How is energy-rich Australia running out of electricity?

UPDATE. Check out the link provided by duncanm in comments, especially contribution of Samuel Insull to develop  grid technology and the section on the politicization of the power industry in the US.

That heading of the post is the subtitle of Blackout, recently published by Matthew Warren to provide an evidence-based account of our energy crisis and a road map for the complex territory of power and energy policy. It is informed by his deep involvement in energy issues for many years and it purports to be politically and ideologically disinterested, rising above the pugilistic and divisive stance of the partisans in the climate and energy debate.

This could be the kind of book that many people have been waiting for, a guide for the interested and perplexed who don’t have a strong scientific background plus the time and energy to come to grips with the literature.  Unfortunately this is not that book and people who have followed the debate for some time will be warned by the tribute from the Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel on the front cover.

On the upside there is a great deal of information on the way the power system developed from the independent state systems to the National Energy Market, the evolution of the various forms of intermittent energy, the function of the various agencies that oversight the system and especially why we will be in deep trouble if the coal stations fade away without a workable plan to replace them.

In view of the complexity of the system and the way proposals are  kicked around like political footballs he wants to see the Energy Security Board, manned by competent professionals, take charge of planning the transition to the brave new world of the decarbonised grid. The elephant in the room for the transition is the choke point problem with unreliable energy and that made a fleeting appearance on page 248 There will be times when wind and solar provide most of the electricity required and there will be times when they produce nothing. He recognizes the limitations of batteries and he is sceptical of Snowy 2.0 so he could have said more about what will be done to keep the lights on when the unreliables deliver nothing.

The major problem with his story is his commitment to the science-denying cult of warmism and the war on CO2. There is a lot of it about and it is not going away any time soon.

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29 Responses to How is energy-rich Australia running out of electricity?

  1. DaveR

    Because our federal and state governments are full of wooly-thinkers, progressives and eco-loons who would rather see this nation on its knees than fight to preserve our previous standard of living. It is a truly appalling situation.

  2. jupes

    The major problem with his story is his commitment to the science-denying cult of warmism and the war on CO2. There is a lot of it about and it is not going away any time soon.

    Indeed. In fact they are making gains. CO2 is now officially the cause of the fires. SloMo has told us so.

    Any deviation from the cult’s beliefs are dealt with swiftly and effectively. Witness Craig Kelly’s recent failed effort and how the government slapped him down then banned any future attempts.

  3. stackja

    Didn’t the latest federal election have energy prices as an issue?
    Why don’t those that want expensive energy pay and those that don’t can save?

  4. stackja

    There was a story that the Sydney Opera House was to have sails lit up to show gratitude to RFS. No mention if solar/wind or coal power was to provide the energy.

  5. Leo G

    Blackout … by Matthew Warren … purports to be politically and ideologically disinterested …
    The major problem with his story is his commitment to the science-denying cult of warmism and the war on CO2.

    The major problem with Matthew Warren’s story then, is its commitment to deception.

  6. Ian Macmillan

    The Nations Enemies are mainly the well meaning innocents who have heard only the propaganda, and have become the Useful Idiots who work for those who intend our destruction.
    They should be advised of their status, regardless of offence.

  7. min

    Hardly unbiased when he is a CO2 is the problem believer.
    Opera house has the firies all over it.

  8. Howard Hill

    The major problem with Matthew Warren’s story then, is its commitment to deception.

    The major problem is cowards that tow the line for fear of being labelled or losing their jobs.
    Until this changes, we’re doomed to extinction.
    I would bet that not one person, even on this forum would speak out if it meant they would sacrifice their income or well-being.

  9. mareeS

    I was doing some late night work the other night while the family was asleep, when our entire surrounds dropped off the grid. This was about 12.30am, hot exactly a high load time, no storms or other weather events. Fortunately I work off MacBook so no disruption, but you don’t expect it to happen in the wee dark hours.

  10. Herodotus

    There’s no proper discussion of the power debacle in the MSM, and all we get from the politicians is waffle about the lowest cost way to meet our stupid commitments to the UN’s targets on emissions, emissions which are not going to reduce and which don’t control the climate anyway.
    Unless the media get smart or are confronted in some way by competent and determined politicians we are stuffed. Their messaging is still running the daily debate aka chook food or sheeple tucker.

  11. Herodotus

    Howard Hill – it’s a condemnation of where we’re at in itself that one might fear loss of income and security, perhaps even more, by speaking out. There’s a de facto totalitarianism at work already, and yet we still have some who say the media doesn’t matter.

  12. Fair shake of the sauce

    A friend returned from visiting his home country South Africa over the Christmas, New Year period. He tells me the government there has told business it will supply all electricity needs to them. There is therefore no need to buy backup generators…in fact business is not allowed to buy backup generators.
    One business owner he spoke to gave the example of turning up to work early in the morning and finding no power. The factory could not operate. At 4pm the power comes on. The factory operates for 1 hour and then closes. Staff who catch buses have to get home before it becomes unsafe. He has only 1 hour of production against 8 hours of costs.
    Hence business owners are transferring themselves and $ out of country.
    Economy is dropping and after 27 years the ANC is still blaming apartheid.

  13. Iampeter

    How is energy-rich Australia running out of electricity?

    Because conservatives created the green regulatory state in Australia.

    The major problem with his story is his commitment to the science-denying cult of warmism and the war on CO2.

    Yea unlike religious conservatives who created this mess in the first place.
    They are all about the “science!”

  14. Entropy

    The deep integration of climate change ideology in every single policy arena, no matter how tenuous, has to be seen to be believed. I expect it was like this before the enlightenment when Catholicism was the offical state religion and anyone who gave the slightest appearance of being not in line was arraigned to face the Inquisition.

  15. herodotus

    Low amps peter’s “conservatives” are like global warming – they can do anything.

  16. I_am_not_a_robot

    ‘… this will involve smart automatic systems … appliances will switch on and off, up and down like a giant electricity orchestra … the system will breath in and out with changes in wind and sunshine …’ (Matthew Warren).

    Is this guy serious⸮
    That sounds like a Second World country at best.
    He’s a technocrat-type but the problem isn’t technical, it’s natural.
    The point has been made umpteen times: wind and solar are useless for base-load power.
    Even if carbon-phobia is your thing, the adoption of large-scale wind and solar have little or no effect on CO2 emissions as seen in Germany, while at the same time causing great economic self-harm.
    Politicians, media etc. are going to have to face facts eventually or this country will become the ‘white trash of Asia'(Lee Kuan Yew 1980), it’s well on the way already.

  17. Mark M

    He sees avoided disasters … Guess your shares are safe …

    “Historically it’s been very hard for people to see the benefits of disasters that have been avoided, whereas spending money to recover is a lot more tangible and visible,” he (Optus chairman Paul O’Sullivan) said.

    Government buried climate risk action plan
    https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/government-buried-climate-risk-action-plan-20200110-p53qeg

  18. duncanm

    I just had to look at that bio to figure it’d be a regulatory dog’s breakfast.,.

    Matthew Warren has worked in energy and environment policy for 25 years, and has lobbied for the electricity, renewable energy and coal industries.

    His first book, Black Out: How Is Energy-Rich Australia Running Out Of Electricity? charts the disintegration of Australia’s energy security, call out what is holding us back, and plot the way for a brighter future.

    He was the Chief Executive of the Australian Energy Council, the Energy Supply Association of Australia and the Clean Energy Council. He was also Environment Writer at The Australian newspaper and worked for the New South Wales Minerals Council.

  19. duncanm

    Its worth the loons reading a (very brief, childs-crayon level) history of the modern power grid.

    They might then understand that because electricity cannot be efficiently stored, and needs to be consumed as it is generated, the central generation / networking / load balancing model works very well.

    Or.. we could return to local tin-pot generation sources, intermittent supply and high costs.

  20. Iampeter

    Low amps peter’s “conservatives” are like global warming – they can do anything.

    Except oppose the left.

    Of which they are an oblivious part…

  21. Professor Fred Lenin

    Globalist marxists are destructive ,the gangrene communists have loyalty only to themselves ,me me me . Look at the energy situation here ? Look at the fact that Trump couldnt trust the decromat leaders about taking out a terrorist leader ,he knew they would warn the bastard . The UK labour ( correct spelling ) plotting with the EU communists ,and the British Royal family which has existed for over 1000 years then a global marxist hollywood woman starts the process of Its destruction within a couple of years of joining it .
    Socialism never builds it destroys everything it touches .

  22. yarpos

    “….the Energy Security Board, manned by competent professionals”

    the other key word might be “relevant”, it seems Energy leadership in this country is full of Arts graduates, adminstrators and wombat researchers. How about a majority of STEM qualified people? or wouldnt that be diverse enough?

  23. RobK

    Very good article on the politicisation of electricity in the update.One area that it didn’t touch on is the regulation of design and installation. Much is based on Standards Association of Australia (in Australia). The dissemination of this information is tightly held.

  24. Fair shake of the sauce
    #3289785, posted on January 12, 2020 at 7:15 am

    How BEE changed the rules of the game in South Africa

    By Anthony Turton -January 2, 2020

    In the closing weeks of 2019, South Africa reached Stage 6 load-shedding. This is uncharted territory, so let’s unpack it a little.

    Some years ago I wrote about a startling fact that few were interested in at that time. That simple fact was that Eskom, our national energy utility company, was running on standby generators.

    Nobody responded, so I shut up and moved on, but I never stopped thinking about this simple startling fact. Why is our national power utility running on standby generators?

    The answer is complex, but one element of that answer is diesel fuel. You see, a lucrative contract was given to a politically connected person to supply diesel. That diesel wasn’t the cheapest, because the supplier wasn’t the manufacturer of the diesel, but bought it from a real diesel supplier that wasn’t allowed to enter the game because of the rules of that game.

    That game is called Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and it has de-industrialised a country that once produced 40% of all the gold ever mined in all of recorded history, from the Incas to modernity. That country once pioneered the production of oil from coal. That country once pioneered the first human heart transplant and gave us the first base-bleed artillery capable of firing a tactical nuclear weapon. That country pioneered water treatment technologies that recovered safe drinking water from sewage and it produced sophisticated steels used in highly specialised engineering processes. The list goes on, but you get the point.

    South Africa used to punch above its weight and was a genuine participant in the global economy. We produced things of value. Sophisticated things. Technologically advanced things.

    Then came BEE, and it changed the rules of the game by skewing the playing field in favour of those whose only attribute was that they were politically connected. It actively discriminated against anyone who was creative and nimble in the field of science, engineering and technology.

    It incentivised the out-migration of those people merely because the rules of the game deliberately discriminated against excellence, and rewarded those whose sole attribute was their ability to extract money without creating value. This is called rent-seeking behaviour.

    The sale of diesel to run the standby generators in the national energy utility enables the extraction of money, but it creates no enduring value, so it is inherently parasitic. It is a textbook example of rent-seeking behaviour.

    Any organism infested with parasites slowly succumbs to their voracious presence and eventually that organism becomes so sick that it dies a miserable, lingering death.

    The collapse of Eskom is imminent for all the reasons noted above. It is deeply infested with parasites extracting money without creating value. It is unsustainable for the same reasons that SAA has collapsed. It too had the game being played about the supply of fuel at inflated cost. But it also had the other games – supplying toothpicks, serviettes, cookies, butter and buns, all at inflated cost. It too has separated the right of remuneration from the responsibility of productivity.

    South Africa no longer produces anything of value to the world. The mining industry has collapsed, leaving a toxic landscape of hazardous waste that will poison society for the next century. Denel, which once played at global level in the field of sophisticated weapons systems, is collapsing after the theft of the intellectual property that used to fuel its engine.

    We have become a society that creates, rewards and protects thieves, parasitic, ambitious and greedy thieves with an insatiable lust for money, and an aversion to honest work and creativity.

    South Africa is that poor animal infested by parasites which is now emaciated and sick, not yet dead, but feeble and suffering. It will die, for that is inevitable, but, before that, a predictable series of things will happen. Those things are inevitable, logical and therefore predictable.

    I have seen them before first-hand when other parasite-infested countries died. I saw it in the Romanian revolution that overthrew the tyranny of Nicolae Ceausescu. I saw it in the Leipzig Option that created rolling mass action to depose Erich Honecker in East Germany. I saw it in the Velvet Revolution of Czechoslovakia. In all of these cases, revolution deposed the parasitic class that had been extracting money, earned by the sweat of the people, without creating value for the nation.

    I also saw it in the lingering demise of Robert Mugabe, who destroyed a proud nation because of his ruthless control over the extraction of money without the creation of value.

    This is what I believe the inevitable implosion of Eskom, SAA, PRASA and other state-owned enterprises is all about. We are witnessing the death of a destructive system – BEE – that has sucked the life blood from a once vibrant economy, and replaced it with a new breed of oppressor, that preys on the poor and vulnerable in society whom they once claimed to have liberated.

    The oppressed has become the oppressor, and technological advancement is no longer possible as we enter the New Sanitation Dark Age, where raw sewage flows freely in many towns and cities of South Africa, and where pumps have ground to a halt because electricity production has been compromised by a class of parasite that is encouraged to supply diesel at inflated value, but is protected because of patronage.

  25. Crossie

    The major problem with his story is his commitment to the science-denying cult of warmism and the war on CO2. There is a lot of it about and it is not going away any time soon.

    Thanks, that’s what I call a recommendation not to buy and waste your time and money.

  26. Crossie

    Because our federal and state governments are full of wooly-thinkers, progressives and eco-loons who would rather see this nation on its knees than fight to preserve our previous standard of living. It is a truly appalling situation.

    Oh I would say they are very clear headed and result oriented. The only trouble is the result they want is being able to harvest all the subsidies the taxpayers are being forced to cough up.

  27. Crossie

    Any deviation from the cult’s beliefs are dealt with swiftly and effectively. Witness Craig Kelly’s recent failed effort and how the government slapped him down then banned any future attempts.

    In that case they better resign themselves to having to deal with minor parties to pass legislation and budget until they change their attitude. I can see people who do not go along with the greens-led destruction will vote for anyone who opposes it.

  28. Crossie

    He was the Chief Executive of the Australian Energy Council, the Energy Supply Association of Australia and the Clean Energy Council. He was also Environment Writer at The Australian newspaper and worked for the New South Wales Minerals Council.

    A green carpetbagger is preparing the ground for harvesting.

  29. Rafe Champion

    He persists with the RE getting cheaper mantra, apart from some very academic things I have found that suggest the very opposite, has anyone looked carefully at workings of the local people who recite the mantra. What are they missing?
    And where is a detailed audit to demonstrate that the CO2 saving from a windmill is next to nothing after the CO2 generated in production and installation?

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