Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg have now added a second myth to the earlier one that South Australia had rushed madly and blindly into renewables without thought for the consequences. They say that South Australia is now “going it alone”. Unfortunately this meme was picked up in the media, so that Philip Clark on ABC Nightlife recently had SA “going it alone” as his topic of the day (most of the comment supported SA, but no-one, not a single one, had their facts right).
The fact is that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) runs the market, calls bids for supply on a 30-minute basis, and balances supply and consumption. That is what it has done every day for years, since 1 July 2009, and will continue to do so into the future. Except that 30-minute time-slots are bound to be reviewed in the Finkel report and may end up at five. The Australian Energy Market Commission is currently considering a request for such a change.
AEMO also operates the Wholesale Electricity Market (WEM) and power system in Western Australia, and the important gas markets in Australia.
Weatherill has been quite explicit about his commitment to the National Energy Market (NEM). From The Guardian:
- Remember the federal government spent the summer responding to the blackouts giving the SA government a bollocking on their high renewable energy target of 50%? Weatherill recommitted to that target today and said his plan would fit with the objectives of the chief scientist, Alan Finkel, who originally favoured an emissions intensity scheme (carbon price). The premier also favours an EIS.
Weatherill said: “If Malcolm Turnbull tomorrow recovered his memory and decided to go for an emissions intensity scheme, we would be ready to cooperate with him and our scheme would fit perfectly into those arrangements.”
Much has been made of in Hugh Saddler’s words the plan to:
- introduce legislation that would allow the state government to override the NEM’s market dispatch process for generation in the event of an emergency such as the demand peaks that triggered last month’s blackouts.
This arises from the failure of AEMO to instruct Engie to turn on the second Pelican Point gas turbine during the heatwave in early February, instead precipitating rolling blackoputs causing 90,000 homes to lose power for about 40 minutes.
The state government already has the power to instruct electricity generators to fire up in an emergency, it’s just that, as I understand it, the minister would need to refer to cabinet before acting. This is unrealistic in any scenario that is likely to involve a power outage. The proposed legislation would simply allow the minister to take action at the appropriate time.
However, the minister cannot and will not take control of the grid, so such an order would need to be taken in communication with AEMO well in advance, that is, some hours before the power was required. Since AEMO already has the same emergency power, and since AEMO is responsible for balancing supply and demand on the grid, if any such thing happened it would have to happen cooperatively.
The only realistic alternative would be for SA to exit the NEM and control its own power directly. That is clearly not the intention, and would be difficult if not impossible while the state typically relies on importing power from the NEM.
In the remainder of the post I provide some links relevant to SA’s plan.
Here is SA’s quick introduction to Our energy plan, whence you can download the detailed plan.
Other relevant articles include:
- Giles Parkinson South Australia covers its arse and its FCAS in new energy plan
- Gabrielle Chan SA to spend $500m on Australia’s largest battery storage and gas-fired power plant – as it happened
- Angelique Donnellan at the ABC SA power: Will the energy plan save households and businesses any money?
- Giles Parkinson SA power plan: Why so much gas, when storage is so cheap?
- Michael Coggin at the ABC SA power: Government’s energy plan includes installation of aero derivative generators, but why?
- Giles Parkinson SA seeks bids for 100MW battery plant to kick off storage boom
- Giles Parkinson SA government eyeing world-first gas plus battery storage units