Californian electricity collapse shows where Australia is heading

I have an article on The Spectator flat white that addresses the calamitous energy situation we have created in Australia.  The piece was triggered by an article in the AFR by Audrey Zibelman, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), defending a recent report compiled by her agency that showed the massive transmission spending which would be necessary to accommodate the expansion of renewable energy that she says is inevitable.

ZIbelman’s article was in response to one in the AFR by Matthew Warren, who as the former head of the green energy lobby group was the architect of the massive infusion of subsidised renewable energy that has created the high costs and unreliability that we face. Warren now advocates a return to market driven electricity supply system.  Zibelman, as a socialist warhorse, has never supported such an approach and manages to misquote Abraham Lincoln in an attempt to justify her preferred central planning approach.

A backdrop to this is the disaster unfolding in California, which is about five years ahead of us in the Lemming-like march to net zero carbon emissions.  California, in the midst of a heat wave is facing rolling blackouts as a result of the green policies its government has pursued.

As Frank Wolak points out, 33 per cent of the state’s electricity supplies are required by law to come from renewables.  By relying increasingly on variable supplies, California has put itself “in a position where regular intentional blackouts are inevitable”.   Christopher Horner notes that increasing blackouts were predicted by the main supplier, PG&E, following those in October 2019. And prices in California thanks to renewables are 60 per cent above the US average.

Virginia too is plumping for zero net emissions in a policy that will cost households over $500 a year in higher energy bills as well as reducing reliability.

As in Australia, an unholy alliance of naïve environmentalists and renewable energy subsidy seekers has driven energy policy in several US states and forced the replacement of low cost dispatchable nuclear and fossil generation plant by solar and wind, the variable supply of which is dependent on weather.

We are hurtling towards a policy-induced disaster and there are only a handful of politicians, led by Craig Kelly and Matt Canavan (and maybe now joined by the ALP’s Joel Fitzgibbon). Many of the rest – especially NSW Liberals like state energy minister Matt Keen – are renewable energy financed green advocates in the camp of  Michael Photios and his lobbyist wife.  

To restore its low cost, reliable electricity supply system, Australia must cease regulatory favours to renewable energy supplies and budgetary support for all forms of energy. Such reforms include no longer subsidising transmission links and other grid measures that compensate for the inherent deficiencies of weather-dependent renewables. But there is no sign of this yet.

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13 Responses to Californian electricity collapse shows where Australia is heading

  1. Astrid van den Akker-Luttmer

    All that is needed now is to put all cables underground. No more power poles which can burn!!!

  2. Herodotus

    Politicians and media combine to form a perfect storm of climate and energy idiocy.

  3. Rafe Champion

    They will probably scrape through with rolling blackouts because they can get power from other places all the way from Florida to Canada, that is a mix of nuclear, hydro, gas and coal.

    Australia can only turn to my hardworking little home state that will be the battery of the nation when they have a few more GW of capacity to spare:)

  4. John A

    Astrid van den Akker-Luttmer #3553647, posted on August 20, 2020, at 11:46 am

    All that is needed now is to put all cables underground. No more power poles which can burn!!!

    At a significantly higher initial cost.

    And then they will be subject to tree root attacks and the predation of plastic-eating rodents.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  5. Tel

    Nuclear power is not “dispatchable” … once you crank up a nuke plant to full steam it is better not to mess around trying to stop/start after that. They tried the old stop/start trick a few times at a place called Chernobyl and didnt’ work out too well … would not recommend to a friend!

    Nuclear power is reliable because you know exactly where the fuel is and how much energy you have remaining … but don’t call it “dispatchable” unless you want to sound silly.

  6. Hmm!
    Ask the average Australian, well, any Australian really, what the peak maximum consumption might get up to. Perhaps as many as a quarter or even a third at best might guess perhaps over 30000MW maybe, they heard somewhere. (and just last Summer, the highest peak got to 37901MW on 31January, and the daily AVERAGE for that day was 30291MW with a total power consumption across the day of 721GWH, and that was 30% higher than the year round daily average power consumption)
    However, ask the average Australian, well, any Australian really, what the minimum daily power consumption gets down to. It’s not really a party trick of mine, but I ask that same question when talk gets around to electrical power subjects.
    Once, just the one time, someone actually replied that perhaps it could be as high as 6000 or 7000MW.
    The astonished looks I (always) get when I tell them that year round average lowest power consumption, (daily) is 18,000MW. (higher in Summer and Winter, and slightly lower in Autumn and Spring, but the average is 18000MW plus a little) 14000MW of that comes from coal fired sources, which ramp up and down from 14000MW to 19000MW daily.
    Until renewables can supply (ABSOLUTELY and with 100% certainty) that 18000MW minimum flat line across a 24 hour basis, EVERY day, then they have nothing really. Keep in mind that this is the ….. Base Load, and on that daily basis power rises from that minimum, at 4AM, while we are all tucked up in bed.
    Anything less than that 18000MW is not rolling occasional blackouts, that’s a WHOLE of Country blackout. That’s everything with nothing,
    Tony.

  7. IainC

    The Frank Wolak link is dead to me. Fixed thanks

  8. Rob

    The looming crash and burn of California’s electricity system should bring about our salvation.
    Meantime the dirth of well informed comment on how best to develop our electricity supply, beggars belief.
    Must we walk blindfolded into California’s fiasco.

  9. Professor Fred Lenin

    We are going to have to go nuclear and build more coal fired to provide the power neede for the growing manufacturing industry construction here in Australia ,surely we are not going to keep relying on China the country which spread the destructive virus destroyin the worlds economy .we are not going to reward them for that are we?
    In Victoria the odiouusgang calle the ALPare going to be on the nose for years after the DANDEMIC they will join their comrade marxists in China as Pariahs of the World .

  10. RobK

    Thanks again Alan. Tony is right to(tirelessly) point out the baseload capacity conundrum. Tel, nukes have come a long way since chernobyl.
    The process of RE implementation is ticking along very predictably. Start by enticing feeble uptake with grand subsidies and FiTs. Close baseload prematurely. Speculate about H2 storage when other forms are not developing as they should. Start blaming lack of transmission capacity (we are here). Slowly come to terms that massive over capacity in generation, storage and transmission is required. This is spurred on by the utopia of clean energy export via extension cords and synthetic chemical storage..
    The odds of reaching this utopia by subsidy dictate is small. It’s a massive undertaking that will require a slow and methodical approach even just to determine safely if this RE caper is do-able in the long run.
    I believe we are moving much too fast into speculative pipe dreams. Walking away from installed capital works is crazy. 100%RE requires up-ending all that we have/had. It is a National scale experiment with many unanswered questions. The risk is high and unnecessary.

  11. Kneel

    “The looming crash and burn of California’s electricity system should bring about our salvation.”

    Well, the SA debacle didn’t see anywhere else in Oz pay attention – rather the reverse, they all now want to go “renewable” for everything.

    Alas, I think it will take the entire AEMO grid to go down more than once before there’s any significant change in policy. Once that starts to happen, we’re fucked – it takes years to build a coal, gas or nuclear power station, so even doing a “cost doesn’t matter” boondoggle will see us in the dark often and for a many years. We wont be able to re-commission coal plant either – they aren’t just shutting them down, they’re destroying them beyond any hope of repair; quite deliberately too.

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