NSW power imports in January 2019 heatwave exceed 2 GW, drive up electricity prices

Maximum demand for electricity increased from 9,500 MW on 13 Jan 2019 (16:00) to a whopping 14,000 MW on 17 Jan 2019 (17:30).

NSW-7daysFig 1: Heatwave pushing up power demand

20190117 New South WalesPic 2: Power generation graph downloaded from Open NEM website

Downloading the data in XLS format allows us to restack the above graph to show more details on coal:

NSW_power_generation_17Jan2019Fig 3: NSW power generation with coal stacked first

“Black coal net of pumps” means that off-peak pumping for hydro storage has been deducted from the total coal generation. We see that the off-peak pumps replace only part of the main hydro generation (around 1/3) so Snowy would run dry without replenishment by rain.

Coal fired power generation reached around 9,000 MW by 1 pm and continued at that level until 10 pm. That is 93% of the maximum theoretical capacity of 9,660 MW as per following table:

NSW-coal-generation-capacity_2017-2028Fig 4: Capacities of coal fired power plants in NSW

Note that Liddell’s capacity was reduced to 1,800 MW (which seems to be 4×450 MW). However, the Australia Institute has only 4×350 MW as per December 2018.
This aging coal plant is scheduled to be closed in 2022 due to ongoing technical problems.

Let’s zoom into generation excluding coal:

NSW_excluding-coal_17Jan2019Fig 5: NSW power imports and generation without coal

When the demand peak happens between 16:00 and 18:00 solar output is going down. Imports can’t increase due to capacity constraints of interconnectors and also generation availability in other States so hydro has to cover the peak on top of gas.

NSW-interconnectors_2017Fig 6: NSW Interconnector capacities with Queensland and Victoria


Power imports were necessary over a whole week:

NSW_power-imports-exports_Jan2019Fig 7: NSW power imports and exports

Average imports (when >0) were 850 MW. It is clear that NSW is a net importer of power.
Now let’s look at power prices per MWh.

NEM-trading-prices_Jan2019Fig 8: NEM trading prices

It is obvious that imports require higher prices.

NSW_power-price_function_of_importsFig 9: NSW power prices as function of imports

Policy implications

The current highrise boom increases peak demand for power as shown in this graph by the Parramatta Council:

Parramatta_CBD_peak_electricity_demand_existing_proposedFig 10: Additional peak electricity demand for “developments” in Parramatta

So that will push up electricity prices and ultimately bump into physical capacity limits. The boom in highrises is in turn caused by high immigration and a belief in perpetual growth:

Sydney_population_scenarios_2011-2016-2036Fig 11: Natural population growth is modest

The number of 4.9 million is now higher but the NSW has not updated its 2016 data.

In the meantime, the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) under Chief Commissioner Lucy Turnbull (the wife of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull) https://www.greater.sydney/chief-commissioner
wants Sydney’s population to grow to 8 million by 2056:

8m_SydneyFig 12: Turnbull’s proudly declared population target for 2056

We neither know how the world will look like in 2036, let alone 2056, but what we can safely say is that the GSC is energy and climate illiterate. No resource availability analysis was done (oil, gas, electricity and water supplies) nor an estimate of temperatures in Sydney’s hot west under global warming conditions with its related additional power demand.

I warned a GSC planning panel in Rydalmere on 7th March 2018 and a GSC Community briefing in Parramatta on 12th April 2018 that they are overbooking Sydney’s future power supplies by approving (err.. rubberstamping) all these development applications for new high highrises.

The public’s current attention is on sloppy design and certification procedures for highrises which have come to light by 20 mm cracks in the newly built Opal towers in Homebush https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-21/opal-tower-effect-to-hit-sydney-apartment-prices/10727268


But what the media has not discovered yet is that these apartment towers are driving up peak demand, increase everyone’s power bills and will ultimately result in load shedding

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