It’s a good thing solar panel installations on rooftops throughout Victoria are still cranking clean electricity as Yallourn Power Station continues to be plagued by issues related to flooding.
In early June, a section of the Morwell River Diversion collapsed, which allowed water to gush into the mine and damaged the main conveyor system. After some initial headway was made, further rain events in Gippsland during June saw the recovery effort hampered and Yallourn Power Station reduced its generation back to one unit.
According to The Age, an update from TRUenergy shows the Yallourn coal mine is now holding around 60 billion litres of water. The water level is continuing to rise, with approximately 500 million litres a day flowing through the collapsed section. Yallourn power station is currently operating at around 50% capacity.
The third largest power station in Victoria, Yallourn Power station supplies 22% of state’s electricity and 8% of National Electricity Market needs when operating at full capacity. Unlike the solar panels helping take up some of the slack, Yallourn is a carbon-intensive facility, generating an estimated 11.50 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually.
The Age says the $120 million river diversion won an award for engineering excellence; with boasts of it capable of surviving a one-in-10,000 year flood.
Unfortunately, now that flood has happened it doesn’t mean it will be 10,000 years before the next – particularly given the effects of climate change amplifying severe weather events.
It’s not all gloom and doom for Victoria’s electricity supply though. It seems even if Yallourn was forced to completely shut, it won’t throw Victoria into darkness as demand on mains grid electricity is decreasing; and part of that is due to the uptake of solar panels.
According to a recent report from REC Agents Association (RAA) electricity consumption in the eastern states’ National Electricity Market (NEM) has dropped by 3.2 % (6,565 GWh) in the last 3 years.
However, Victoria’s love affair with rooftop solar panels may soon be under threat, with a Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission (VCEC) review of the state’s solar feed in tariff program possibly recommending a substantial cut from the current 25c per kilowatt hour incentive for new applicants.
A draft report from the Commission in May suggested a guaranteed payment of just 6-8 cents per kilowatt hour for surplus solar electricity exported to the mains grid.
Concerns have also been expressed that unlike the recent situation in Queensland, Victorian households considering going solar may not benefit from the same amount of notice prior to any cut possibly being made to the incentive scheme.
The final report will be submitted to the Victorian government on July 27.
Image credit: Marcus Wong Wongm