Over 40,000 South Australian households endured a blackout Wednesday evening for about half an hour during an extreme heatwave. AEMO ordered the load shedding, but questions remain why the Pelican Point 2nd gas turbine wasn’t fired up.
Quick Summary Wednesday 8 February SA Heatwave Blackouts
10:31am BOM SA advise an extreme heat warning issued by the SES based on BOM heatwave forecasting
1:30pm Briefing for media on heatwave conditions
2:17pm NEM watch reported the lack of online reserve in South Australia.
5:17pm Actual lack of Reserve (Level 1) , Actual Lack of Reserve (Level 2) at 6:17pm.
6:03pm AEMO ordered 100MW of load shedding to last to 7:30pm.
8:32pm SA Power networks tweeted that it was an “upstream generation issue managed by AEMO the Australian Energy Market Operator, not SA Power Networks”.
9:16pm SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis says that “Power shedding tonight was avoidable. There was sufficient local generation to meet our demand tonight, but AEMO didn’t instruct it on! Why?”
10:23pm Tom Koutsantonis says to a question “Yes gas, South Australian Gas fired generation that should have been told to be on & wasnt!”
11:27pm SA Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis says that “AEMO have informed the SA Government they got their demand forecast for SA wrong.”
Questions need to be asked of AEMO and Pelican Point gas plant
Given by mid afternoon there was notice of peak demand and lack of reserve capacity, why did AEMO not order the Pelican Point second gas turbine – a peaking plant – into action? This is exactly what peaking gas plants are designed to do: fill short term demand requirements.
If the operator failed to bid for the supply of power from the 2nd generator, then there is a huge problem in the privatised power generation sector in which generators can hold the state to ransom.
Don’t forget that gas generators have been keen to supply their gas to fulfill export contracts, rather than turn on turbines to supply local power. In the middle are the citizens of South Australia.
NEM watch has also forecast a lack of supply on Thursday with extreme heatwave conditions.
Update: According to ABC journalist Nick Harmsen, Engie’s Pelican Point No2 was unable to bid under current AEMO rules, and AEMO did not issue an order to them.
Engie, the owner of Pelican Pt Power Station, says it wasn't allowed to bid extra power into the market before load shedding pic.twitter.com/poCexfcgXu
— Nick Harmsen (@nickharmsen) February 9, 2017
Climate change is the imperitive missing from the debate
What is missing from this debate is that heatwaves are getting more frequent, and more intense driven by climate change. Coal fired power generation is a major source of carbon dioxide that causes the greenhouse effect and climatechange. If we don’t wean our society off coal fired power, we are just escalting climate change and temperatures in a feedback loop.
Just read the latest Climate Council report: Cranking Up The Intensity: Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events
Climate Councillor Professor Hilary Bambrick, an epidemiologist and an expert on the health impacts of climate change, said more extreme weather events would put Australia’s most vulnerable at risk.
“Extreme heat, like other extreme weather events, has clear detrimental impacts on individual and community health. We have seen that this summer as a number of Australians have been admitted to hospital with heat related illnesses,” she said.
“While we can make our health services more resilient to coping with extreme weather events, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure. Ultimately to protect Australians from worsening extreme weather events and to do our fair share in the global effort to tackle climate change, we have to cut our emissions quickly and deeply.
“Australia’s pollution is continuing to rise while global emissions flatline. The energy, business and environment sectors are in agreement about the need for a strong federal policy mechanism to encourage an orderly closure of Australia’s ageing coal-fired power stations to make way for modern, clean and efficient renewables.
“The only thing standing in the way of Australia getting on the path to tackling climate change is political will.”
For this reason, (and also to reduce pollution and health impacts of coal) we need to increase renewables mainly from solar and wind, but also ensure security and stability of the power grid.
Energy storage is still improving, but gas peaking plants should be the essential part for energy security for transitioning to 100 per cent renewables.
So what went wrong at Pelican Point gas peaking plant yesterday? Why didn’t AEMO order Pelican Point turbine 2 to fire up? Why couldn’t the interconnector fill the gap?
The largest problem is the lack of any national program in place to transform our electricity network to 100 per cent renewables before mid-century. Josh Frydenberg is the Federal Energy and Environment minister and it should be his job to oversee and plan this transition. But it is sadly lacking.
All Josh Frydenberg does is attack the states taking positive action with renewables while the Federal Government dithers and delays substantive climate action, including ruling out an Energy Intensity Emissions Trading scheme.
Here is Josh Frydenberg’s blame game:
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) February 8, 2017
In time hopefully we will know the answers of what went wrong and caused the blackout from an investigation.
But jumping to early conclusions like Victorian Liberal Opposition Leader Matthew Guy with ‘alternative facts’ belittles the discussion we need to have about transforming our electricity network to zero carbon over the next 25 years to meet our Paris Agreement Climate change commitments.
Here is my storify that documents the blackout and extreme heatwave:
Blocked by Opposition Leader for asking an inconvenient question
For asking an inconvenient question about why wasn’t the second Pelican Point gas turbine turned on I was blocked by Victorian Liberal Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.
Matthew Guy tweeted: “Another power failure in SA, and yet Daniel Andrews copies SALabor policy of shutting baseload power. Vic LNP will keep the Valley powering.”
Yet it is not Daniel Andrews that made the decision to close the ageing and polluting Hazelwood power station, but the French energy company owner, Engie. Guy wants to maintain coal power at the expense of health of Victorians and the global climate, and to abrogate emissions commitments Australia has made under international agreements.
— John Englart EAM (@takvera) February 8, 2017
I guess my question didn’t fit his skewered ideological view of blaming renewables.
There was no response to my civil question, but a block. He doesn’t deserve any support given he is not interested either in facts or interacting with voters.
— John Englart EAM (@takvera) February 8, 2017