Report undermines claims of fossil fuel electricity reliability

The Australia Institute has released a report which outlines the alarming frequency of major breakdowns at gas and coal plants in the National Energy Market.

The report, Colossal fossil failures, finds that, so far in 2018, there have been 100 major breakdowns at gas and coal plants in the National Energy Market – including every coal-fired power station bar one (Mt Piper).

While old subcritical coal plants performed poorly, the newer supercritical plants (socalled “HELE” plants) were even more unreliable. There were also breakdowns at some of the newest gas plants (Tallawarra, Swanbank and Braemar). Victoria’s brown coal plants were the least reliable overall.

Just under half (49) of breakdowns were at black coal plants, while 34 were at brown coal plants, meaning that together coal plants have been responsible for 83 of the 100 breakdowns. Gas plants were responsible for the remaining 17 breakdowns.

While black coal is responsible for more breakdowns than brown coal or gas in absolute terms, there are more black coal plants than brown coal plants. Black coal is the single largest contributor to electricity in the NEM, responsible for 37% of capacity.

The two worst coal plants are Loy Yang A, with 16 breakdowns, and Yallourn W, with 15. Both are brown coal plants. The next worst performing plants are Gladstone, with 11 breakdowns, and Liddell, with 9. Both are black coal plants.

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