A breakdown every fortnight: NSW gas & coal plants

coal-fired AGL Liddell
Liddell Power Station

New research from The Australia Institute has revealed New South Wales suffered 27 major breakdowns at gas and coal fired power plants in 2018, the equivalent to more than one a fortnight.

The breakdowns resulted in the removal of hundreds of megawatts of energy from the grid suddenly and without warning.

The Australia Institute Climate & Energy Program released its NSW Gas & Coal Watch analysis of 2018, which tracks unscheduled breakdowns in gas and coal plants across the National Energy Market (NEM).

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Key findings of the analysis include:

  • NSW gas & coal fired power stations broke down 27 times during 2018 – more than one break down every fortnight.
  • Every coal power station in NSW experienced at least one breakdown.
  • The most breakdowns were experienced at the aging Liddell (11 breakdowns) and Vales Point (five breakdowns) power stations.
  • The new and supposedly ‘state-of-the-art’ Tallawarra gas power station experienced three breakdowns.
  • During the June “energy crisis” last year, over half of NSW’s coal and gas generators were offline while wholesale electricity prices spiked to around $2400 per MWh five times in just one week.

Research Director at The Australia Institute Rod Campbell says New South Wales’ aging generators are a threat to the reliability of the state’s energy system and this should be a key concern for policy makers.

“Every time gas or coal generators break down, hundreds of megawatts of capacity are instantaneously removed from the grid without warning,” he says.

“This puts undue pressure on the electricity system, risking blackouts and pushing up power prices.

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“Gas and coal generation is least reliable in the heat – which is often when we need it most. With heatwaves increasing dramatically as a result of global warming, reliance on these outdated technologies will be an ever-increasing liability for NSW.

“Coal plants in NSW pump around 50 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year, fuelling the ever increasing heatwaves that are causing these breakdowns in the first place. It’s an on-going and vicious cycle that must end.

“NSW lags behind the country, and much of the world, in the transition to clean energy. The state has some serious catching up to do and addressing the unreliability of gas and coal fired power will be one of the first challenges.

“Policy makers need to respond to this challenge and manage NSW’s transition to cleaner, more reliable and more affordable power.”

Read the full analysis here.