“This developing heatwave is nothing short of horrifying” said climate scientist Sarah Perkin-Kirkpatrick.
“Much of eastern Australia has seen heatwave after heatwave this summer, with some seasonal records already broken by the start of February. Night-time temperatures have been too hot for adequate sleep and daytime temperatures have been searing.”
Sarah Perkin-Kirkpatrick is a climate scientist who has specialised in studying the causes and dynamics of heatwaves. She is an Australian Research Council DECRA fellow at the Climate Change Research Centre, University of NSW. At the annual Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Organisation conference meeting in Canberra this week she was awarded the Early Career Researcher (ECR) award.
“What is particularly concerning about the developing event is the intensity, where many regions will see a string of extremely hot days with little relief. Much of NSW, QLD and northern VIC will suffer the most, where temperatures will be the hottest, and follow little reprieve from the previous heatwaves.” she said.
“It is important that everyone tries to stay cool. Don’t work, play, or exercise outside and look after those who may struggle to keep cool, particularly the sick, elderly and very young. Unfortunately, this is just a glimpse of the future, as human influence on the climate increases, so will the number and severity of heatwaves and their deadly impacts.” Kirkpatrick warned.
At the conference she shared the results of some of her work with the other climate scientists. Her recent PhD generated 10 academic papers published in peer reviewed scientific journals. She articulated in a media statement that “Every recent heatwave has been made more severe by global warming,”
Her work on climate factors that create heatwaves is important as it will allow scientists to be able to identify during a weather extreme the extent to which climate change has been responsible, as well as improving forecasts of heatwaves and assess and plan for their impacts.
Summary – 10 February NSW and Qld heatwave response
6.21pm – Actual Lack Of Reserve Level 3 (LOR3) in the NSW Region (“maximum load to be interrupted is 310 MW at 1706 hrs 10/02/2017”)
5:32pm – Ausgrid say AEMO has downgraded forecast shortfall in NSW generation capacity, reducing potential need for any load shedding
4.29pm – Climate Council calls for major energy system overhaul for climate adaptation and to meet emission reduction commitments
3.45pm – NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin saying businesses are reducing demand, asking consumers to use air-con on 26C and avoid unnecessary appliance use. No load shedding likely if people can limit their demand.
2.20pm – Shadow Environment and Energy Minister Mark Butler speaks to media
2.15pm – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to media and continues criticism of renewables targets for SA blackout
10.34am – Climate Institute draws attention to stronger more intense heatwaves driven by climate change, with the electricity system needing to become more resilient and address emissions reduction.
10:00am – NSW Emergency Services media conference on heatwave conditions
6.31am – BOM says Sydney forecast to reach 38C, low to mid 40s in the west
6.17am – NEM watch forecasts Lack of reserve Level 2 in NSW region
4.17am – NEM watch forecasts Lack of Reserve Level 1 in Qld region
Extreme Heatwave Threat likely to break temperature records
On Wednesday around 90,000 people in South Australia lost power for up to 45 minutes due to AEMO order to shed load in the SA Power network due to high demand for electricity as a result of the extreme temperatures.
This was due to a lack of bids to supply power, although AEMO failed to use it’s authority to order the 2nd turbine of the Engie owned Pelican Point gas plant into use. There was no lack of availability in supply, this was a regulatory failure. See my article: AEMO orders South Australian #heatwave blackout while Gas turbine remains idle #SAheat reports
A scorching 39C is forecast for Adelaide on Friday with temperatures in the mid 40Cs in country South Australia. The heatwave is now moving further east and subjecting northern Victoria, all of NSW and Southern Queensland to 40C plus temperature blowtorch. Of concern is high night time temperatures which disrupt sleep and don’t allow physiological recovery. Heat stress often ocurrs on second and subsequent days of a heatwave due partly to this effect.
Electricity supply in NSW is under threat on Friday afternoon peak due to high electricity demand. NSW electricity Users have been asked to turn off non-essential appliances and power outlets during the late afternoon peak.
At 4.52pm the Bureau of Meteorology reported in a tweet it was the hottest February day at Sydney Airport on Friday reaching 42.9C at 2:24pm, breaking previous record of 42.6C set on 21 Feb 1980. Sydney (Observatory Hill) has now recorded 10 days above 35C this summer, breaking the previous record (9 days) set in the summer of 1895-96.
A Statewide total fire ban is in place for Saturday and Sunday. Broad areas have been declared as Severe and Extreme fire danger. Catastrophic conditions are forecast for Sunday from Central West to the Hunter region.
As wind speed picks up over the weekend, catastrophic fire conditions as well as extreme temperatures are forecast for much of NSW on Sunday.
Friday forecast for the weekend:
— BOM Australia (@BOM_au) February 10, 2017
Energy resilience called for not renewables blame game
In a media release John Connor CEO of the Climate Institute said “Today’s record breaking heatwave is a very real demonstration of temperatures that will become more and more common if we keep on burning coal, oil and gas in the way we do. Analysis by CSIRO and others has shown for years that climate change will bring, longer and more intense heatwaves – this is the new normal that we need to prepare for.”
Connor criticised the Treasurer Scott Morrison producing a lump of coal in parliament and dismissed it as a stunt in poor taste given the extreme heatwave ocurring “We have an energy system that was already struggling to adapt to the 21st century now buckling under record-breaking heat, and the political response has so far been stunts and squabbles,”
— AAP Newswire (@AAPNewswire) February 9, 2017
Greater resilience in the energy system was called for by Connor to balance energy security and reduce emissions to meet our climate commitments, “Seeking to blame renewable energy technologies is a pointless distraction from the real issue. As blackouts in past years have shown, Australia’s electricity system is severely stressed by extreme heat, particularly in the southeast of the country. The solution is to increase the resilience of the system as a whole rather than focusing just on isolated parts.”
Heatwaves are a silent killer
In the extreme heat remember that heatwaves are the Silent Killer. I reported in March 2016 on the launch of a Climate Council report on Heatwaves, climate change and Public Health.
During Wednesday 43 people presented to South Australian hospitals with signs of heat stress, 18 were admitted. More concerning was a report of hospital air-conditioning failure affecting some surgical theatres. Some surgeries had to be cancelled with patients sent home. Hospitals and ambulances are emergency infrastructure which are also placed under stress in the extreme temperature conditions.
Over December and January 1100 people presented to Sydney’s Westmead Hospital emergency department with possible heat-related health conditions.
Prime Minister neglects climate drivers continues to blame renewables for energy crisisPrime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at his press conference at 2.15pm continued to blame renewables for repeated outages in South Australia in September last year, despite evidence that the primary cause was the extreme storms (rated as 1 in 50 year event) which destroyed power lines in the statewide blackout, and most recently poor regulatory control by AEMO on Wednesday during the current heatwave.
He failed to mention the climate imperative that drives the need for transitioning electricity network to renewables. Both more extreme storm events and more intense heatwave conditions are driven by climate change. Coal fired power is helping drive that climate change.
South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill responded on twitter:
According to the PM, load shedding in coal-fired NSW is market working properly. In SA, it's the fault of renewables. Who is the hypocrite?
— Jay Weatherill (@JayWeatherill) February 10, 2017
Shadow Minister Mark Butler calls for end to renewables blame gameShadow Environment and Energy Minister Mark Butler at 2.20pm media conference said the National electrical grid system was not fit for purpose and urgently needed an overhaul. He highlighted the Tomago Aluminium Smelter had already been asked to phase down consumption. Further more widespread load shedding may still be necessary. The smelter uses about 10 per cent of NSW’s electricity production.
Butler called for the de-carbonisation of Australia’s electricity system, a stop to the blame game of renewables, and introduction of an energy intensity scheme to help manage de-carbonisation of the electricity sector, and a return to bipartisanship for developing energy and climate policy.
NSW electricity is approximately 90 per cent generated from coal, but has good interconnect links to Queensland and Victoria.
NSW Energy Minister urges consumers to minimise electricity demandNSW Energy Minister Don Harwin said at 3.45pm that businesses are reducing demand. He highlighted that demand is slightly higher than expected. He is asking consumers to use air-con on 26C and avoid unnecessary appliance use. He said load shedding would try to be avoided if people can limit their demand, but may still be necessary.
As the Peak period is 4.30-6.00pm he asks that people avoid using appliances then suggests people could go to a shopping centre or out to the movies and come home later to reduce electricity use during the evening peak.
Temperature at Hay in south western NSW has peaked at 47C at 2.30pm on Friday.
Climate Council calls for energy system overhaul to adapt to new climate
The Climate Council has called for Australia’s energy system to be overhauled, in a bid to ensure reliable power in the face of severe heatwaves and other extreme climate change driven events.
Climate Councillor and energy expert, Andrew Stock said coordinated brownouts and load shedding in South Australia and now in the ACT and New South Wales, one of Australia’s biggest coal states, shows the system is crumbling under the pressure.
“This government has had years to prepare strong climate and energy policy. The Turnbull Government needs to focus on bringing our ageing and polluting energy system into the 21st Century,” said Mr Stock an energy expert with more than 40 years experience.
Mr Stock said Australia is in desperate need of a decentralised energy network in order to offer residents secure and reliable power while facing extreme weather such as rolling heatwaves.
“Highly centralized systems can’t adapt to the rapidly changing physical environment we’re experiencing with more and more severe weather. Highly centralized systems also can’t adapt quickly to rapidly changing technology, which is being embraced globally – but not in Australia.”
“Instead of putting all of our eggs in the coal basket, it is far better to modernize our system for the challenges of the 21st Century, using technologies than don’t exacerbate climate change.”
Mr Stock said the current energy system needed to adapt to worsening climate, while continuing to lower emissions in accordance with international climate commitments.
“Load shedding on a day exceeding 40 degrees is extremely dangerous, especially for the elderly and for young people who are particularly vulnerable in such heat. Doing this is actually putting lives at risk.”
Australia’s new energy system must continue to lower emissions, said Mr Stock, while also maintaining our international commitment to the Paris Agreement.
“The energy system must be zero emissions. The challenge is now to design a system that can provide that and there are technologies that can do it, we just need to use common sense and get started quickly. Otherwise the result will be an absolute train wreck.” said Stock
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW have called for increased transition to renewables today while NSW faces disruption to energy.
“Energy supply in NSW is under threat today because political leaders have failed to drag our electricity system from the coal-fired past into the renewable energy future,” Ms Smolski from the Nature Conservation Council said. “For far too long, climate action and energy policy in Australia has been tied up in a culture war driven by politics and ideology, while people and the planet continue to suffer.”
Ms Smolski said Premier Glady Berejiklian needed fast-track the $9 billion worth of renewable energy projects in the pipeline in NSW.
“Today’s events show that we need to turbo-charge our switch to a safe, secure and sustainable electricity system. With only 5% of electricity in NSW coming from wind and solar, we are lagging well behind other states. We have to do everything we can to catch up and start leading the nation.” concluded Ms Smolski.
“Today’s energy supply crisis sends a clear signal that Ms Berejiklian needs to do much more to stimulate the boom in renewables investment that will deliver energy security, regional jobs and a safer climate. Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull’s call for more coal-fired power stations is pure lunacy. Coal-fired power stations are not the solution – they are a major part of the problem.” said Smolski.
There is a petition to Repower NSW with clean energy run by the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
Rooftop solar at 4.45pm contributed 3.24 percent of electricity to the NSW grid, and in Queensland it was 5.91 percent. This is important as it moves the demand peak to later in the day, as well as taking some usage to behind the meter. This takes a little pressure of the utility scale electricity generators.
Mitch O’Neill, who works in Energy, Distributed Systems and Markets, blogged that NSW paid over $337 million for 2.5 hours of energy today. Electricity consumers, you and me, will ultimately foot the bill. The current NEM grid and regulation is unsustainable. An overhaul is overdue.
NSW paid over $337 million for 2.5 hours of energy today.https://t.co/JwKJCCVgvA
— Mitch O'Neill (@mitch_oneill) February 10, 2017
See my storify for updates during the day: