can mean a 1000+ year solution or a quality low-carbon bridge to truly sustainable energy sources solving a huge portion of mankind’s negative environmental impact.”[3]”

    I notice Australia is the worlds biggest Producer of Thorium.

    • steflukeMEMBER

      I can’t figure out why thorium isn’t taken more seriously.

      I believe the thorium reaction has to run very hot, so it’s mechanically challenging. But a reactor has been operated for 10+ years in the 1950s and 1960s, i.e. with 60 year old materials technology. You’d think that would be solvable.

      Beyond that, it’s not high pressure and it’s a liquid fuel cycle. If it catastrophically breaks down it melts into a puddle, which isn’t good but it’s not exactly Fukushima or Chernobyl. The reaction supposedly uses ~95% of the fuel (rather than ~5% like uranium) so waste volume is much lower. None of the reaction products can be weaponised. I understand you can feed some amount of uranium/plutonium waste into the thorium reactors and use that up as well.

      There seem to be a lot of pretty compelling advantages there. I really don’t know why it hasn’t gotten more traction – presumably there is something but I haven’t seen what it is.

  7. steflukeMEMBER

    Batteries might help at the margins but I don’t think they solve the problem at scale.

    Rooftop solar into an EV is tricky. The EV probably isn’t home when the solar is productive. You need a lot of solar to feed your batteries to charge a car. You need a lot of batteries to hold the solar – when I looked at it on my own house a real issue was the capacity of the battery to take in the peak generation. It’s easy to output more than the incoming charging capacity of a battery, which puts you into multiple batteries (and costs). Then when you bring your EV home you are charging a battery with a battery, for double the efficiency losses.

    So the equation becomes a lot of rooftop solar, multiple batteries and basically a lot of capital to make any real dent in the EV use of the existing grid. Don’t forget to depreciate it all over 10 years max (and hope for a good waste solution for the old batteries).

    Also, the current price premium of an EV over a small car can already exceed the total cost of fuel over the period of ownership. Putting panels all over your roof and 2 tesla powerwalls in on top of that cost, only to take 25% of the charging load from the grid doesn’t add up yet, probably not for a long time.

  8. EVs charged from the grid which is supplied by fossil fuel power stations is a waste of time. Convert to renewable power generating plants first! Cost of EVs are to high at the moment anyway!