Australian East Coast Narrowly Avoids a Widespread Blackout – Thanks to Coal
Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Australia’s policy of shuttering of dispatchable power sources in favour of unreliables finally appears to be biting into the stability of the Australian electricity grid. One of the coal plants which saved the day is scheduled to be closed in 2022.
New South Wales dodges widespread blackouts during heatwave
By Chris OKeefe • State Political Reporter
5:33pm Jan 8, 2018
New South Wales has escaped widespread blackouts as the energy network faced its first big summer test with temperatures hitting 47.3 degrees in Penrith.
There were localised blackouts yesterday as Ausgrid lost power to 4000 homes on the Central Coast, and 3000 in Sydney.
Cherrybrook, Lane Cove, Chastwood, Gladesville, Bankstown, Punchbowl and Padstow were blacked out during the hottest part of the day.
Ausgrid said the increase in homes running air conditioners was a significant issue, as well as problems with some underground cables.
Some equipment turns itself off automatically when it hits a certain load.
“Of our 1.7 million customers, 31000 experienced outages. Four outages were caused by overload on the network,” Stuart Donaldson from Ausgrid said.
Just before 3pm yesterday afternoon black coal was the resource providing the lion’s share of power with Snowy Hydro, gas, solar and wind also contributing to the network.
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The NSW Opposition leader was less than impressed with the outage.
Ausgrid can’t power all NSW all the time
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley on Monday took aim at the government for failing to diversify its energy base.
“This state government, alone of all Australian state and territory governments, hasn’t prepared for heatwave conditions,” Mr Foley told reporters.
“Most of the other governments have delivered new storage and new energy capacity.”
Mr Foley said it was lucky the extreme heat that Sydney experienced on Sunday, with some areas exceeding 47C, occurred on a weekend when much of industry was not using energy.
“The government’s only plan seems to be that heatwaves occur on weekends,” he said.
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The spare coal capacity which saved the day during the heatwave will soon no longer be available.
Energy giant AGL plans to shutter its NSW based Liddell coal plant by 2022. They have so far refused federal government entreaties to keep the plant open. AGL plans to divert future investment towards government subsidised renewable projects.
The Australian Government operated Australian Energy Market Operator warned in September that 1000MW of dispatchable power will be required to replace the Liddell coal plant, and that Australian government policy incentives are not delivering enough flexible dispatchable power to ensure the stability of the grid.
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