Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t JoNova – South Australia and the Australian State of Victoria learned the hard way that when power demand surges, you can’t turn up the solar panels.
Melbourne hospitals switch off lights as mercury rises
Grant McArthur and Aleks Devic, Herald Sun
January 19, 2018 7:36pm
PATIENTS were left in the dark after one of Melbourne’s biggest hospitals switched off its lights and non-essential equipment as temperatures soared on Friday.
The Alfred turned off the lights on wards, in corridors and cafeterias about midday in a bid to conserve power.
The dramatic move followed a Department of Health memo to hospital chiefs on Thursday night asking them to ensure back-up power supplies were effective, prompted by the increased risk of disruption in the heatwave.
“Hospitals within Alfred Health have taken the initiative to act as good corporate citizens and reduce the use of electricity that is not directly needed for patient care. This is consistent with the advice provided by Australian Energy Market Operator,” she said.
“Hospitals within Alfred Health have strong backup and emergency power supply capacity and in the event of a power outage expect clinical services to continue without interruption.”
Department of Health spokesman Tim Vainoras said no directive was issued for hospitals to switch off equipment or conserve energy, however hospitals were advised to prepare for the impact of extreme heat including preparations for possible energy disruptions.
A memo reiterating the state’s extreme weather protocols was sent to hospitals at 8pm on Thursday.
“With increased temperatures across the state, demands on Victoria’s electricity supplies are likely to increase. This may lead to electricity disruptions in some parts of Victoria,” the DHS memo states.
“It will be important to ensure your backup power is effective for the maintenance of critical services and that you have access to fuel supplies to support extended periods of power outages.”
JoNova provided a link to a site which at the time of her post showed Queensland feeding NSW, which was passing the power to Victoria – though this changes hour to hour (see the live feed here).
Intermittent renewables are sometimes contributing, for example at one point when I looked at the feed it showed net power coming from South Australia, as opposed to South Australia sucking power in JoNova’s screenshot. But as the Victorian hospital shutdown demonstrates, the renewable contribution simply isn’t reliable. Businesses and emergency facilities throughout the affected states were required to switch off lights and “unessential” systems, so the politicians who created this mess could avoid vote losing mass blackouts.
Greens were quick to blame coal for this terrifying brush with mass blackouts during the middle of a heatwave.
Loy Yang B failure sends prices soaring, triggers supply safeguards
JANUARY 19 2018 – 2:18PM
The Australian Energy Market Operator has kicked off emergency measures to protect power supply after Victoria’s Loy Yang B brown coal-fired power station failed on Thursday afternoon, sending electricity spot prices soaring.
As temperatures rose around southern Australia Loy Yang B’s generators failed at around 4pm, instantly taking around 528 megawatts of energy out of the state’s grid.
The outage ahead of a major heatwave on Friday came despite assurances by its owner Alinta Energy that the ageing power station had the capability to continue providing power in the heat.
“There are no issues expected ahead with the forecast hot weather,” Alinta Energy chief executive Jeff Dimery told Fairfax Media on Monday.
This greensplaining ignores the central issue – the shortage of reliable, dispatchable power capacity. Despite billions of dollars worth of investment in Aussie renewables, a shortfall of a few hundred megawatts was enough to trigger a multi-state emergency.
The system as it stands is not fit for purpose.
One new coal plant, or a decent size zero CO2 emission nuclear plant, maybe even one new generator at an existing plant, is all that would have been required to avert this dangerous shortfall, all it would have taken to provide a sufficient supply buffer so the failure of one decrepit old coal plant couldn’t bring the whole system to its knees.
But nobody wants to invest in new dispatchable capacity in Australia.
Renewable mandates supported by Australian Federal and State Governments have made dispatchable energy unprofitable. Worse, power companies have no grounds for hope that any investment in dispatchables will become economically viable in the foreseeable future. The deeper green Federal opposition party wants more aggressive renewable targets, 50% renewables across the board in Australia in the next decade.
The takeaway lesson for Australian politicians and people throughout the world should be that you can’t run hospitals and businesses on unreliable electricity. Next time turning off the cafeteria lights might not be enough; people will die if this renewable energy idiocy continues. Lets hope enough politicians learn this lesson quickly enough to avert a major disaster.