Guest post: Cardimona; Journalist forces AEMO to face truth about curtailment capers with the grid

If you’re a wage slave at a left-wing newspaper (BIRM) you probably, literally, can’t afford to rock the boat, so I dips me lid to Tony Raggatt at the Townsville Bulletin. Well done, that man.

From today’s print edition…

POWER CUT SYSTEM FAULT    TONY RAGGATT  Ergon denies load shedding

A SYSTEM fault led to a lowcost electricity tariff supplying power throughout regional Queensland being inadvertently switched off, distributor and retailer Ergon Energy says.

Ergon was commenting after consumers raised concern about the outage, which lasted for about eight hours on Sunday.

The residential Tariff 33 is an interruptible supply used by consumers to cut the cost of their electricity bills but which is normally available for a minimum of 18 hours each day.

It is commonly used for pool pumps, hot water systems and air conditioners.

On Sunday, consumers complained in Facebook posts about not being able to use their air conditioners at a time when the air was thick with smoke from fires.

Some also questioned whether authorities were load shedding – cutting power to protect system security or mitigate damage to infrastructure.

But a spokeswoman for Ergon said the cutting of Tariff 33 was a system fault and not load shedding.

“For customers connected to Tariff 33 in regional Queensland, a system fault led to the tariff being inadvertently switched off for a number of hours,” an Ergon spokeswoman said.

“Tariff 33 channels were progressively restored throughout the day, with all channels returned to normal by 3.30pm.”

The spokeswoman said technical experts were investigating the cause of the fault, which had not occurred before.

Consumers on Facebook said the failure seemed odd at a time when demand on the system was low.

An independent candidate for the state seat of Hill, Tolga resident Peter Campion, said generation records showed the outputs of the Mount Emerald wind farm and the Sun Metals solar farm in North Queensland had been curtailed this month well below capacity.

Mr Campion said the reason for this was that one of the units of Rockhampton’s Stanwell coal-fired power station was offline and the level of intermittent power needed to be cut to maintain system stability.

A spokeswoman for regulator the Australian Energy Market Operator confirmed the reliance on coal-fired power but not Stanwell’s role.

“In order for inverter-based generation to be able to generate at full capacity in central and North Queensland – wind and solar farms including Sun Metals solar farm – a minimum amount synchronous generation – typically coal, hydro and gas power stations – must be online,” the spokeswoman said. [well that is something, they got to mention to the c word].

“The limits for inverter based generation depend on the specific combination of synchronous generators online at the time.”

In plainer language, the system is rooted if you allow access for too much unreliable energy and there is not enough coal power.

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40 Responses to Guest post: Cardimona; Journalist forces AEMO to face truth about curtailment capers with the grid

  1. Tom

    That’s an excellent strategy, Cardimona: don’t feed partisan BS to journos, just help them do their jobs. Many of them at regional papers are at the start of their professional journey. They will always react positively to those who help them get stories and don’t give them disinformation like the rest of the political class.

  2. stackja

    If non- coal power is so efficient, what’s the problem? Yes, I know. Subsidies!

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    Similar story today about the energy mess in California:

    California’s Renewable Energy Conundrum (25 Aug)

    CAISO has warned that “there is inadequate power available during the net peak, the hours when the solar [generation] has left the system,” Berberich said.

    “California, in many ways, is the canary in the coal mine,” Todd Snitchler, CEO at nationwide trade group Electric Power Supply Association, told The Wall Street Journal.

    “Many of the natural-gas units that some in California would like to see go away have been exactly what’s needed to keep the system operating,” Snitchler told the Journal.

    CAISO is roughly their version of AEMO. And our version of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power station, which the Greens want to shut down, is the Liddell Power Station which green-as-grass AGL wants to shut down too. When that happens, as early as next year, we’re screwed, to put it mildly.

  4. Up The Workers!

    Their “system” might work better if instead of cutting all of their customers off the grid whenever third-world intermittent wind-bag and sun power are on strike, they just cut off all members of the Greenies and Labor Party dullards who demanded overpriced, unreliable, intermittent ‘fairy-power’ in the first place.

  5. Tintarella di Luna

    Congratulations.Cardimona well done now if you could get the Qld CFMEU to ack gyou seeing as they’ve thrown The dud, lantern-jawed Duchess of Dodgy Jackie Trad under the bus and the left ALP ‘creche for party hacks’

  6. Tintarella di Luna

    Back you – iPhone comments not going well

  7. Up The Workers!

    As an emergency back-up power supply for the 50% of the day in which the sun isn’t shining and/or the wind isn’t blowing sufficiently, or is blowing too much, have the genius Einstein “Powers-that-be” ever considered getting the eponymous Saint Bob Brown of the “Brown Movement” up there to stand in front of the solar collector array; bend over and drop his drawers when the sun goes down?

    The Greens and their dullard intellectual inferiors in the Labor(sic) Party have always been of the firm opinion that the sun literally shines from Bob’s sphincter, so surely he could give the current system the ‘Khyber Pass’ and keep the wheels of capitalism ticking over by himself?

  8. Bruce of Newcastle

    have the genius Einstein “Powers-that-be” ever considered getting the eponymous Saint Bob Brown of the “Brown Movement” up there to stand in front of the solar collector array; bend over and drop his drawers when the sun goes down?

    A little unfair there UTW. Dr Bob has had a road to Damascus moment. He now opposes wind turbines which kill his beloved sea eagles. I wish he’d had that about 20 years ago as a whole bunch of sea eagles were turned into bloody gobbets in the time when he thought wind turbines were ace.

    Need less to say Dr Bob is no longer talked about in polite Green conversation. I doubt you’d get many W/m^2 from his bottom these days. Awkward when saints go off the reservation.

  9. The furthest large coal fired plant from Sydney is Bayswater power station, (2640MW) and that distance is 230 Kilometres.
    Stanwell power station is in Rockhampton, and that’s the only coal fired plant supplying the Northern part of Queensland, all the way up to Cairns, a distance of 1060KM, with a further 1000KM to the Cape, and all the towns and cities to the North West of Rockhampton. Rockhampton to Cairns has six cities between it and Cairns. Each city has a ‘tiddler’, mostly gas fired, but Stanwell is the heavy hitter supplier here. Stanwell has a Nameplate of 1440MW, s0 take out just one of its four Units (360WM) and that’s a lot of power taken out of the system.
    Queensland policy is to ‘substantially’ ramp up the North of the State.
    THAT’S why they need a new large scale coal fired plant in the North of the State. (you know, REAL electrical power)
    Electrons run out of puff over major distances, so there’s no way Stanwell can supply a ‘ramped up’ North Queensland.
    It’s easier to say ….. “hey, look over there!” than it is to tell the truth.
    Tony.

  10. yarpos

    Pretty much why SA has to be ordered to power on gas plants, when the % of wind is too high to maintain stability.

  11. H B Bear

    Great work. Hold their feet to the fire.

  12. RobK

    Tears are inevitable on the current trajectory.

  13. Rockdoctor

    Cardi, it used to happen quite a lot with no reason in Townsville when I lived there. Ergon website says fault can’t be found & oh well be daylight before our technicians get round to looking at… Usually funnily enough at the hottest time of year just before the wet season breaking and in the evening. They can deny it all they like but either they are doing just that or more likely IMO the load just isn’t in the system and those of us on the fringes used to have our power drop out…

    Keep up the struggle as these renewable monstrosities are going up everywhere, Kidston Dam now has the bird chopper eyesores everywhere. Solar Panel farms also going in all over the shop as well. Won’t be long at this rate they start defiling the Atherton Tableland with them as well.

    BTW, you got a website yet? I did a bit of searching and it is hard to even find you’re standing. Katters minions apart from his son seem useless, the north needs some members with mongrel which is what it is lacking.

  14. frednk

    This is a technical problem that will urgently need to be solved as coal fired generation becomes increasingly uneconomical and historic units pass their use by date are retired. Synchronous condensers is the short term solution. It will not be a reason to subsidize the build of new coal fired stations.

    https://reneweconomy.com.au/huge-machine-arrives-to-support-victorias-biggest-solar-farm-18667/

  15. Rafe Champion

    frednk, no technological fixes on the horizon will make more wind to overcome the frequent and prolonged wind droughts whose existence has been kept out of sight because we still have enough conventional power and the wind supply does not matter. It will be different if our hot coffee in the morning and hot dinner at night do really depend on the wind. Check out the green parts of the bars in the NemWatch widget at breakfast and dinnertime!

    http://www.nem-watch.info/widgets/reneweconomy/

  16. Cardimona

    Rockdoctor, thank you.
    I’ve often wondered if being on the east coast grid’s long, whippy tail in NQ/FNQ was the cause of our frequent interruptions.

    I will soon have a website.
    I’ve prepared most of the material I need for it to go live and, hopefully, that can be uploaded tomorrow.
    It’s nothing flash, just a basic WordPress site – for which I sadly lack the required skills.

  17. Cardimona

    frednk, you know that the “historic units” you mention are just big, stationery steam engines and that they can be kept going for as long as the engineering facilities exist, somewhere on the planet, to manufacture parts for them, right?

    Their only real limitation is fuel supply, and that has been somewhat understated by those who spruik for intermittent,unreliable, unrepairable, unrecyclable, disposable renewables.

    Anyway, once we move to cheap, clean, reliable, inexhaustible nuclear energy we’ll still have to burn coal to top up the biosphere’s ever-dwindling supply of carbon dioxide, the miracle molecule that supports all life and which leftists. unsurprisingly. demonise with neurotic passion and persistence.

  18. Rex Anger

    @ Cardimona- I agree with you. Boilers, feed mechanisms and turbines are merely expensive. They are well-proven technology and widely available.

    With nuclear energy, all you’re doing is applying a different ‘fire’ to energise your water vapour. There’s no difference in the twirly bits, generators, rectifiers and switches, etc. 😉

    Science Question time: Can you see steam?

  19. Rob

    Ha, ha – “…. the system is rooted ….” – love it.
    Somebody needs to tell us how these thousands of tons of rotating “condensers” are all spun up to speed after a system black event.

  20. frednk

    Hi Rafe

    Clearly the problem under discussion was the lack of coal generation on the network, as it currently depends on synchronous generators to supply the short circuit current.

    We are now entering a period where the coal fired generators are reaching their end of life. Commercial operators will not be replacing them with coal fired units. We have reached the tipping point, solar, wind, gas peaking and storage is cheaper than building coal fired units.

    We need to look forward not backwards. There is a lot of economic activity to be had in implementing the changes that must happen. The system will become more complex, the changes will generate a lot of jobs. The challenge is to make them good paying jobs for all. Ranting and raving like modern day luddites will not changes things.

  21. frednk


    Rob

    Ha, ha – “…. the system is rooted ….” – love it.
    Somebody needs to tell us how these thousands of tons of rotating “condensers” are all spun up to speed after a system black event.

    Network restart is always in stages and is difficult for sure. Water, Gas and renewables in that order is the answer that comes to mind.

  22. frednk


    Rex Anger

    Science Question time: Can you see steam?

    No. What you see is water droplets.

  23. Rex Anger

    @ Frednk-

    Close enough. 🙂

    The white, wispy stuff is indeed condensed water vapour. Steam is a colourless and odourless gas.

  24. frednk


    Cardimona

    frednk, you know that the “historic units” you mention are just big, stationery steam engines and that they can be kept going for as long as the engineering facilities exist, somewhere on the planet, to manufacture parts for them, right?

    No.
    The big issue is the boilers, they have a limited life. Some of the current stock is already limping along and unreliable (much of the current problems are because coal fired units are off line for repair). There comes a point at about 50 years where the cheapest option is a bulldozer and a new build.

    The current coal fired stations will all be gone on about 20 years. Not because of Greenies but because they are well past there use by date.

  25. frednk

    Cardimona

    frednk, you know that the “historic units” you mention are just big, stationery steam engines and that they can be kept going for as long as the engineering facilities exist, somewhere on the planet, to manufacture parts for them, right?

    No.
    The big issue is the boilers, they have a limited life. Some of the current stock is already limping along and unreliable (much of the current problems are because coal fired units are off line for repair). There comes a point at about 50 years where the cheapest option is a bulldozer and a new build.

    The current coal fired stations will all be gone on about 20 years. Not because of Greenies but because they are well past there use by date.

  26. Cardimona

    frednk

    It seems clear you have absolutely no knowledge of any form of engineering, nor of the artificial mechanisms in the energy market specifically designed to drive coal out, and that you are highly susceptible to misinformation campaigns conducted by vested interests and their useful idiots.

    With respect, may I suggest you lurk here for a few years and learn the other side of the story before you open your mouth and reveal your truly staggering level of technical ignorance?
    You should be more embarrassed than you probably are.

  27. frednk

    Hi Cardimona

    FIEAust CPEng and a sting of qualifications to go with it. Yes I have a vested interest in science and reality.

    As to the artificial mechanism in the energy market. The energy market is definitely no longer friendly to generation methods that can’t be turned off, when they are competing with generation methods that cost little to run. It is definitely now rewarding real dispatch-able resources.

    The goal in the long term is to have a cheap wholesale price with a reliable network. There is no doubt there will be pain as we transition away from the issues caused by having base load generation that can’t be switched off to generation that is variable, but there is no technical reason why it can’t happen.

    As I pointed out above, this means investment and thus it means jobs. The challenge is to make them well paid jobs for all.

  28. amortiser

    In SA the maximum Amount of renewable power generation is about 1200 mwh. If you look at the AEMO graphs of wind power generation you will see that the gyrate all over the place but when they have a very good day you will see the graph flat line at 1200mwh or thereabouts.

    When I saw this I emailed AEMO and sought an explanation. I was advised that to maintain system stability the wind generation had to be capped at that level. It doesn’t matter how much more wind power capacity Is built in SA they cannot exceed that upper level of generation. All they can do is reduce the variations below that line. Of course when the wind doesn’t blow it doesn’t matter how much capacity they have.

    What a mess!!

  29. John

    The big issue is the boilers, they have a limited life. Some of the current stock is already limping along and unreliable (much of the current problems are because coal fired units are off line for repair). There comes a point at about 50 years where the cheapest option is a bulldozer and a new build.

    Frednk,

    Can you give us a run down on the life span of Wind Turbines, Solar Panels and Batteries?

    This might assist:
    https://www.ref.org.uk/attachments/article/280/ref.hughes.19.12.12.pdf

    As I pointed out above, this means investment and thus it means jobs. The challenge is to make them well paid jobs for all.

    I doubt it means that many ongoing jobs, but either way, it seems like a make work scheme. Dig holes, just to fill them in.

    We are heading in a direction which relies heavily on “Demand Management”. This is a clever way of saying, no power for you unless the wind blows or the sun shines. Yes, industry or individuals may get paid (from the pockets of other consumers) not to use power (Deindustrialisation), but it’s hardly the way to get this country back on it’s feet.
    We once had a system where we generated power to meet demand.
    We are headed to a system which will provide demand to meet generation.
    Our society is yet to fully comprehend the consequences of this, but they will.

  30. frednk

    Hi mortiser

    You are absolutely correct, even to what a mess. To deal with this transition we should have been investing a lot more, a lot sooner.

    Renewable energy is coming, it is cheaper and it helps deal with keeping CO2 below historic levels ( i know there will be people here that want to believe it is not an issue, that aside, it will be on the mind of anyone making a 50 year investment decision, such people deal with science not rantings wanting to keep the past).

    Renewable energy can use rotating machines. In effect that is what a synchronous condenser is about, but we now have power electronics and they will become a major part of the future. We need to be planning, we need to be building, we need the new infrastructure, we need the jobs.

    We need to develop the industries that benefit from intermittent supply of cheap energy. As we build the network out that resource will become increasingly available.

  31. frednk

    John
    Your post is internally inconsistent. You point out that solar cells etc. don’t last forever and then claim there will not be ongoing jobs. Pick a position. I agree with the former point.
    Yes the industry is going to change, that is for sure.
    1) Overbuild and create industries that use the excess energy. In the past that was pumped hydro that ran at night and the tariff this blog post complains about. These were used to deal with coal fired units that could not be turned off. The variability will increase for sure.
    2) High dispatchable resources. Gas peaking stations, hydro, batteries.
    3) Demand management.
    Hopefully demand management will get pushed down to the consumer with the consumer selecting the tariffs to use. The tariff this post is about is a classic demand management methodology

  32. John

    John
    Your post is internally inconsistent. You point out that solar cells etc. don’t last forever and then claim there will not be ongoing jobs. Pick a position.

    It’s not inconsistent, but you are obviously an ideologue, so it appears that way.
    You want to redesign our society. Where have I heard that before?

  33. John

    frednk,
    Might be an idea to toodle off back over to Renew Economy to converse with like (single) minded individuals.

  34. Cardimona

    FIEAust CPEng and a sting of qualifications to go with it. Yes I have a vested interest in science and reality.

    Frednk, your alma mater should also be embarrassed.

  35. Terry

    ‘solar, wind, gas peaking and storage is cheaper than building coal-fired units’
    – frednk #3561296, posted on August 27, 2020 at 7:27 am

    Um, nope. And when the subsidies for wind and solar are removed, and the mandate for their use (RET) are removed from the system, we can revisit that ludicrous statement on the basis of fact rather than ideology.

    And the comparison will be (at a minimum) total cost of despatch all the way to the consumer, on-demand (at all times) – not when the renewables feel like it.

    Until then, bugger off. You’re telling an old, long-debunked story aimed at indoctrinated adolescents. We’ve seen it before and it is as unimpressive now as it always has been.

    At least the Galah avatar is appropriate.

  36. frednk

    Cardimona
    The Engineer are doing ok.
    There may be a lack of political support but the section of society that has to deal with reality is doing a reasonable job without political direction. There will be no new coal fired power stations unless the Liberals really take flights of fancy, gas seems to be the current flavor. The current coal fired stock will all die of old age, the grid will be strengthened as required with much of the work now approved and funded.

    John
    Stuff with a limited life needs labor to replace.

    Terry
    It is what it is, the industry is going to work towards minimum cost, not to the restrictions imposed by an anonymous Terry. And yes a Galah avatar is appropriate, I accept what a comment on a blog represents, a squark into the wind.

    I think that is enough community service from me, good luck to you all with your ranting.

  37. Terry

    ‘the industry is going to work towards minimum cost’
    …but you [stupidly] assert it is cheaper (hint: it ain’t – and it isn’t even close).

    Always the same “renewables” myth when mugged by reality. ‘Oh, but it is going to be…’ – waiting for that eternally elusive technological “breakthrough”; just waiting for those pesky laws of physics to be retrospectively re-written to accommodate their fantasy.

    ‘I think that is enough community service from me’
    Agreed. We incur far too much damage from dolts using their claim of “serving the public” and “serving the community” as a shield against their ideological idiocy.

    Your schtick might enjoy greater success against those without the power to see through a transparent fig leaf.

  38. RobK

    as we transition away from the issues caused by having base load generation that can’t be switched off to generation that is variable,
    Goodness me.
    The NEM has a minimum demand of around 18 GW. So called baseload generators can load follow but have a high thermal inertia which is made up by gas peakers. It is a nonsense that units can’t be turned off.
    The problems are caused by RE production being weather dependent and dumping loads onto the grid when they can’t carry it for any specific duration. You have it arse about fred.

  39. RobK

    Fred,
    You say:
    1) Overbuild and create industries that use the excess energy.
    Any industry that uses random gluts of energy will by definition not be fully utilised and won’t know it’s anticipated production in any timeframe. It is randomly opportunistic at best.
    2) High dispatchable resources. Gas peaking stations, hydro, batteries.
    In a high penetration RE world these will have to carry varying loads for varying periods, ranging from the entire load and extended periods of low energy weather. All the above systems need over build (as you call it), it is wasteful in capital works including in transmission because the plant is only used when weather dictates.
    3) Demand management….
    Is used when you don’t have dispatchable energy. Typically it is for emergency situations. With RE that can be much of the time.

  40. RobK

    RE is claimed to be cheaper than dispatchable energy but it really is also worth less.

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