David Bidstrup: Are we really “power poor” or are we just stupid?

The latest “Weekend Australian” carried an article by Alan Kohler titled “Why we’re power-poor but renewables rich” in which he extolls the virtues of renewable energy and mentions the  swags of projects ready to add “Gigawatts” of capacity that will keep the lights on and the planet safe.

If we look past the mania about “dirty coal” and consider the resources we already have that are “reliables” the picture does not look bleak at all.

Some time ago I was fortunate enough to get the 2018 generation figures for all AEMO registered generators, (thanks Andrew Miskelly), and I did some analysis.

The table below lists the salient points:

With the “reliable’s” the number to look at is the capacity factor, (CF). CF is a measure of how much of the theoretical 100% capacity is utilised. Coal, gas and hydro could be expected to be able to achieve 80% allowing for maintenance outages but they show CF’s of 68, 16 and 22% for an overall CF of 47%.

With the “intermittent’s” the CF is what you get due to the vagaries of sun and wind whereas the “reliable’s” can be run at any time so output is predictable. Here the CF ranges from 8% for solar to 22 to 29% for wind. The table shows the contribution to annual energy consumption by the various types. Coal contributes 75%, gas 7% and hydro 9% for a total “reliable” of 91%. The “intermittent’s” contribute 9%.

The chart below is the demand for January 18 and 19 2018, the day of the highest demand on the AEMO grid in 2018. The figures come from the AEMO price and demand files and it is a combination of all states. The data is given in 30 minute intervals so the X axis has 98 points, one for each half hour over 2 days. I have used the “reliable’s” at a CF of 80% and plotted the required contribution from each to meet the demand curve. The maximum demand on 18 January was 30,439 MW and on 19 January was 31,221 MW. The blueish area is the coal, the next bit is coal and gas and the greenish peaks are coal, gas and hydro combined. The shape of the curve is the actual demand curve for each day.

The conclusion is that on the days of the greatest demand in 2018 the “reliable” power generators could have handled the load at 80% CF. Just out of interest the table below gives the relative contributions in MWh for each type to meet the demand curve. There is no need to have any “intermittent’s”.

TOTAL MWh COAL GAS HYDRO
1,186,763 844,800 259,118 82,845
100% 71% 22% 7%

Remember this is using 80% of the “installed capacity” so there is some up the sleeve provided that the generators can get their acts together and have the plants up to speed before summer.

Kohler’s article mentions that there are 96 GW, (96,000 MW) of “intermittent’s” on the drawing board. Using the cumulative CF of 21% this is only 20GW on an annualized basis and it is all “intermittent”. The first table shows some maximum and minimum CF’s for the “intermittent’s”. Wind varies from around 75% to zero and solar 57% to zero but they are chaotic.

The starry eyed greenies and the renewables carpetbaggers will be the only beneficiaries of this insanity and consumers will be shafted some more. Reliable coal power stations will close to satisfy an irrational fear of “emissions” and the grid will teeter on the precipice, particularly in summer. The days of maximum demand used in the charts are also the days when spot prices reached the limit of $14,500.00 per MWh and we will get it again next summer.

We are not “power-poor” at all; we just trash good systems for the “benefit” of the planet and the pockets of the carpetbaggers. Just today a new project was announced for SA that will have 125 MW of wind, 150 MW of solar for an additional 55 MW on an annualized basis, and a battery capable of storing 400 MWh. At maximum demand 400 MWh is 0.8 minutes of grid consumption. The cost is $500 million and the local pollies think it is a marvelous idea. If the $500 million was spent ensuring the current coal plants were maintained properly and run intelligently there would be no need for this “intermittent” madness.

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13 Responses to David Bidstrup: Are we really “power poor” or are we just stupid?

  1. Karabar

    Opthea Ltd. might have a cure for wet age-related macular degeneration. (Wet AMD)
    Some day there might be a cure for cancer. Some research is getting closer.
    But you just can’t fix STUPID.

  2. Mark M

    South Australian wind farms in court over compliance issues during 2016 black out

    https://www.aer.gov.au/news-release/south-australian-wind-farms-in-court-over-compliance-issues-during-2016-black-out

    via Chris Uhlmann @twitter who says:

    “Here is the report that went on air and on line three days BEFORE the lights went out in SA… it included this “the rise of intermittent wind generation poses risks in managing the stability and reliability of the power grid.”

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-25/sas-power-price-spike-sounds-national-electricity-alarm/7875970

  3. CameronH

    One measure you are missing is Availability Factor. This is the % of time plant is available to be dispatched. This more of a reliability measure. Plant may only be dispatched 60% of the time but it may have been available to be dispatched 90% of the time. Because wind and solar are mandated supply their capacity factor and availability factors are the same. This means that when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing coal and gas plant, that would produce enough power at cheaper rates, are sitting idle. This is worse than stupid, it it is insane.

  4. billie

    occam’s razor, we’re stupid

  5. I_am_not_a_robot

    “Renewables-rich” is an oxymoron for your average power consumer but an apt descriptor for the rent-seekers and crony capitalists.

  6. Howard Hill

    we just trash good systems for the “benefit” of the planet

    We should be severely hammering them on this topic. The pollution created in building their ruinable systems makes coal look like candy floss.
    These morons tell you not to tip paint thinners down your drain because it’s poisonous to the environment but tipping it down your neighbours drain is perfectly acceptable.

    They’re not in it to save the planet, they’re just using the power of the state to rob the plebs.

  7. Tim Neilson

    From which of the following should our politicians be taking advice on our energy infrastructure?:
    (a) a sixteen year old autistic girl on the other side of the planet who is under the psychotic delusion that she can “see” CO2 in the atmosphere;
    (b) maaaates who can provide highly paid “consultancies” to former politicians, funded by the taxpayers’ dollars they’ve looted as a result of political interference in the energy system;
    (c ) engineers.

  8. Mak Siccar

    Unfortunately, the answer to this and many other policy [email protected] that dog our country is quite simple. The vast majority of our politicians, on both sides, are, to a greater or lesser extent, treasonous. (Curses, like the red bandanna man, I’ve become a commaholic.). Example A – see above. Example B – the constitutional ‘Voice’. Etc etc etc. The few pollies with integrity can’t seem to gain traction. We can only hope the Quiet Australians continue to speak out and at the ballot box.

  9. Karabar

    CameronH
    #3125631, posted on August 7, 2019 at 1:17 pm
    The distinction of availability , reliability, and capacity is something that seems to be rarely mentioned outside the halls of maintenance Engineering.
    I have often noticed that the capacity factor for large plant is quoted as something like 80%, when in fact excellent machinery such as, say the units at Stanwell North of Rockhampton or Swanbank ‘E’, (before storage) if dispatched whenever available, generally produces an availability like 96% and a reliability of 98%.
    This produces optimal performance and production costs. In the last ten years of so the fact that ruinables do not play by the rules, and the market distortion produces these lower capacity factors.
    It is an abomination. This country is in the throes of assisted suicide.

  10. Karabar

    #3125663, posted on August 7, 2019 at 2:08 pm
    They appear to favour the messiah. We will pay dearly.

  11. Adelagado

    Mark M
    #3125620, posted on August 7, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    South Australian wind farms in court over compliance issues during 2016 black out

    https://www.aer.gov.au/news-release/south-australian-wind-farms-in-court-over-compliance-issues-during-2016-black-out

    I look forward to David Bidstrup’s post on this issue. It looks to me like PROOF that these swindlers are building barebones systems to rake in the most subsidy dollars, and to hell with any costly little annoyances such as reliability or proper network integration.

  12. Lee

    Adam Bandt was spruiking 100% renewables on the news tonight.
    It angers me that Green morons get elected to political office.

  13. Chris M

    The conclusion is that on the days of the greatest demand in 2018 the “reliable” power generators could have handled the load at 80% CF…. There is no need to have any “intermittent’s”

    My sweet innocent chap, can’t pull decent prices on high demand days by running at capacity now can we. That’s precisely the time to wind things back a little, maintenance and all.

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