Tallawarra's generators, owned by EnergyAustralia, failed because of a fault and Snowy Hydro's Colongra units were unable to start due to low gas pressure.
AGL also had reduced output with two of the four Liddell power units, each of 500 MW capacity, unavailable on the day.
The failures, coming about 6pm local time on the Friday, combined with a drop in solar and wind capacity – in line with forecasts – to overload NSW connections with Queensland and Victoria, "creating an insecure operating state".
Gobbledy gook to me. Western Australia stands on its own, so far as power supply goes, as does Northern Territory. The other Australian states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia are all linked.
It seems what failed in New South Wales during a recent struggle to supply enough power for the state's needs was old electricity production, that is coal and gas, not renewable energy.
The Australian Energy Market Operator warned areas of Victoria could be blacked out to supply power to NSW. Oh no you won't, responded the Victorian State Minister. I expect this was to keep up supply to an aluminium smelter, which can be ruined without an adequate power supply as molten aluminium cools and sets hard in production 'pots'.
Anyway, I am quite sure Victoria was already selling huge quantities to NSW, no doubt at very high prices. NSW has been on the negative electricity production side for most of the summer.
While power transfer connections between states could be better, it is rare for there to be high power demand in both NSW and Victoria because of the weather. It is rarely hot in both states at the same time, which causes peak demand. Victoria usually trails South Australia by a day, weather wise, so it often different in these two states too.
A few years ago we were in Cooma where the Snowy Mountains hydro electricity is monitored. It was fascinating to see the how and where the electricity was generated and where it went to and the price paid.
Victoria's trusted State Electricity Commission that served us so well has long disappeared in the privatisation mania. Often enough on the farm our power was knocked out by a limb or tree falling on power lines. The cows could still be milked but by reversing the tractor to the side of the milking shed and putting a very large and strong belt on a pulley on the tractor to the milking machine vacuum pump. I can only remember it being used twice. The SEC was out so quickly out to fix any fault. Did you vote for Jeff Kennett in the 90s? You may be paying the price now.
South Australia has gone out on a limb by shutting down dirty coal powered electricity and focusing on renewable energy for its electricity. It suffered a severe weather event which knocked out much of its supply, including a spectacular crashing down of the electricity cable to Victoria. Even PM Turnbull agrees SA should have a cable to NSW as well. Much of SA was blacked out, but there was no need for that. Gas fired power generation was available, but the national power authority decided the price of gas was too high and would not turn on the gas generation power.
Melbourne has its own gas power plant at Newport. It bursts into life at times, noted by gas burn flames from its chimney. As our very old coal power station in the country at Hazelwood shuts down at the behest of a French company and the omnipresent Mitsui of Japan, we may be more reliant on Newport............but no, our power will be controlled by the national authority. Instead of power being generated by each state for the users, power generation is now like the share market, millions made and lost in a day as the gamblers predict electricity usage. Who said we wanted that? Controlled by what I understand to be a Federal Government Authority delving out profits to private companies. This is a nightmare.
Can we rely on gas to smooth over what some say is an unreliable supply by renewable energy? Maybe. I have said in the past that I heard when I was young, that there is so much gas in Bass Strait, that we could not use it all in a thousand years. Yet, we hear that we are short of gas. It seems we may be exporting gas to other countries who then sell it back to us, with various taxes applied along the way. (Dorothy, are you sure this privatisation of public assets is a good idea?)
The governments of other gas exporting countries make millions by way of taxes on the export of gas. Australia, that is you and me in Australia who own the gas, makes very little from our gas exports. Gas production and distribution, including to overseas, has been given over to private enterprise to make profits, even if means Australia is starved of gas or the price driven so high, we cannot afford to buy our own gas.
Our gas is ours, for our use. If there is some left over, then export it. Electricity production using gas is not ideal, but far less polluting than generating electricity by burning coal, especially Victoria's dirty damp brown coal. It is a good thing that the very dirty Hazelwood Power Station has been shut down.
Then our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnedbull comes out as said our gas shortage is because of a couple of states, yes my Victoria is one, has banned the hideous process of fracking, that is pumping chemicals at high pressure into the ground to extract gas on the land. The damage that does is beyond imagination. British people are fighting against it, as we are in Australia, farmers and environmentalists alike. The disastrous consequences of fracking can be studied in detail in the US, where it has destroyed towns and farmland.
While I have always had some admiration for Waleed Aly, aside from his looks, he tells it like it is and I hope he continues to write such powerful pieces. I consider this so important that as well as a link to the Age, I will copy and paste.
Turns out manufacturing is alive and well in Australia. Only these days we're manufacturing crises. This week's exhibit is from the gas industry, which having witnessed the energy market regulator's grave warnings that we'd all be having cold showers in the dark in a couple of years, found itself summoned to the Prime Minister's table.
"It is not acceptable for Australia – shortly to become the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas – to not have enough gas for its own families and its own businesses," boomed Malcolm Turnbull ahead of the meeting. And he was right. What was far less clear was why this arrangement had been so perfectly acceptable for so long.
Let's be clear: there is no gas shortage. Not in Australia, and not around the world. In fact, there's the opposite: a global glut of the stuff. BHP has already admitted there's enough gas in Bass Strait to supply the east coast "indefinitely". And globally, by the end of 2015 the gas industry was capable of producing about 25 per cent more liquefied gas than the world wanted to import.
By 2020, production capacity looks set to increase another 30 per cent. Even if demand is increasing – and that's not absolutely clear – it's not keeping pace with that. The world's biggest importer, Japan, has been reducing its demand for several years, and according to its own government, will be buying 30 per cent less gas by 2030 as it turns its focus to renewables.
That sucking sound is Australians being robbed of their own gas.
What there is, then, is a monstrous failure of policy. If Australia's soon to be out of gas, it's only because we keep shipping it overseas. This has been happening for years under the noses of governments of both persuasions, and none of them has cared to do anything about it.
Perhaps that's because of a prevailing wisdom that such decisions should be left to the market. But here's the problem: the gas industry isn't really a market. It's an oligopoly. It has very few providers, operating under very little regulation. They can charge who they want whatever they want, safe in the knowledge there's no meaningful competition to challenge them, and no meaningful government policy to control them. Where there is some competition – that is, overseas – gas prices are lower. That's why we have the bizarre situation that you can buy Australian gas in Asia for something like two-thirds the price you can buy the same gas here.
No one else does this. Americans pay a third of what we do for their own gas. Qataris pay even less. That's because they either have properly functioning markets, better regulation, or ensure they keep enough gas for themselves.
Here, only the West Australian government figured it should do something similar, imposing a requirement that a certain amount of gas be reserved for domestic use. And our gas companies have simply abused this. They refused to offer Australian companies gas prices for the long term, so businesses had no idea how much they'd be paying – a policy that caused some companies to set up elsewhere.
When they did offer gas prices, they made them exorbitant and refused to negotiate. We know this because the ACCC identified it last year, saying Australian industry had received "few, if any, real offers for gas". The result is an entirely artificial "shortage", triggering an equally artificial crisis. This, frankly, is a rort.
So it was all very encouraging to hear Turnbull boasting this week about the size of his constitutional stick. "We have a responsibility – which we do not shirk from"; the industry understands the gravity of its "social licence" to operate. Et cetera. But the government has steadfastly refused to use that stick previously. And when you have gas companies slugging Australians record prices while charging their Asian customers record low prices, it's a little hard to believe they stay awake at night worrying about the terms of their "social licence".
What's much easier to believe, though, is that the gas industry is desperate to get its hands on gas supplies that are off limits – especially controversial ones like, say, coal seam gas. And if they have to offer a little more domestic supply to do it – at a time when global demand is slowing anyway – then it's hardly a sacrifice. Oh, and as it happens, that's exactly what Turnbull would like to offer them, hence his condemnation of the states' bans on further gas extraction.
It's a neat trick, really. Take a country with enough gas to supply itself "indefinitely", send the vast majority of it overseas, refuse to sell locally at a fair price, create a domestic shortage, then demand access to some of our most environmentally sensitive resources as though it's an emergency measure.
And if you're going to pull a trick like that, this is the government to pull it on. Sure, Turnbull announced some useful initiatives to increase transparency in the market. But the Turnbull government's energy wars have led it to the point that it simply cannot resist any opportunity to turn this back on the (Labor) states. It's only too happy to paint this as a problem of Victoria or South Australia's creation, as though gas companies have been passive observers, buffeted by market forces rather than subverting them. Well, now those companies can passively observe as the political campaign revs up to give them much of what they want. That's their carrot. Sticks, it seems, are only for political foes.