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Report: Fossil Fuels Failed To Provide Energy Security During The February 2017 Heatwave

A report by the Australia Institute’s Climate & Energy Program shows that coal and gas failed to provide energy security during the February 2017 heatwave. The report also noted that solar prevented far worse disruption and load-shedding.

The report found that during the heatwave in February 2017:

  • South Australia, 17% of gas powered generation (438 MW) was unavailable during the peak demand period that led to the 8th February blackouts.
  • New South Wales, 20% of coal and gas generation (2438 MW) failed to deliver during the critical peak period of interval, leading to load shedding at Tomaga aluminium smelter. 
  • Queensland, 7% of coal and gas generation (790 MW) was withdrawn in the 4 hour of the peak leading $13,000 MWh prices eleven times within three hours.

The report also found that due to the fact that plants rely on cooling systems they are significantly less efficient in hot weather, especcially during heatwaves, and increase the risk of breakdowns

For South Australia it was also noted that had it not been for rooftop solar reducing demand the level of demand of the operational demand peak of 3085 MW that occurred at 6pm would have been reached four hours and twenty minutes earlier at 1.40pm without the reduction in demand from rooftop solar.

While in Queensland rooftop solar significantly delayed and reduced peak demand almost certainly avoiding much more serious consequences. the level of demand reached at the operational demand peak (9,530 MW) at 5.25pm would have been reached five hours and fifteen minutes earlier at 12.15pm

Report author, Mark Ogge said “the solar thermal power plant being built in Port Augusta would have completely avoided the blackouts in that state,”

He also stated that the solar thermal power plant will supply power to the South Australia government cheaper than its gas competitors.

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