Victorian Coal Dependence Risks Blackout: Solar Cheapest to Ensure Reliability

The AEMO Energy Statement of Opportunities (ESOO) released today confirms Australia Institute Gas & Coal Watch analysis that shows that Victoria’s dependence on brown coal and gas is a serious risk to the state’s energy supply this summer.

Key points from AEMO Energy Statement of Opportunities:

  • Based on operational experience, AEMO’s modelling assumed
    • There is a 30% likelihood the 530 MW unit at Loy Yang A coal power station will be closed all summer
    • There is a expect a 60% likelihood that half of Victoria’s largest gas power station Mortlake will be closed all summer
    • There is an 18% chance both the Mortlake unit and the LYA unit will out all summer
  • AEMO acknowledges climate impacts are increasing the risk of blackouts including increasing extreme temperatures leading to high maximum demand, bushfire threat to transmission, drought threat to hydro and to coal plant cooling
  • Snowy 2.0 will lead to “no significant improvement in reliability” due to lack of transmission

The Australia Institute Gas & Coal Watch analysis further shows:

  • There have been 6 breakdowns at Victoria’s Yallourn coal power station this month alone
  • There have been 19 breakdowns at Victoria’s brown coal power stations so far this year
  • Solar cuts and delays peak demand on heatwave days and is the lowest cost, fastest and most reliable way to fix the problem of Victorian coal dependence. Coupled with energy storage, solar can also cut the remaining evening peaks
  • New supercritical “HELE” coal plants are expensive and even less reliable less than older subcritical black coal power stations

“The AEMO Energy Statement of Opportunities confirms Australia Institute analysis showing Victoria’s dependence on coal and gas power stations is a major threat to the state’s electricity supply this summer,” says Richie Merzian, Climate & Energy Director at The Australia Institute.

“There have been 6 breakdowns at Yallourn coal power station this month alone, and 19 at Victorian coal power stations this year. Coal breakdowns were the cause of blackouts last summer.

“Climate change is increasing heatwaves. This is driving up demand electricity as people need to use their air conditioners. Coal power stations struggle to cope with these extreme temperatures and can break down when they are needed most on the heatwave days.

“Gas is part of the problem, not the solution, as illustrated by the electrical fault that has closed down half of Victoria’s largest gas plant for at least 6 months, well into summer. 

“Solar is the fastest, cheapest and most reliable way to increase the reliability of the grid because it always delivers on these crucial heatwave days when coal is most likely to fail. Without solar, last year’s blackouts caused by coal failures would have been far worse.

“Victoria is facing the legacy of previous governments failing to modernise the grid with renewables. The VRET and incentives for rooftop solar are great step towards increasing the reliability of the state’s electricity supply and acting on climate change.”

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