Monthly Archives: October 2020

Blackouts: candlelight dinners and evenings without television?

Around the same time that I started writing previous post, I came across the article Guaranteeing power at all times is absurd (Dutch ahead) about our energy security. It is an opinion piece by Belgian economist Etienne De Callataÿ after our new Federal Government announced its intention of closing our nuclear infrastructure by 2025.

In that article, he makes the case that security of electricity supply should not be top priority for our Government and goes as far to write that one or two days of blackout per year is not the end of the world…

I think that I can somehow understand his reasoning, but first let’s look how De Callataÿ explains his strategy.

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Our new Federal Government

While I was blogging about the grid batteries in South Australia, we got a new Federal Government. It took a while, we were without a functional Federal Government since December 2018 when the then coalition broke up. This new coalition consists of seven parties from four different political groups. This Frankenstein coalition want to be called the “Vivaldi” coalition (after the violin concertos “The Four Seasons” by Vivaldi, representing the colors of the four political colors of the groups in the coalition). To make such a coalition work, compromises had to be made and also political presents had to be given.

Probably one of those presents is that the Minister of Energy is provided by the Green party. Our Minister of Energy now is Tinne Van der Straeten and the readers of this blog know her as the politician who managed to increase, ahem, fossil fuel subsidies and the Green party was apparently proud of that achievement.

The new coalition is very ambitious. When it comes to energy, they aim for the closure of the nuclear power plants by … 2025. To put that in perspective, our nuclear plants currently produce almost half of our electricity and this amount of power needs to be replaced within the next five years (it took decades to come to ten or so percent of solar and wind). They want to do this replacement by stimulating intermittent technologies, cooperation with neighbor countries (increased import and export), energy saving and also some gas-fueled power plants will be needed too. At the same time they also want to make energy cheaper, ensure energy security, create more jobs and lower emissions. All this without having to increase taxes…

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The fingerprint of solar and wind on import/export balance

The subject of previous post is how South Australia, having a high share of solar and wind, balances its grid. While crunching the numbers, I noticed that there generally is more import when electricity production by solar and wind is low and that there is more export when electricity production by solar and wind is high. This reminded me of a post I wrote about the German Energiewende in which I looked at the import/export balance and compared it with solar, with wind, with solar plus wind and with lignite. The import/export balance clearly followed the solar plus wind curve, but the peaks were somewhat topped off.

This made me wonder whether the same is true of the South Australia data. Let us first look at the same graph from previous post, but overlayed with the import/export balance curve in red (click to enlarge for a much clearer view):

AEMO South Australia charts0011b Fuelmix vs import export balance small

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About intermittency and being a net exporter

While writing the post on the upgrade of the Hornsdale Power Reserve, I became curious how South Australia balances its grid. Looking into the data, it became pretty clear that it aren’t the batteries that doing the balancing. According to the fuel mix data of AEMO, the battery storage output is insignificant compared to the huge swings in output of solar and wind power.

There are several balancing strategies possible. For example, in a previous series on the German energiewende, I found that Germany’s strategy is to use fossil fuels (gas, coal and even lignite) when there is not enough solar & wind and export the surplus to the neighboring countries when there is too much solar & wind.

South Australia also has a high share of solar and wind, so how do they do it?

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