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

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-7days
Fig 1: Heatwave pushing up power demand
20190117 New South Wales
Pic 2: Power generation graph downloaded from Open NEM website
https://opennem.org.au/#/regions/nsw

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

NSW_power_generation_17Jan2019
Fig 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_2017-2028
Fig 4: Capacities of coal fired power plants in NSW


https://www.aemo.com.au/Electricity/National-Electricity-Market-NEM/Planning-and-forecasting/Generation-information
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.
http://www.tai.org.au/content/unit-trip-liddell-nsw-2018-12-23
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_17Jan2019
Fig 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_2017

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