#SAPower

Giving power back to the people by giving power back to the people

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Is it any wonder AGL has scrapped its plans to build a 200-400MW gas-fired plant in South Australia (SA). Once again SA Premier Jay Weatherill’s complete failure to roll out sensible and sustainable energy policy is on full display. Instead of admitting his plans have caused SA to have the country’s most expensive, yet most unreliable electricity supply he used AGL’s common sense strategy to boast his own $550mn plan to offset the catastrophic failure of his own making was nothing short of a master stroke. Weatherill boasted,

“If there are big power companies squealing, the plan is working…it is a finely calibrated plan, it’s been carefully crafted to go as far as we can to actually drive competition but also not scare away investment…We’ve been screwed for too long by large power companies, it’s as simple as that…We’re taking the power back for the people of South Australia. A few people are upset about that because they’re not going to be able to make their enormous profits out of South Australians and if they’re squealing about that we’re happy…Large power plant companies screw ordinary South Australians. Increased competition is what drives down prices, not somebody just essentially maintaining their current monopoly position by upgrading plant and equipment.”

SA scrapped its coal-fired power and relies on wind power for 40% of its electricity. When the wind doesn’t blow, SA relies on backup power from neighboring Victoria, which has its own ridiculous renewable energy targets. Victoria has announced the closure of the Hazelwood coal-fired electricity plant which constitutes 20% of Victoria’s power on March 31st. So Victoria’s ‘pipe’ of backup will all but disappear.

What gets me is that it was Weatherill, not the private sector that “took power away from the people” (literally). Weatherill’s virtue signaling by means of thrashing private industry is a woeful attempt to take the moral high ground when in reality he is just being sanctimonious.

The bigger risk is this ‘back-up gas-fired generator’ should it ever be built will be run on an intermittent basis when power becomes a problem. The batteries don’t have anywhere near enough life to power a blackout for any reasonable period of time. Sadly, large scale machinery like this can’t run on an intermittent basis. It is much like a commercial aircraft. If aircraft sit idle on a tarmac for a sustained period of time, high precision parts get gummed up and require expensive maintenance to get back to working order. Those planes parked in the Arizona desert at the end of GFC that airlines thought to bring back into service cost $1.5mn/year each to maintain. Tyres have to be rotated every two days to prevent flat spots, fuel tanks have to be kept full, engines run and hydraulic controlled surfaces moved daily and windows require special sealants to prevent premature aging.

Same for a gas-fired power plant. It isn’t like switching on the Weber BBQ and expecting the thing to ignite. It would paradoxically call for higher running costs to operate periodically than run at constant load. So even if Weatherill can hand South Australians cheaper prices for their electricity at the plug (highly doubtful) they’ll be slugged through higher taxes elsewhere to pay for the higher upkeep of the gas-fired plant.

Is the finely calibrated plan working? If this is a finely calibrated I would hate to see what a half-baked plan looks like to Weatherill. Giving power back to the people is exactly that – give power back to them.

Mulligans to be allowed on the pro-golfer circuit

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Mulligans in pro golf tournaments? Sounds farcical, right? That’s because it is. Yet this sums up the South Australian (SA) energy plan to a tee. The supposed “biggest battery park” in Australia totalling some 1,500 car batteries suggested by Elon Musk would keep the lights on in SA for 3.5 minutes. $150mn buys 3.5 minutes only? Naturally The Greens have lobbed the blame on the federal government for letting South Australia get into this parlous state of its own making. Instead of admitting the abject failure its renewable policy has shown in the real world, South Australia wants to take a $550mn Mulligan and tell its resident taxpayers that this is the shot it would have played. Sadly Jay Weatherill Is stuck in this ‘bunker’ mentality.

One person involved in And advisor to the renewable industry noted:

“I’m an electronics technician, been one for over 50 years, have worked on some of the most amazing bits of gear over the years, have worked in the renewable energy field and have worked with and been an advisor to government and industry on stand alone and grid connected systems and live completely off grid myself. And I can tell you for a fact that no battery ever ever ever will have the energy density storage of any type of fossil fuel, and fossil fuel energy density pales in comparison to nuclear fuel. Anyone that thinks you can run battery back up sufficient to power even a small town is delusional. The size of the battery would be ten times bigger than the town and then you have to have massive inverters to convert it back into 50 Hz mains power as well.”

The two biggest problems with this Mulligan are two fold.

First, the decision on the battery back up system seems in exceptional haste. Where is the sign to taxpayers that the $150mn investment here will be properly allocated and priced? Where is the detail outlining the paltry 3.5 minute safety valve, assuming they can be ready to go at 100% juice if the wind farms stop spinning? Does Premier Jay Weatherill actually get that this is the best he can hope for? Have they relied on the same experts that told them to lever up wind to 40% of power generation for advice? We understand that they are in a real bind but rushing a solution with the bicycle inner tube repair kit virtually guarantees they’ll be running back with $100 millions more in tax payer dollars to swing at  the problem again.

Second, setting up the gas-fired back up generator isn’t an overnight affair. While the building construction might take 18 months from laying the cornerstone, has SA Premier Weatherill considered the location, local government approvals and whether enough engineers who can build such a plant are available? Will they run a tender or draw a name out of a hat? Sounds like a 3-4 year project at a minimum. Also has he managed to cover where the gas will come from? Has that supply been locked down?

You have to wonder at the incompetence in the first place to chase risky renewable targets without getting a grasp of the now too obvious side effects before setting off. To gloat about their virtue by publicly blowing up the evil Port Augusta coal-fired power station last year is one thing. To cover up the folly of that poor decision by gloating again that  another  $550mn of South Australian tax payers’ money is not an oversight tells you how clueless they are. Virtue signaling is a wonderful thing. Now they’ll have the state of Victoria as real competition to see who can run out of power fastest. The only problem Victorian Daniel Andrews will have is posting the problem to Facebook during the blackout.

Politicians seem allowed to take countless mulligans.  Sadly South Australian residents will have to wait twelve months for the opportunity to take another swing.