Australian Base Load Electrical Power – Week Ending 10th February 2018

Posted on Sun 02/11/2018 by


By Anton Lang ~

Week 32

This is the continuing Post, where each Saturday, I will detail the power consumption for the Base Load in Australia for the previous week. This will show what is actually meant by the term Base Load, and that is the minimum daily power consumption at its lowest point. Power consumption never falls below this point.

Here in Australia, that level of power is 18,000MW. (See data for the Running Weekly Average For Base Load below)

The Bayswater Coal Fired Power Plant In New South Wales

This data I have collated below is for this last week, and is for the five States connected to the Australian grids, every State east of the Western Australian border, and here I will show that data for each of those five States, New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania.

As you can see from these numbers, that huge amount of power is being supplied mainly by coal fired power, and on most days that coal fired power provides 80% or more of that level of power, at that time, when power consumption is at its lowest level, that total of 18,000MW.

All of this data is taken at a single point in time, and that is at 4AM of every day, when nearly all of us are sound asleep.

For the Introduction and background for this Base Load, refer back to the original Post at this link.

This is the permanent link to all the Posts with the data from each week.

For the purposes of this data, the sources are as follows.

Total Power consumption for each State

Fossil Fuel totals and Coal Fired power totals

Hydro Power totals

Wind Power totals

All these totals are from 4AM on each day, the time of minimum power consumption.

There are no coal fired power plants in South Australia or in Tasmania.


Sunday 4th February 2018

New South Wales – 5950MW (Coal Fired Power – 4900MW)

Queensland – 5210MW (Coal Fired Power – 6000MW)

Victoria – 3690MW (Coal Fired Power – 4000MW)

South Australia – 1010MW

Tasmania – 1030MW

Total – 16890MW

Fossil Fuel – 15700MW (Total coal fired power – 14900MW  – 88.2% of the overall total of 16890MW)

Hydro – 450MW

Wind – 1100MW (6.5% of the total)

Renewable power – 9.2% of the total.

Sunday Peak Power at 6PM – Total Power Consumption – 23490MW and Coal Fired Power supplied 17800MW (75.8%)

Monday 5th February 2018

New South Wales – 6430MW (Coal Fired Power – 5300MW)

Queensland – 5250MW (Coal Fired Power – 5800MW)

Victoria – 4080MW (Coal Fired Power – 4600MW)

South Australia – 1220MW

Tasmania – 1060MW

Total – 18040MW

Fossil Fuel – 16600MW (Total coal fired power – 15700MW  – 87% of the overall total of 18040MW)

Hydro – 450MW

Wind – 800MW (4.4% of the total)

Renewable power – 6.9% of the total.

Monday Peak Power at 6PM – Total Power Consumption – 26620MW and Coal Fired Power supplied 19600MW (73.6%)

Tuesday 6th February 2018

New South Wales – 6820MW (Coal Fired Power – 5600MW)

Queensland – 5320MW (Coal Fired Power – 5700MW)

Victoria – 4280MW (Coal Fired Power – 4400MW)

South Australia – 1250MW

Tasmania – 1020MW

Total – 18690MW

Fossil Fuel – 17000MW (Total coal fired power – 15700MW  – 84% of the overall total of 18690MW)

Hydro – 500MW

Wind – 1200MW (6.4% of the total)

Renewable power – 9.1% of the total.

Tuesday Peak Power at 6PM – Total Power Consumption – 27760MW and Coal Fired Power supplied 19400MW (69.8%)

Wednesday 7th February 2018

New South Wales – 6720MW (Coal Fired Power – 5100MW)

Queensland – 5370MW (Coal Fired Power – 5400MW)

Victoria – 4480MW (Coal Fired Power – 4700MW)

South Australia – 1370MW

Tasmania – 960MW

Total – 18900MW

Fossil Fuel – 17000MW (Total coal fired power – 15200MW  – 80.4% of the overall total of 18900MW)

Hydro – 600MW

Wind – 1300MW (6.9% of the total)

Renewable power – 10.1% of the total.

Wednesday Peak Power at 6PM – Total Power Consumption – 30250MW and Coal Fired Power supplied 20600MW (68%)

Thursday 8th February 2018

New South Wales – 6880MW (Coal Fired Power – 6100MW)

Queensland – 5370MW (Coal Fired Power – 5700MW)

Victoria – 4860MW (Coal Fired Power – 4500MW)

South Australia – 1410MW

Tasmania – 990MW

Total – 19510MW

Fossil Fuel – 18000MW (Total coal fired power – 16300MW  – 83.5% of the overall total of 19510MW)

Hydro – 500MW

Wind – 1000MW (5.1% of the total)

Renewable power – 7.7% of the total.

Thursday Peak Power at 6PM – Total Power Consumption – 29680MW and Coal Fired Power supplied 21000MW (70.8%)

Friday 9th February 2018

New South Wales – 7220MW (Coal Fired Power – 6000MW)

Queensland – 5690MW (Coal Fired Power – 6400MW)

Victoria – 4680MW (Coal Fired Power – 4700MW)

South Australia – 1510MW

Tasmania – 1060MW

Total – 20160MW

Fossil Fuel – 18300MW (Total coal fired power – 17100MW  – 84.8% of the overall total of 20160MW)

Hydro – 1000MW

Wind – 750MW (3.7% of the total)

Renewable power – 8.7% of the total.

Friday Peak Power at 6PM – Total Power Consumption – 28770MW and Coal Fired Power supplied 20100MW (69.9%)

Saturday 10th February 2018

New South Wales – 6660MW (Coal Fired Power – 5800MW)

Queensland – 5390MW (Coal Fired Power – 6000MW)

Victoria – 4220MW (Coal Fired Power – 4700MW)

South Australia – 1450MW

Tasmania – 990MW

Total – 18710MW

Fossil Fuel – 17800MW (Total coal fired power – 16500MW  – 88.1% of the overall total of 18710MW)

Hydro – 500MW

Wind – 700MW (3.7% of the total)

Renewable power – 6.4% of the total.

Saturday Peak Power at 6PM – Total Power Consumption – 26080MW and Coal Fired Power supplied 20400MW (78.2%)


This Week’s Average For Base Load – 18700MW

This Week’s Average For Base Load Supplied from Coal Fired Power – 15915MW – 85.1%

Running Weekly Average For Base Load – 18046MW

Running Weekly Average For Base Load Supplied from Coal Fired Power – 14561MW – 80.6%


This Week’s Average For Peak Load – 27522MW

This Week’s Average For Peak Load Supplied from Coal Fired Power – 19843MW – 72.1%


Comments For This Last Week

Again this week, the Base Load total rose quite considerably, driving up the average for the eight Months I have now been doing this to 18046MW. The power delivered from coal fired power also rose considerably and that percentage figure is now also rising as well. Again this week, there was one morning when that Base Load was beyond 20000MW, only the second time I have seen that, the first being just last week. For most of the week, there was only one Unit which was off line at those 16 coal fired plants. (with 48 Units in all)

Where that was most noticeable was during the times of Peak Power consumption, and look at those totals for coal fired power at that time of peak power consumption for the whole week, where there were four days when coal fired power was generating more than 20000MW and delivering it to the power grid, something I haven’t seen before, coal fired power generating so much power. The average for coal fired power across the seven days was almost 20000MW, 19843MW in fact and that’s an astonishing total. Those 16 Power plants have a total Nameplate of 22989MW, and with just one Unit offline for those five days, then all the coal fired power in that AEMO coverage area was generating its power at a Capacity Factor between 89 and 93% during those Peak Power times, and even that average for the whole week is only a tick under 88%. That’s pretty astonishing really considering that the average age for all the coal fired plants is just under 30 years old, and take out the four most recent plants, all in Queensland, and the average age rises to 35 years, from technology now two generations older than the most recent coal fired technology. For this week, more than 70% of power at those Peak times was being delivered from coal fired power, and during the benign Months, that percentage of the total could be as low as 60%, so with more than 80% at the Base Load time, and now beyond 70% at the Peak Time, the percentage of the total power across a whole year from coal fired power is actually rising and not falling away as some would want it to do.

What The Loss Of Rolling Or Spinning Reserve Has Led To

As recently as six to eight years ago, Australia had a number of coal fired power plants more than what are in operation now. The plants still operated as they were originally designed, albeit not as efficiently, as they were older. Being older, and of a technology now superseded by two generations of technology, they had relatively long lead in times from a cold start up to delivery of power. Keeping that in mind, now think of the plants which were used as the main power generation plants. Even those plants have to occasionally close their Units down for maintenance, and that maintenance is very carefully scheduled on a rotational basis, not just for the whole fleet of coal fired plants, but for individual Units at each plant. Now, knowing when those periods of maintenance were, the AEMO had a range of these older plants to chose from, and only needing enough power to cover just the one or two Units at any one point in time, those older plants were contacted and scheduled to have one or two of their Units ready to be fully operational when one of those Majors had Units that were down for their maintenance.

Those standby older plants were referred to as Rolling Reserve, or Spinning Reserve, in other words burning and turning, but not called upon to deliver their power until they were required. When those main plants Units went down, those Rolling Reserve Units came on line, delivering their power until the maintenance was finished. It was a seamless transition and no one ever noticed anything much at all when it happened.

Also a feature in those days was that coal fired power was (and still is) the cheapest way to generate power. So, when those Majors had Units down, and the Rolling Reserve Units were on line, there was very little change in the cost of power. Hey it was all cheap, because there was so much coal fired power.

Now enter this scare campaign with the emissions of CO2 Greenhouse Gas, and we are told that we will all fry if we keep emitting it. Stemming directly on from that, they then introduced a Carbon (Dioxide) Tax, where an added cost was placed on the emissions of that CO2 gas, and in the main, that was from coal fired power plants.

So, what happened then was that these older plants (specifically in place as Rolling Reserve) then became uneconomically viable to remain in operation, and so, one by one they all closed down over the last six to eight years. The cost was now quite considerable to pay on the emissions of that CO2, when there was no income from the sale of the electricity they generated until they were actually called on to come on line while there was a Unit down at one of the main coal fired plants. They just could not afford to keep running and absorbing costs if there was no income, other than for short periods of time.

Now we are at the stage where the only coal fired power plants in operation are those which do carry the bulk of the power generation for Australia.

So, now, whenever there are these scheduled maintenance periods, there is no backup for those Units, other than to fire up those gas fired power plants, those OCGT (Open Cycle Gas Turbine) plants which can fire up at a moment’s notice and be delivering their power quite quickly. To cover the loss of what is a large amount of power from even just one Unit, they now need to start up a number of these gas fired plants, and in some cases, Units of barely 20MW output are on line, and sometimes I have seen up to ten of these relatively tiny Units on line with some of those larger gas fired Units. Because these smaller Units are called upon so infrequently to supply, their running costs are very high, and because of that, the cost for power generated and sold to the grid at the wholesale price, the cost for electricity spikes to quite high levels.

Okay then, that was all a lead in to show you what happened later in the week just gone when one of those larger Units did indeed go offline. That Unit was at the Bayswater Plant, and that one Unit is 660MW. It went off line at 8PM on Thursday evening, and again, note the almost careful scheduling for something like this. It was used to supply its huge power right through the Peak power time of day from around Midday through till around 8PM. It was also late on the Thursday evening, so the Unit is down for the Friday, and then the two days of much lower power consumption, the Saturday and Sunday, and probably the Monday, and there is the probability that it will come back on line during the Monday to help with the rising Peaks of the week days.

That shut down is shown in the image below. Note the date is that Thursday, 8th February, and the time, around 8PM, (20.00) and those coloured lines are for those four Units at Bayswater, as indicated in the ‘legend’ under the graph itself indicating the four ticked boxes just for the Bayswater Plant, BW01,02,03, and 04, with Unit 4 being the red line dropping from around 650mw back to zero in almost an instant. Just prior to this drop off, the whole plant was delivering around 2600MW of power during that Peak period.

Previously, as I mentioned above, there would have been older Units at those Rolling Reserve plants come on line to cover for this down time. Now, there are none of these plants, and now, smaller gas fired plants need to cover for that large loss of power, and they are costly to operate.

So, note below what happened on the following day, the Friday when Peak Power time approached. These are the Load Curves for New South Wales, the home State of the Bayswater plant, Queensland, the State to the immediate North, and Victoria, the State to the immediate South.

Each of these images are shown as small images here to fit them on the page, but if you click on each individual image, it will open up on a new and larger page, where you can see the detail a lot better.





Okay, so now you have opened up those three images, look first at the NSW image. I have left the mouse pointer hovering over that large spike there, and that can be seen by looking at the grey box towards the bottom of the image showing the time to be 1450 (2.50PM) on Friday. This is just prior to the afternoon Peak, and as much power as they can get on line is needed to cover all that power consumption. Note the spike in cost for power up to $286/MWH, and also note the total power at that point, 11090MW. Without that 650MW from that one Unit at Bayswater, NSW needs all the power it can get. Because of that, they also need extra power from the other two surrounding States as well, Queensland and Victoria via the Interconnectors to those two States.

Now, go to the next image the one for Queensland. They now have to supply extra power into NSW to cover their shortfall, as well as extra power to cope with their own approaching Peak power. Note the time that the power spikes in this State, 1450 (2.50PM) the same time. The cost spikes to $244/MWH and the total power comes in at 6888MW.

Now, go to the third image, the one for Victoria. They also now have to cover for what NSW needs, and also cover their own approaching Peak power time. Note the time, 1450, (2.50PM) the cost, $290/MWH and the total power, 6303MW.

The time is the same in those three States, the time when that extra power is needed in NSW, the extra power needed to cover what is missing from NSW with the now offline Unit at Bayswater, taking out 650MW.

Add up the three power totals, and it comes in at 24280MW. Just to highlight that these three Sates are where the most power consumption occurs, that total power being consumed in just those three States is 87% of the total power consumed in that AEMO coverage area of five States at that time.

The cost, while not really the most meaningful thing here because it is a wholesale spike only, and the cost would soon settle back to a new and higher amount, is not the most important thing I am trying to highlight here.

What is important is that now, there are no backup Rolling Reserve power plants in place to cover eventualities like this. Now, they need to find power from wherever they can get it from, and it’s not just a local thing any more, like a plant in the same State acting in the role of Rolling Reserve, but it now affects power across three States.

So, it once seemed so simple, so simple that it basically went unobserved.

This highlights the rule of unintended consequences.

It has now gotten to the stage where all we have to provide major levels of huge power are plants which are now required to operate at the limit of their capability virtually all the time, knowing that if they fail, or even if they go down for maintenance, there will be consequences and sometimes those consequences could indeed end up to be quite serious. Consider here that this was scheduled maintenance, and it caused these problems. Imagine if another large Unit was to fail. The there just would not be any more backup, as virtually all the Units that can run are running.

This again highlights what I have been saying for so long now. When it comes to coal fired power, there just is no substitute, and now especially when it’s NOT there.

Anton Lang uses the screen name of TonyfromOz, and he writes at this site, PA Pundits International on topics related to electrical power generation, from all sources, concentrating mainly on Renewable Power, and how the two most favoured methods of renewable power generation, Wind Power and all versions of Solar Power, fail comprehensively to deliver levels of power required to replace traditional power generation. His Bio is at this link.