Dumb Things Politicians Say. (Do They Think)

It is amazing the dumb things politicians say about innovation in renewable energy to combat climate change especially when they are trying to follow an agenda. Below are some prime examples.

Comment on the largest battery storage farm in the world. South Australia.

The South Australian Government signed up with Tesla to create this to combat electrical outages. The comment from one Minister (now Prime Minister of Australia) when it was announced was the big banana

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it would be about as useful for the electricity system as the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour or the Big Prawn at Ballina in NSW Australia.”

South Australia’s Tesla battery was initially dismissed by critics.
But Market operators found the battery dispatches power faster than conventional stations and pushes down prices. Energy analysts say the battery has helped shore up the entire energy grid. Resources Minister Matt Canavan reportedly dismissed the big battery as “the Kim Kardashian of the energy world: it’s famous for being famous [but] doesn’t do very much”.

dumb things politicians say about the largest battery storage farm

So What Happened? Here is a followup a few months after it became operational

Here’s what happened. On Saturday, a dramatic loss of two major transmission lines just after 1 pm, which the Australian Energy Market Operator blamed on lightning strikes, resulted in major load shedding in NSW and Victoria, including whole suburbs in Sydney and Newcastle, and elsewhere and even at the Tomago smelter in the Hunter Valley. The grids in South Australia or Queensland were both “islanded” by the explosion, which meant they were cut off from the main grid, but neither state lost power. AEMO says NSW was forced to shed 724MW of load and Victoria shed 280MW when lines connecting the NSW and Queensland grids were suddenly lost. That loss of power and subsequent load shedding, roughly equated to the amount of electricity that the two states were importing at the time. NSW from Queensland and Victoria from both its northern link and from South Australia. It’s a normal reaction, neither state has anything that can react instantaneously to a loss of power, so the load is shed to keep the rest of the grid stable and pull the frequency back into line.

(You can read some more detail in this as it happened to report on: Watt Clarity here). AEMO made note that these outages had nothing to do with any loss of generation and it was interesting to note that no generator: coal, gas, wind or solar tripped off as a result of the transmission failure. The Coalition government, however, couldn’t resist the opportunity to display more of its idiocy and ideology over energy. “The system has heightened vulnerability because of the reliance on the interstate and unreliable power,” Resources Minister Matt Canavan told The Australian. “More investment in coal, gas or hydro would firm up the system, create more supply and bring down prices.

Dear Minister, it doesn’t matter how much coal, hydro or gas you have in the system, if the transmission lines blow up, you are going to have problems. Are you suggesting the end of the National Electricity Market and no state should import or export power? But that takes us to the link between the big battery and Morrison’s big banana. Just before the incident, South Australia was sourcing around 43.4 per cent of its demand from solar (mostly rooftop solar) and another 7.4 per cent from wind  (so more than 50 per cent variable renewables), but it operated without issue and its local grid was “synchronised” with Victoria’s about 25 minutes after the outage. It seems that the Hornsdale Power Reserve, also known as the Tesla Big Battery, stepped in to help ensure there were no ill effects in South Australia from what AEMO was describing at the time as a “power system emergency”. Indeed, it was the biggest “contingency” event since the Tesla big battery began operations in December last year, and likely one of the biggest threats to the grid and supply since a series of tornadoes caused the September 2016 blackout. It was the first time the state was “islanded” since that blackout. When frequency plunged dangerously through a 49.80 Hertz trigger point to below 49.25Hz and a low of 49.18Hz after the lightning strike, the battery sprung into action. No load-shedding occurred in South Australia, partly due to the response of the battery, delivering an immediate net increase of 84MW to the grid, when South Australia’s frequency dipped below that crucial 49.2Hz. Over the next 25 minutes, HPR continued to provide frequency support as South Australia operated as an island, including providing downward frequency support (net charging) when the suddenly surged after the separation and went up to an equally dangerous 50.47Hz./p

This versatility and speed were essential to keep the network in South Australia steady, as the grid over-corrected – which often happens when the grid relies on traditional slow and lumbering machines. What Morrison and Co should recognise is that the response highlighted the great flexibility of the Tesla battery, delivering a variety of crucial services simultaneously during this short period. It actually does something. The fast response to the contingency contributed to returning supply to the nominal bands, and once there delivered local frequency support to South Australia while islanded from the rest of Australia. A scenario not seen since the blackouts in September 2016. Also, the battery was able to charge at negative energy prices in the market during this time, highlighting the monetary value for the asset owners in addition to the benefit to the grid with fast response.

So, let’s cast back to Morrison’s comments of last year. “I don’t care if it’s wind, coal, the world’s biggest battery, but you’ve got to measure it on its contribution, and it doesn’t measure up to a big solution.” And he went on to say: “30,000 SA households could not get through watching one episode of Australia’s Ninja Warrior with this big battery. So let’s not pretend it is a solution”. But every household in South Australia was able to watch whatever it wanted on Saturday. Without the battery, as much as 84MW may have been lost. It was the households in NSW – with five major coal generators off-line due to repairs – that had to cop the outages.

While the big battery was providing a solution to an incident in South Australia, NSW had nothing in its generation fleet to respond quickly enough to provide a solution to NSW customers. If NSW had a few batteries like the Tesla big battery he mocked, then the lights in the suburbs and the smelter might have stayed on. Or as the battlers “whose side he is on?” might have asked, where the bloody hell was the NSW big battery? The speed and versatility of the Tesla big battery, as illustrated on Saturday, and on numerous occasions previously, has both surprised and delighted network owners and market operators. It can do things that cannot be matched by coal, gas or hydro generators, or even Big Bananas. Perhaps this event will show that he would be wise to try and reset the silly debate about battery technology is measured  by how long it can allow people watching a TV show and more how quickly it can respond to key the grid-connected