Flat White

Keep the lights working, not the spin doctors

30 January 2019

7:59 AM

30 January 2019

7:59 AM

Australian Energy Market Operator supremo Audrey Zibelman likes saying load shedding – rolling blackouts to you and me – is commonplace globally. She’s been at it again as recently as last weekend.

But can you please be a little more specific, Ms Zibelman, as the newish CEO has found herself in a tough spot with her claims before, leading some to suggest that with AEMO the political narrative is often more important than validated statements.

In July 2018 on Sky News Zibelman imprecisely claimed that replacement of Australia’s coal power stations would range between $8 billion and $27 billing between 2018 and 2030. An odd prediction when you consider two or three new coal generation facilities would be budgeted at between $7-10 billion based on the current construction costs for the approximately 200 HELE coal generation plants being built across China, India, Japan and Germany.

Let’s stick to the facts and question the veracity of Zibelman’s statements. Are rolling blackouts or electricity load shedding commonplace across first world nations? If South Africa can still be called first world then, yes. December was a bad month for South Africans with days of planned outages announced to meet projected energy shortfalls. Rolling blackouts ensued with government-owned electricity generator Eskom unable to meet demand. The problem was primarily caused by the flight of capital that has seen prospective investors unwilling to stump-up and fund increased energy generation capacity in the face of further political instability.

Pakistan is facing big issues with rotational load shedding but can hardly be called first world. It is, however, the proud owner of a formidable nuclear arsenal though, so Australia shouldn’t be too smug. Let’s not forget African nation Benin who can boast 55 minutes of uninterruptedbaseloadd power delivery during 2018. Does Benin rely on diesel generators like Victoria or has Elon Musk discreetly installed a South Australia styled Tesla battery pack in the last 100 days? That’s unlikely given Elon’s publicity-seeking antics.

How about in Audrey’s birthplace, the magnificent US of A? Nope. Not since the North American summer at least.

Oddly it’s the progressive eco-warrior states that suffer electricity outages the most, notably California. The summer heat severely tested dispatchable capacity from May to August 2018. Outages were further exacerbated by uncontrollable forest fires, fuelled by accumulated plant matter build-up created by California’s policy failure to permit backburning.

Turnbull appointed energy Czar Zibelman’s claims are at odds with events, often within hours of making them. Sadly, corrections or clarifications have not been forthcoming to date.

The Australian media hold climate alarmist assertions to a lower editorial standard than the claims of those who are more quizzical of the doomsayer’s predictions of imminent annihilation.

Zibelman departed New York’s Public Service Commission to restart her career in Australia as a highly paid public servant. Unfortunately, her statements are placing AEMO’s credibility up for public ridicule. Given the political lightning rod that energy policy is currently (pun intended), maybe it’s time to review Zibelman’s competence for the role.

All too often blow in, skulk out American CEOs have not helped our nation.

Mike Ryan is an angry technical copywriter who lives in the Hunter Valley and unabashedly loves coal.

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