David Bidstrup guest post. Energy crisis or stupidity?

Now that the Coalition has joined the fairy seekers, removing any difference between themselves and idiot Labor, I revisited some work done last year where I looked at the split between generators on 18 and 19 January 2018. This article looks at what might have been, if the “emissions” madness did not exist.

January 18 and 19 were 2 “hot days” and wholesale prices in good old SA reached $14,500.00 per MWh during the day. The data comes from Andrew Miskelly’s “Aneroid” files and comprises the output MW of every generator in the system every 5 minutes of the day so the charts below have 576 intervals on the X axis. January 18 starts at 1, January 19 finishes at 576.

It is a good example of the grid operating at the maximum, those days were the days of greatest demand for the whole of 2018. The demand curve is simply the summation of all output because electricity is an instantaneous commodity. What is generated is used immediately; it cannot lurk in the system waiting for someone to turn the lights on. The first chart shows the situation as it was.

Notice 2 peaks. January 18 peaked at 29,945 MW at 4.20 p.m. and January 19 peaked at 30,728 MW at 4.35 p.m. Over the 2 days coal produced 72.5%, gas 12%, hydro 10%, wind 5% and solar 0.5% of the total consumption. The contribution from solar is the yellow just visible above the wind.

Over the 2 days the CF for wind was 20% and for solar was 4%.

The next chart suggest how things might have been handled if sanity prevailed. BTW, there is no “demand” line in the chart above because the separate component generator output sums to the demand.


This chart shows coal, (24,316 MW installed capacity), and gas, (9,841 MW installed capacity) generators operating at a capacity factor of 0.8 with the peaks filled by hydro. Interestingly coal is right on the mark for giving a constant supply over the period and gas would be ramped up/down from zero to full capacity as required. The peaks require the use of only 41% of the total installed hydro capacity of 8,355 MW.

The “commercial arrangement” would comprise a firm contract for coal generators for their total output, (at 0.8 CF), every day of the year. The gas component would be a payment for having the facilities available, (9,814 MW capacity ready to go at a CF of 0.8), and an extra payment for actual MWh produced and hydro would be treated similarly.

This sort of arrangement would permit generator operators to have a steady predictable “market” for their product and if contracts had long term time frames the price structure should be stable and relatively cheap. It would get rid of the insane “spot pricing” that the RE people use to rip everyone off.

There you have it, a simple, reliable and cheap way to keep the lights on. No bullshit wind and solar and no bullshit “storage”. The winners are the consumers and the losers are the RE parasites.

I must confess that I am old, and I am an Engineer, so all the “new” stuff just makes me yawn. Every time I hear politicians telling us how they will “save us” I think of Bertrand Russel, who said:

“One of the peculiarities of the English speaking world is its immense interest and belief in political parties. A really large percentage of English speaking people really believe that the ills from which they suffer would be cured if a certain political party were in power……..A man votes for one party and remains miserable; he concludes that it was the other party that was to bring the millennium. By the time he is disenchanted with all parties he is an old man on the verge of death but his sons retain the beliefs of his youth and the see-saw goes on”.


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32 Responses to David Bidstrup guest post. Energy crisis or stupidity?

  1. Rafe Champion says:

    On the capacity and flexibility of coal, brown coal tends to run steady day and night unless there is maintenance, scheduled or unscheduled. It normally runs about 3.9GW and it has got to 4.7. Lately it has been under 4 and is currently 3.4.
    Black ramps up and down depending on the amount of wind and sun in the system. Tony from Oz has explained that it is quite comfortable doing this, especially when the daily cycle was predictable as clockwork in the absence of unreliable energy. Still it can ramp up very quickly and the sun fades in the late afternoon black coal, gas and hydro all ramp up to meet the evening peak.
    The elephant in the room at present is grid stability as coal is driven out of the system in the middle of the day. This has been an issue in WA and SA for some time and it is coming rapidly for the whole system.
    As Jo Nova and Alan Moran have explained, insanity rules.

  2. bemused says:

    Unfortunately, I think Australians now seem to have no other option but to go through this learning curve, like a young child learning what will hurt and what will not, and find out for themselves how much all this ‘renewable energy’ will hurt Australia. Warning the child with facts has no effect, they have to learn by their own mistakes.

  3. DaveR says:

    With the Liberal coalition firmly in the grip of mindless renewable madness, I cant help thinking this all goes back to Turnbull’s economically suicidal policy move to the left, and equally, Morrison’s failure to reform these nation-damaging policies. Imagine a major power generator refusing to keep a major base load coal station in good working order and profiteering off the price rise its shut down – and then refusing to sell it to someone who wants to keep it going! Its going to take a major Coalition stand-off to fix this lunacy, but not under the McCormack – Littleproud faction.

  4. RobK says:

    The issue is compounded by the variability of RE on every time scale from fractions of a second to years, and the location of the source of energy is never known until it turns up.
    If the grid were a motor car: DBs second scenario would be like driving on a smooth highway; the first, RE scenario would be like driving on a bush track with potholes, variable traction, poor visabilty, and bad corrugations. The wear and tear on the system and the required design robustness is analogous.

  5. thefrollickingmole says:

    The only way they get renew-balls cheaper if by crippling the current cheapest provider through taxes and regulation.

    Like Pee Wee Herman claiming to be the worlds greatest lover because hes chucked chastity belts on everyone else.

  6. wozzup says:

    Looking at the Bertrand Russel quote. I think it is even worse than Russel foresaw. A large part of the problem we face today is with the way democracy now operates. It is full of careerists. And careerists are shit scared of losing a vote because one day that may mean losing their overly generous pay, pension and benefits. So they seek populist outcomes. Not good outcomes and certainly not the best outcomes but popular outcomes. So they run the numbers – not “is this policy what Australia needs” but “will this avoid controversy.” And with a population which has been carefully nurtured by the left – who have sabotaged our education systems over the past 50 years to be increasingly ignorant, stupid and ill prepared to ask tough questions the numbers always come up with stupid answers – because stupid answers are popular. And because stupid answers are at the core of leftist orthodoxy. Which is why they want an unquestioning ill educated populace. But ill educated does not always men no education………………
    Especially when so many of the loudest and most vocal voices in the population are meme-quoting, empty heads with liberal arts degrees who watch the ABC and read the Guardian and believe what they heare there.

  7. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    An interesting issue is the lifespan of windfarms. I had a look just now and at least four windfarms in NSW, Qld and Victoria are at or close to 20 years old.

    Here’s an article on such things:

    Where Do Wind Turbines Go To Die? (2106)

    The lifespan of the average turbine is 20 to 25 years. While new wind farms are going up, America’s first generation of wind farms are reaching retirement age, like the Xcel Energy’s Ponnequin Wind Farm on the border of Colorado and Wyoming. The farm of 44 turbines recently retired at the average age of 18 years old. In October of 2016, Xcel Energy plans to dynamite the turbines and cart off the waste to a landfill.

    Many wind farms in Australia date from 2008 or so. Therefore in about 10 years a large proportion of the entire wind turbine fleet will be at the end of their lifetimes.

    Effectively what then will happen is they too get dynamited, or worse, abandoned, since the earlier ones are quite small compared to more modern turbines, so the economics probably won’t favour replacement – even if only the nacelles and blades. Thus that entire capital cost will have vanished and a whole new slug of money will be required to rebuild existing capacity. And a huge pile of waste material will be produced.

    Existing power stations would be much easier to renovate or renew since they are in centralized locations, not spread out over huge geographical areas.

    (If you want to check Oz wind farm ages, go to this wiki then look at the individual state wikis at the bottom of the article. Only some of them have construction dates, but they give a good quick feel for the ages.)

  8. Judith Sloan says:

    Sadly you are fighting the last war here. There is no private money for coal fired plants in this country and state governments won’t approve them. It’s best to use your intellect and experience to solve the current dilemmas.

  9. bemused says:

    Maybe the plan is to turn off the lights, and industry with it, so that we become like North Korea, led by magnificent leader. There won’t be any need for the hordes of public servants and the like, as there’ll be no private money to fund their employment (other than a few necessary areas like the guardians of peace and the ministry of truth).

  10. David Bidstrup says:

    I hear what Judith is saying but the current “solutions” will not fix the problem, so applying “intellect” to solving the ongoing fiasco is a bit of a waste of time. There is no doubt that the current “market” does not favour coal because the business case has been trashed. The constant quest to “reduce emissions” is insane but those who run the place are captives to the absurd propositions that underpin “climate change” and as we all know, politics is not the home of the brave. I see no issue in pointing out the madness and do not expect anyone in “authority” will take any notice.

  11. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Establish an Inspectorate of Wind Farms. Send rangers to monitor wind farm harm to wildlife, and require the operators to report each dead bird and bat. Then fine the operators $1000 per death, which is in line with fines levied upon other operators who harm wildlife, such as oil companies.

    Then wait.

    Suddenly the problem fixes itself as every wind farm in Australia goes bankrupt and the States panic.

    Recall that both Bob Brown and Christine Milne were in The Australian this week opposing wind farms in Tasmania.

  12. TonyfromOz says:

    Bruce of Newcastle mentions an important point here as these older wind plants reach time expiry.
    It’s not a case of placing a new nacelle on top of the old tower with a new and bigger generator inside.
    Those older towers (with their much smaller generators) are specifically designed to support the small generator and nacelle.
    The much larger generators of newer wind towers require much larger blades, and you can’t just ‘plonk’ a large generator on top of an existing older tower, as the new blades will be longer than the tower is tall, as the tower is specifically designed for the blade clearance and weight of the nacelle.
    Challicum Hills Victoria – 2003 – 1.5MW – Hub Height (where the nacelle is placed) 68 metres – blade length 32 metres
    Macarthur Victoria – 2013 – 3MW – Hub height 85 metres – blade length 56 metres
    Cherry Tree Victoria – 2020 – 3.6MW – Hub height 91 metres – blade length 68 metres
    So, as plants reach their expiry date, it entails not just a minor refurbishment for new generators on top of the existing towers, but a total and complete new wind plant and wind towers.
    Incidentally, Macarthur wind plant, at 420MW Nameplate, the largest in Australia, is now back on line as of Sunday, and it was off line, zero output for 26 days.

  13. Rex Mango says:

    Mate of my brother is a banker involved in this stuff. They are key to the problem. Had number of dinners with him where he will prattle on all night how the numbers for coal just don’t add up & no private money for it & renewables are cheaper etc. Impossible to convince him otherwise. Turnbull case in point.

  14. mareeS says:

    I just want our electricity to work, for our home, for where our kids work. Elsewhere in greenland, they can go and get effed.

  15. Colonel Bunty Golightly says:

    Might as well give up Now and buy a solar and battery setup. At least I’ll be mostly independent from all this bullshit. Just seem like giving in though!

  16. Roger says:

    Maladroit Blight Trumble Esq. was in the news yesterday chastising the Morrison government for imagining that gas is the key to Australia’s energy future.

    “It’s a fantasy”, he opined, “the future for affordable electricity lies in wind & solar backed with batteries and pumped hydro.”

    It would appear that never in his life has Trumble spoken to an electrical engineer about his proposed solution.

    This is one issue where the actual experts are never consulted.

  17. Vagabond says:

    Look on the bright side. Once those pesky aluminium smelters go there will be lots more power available for us to all enjoy porn, games and movies on the new fast NBN without the risk of blackouts, oops I mean managed load shedding. There won’t be much else to do after all…

  18. BoyfromTottenham says:

    REx M – did by any chance this banker mention (or even know about) the part that the federal Renewable Energy Target (RET) legislation plays in this situation? This legislation IMO is the most cunning and pernicious piece of legislation that I can remember seeing. It is simultaneously a hidden subsidy (currently about A$45/MW!) to all large scale renewable generators, paid by ‘clean energy certificates’ that electricity retailers must buy (on a ‘market’ created by the legislation) and surrender to the Clean Energy Regulator to meet their ‘Large Scale Renewable Energy Target’ obligations, and a hidden tax on electricity consumers because the retailers just add the cost of these certificates onto our electricity bills (but does not itemise it).
    The major effect of this subsidy is to allow renewables generators to bid to supply power at artificially low prices on the wholesale market in periods of low demand (and still make a nice profit), forcing the non-renewable generators to either meet these low prices and be unprofitable, or simply shut down. No wonder the banker made the statement that ‘the numbers for coal just don’t add up & no private money for it’ – he was dead right. The innocuous sounding RET legislation is destroying the economics of base load power generation in Australia, not the ‘low cost of renewables’!

  19. RobK says:

    At least I’ll be mostly independent from all this bullshit. Just seem like giving in though!
    Many feel that way. Your (and everyone else’s ) costs will increase, reliability and compliance will decrease.

  20. BoyfromTottenham says:

    Judith Sloan – please refer to my post above to Rex M regarding the RET legislation. Do you know that the $multi-billion hidden subsidy to renewables generators embedded in the LRET scheme is destroying the economics of coal-fired generation, and doing it very effectively? Why would any sane politician vote for such a pernicious piece of legislation? And knowing what destruction it is causing, why would sane politicians not repeal it before it does any further economic damage to Australia? BTW, this is not a ‘dilemma’ as you put it, IMO it is plain economic sabotage.

  21. RobK says:

    Include safety with compliance, in my comment above.

  22. Herodotus says:

    Every day in the news you’ll see comments to the effect that wind is free and there are no subsidies.

  23. Another Ian says:

    From an email

    ”I saw this comment on the Tim Blair blog. It is so good it needs more exposure

    Blacked Out Country

    I love a blacked-out country
    a land of futile schemes
    of wind and solar madness
    and debt beyond our means

    Of politicians’ subterfuge
    with carbon as the culprit
    they demonise and sermonise
    from their climate pulpit

    this governance by proxy
    to the gods of climate change
    becomes the orthodoxy
    so ludicrous and strange

    I love a blacked out country
    a land of scams and schemes
    of diesel, wind and solar
    and Twitter Facebook memes

    where feelings and emotions
    rule reason and all fact
    and evidence ignored
    is consensus down the track

    I love a blacked out country
    where Greenies reign supreme
    and Labor apparatchiks
    destroy the Aussie dream

    1 hour ago


    “where feelings and emotions
    rule reason and all fact
    and evidence ignored
    is consensus down the track”

    Descriptive of the “latest expert advice” that goes with the Qld veg management act as well IMO

  24. Another Ian says:

    Jo Nova has a word or three also

    “Energy Roadmap: $18 billion wasted pandering to pagan climate religion”


  25. Rafe Champion says:

    Sadly you are fighting the last war here. .. It’s best to use your intellect and experience to solve the current dilemmas.

    There are two dilemmas, one is the current political situation where the case for coal appears to be lost.

    The more fundamental dilemma is summed up in the “four icebergs and the RE Titanic” meme. We cannot abandon the case for coal because RE cannot work until there is a really fundamental advance in storage technology. The Holy Trinity of transmission lines, batteries and pumped hydro will not work.

    The public debate can be changed when more people understand the nature and significance of the four icebergs (and a fifth that Bruce from Newcastle signaled – the enviro impact). Judith I suggest you might use whatever access you have to the public to spread awareness of the wind droughts, the choke point problem, the island effect and the lack of grid-scale storage.

    None of those things matter as long as we have 20+GW of coal capacity so they have never been explained or discussed widely. Start off with friends and relations and see how it goes:)

  26. Another Ian says:

    Re RobK

    “Comparing the grid to a motor car”

    RE figures quoting nameplate generation while in reality capacity factor for wind around 28%, solar 18%.

    In car terms you find that the car you bought advertised with 100 kw power in reality is producing around 28 kw or 18 kw. Shock, horror! Invoke the Lemon Laws! I wuz robbed!

    Lemon Laws for ephemeral energy yesterday please!

  27. bemused says:

    The public debate can be changed when more people understand the nature and significance of the four icebergs…

    Sadly, no. Just look at how people have faith in Chairman Dan. It’s an example of people following a lost cause because it’s been implemented without any real public debate. And while some 60% of Victorians support Chairman Dan, what percentage of Australians support going fully renewable? I dare say it’s going to be much the same if not a lot more. And when it comes to renewables, just consider the support it’s given by all the climate worriers in the media, government, industry etc and the lack of public debate.

  28. Rafe Champion says:

    Bemused, we are not trying to change everone’s mind. We are not trying to change the minds of the true believers. We are not trying to address the climate issue.
    We are trying to change the minds of people who
    (a) don’t have fixed views on the way power can or might be delivered and (b) have never heard a thing about the four or five icebergs.
    And circulate this video widely! Only 5 mins.

  29. bemused says:

    @ Rafe Champion. I understand what you’re trying to do, but unfortunately the meme that we’re all going to die unless we get rid of coal etc is so ingrained and becoming ever more so, that it’s pretty much an impossible task. Just consider Tony Thomas’s latest article: https://quadrant.org.au/opinion/doomed-planet/2020/09/turning-kids-grey-matter-a-mushy-green/.

  30. John A says:

    Vagabond #3595839, posted on September 24, 2020, at 10:42 am

    Look on the bright side. Once those pesky aluminium smelters go there will be lots more power available for us to all enjoy porn, games and movies on the new fast NBN without the risk of blackouts, oops I mean managed load shedding. There won’t be much else to do after all…

    Hey Vagabond, aren’t you one level of euphemism behind? Isn’t it now called “demand management”?

  31. Rob says:

    Some terrific responses here but we are all still rooned.
    Coal, gas, and uranium will be waiting in the time capsule when a basically dopey world is ultimately confronting the tragic reality there will never be enough wind and sun to power it’s needs – not at any price.
    So sad – it didn’t need to be so.

  32. Vagabond says:

    John A
    #3596105, posted on September 24, 2020 at 2:43 pm
    Vagabond #3595839, posted on September 24, 2020, at 10:42 am

    Look on the bright side. Once those pesky aluminium smelters go there will be lots more power available for us to all enjoy porn, games and movies on the new fast NBN without the risk of blackouts, oops I mean managed load shedding. There won’t be much else to do after all…

    Hey Vagabond, aren’t you one level of euphemism behind? Isn’t it now called “demand management”?

    You’re quite right, that shows how long it’s been since I studied electrical eng..I stand corrected.

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