Thursday, October 6, 2016

Denier Weirdness: Electricity is a subject too tough for Anthony Watts

Sou | 3:59 AM Go to the first of 23 comments. Add a comment
Anthony Watts is obsessed with Australia's electricity system but he doesn't know what he's talking about. He's posted several articles on the blackout in South Australia and all of them are woefully wrong. (None on the blackouts in Victoria, NSW and the ACT.) With his latest (archived here) he shows that he doesn't understand the wholesale pricing system for Australian electricity (few do), and confuses it with electricity generation. His headline is totally misleading. He wrote: "Australian electrical system operator orders wind farms to cut back production in wake of blackout"

No it didn't.

When someone is as obsessed about renewables as he is, you'd think he'd take some time to learn a bit about it. Anthony Watts is not capable, going by his stream of articles so far.

Under his headline, he wrongly wrote this - which he picked up from a misleading article in The Advertiser:
TEN South Australian wind farms have been ordered to limit generation in the wake of the disastrous statewide power blackout because the national electricity market operator has declared they have not performed properly.
Wrong again.

Anthony's latest article is about the temporary suspension of market pricing in the wake of the South Australian storm and consequent blackout. Anthony doesn't know that. He thinks it's about reliability. It's not. A market suspension was invoked as a temporary measure to ensure pricing didn't go off the rails while the state was getting the power back up. To keep to the rules, the AMEO issued a notice, which stated in part:
Heywood interconnector dynamic constraint
Under the market suspension in South Australia, AEMO will limit the flow from South Australia to Victoria to prevent the accumulation of negative residues, which cannot be accommodated under the suspension pricing regime.
The Heywood Interconnector is the main connection between South Australia and Victoria. Negative residues, or "negative inter-regional settlement residues" are described in a report on the subject as:
An inter-regional settlements residue is the product of the difference in the regional reference price between two regions in the National Electricity Market (NEM) and the quantity of electricity flowing over an interconnector between those two regions. A negative inter-regional settlements residue (IRSR) arises where there are counter-price flows; that is, electricity flows from a high-priced region to a low-priced region
So the flow of electricity from South Australia to Victoria is temporarily curtailed while the South Australian market suspension is in force. This is not specific to wind power - it's all electricity generated in South Australia, which is primarily generated from gas and wind. It's for market pricing reasons. It's not a reflection on the reliability of generation.

From the WUWT comments

Anthony Watts has the audience he deserves. The "thoughts" so far are as from mindless idiots, barely capable of putting two words together let alone understanding anything about the National Electricity Market in Australia.

ptolemy2 apparently told someone something once.
October 5, 2016 at 8:45 am
See – told ya!

Latitude thinks he or she knows something that Australia's electricity operators don't. Thank goodness our experts who set up our systems don't listen to the idiots at WUWT.
October 5, 2016 at 8:53 am
What kind of idiots would set up a system like this….
The kind of idiots that didn’t even know it would happen….if they knew it would happen, they would have known they would look like idiots 

I doubt that Don B knows what his "this" is, going by his confused "thought".
October 5, 2016 at 8:53 am
California and Oregon need to know about this.
On the other hand, their minds are made up, and facts would just confuse them. 


  1. "When someone is as obsessed about renewables as he is, you'd think he'd take some time to learn a bit about it."

    Well I have not seen any evidence for that on any topic. Except maybe PR.

    1. The poor man does need something to distract him from problems closer to home that he'd rather not talk about.

  2. Those renewables are dangerous, I tell ya. Sure, didn't they bring down 20 power pylons in South Australia recently? And now, just look... they can't bring the grid back up because those greedy b#stards won't turn their freakin' windmills off ;-)

    Renewables: the Satan of the 21st century.

  3. According to Giles Parkinson's report at Renew Economy, the AEMO is looking at ten wind farms that did not perform as expected even given the loss 3 out 4 transmission lines. While turbines are designed to respond to voltage drops, lightning strikes (80,000) and the like, this was such a unusual and violent storm that it was not surprising that some things did not go to plan given the difficulty in testing for such events.

    For example, the NEM pays millions of $ per year to the fossil fuel generators for restart (System Restart Ancillary Service (SRAS)) services in the event of a blackout. The first provider (they are unnamed for security reasons) could only provide a partial service, the second none at all so they had to blackstart the network via the interconnector to Victoria. You can be certain that the failure of the fossil fuel generators to provide this service will not get mentioned by any of the anti-renewables cranks.

    There is a quite a lot that will learnt from this experience in terms of strengthening the grid and the integration of renewables. What will not happen is a return to fossil fuels.


    1. Anthony is confusing the SA to Vic flow of electricity (which is stopped temporarily for pricing reasons, because of the SA temporary market suspension) with the AEMO enquiry into what happened during the event. And, as you say, he isn't mentioning the main failures of the system. (I don't think he even mentioned the downed towers once, it took commenters to mention those.)

    2. '[T]his was such a unusual and violent storm that it was not surprising that some things did not go to plan given the difficulty in testing for such events.'

      Certainly, and in a rational world this is the discussion we'd be having.

      I also think that in a rational world yesterday's preliminary report would not have provided an opportunity for wind farms to have been singled out in the cascade of failures triggered by an unprecedented weather event.

      Or, at least, that we'd be having a public 'where exactly were the blackstart services we were promised?' discussion - amazingly absent - and the whole dialogue wouldn't reek of opportunistically scapegoating a single link in the chain.

      I hope your optimistic conclusion is correct. I genuinely fear the cascade of Stupid resulting from this event more than the blackout itself.

      I can only hope the state Labor parties have the courage of their convictions at tomorrow's meeting. And, perhaps, that the state Libs haven't wholly given themselves over to the reactionary agenda.

      PS: I'm not surprised that Turnbull has managed to become more unpopular than Abbott himself - to call the man spineless is to insult conscientious invertebrates everywhere!

    3. The blackout is going to take a bit of skin off but what is learnt from the experience will be invaluable.

      This is the global investment in renewables over the last 15 years.


      And prices are still coming down. There is no stopping this juggernaut. Whether it is going to sufficient to meet climate targets is another question altogether.

      Australia with its large land mass and small population has one of most geographically spread national grids (actually 3 of them) in the world so we need to learn for ourselves more about the implications of adding renewables and how to manage the grid and the electricity market. The AEMO the group that manages the National Electricity Market will not come out of this unscathed. The BOM were predicting a 1 in 50 year mid latitude cyclone and the AEMO managed the SA grid as if it were normal conditions.

    4. Sou said:

      And, as you say, he isn't mentioning the main failures of the system. (I don't think he even mentioned the downed towers once, it took commenters to mention those.)

      First rule of science denial: never let an inconvenient fact stand in the way of your unsubstantiated rant against science.

      Pretty much Anthony's MO since he started the site. Well, that and constructing straw men so large that the Burning Man organisers contact him every year seeking them for their festival finale.

  4. UK blackout of May 2008

    Failure of 2 large generators (fossil+nuclear) then failure of many small mainly diesel generators (paid to provide this emergency backup).
    As in SA it is a difficult scenario to prove operational

    1. https://s25.postimg.org/i9a0m58hb/may2008_grid_fail.jpg

  5. There appears to be a bit of competition between WUWTers as to who "told ya!" first. Allam MacRae thinks he beat ptolemy2 to it in 2005.

    He then adds this bit of nonsense:

    "Naturally, our imbecilic politicians cannot grasp this simple concept: “The wind does not blow all the time.""

    It seems to have escaped his notice that the disruption was caused by extreme wind.

    He then doubles up with:

    "Imagine if that happened in a colder country, like Canada"

    He appears to not have heard of the Ice Storm in 1998 which was probably the most dangerous power failures ever seen:


    Is there one word available to describe "cognitive dissonance confirmation bias idiocy my facts"?

    1. Quebec is nearly 100% renewable. It's the hydro dams what crushed those pylons!

    2. Numerobis, this is the truth that the Australian government doesn't want you to see:


    3. That is pretty funny. After the fact, of course. :-)

  6. @ J.D.

    You beat me to it. MacRae seems a bit out of the news link. The Great Ice Storm of 1998 was a kind of slow moving hurricane. It took days to lose power but it took weeks to get power back in some parts of Canada and heaven knows how long to repair the damages to the grid. Months, years?

    Compared to that, the SA outage was a minor blip and appears to be, exactly what one would have expected, a significant failure of the grid.

    Given tony's knowledge he may not realize that pylons often carry electrical cable?

    One of the great pictures from the Ice Storm was Canadian National Railways driving a locomotive down a street so that it could be used as an auxiliary generator at a hospital.

  7. Sou,
    You're right that Anthony and WUWT are confused. The Advertiser not quite so much. The problem is that Anthony quoted the wrong AEMO order. They did post another order limiting ten specific wind stations. It's a market order - it limits the amount that they can bid for, rather than produce, but it has the same effect. No-one at WUWT seems to have noticed the error. The order came Monday, I think late afternoon.

    It didn't seem to give an actual limit figure, that I could understand. The farms were still feeding in to the grid, at what seemed to me to be a rate similar to before. I don't know whether the order was related to renewed wind worries.

    1. Thanks Nick. I looked through the market notices (there are a lot from all over), and I think I found the one you're referring to (55216 - 04 OCT 2016 17:17) but I don't know what it means. Perhaps a watching brief? It doesn't seem to say anything about limiting output, but then I don't know what all the references mean.

    2. Sou,
      Yes, that is the one, at 5.16. It's a little different to what I remembered. It doesn't limit, just reclassifies what happened (output reductions) as a "credible event". They have this quaint terminology that a "credible" event is one that they have to take account of as expected in normal operation; pylons blowing over, say, is "non-credible". So I don't think it is an actual limit, contrary to what the Advertiser says. And I don't know what it means for a credible event to be contingent on something that is presumably non-credible.

    3. Sou,
      Actually, the one I meant is in your listing Mon 3 Oct, 23:46. The 5.16 is an update, but seems the same. I note just previously, they are cancelling a "credible" classification for lightning strike in Qld cos the thunderstorm finished. I think the wind farm notice may be just pro forma. It happened, therefore it is credible. Although there seems to be some testing involved, since only six farms actually dropped output.

    4. Yes. That's what it looks like to me too. (I think there are 16 wind farms in South Australia at the moment, plus quite a few more approved, and in the planning stage.)


  8. If only wind farms cause power outages (not storms), I do have one question for Anthony Watts. How does he explain all the current blackouts in Florida? There aren't many (any?) wind farms there.

    1. Yep - I was going to wonder how there could possibly be blackouts in Florida in the absence of windfarms. ;-)

      The absurdity of the phenomenon of the 'Blackout Truthers' doesn't end there - we've had the other storm-related blackouts nationally here at home, which have been blithely ignored.

      And virtually no public discussion along the lines of; 'where were the gas-powered blackstart services we paid for, exactly?' 'How much preventative maintenance has the for-profit company that took over our grid monopoly - a privatisation undertaken by a LNP state government against the express wishes of the overwhelming majority of South Australians - been doing given the losses of so many towers?' 'Given the unprecedented and egregious BoM forecast did the grid operator really properly prepare?'

      In short, it could not be more obvious that this is a witch-hunt. It could also not be more obvious that Blackout Truthers and Climate Change Deniers are a strongly intersecting set. Just throw in the lukewarmers and nuclear advocates and I'd say we've achieved unity!

  9. Good articles on the background to last week's storm and power failures from the AFR and the Graun.

    Basically, we're still paying for former Premier John Olsen's copious imbibing of the FreeMarket™ Kool-Aid. The key question we're not publicly discussing while the media is chasing the Blackout Truthers around (where they're not the actual Truthers themselves, of course) is whether a privatised grid network is really in the nation's best interest, particularly in this crucial time of energy transition.


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