Victoria’s coal-fired power plants are nation’s most unreliable

Ageing coal-fired plants in Victoria are least reliable in national grid.

New data shows Victoria’s ageing coal-fired plants are responsible for the highest number of breakdowns in the National Energy Market (NEM).

The Australia Institute’s (TAI) Gas & Coal Watch confirms that Victorian coal power is responsible for around 13 per cent of the NEM’s gas and coal capacity. However, it makes up 32 per cent of its coal and gas breakdowns.

Loy Yang in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley is the biggest culprit. As a result of its age, Loy Yang A has the largest number of NEM breakdowns since TAI monitoring began in December 2017.

Results damning for Victoria’s ageing coal-fired plants

Victoria’s old brown coal generators have all recorded high numbers of breakdowns since December 2017.

Ageing coal-fired plants in Victoria unreliable says TAI.

Loy Yang A had 29 breakdowns, Yallourn W reported 26 and Loy Yang B experienced five. The gas-fired Newport Power Station also recorded four.

The TAI also measured breakdowns by Gigawatt (GW) of capacity because some older coal powered plants are larger than others.

According to GW, Yallourn W had 17.9 breakdowns followed by Loy Yang A (13.1), Loy Yang B (5) and Newport Power Station (7.8).

The research shows Loy Yang A and Yallourn W are Australia’s least reliable coal-fired power stations. This is based on breakdowns per unit of capacity in GW.

Solar power: Solution to coal demise and climate woes

Director of TAI’s Climate & Energy Program Richie Merzian says highly polluting ageing coal-fired plants already struggle to meet peak demand for electricity on extreme weather days.

This is only intensifying as climate change bites, he claims. As a result many Victorians were hit by blackouts during January’s hot spells.

However, solar power has consistently stepped up to fill the gap left by failing gas and coal plants. Solar panels come to the fore in heatwaves as traditional coal plants struggle.

According to Merzian, it’s time for ageing coal plants to be shut down. This will speed the transition to more reliable, cleaner and cheaper energy from rooftop PV, commercial solar and battery storage.

Case in point: Solar shone in January 2019

Victoria’s brown coal generators operated well under capacity in this year’s summer heat.

Victorian Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio admitted three units at Loy Yang A and Yallourn W failed as temperatures climbed beyond 40°C.

Due to these failures, 1,600 MW of coal generation went offline. However, the state’s large-scale solar farms ran at 93 per cent of their maximum output during the same time.

In fact, Australia’s largest integrated battery and solar farm has just opened in North Western Victoria. It will store energy from Gannawarra Solar Farm and feed it to the grid as required.