Thousands Of Texans Charged $11+ Per Kilowatt-Hour During Blizzard

Texas snowstorm electricity prices

Thousands of Texans caught in a deadly, polar vortex blizzard have been charged thousands of dollars for electricity over just a few days. They were exposed to wholesale electricity prices that hit their maximum price of over $11 Australian per kilowatt-hour.

Just to be clear, I’m referring to the American state of Texas, not the Queensland town of Texas.  The people who remember the Alamo and wear burglar possum skin hats.  

It’s not clear how many Texans have been slugged with massive electricity bills, but the main company involved was Griddy, which had 29,000 customers.  That’s only around 1 in 350 Texas homes, but that’s not likely to be much comfort if you’ve been hit by a massive bill as wholesale electricity prices rose to their maximum allowed level of $9 US per kilowatt-hour.  

Prices hit the maximum due to demand soaring as home heat pumps iced up and switched to less efficient electrical resistance heating, while supply dropped as the blizzard knocked out natural gas and nuclear power generation.  Even some wind turbines iced up because they weren’t designed to handle the freezing conditions.  Of course, despite proving far more reliable than gas and nuclear generation, numerous politicians in the US are blaming wind power for the blackouts, just like in Australia

Provided the New York Times will let you read it, this article describes how one man had a $16,752 US electricity bill charged to his credit card while a woman was charged five times as much this month as she paid for all of 2020.  Texans who have been caught out have also taken to complaining on sausage media:

Texas snowstorm electricity bill

Kat and Tony say they were charged over three times more for 18 days than they were for the whole of last year.

Griddy Warned Customers

In Australia, electricity retailers who expose customers to wholesale prices normally warn their customers when prices are high so they can cut back on consumption.  Griddy in Texas also warned their customers.  According to the New York Times, the company warned customers to dump Griddy and switch to a different retailer.  It’s an interesting approach to corporate responsibility.  They’re not willing to not sell people a product that can blow up in their faces, but they are willing to tell people to run when it starts blowing up.  

You may think Griddy was trying to help customers by telling them to switch retailers.  But if you have an impure mind — as I do — you’ll realize they were acting in their own best interest.  They make money whether wholesale prices are high or low, but lose money if their customers go bankrupt and can’t pay their bills.  So the more people they can convince to drop them when prices are heading sky-high, the better off they are. 

It’s a really neat bit of financial pollution.  Make money by selling plans that look like a good deal because they have pushed risk onto the customer and when things go bad, tell the customers to leave and dump them on other electricity retailers at a time when wholesale prices are through the roof.  This will increase costs for the other electricity retailers which will then be passed on to their customers.  After the blizzard has passed and wholesale prices have returned to normal, Griddy — or perhaps another company with same businesses plan — can run the scheme again.  It’s just like piracy, except there’s no ships, no ocean, no one walks a plank, and nobody actually dies.1

Unfortunately, it takes days to change retailers and it’s apparently hard not to use electricity in the middle of a blizzard.  Here in the Australian summer, a blizzard sounds kind of refreshing, but in reality they’re actually defleshing and very nasty. 

Australians Are Better Protected

In Australia, there are retailers who expose their customers to wholesale electricity prices.  One example is Amber Electric.  But they are not allowed to charge more than what a household would pay under the government Default Market Offer over a 12 month period.  The Default Market Offer is a pretty lousy deal, and you will be stuck with the retailer for 12 months, but at least you won’t see your annual electricity bill more than triple over an 18 day period.  But it’s easy to imagine situations where a customer can’t stay on a electricity plan for 12 months.  I don’t know what happens when this occurs, but it’s exactly the type of thing people forget to ask when signing up for these deals. 

Be Warned

Australians should take the Texas Electricity Bill Massacre as a warning to be careful if they are exposed to wholesale electricity prices.  Exceptional weather can cause electricity bills to soar and, at $15, our maximum wholesale price is considerably higher. 

The Antarctic polar vortex is much more stable than the one over Santa’s workshop, so it’s not likely to cause Dubbo to freeze over.  But this doesn’t mean we’re not at risk of a blast of icy weather worse than anything we’ve had for decades.  This could hit those exposed to wholesale prices very hard, as winter months plus clouds make for low solar output. 

Heatwaves also cause wholesale electricity prices to soar, but bad weather isn’t necessary.  It’s not hard to imagine the Loy Yang coal power station going Loy Bang and depriving the grid of 3.28 gigawatts of power.  That would cause wholesale prices to leap upwards no matter how fine the weather may be.  

But most importantly, we should be wary of rule changes that would allow electricity retailers to expose households to raw wholesale electricity prices without any protection.  While these plans may be great for people who have a solar power, battery, and generator setup; they carry a lot of risk for others.  Unless we are very careful with how these plans work and who they can be offered to, I’m 100% sure they will end up being flogged to our grandmothers2, and a small number of those grandmothers will have heart attacks when they receive electricity bills for thousands more than they usually pay. 

Update 23 February 2021, 10:20 am:  Octopus Energy3 have announced a bill forgiveness program for Texas customers and they will not charge more than 12.2 US cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity used during the blizzard.  Hopefully other energy companies that have charged massive amounts will do the same.

Footnotes

  1. Frozen people aren’t dead.  It’s a type of suspended animation.  I have 10 high priced lawyers willing to say it was spring that killed them.
  2. Yes, my grandmother is dead, but I wouldn’t put it past them to find a way.
  3. Octopus Energy?  Seriously?  That’s what they decided to call themselves?  Was the name EvilMcEvil Company already taken?
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. Thanks for pointing out the natgas and nuclear plants went out also.

    As I understand it, the natgas, nuclear and wind turbine shutdowns in Texas are all essentially due to the same cause – environmental conditions exceeding the design conditions. The designs were selected either in ignorance of the potential extreme environment conditions or for budgetary reasons. It’s probably a mix of both, but the bottom line is if these power generation sources built to a higher spec (e.g. with heating systems in the case of wind turbines) then that would translate to higher on average power costs due to the higher capital cost.

    Maybe more or less everyone being in same boat and expecting Global Warming to mean Texas could never possibly see conditions like this also played into the design choices. That is speculation though.

    Also, you made no mention of solar and batteries. Solar panels are more or less useless in the conditions Texas experienced, and there’s no design alternatives that are viable to keep solar power “online” in such circumstances. Also, battery storage (of any scale) at best experiences a very large capacity drop, cost per kWhr increase and peak output capability decline.

  2. Initially I was surprised at the usage but I do not know the circumstances that the customer was exposed to at that time. 1638kW for 18 days is 91kW per day. That is a lot of usage.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      A consumption of 91 kilowatt-hours a day is normally a lot but it is less than running a couple of 2 kilowatt space heaters for 24 hours would consume, which is something I would be tempted to do in the middle of a blizzard.

    • 2 x 2kW electric resistive heaters running 24/7 can easily chew up 96kWh in 24 hours, in the absence of a 4kW heat pump in freezing conditions.

      Then add other appliances in the mix, can easily push this over 100kWh.

      Yikes!

  3. If I cared, I would go and check but I am assuming Texan houses are bigger than they need to be and not well insulated.

    If air sourced heat pumps were freezing over, that is not a good sign for future similar events

    Here in Straya, high price events are more likely to be in Summer and most people can ride out a few hours at max spot if they pre-cool their house given a little notice

  4. Its amazes me how all these people are happy to take the discounted prices at the wholesale rate when they are on offer, but then whinge when they are exposed to the other end.

    We are an Amber customer here in Sydney and have been extremely happy with the huge savings we have experienced since we went with them.

    There have been a number of price spikes since we have been with them – we cut down our usage accordingly.

  5. Graham Dawson says

    The good thing about wholesale exposed plans is that they encourage retail consumers to exercise demand management which is useful as more intermittent supply takes over the grid. I’ve been on Amber for 9 months and have saved heaps. I knew about the DMO guarantee but hadn’t realised how important it was until I read this article. I would still stick with Amber if I hadn’t just had solar installed… Obviously, they just pay wholesale FiT, so I’ll be going somewhere more generous.

    • Which is why I didn’t go with Amber. Solar FiT wasn’t worth it.

      I am better off on the 43c/peak, 26c/off peak and 21c FiT. I’m about $700 in credit for last 12 months. If I was with Amber, I would have been $150 in debit. A net difference of $850.

      I’ll wait til December when my 21c FiT finishes and see what works out best then on offer.

  6. What is the story around Amber Electric. These blokes seems to be doing some good innovative business model.

    How likely it is that the people in Australia will be negatively impacted by using wholesale pricing model that Amber is offering.

    Would be interesting to hear your and others perspective.

  7. Should you also mention the AEMO Administered Price Cap?

  8. Also do you have a crystal ball to see into the future?

    Update April 23 2021, 10:20: should that not be February?

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Whoa! Clearly, I was either way too drunk when I wrote that or perhaps not drunk enough. Thanks for pointing that out. Fixed now.

  9. David Morgan says

    Do you know whether PowerClub have the default market offer protection? We are billed at a fixed rate /kWh, but have a “bank” that is credited with the difference between the assumed average wholesale price (7c) and the actual spot price. So we are not billed the wholesale price, but are exposed to it.

    • I had a look at Powerclub, they’re similar to Amber Electric.

      The “bank” is only to cover changes in wholesale prices so when the bill comes, there won’t be a bill shock. (Acts a buffer).

      However, this is nothing to do with actual wholesale pricing that you will be charged as it’s not averaged out. It’s averaged out over a period of time for comparative purposes only, not actual rates. Otherwise you would have thousands of price points at 30mins over 3 months – 4320 possible prices (or 1 month – 1440 individual “ToU” prices). To make it simple, the total consumption would be divided by the total price to compare with other retailers’ fixed rates. You won’t know your average price until the end of the billing period, not at the start because there’s no way of knowing what wholesale prices are going to be in advance (other than 30mins). And this is what’s caught those Texans out. They didn’t expect $11/kWh and have no price protection built in like in our market with DMOs.

      You would be charged at minimum:-

      1. Wholesale prices at 30min intervals – set by AEMO
      2. Any market green schemes (usually anything up to 1.5c/kWh depending on state)
      3. Carbon offset, usually about 1.4c/kWh
      4. DLFs – Distribution loss factors – usually about 0.6% of the wholesale price
      5. TLFs – Transmission loss factors – almost neglible
      6. The distributor’s usage charge – anything up to 30c/kWh depending on tariff plan (not to be confused with the daily supply charge)
      7. Powerclub fees

      For the most part, wholesale prices affect about 30% of the bill and is the only part that varies (if one is on a Amber Electric or Powerclub plan). The rest are fixed fees and are independent of the wholesale price.

      And here’s the thing. If wholesale prices were to increase 10x, your overall rate only goes up 3% (10% of 30%). Even if wholesale prices goes up 100x, your retail rate would only go 30%. Even at 1000x increase in wholesale, reflects in your retail increasing 3x. This is because all the other fixed charges make up the bulk of the electric bill. It takes a fair bit of the wholesale price to go up before it really impacts your retail (assuming if you are a wholesale plan).

      But here is the biter, it affects your Solar FiT. Meaning your solar exports are going to be low in $ value since the fixed components don’t make up the Solar FiT rate.

      Double-edge sword.

      Amber and Powerclub, in my opinion, are not good financial plans to be on for Solar/Battery owners. I spoke with Amber and they concur, I would be about $700 a year worse off being on a wholesale plan than to be a fixed plan paying 43c/peak – 26c/off peak and 21c FiT with a big retailer.

      So, it’s caveat emptor when going on wholesale plans. When I first saw it two years ago, I thought it was too good to be true but further analysis shows that it’s really misleading to customers about wholesale pricing. While it’s true you get wholesale prices but the other components of the kWh charges takes the gloss off the attractiveness of accessing wholesale prices.

      If I didn’t have solar or battery, then yes, with careful planning, wholesale plans can save a fortune but it only takes a few events to do undo it when market prices are high which can be as high as $15/kWh wholesale. At least, in Australia, the DMO takes care that one is not fallen to excessive charges and worse case you would have to pay a similar fixed plan that is higher than normal but better than having to pay $000s in a short period.

      • Amber and Powerclub, in my opinion, are not good financial plans to be on for Solar/Battery owners.

        In Vic we have solar and battery with Amber… we pay 10c import and get 10c export… so it’s 1:1..

        We could go for higher FiT but we are very short of solar in winter with our EV.

        • Hi Scott,

          Very much doubt the 10c import is calculated for the final kWh rate, that would be just for wholesale price. You still need to pay the other bits of the kWh usage such as the distributors network charges, green schemes, etc, etc which are independent of AE and PC. You won’t get 1:1 (unless one is on the premium FiT schemes which are mostly closed now).

          For example, Powercor in Vic – the NUOS rate for anytime (Single Residential tariff) rate is 6.74c/kWH ex GST.
          This 6.74c has to be added to the wholesale price, then multiplied by the DLF, add green schemes and carbon, then GST….. I don’t see how 10c will cover all that. And that’s just for Powercor’s Single Residential Tariff. It’s higher for other tariffs.

          The cheapest rate I can find is about 13.65c for offpeak on a ToU plan by a big retailer known as A Giant Light. That’s a full retail rate with GST included.

          I’ve worked out the average AMEO wholesale price was about 15c/kWh across the year. So, 10c sounds a bit too low.

          Low import charges and low solar FiTs are the worse payback scenarios for Solar/battery solar system. Unless these systems are subsidised heavily.

          • I can certainly tell you my bills are 10c import, the battery runs the house when prices are over 12c.

            Exports are at wholesale but will get a top up to 10.2c in June.

            We are on a seasonal ToU with Ausnet. Here was our December bill

            http://imgur.com/a/MCWMz5q

          • To Scott,

            So with a bit of further analysis of Ausnet, AEMO and Victoria Govt price schemes in place…..

            That FiT top up is mandated by the Vic Govt, as there’s no way Amber would top it up at that value like in NSW (at best about 7c average and expected to drop further when IPART do their NSW review of FiT in June but there is no mandated FiT in NSW, all voluntary now).

            Average AEMO prices for Vic was about 2.6c/kWh for December 2020, Amber would have topped that up to about 5c max (which is wholesale + Carbon/Environment/Market charges) IF there was NO mandated Vic Govt FiT that retailers must pay. It will drop as wholesale prices continue to fall.

            But I’m impressed how low the off-peak energy rate is charged by Ausnet. That’s really cheap! Would love to get that just for Winter heating.

            Even on Amber’s website, they do say at low import charges and FiTs, it may not be financially viable to users on Solar/Battery which is the case for me and that they should compare with fixed pricing with higher rates.

            However, I will wait til December 2020 when my retailer 21c FiT finishes and see what’s on offer then for both import and FiT.

          • “Average AEMO prices for Vic was about 2.6c/kWh for December 2020, Amber would have topped that up to about 5c max (which is wholesale + Carbon/Environment/Market charges) IF there was NO mandated Vic Govt FiT that retailers must pay.”

            If you saw from my bill there was no top up, that was just wholesale rates.. my top up is due in June 2021 and is topped up by Amber as they are thebone who have to pay the FiT payout at minimum 10.2c for FY.

            “But I’m impressed how low the off-peak energy rate is charged by Ausnet. That’s really cheap! Would love to get that just for Winter heating.”

            In Winter we are on peak M – F 4pm to 8pm and all other times is all off peak at that rate.. this is where is it helps out the absolute most. He helps with heating and car charging.

            “Even on Amber’s website, they do say at low import charges and FiTs, it may not be financially viable to users on Solar/Battery which is the case for me and that they should compare with fixed pricing with higher rates.”

            For us they are the cheapest, we use so much off peak that retailers often charge us 20c flat rate. So definitely worth it for us. Also in Vic with the minimum FiT we have our cake and eat it with not having to curtail exports when it goes negative.

            “However, I will wait til December 2020 when my retailer 21c FiT finishes and see what’s on offer then for both import and FiT.”

            That doesn’t exist in Vic, best you can get is ~15c and not available for my tariff which is NSP23 (if you looked up the NUOS)

      • “Amber and Powerclub, in my opinion, are not good financial plans to be on for Solar/Battery owners”

        Depends which state your in, Vic doesn’t have any 21c plans anymore, I believe best is 15c.

        We have a battery and solar with Amber in Vic and we manage 10c import and 10c export. So it can be a good financial plan depending on your circumstances

  10. MAURICE Wilkinson says

    Is Powershop exposed to the wholesale market?

  11. Des Scahill says

    The Texas power utilities made the situation far worse than it would otherwise have been, For example, their wind turbines didn’t have any ancillary ‘de-icing’ add-on equipment (even though in places such as Norway they do),

    But wind turbine shut-down was NOT the primary cause of the problem, contrary to the attempts of renewable opponents to pin all the blame on them.

    Even a reactor at a nuclear power plant was shut down for a period, due to temporary failure in external ancillary equipment caused by low temperatures.

    An article at the Texas Tribune .org highlights the fact that “….Texas repeatedly failed to protect its power grid against extreme weather. Texas regulators and lawmakers knew about the grid’s vulnerabilities for years, but time and again they furthered the interests of large electricity providers.”

    see: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/22/texas-power-grid-extreme-weather/

    You could substitute the word “Australia’ as a replacement for the word ‘Texas’ in the above without much difficulty.

    The phrase ‘knew about the grids vulnerabilities for years’ probably refers to the following items referred to on a Wiki page:

    “Feb 2011 blackouts when freezing and extreme cold at natural gas pipelines and wells, as well as generating units (such as coal-fired power plants and wind turbines) caused power outages across Texas

    “2019 reliability assessment which showed that … the sole part of the country without sufficient resources available to meet projected peak electricity demand in summertime. ( see : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Reliability_Council_of_Texas#2011_blackouts

    You get some further insight from another article in the Texas Tribune:
    ‘By some estimates, nearly half of the state’s natural gas production has screeched to a halt due to the extremely low temperatures, while freezing components at natural gas-fired power plants have forced some operators to shut down.”

    see: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/16/natural-gas-power-storm/

    Australia and Texas have some things in common, Those include a long history of reliance on fossil fuels fin order to meet internal energy requirements and to provide a major source of income through export; accompanied by an equally long history of climate change denialism.

    Climate change denial is deeply entrenched in Texas. According to this article on Rabble.ca : ‘Texas’ elected leaders, from Gov. Greg Abbot, U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, to Attorney General Ken Paxton, all Republicans, are also all committed climate change deniers.’

    see: https://rabble.ca/columnists/2021/02/legacy-climate-change-denial-compounds-crisis-texas

    The key question is: Is Australia going to have a ‘crisis’ of the magnitude we can see occurring in Texas anytime soon?

    Well…. if we look beyond Texas to the Northern hemisphere countries, to countries immediately to Australia’s North and in SE Asia, and to nearby Pacific Island countries, I d’ suggest that you’re likely completely delusional to think that ‘such things can never happen here’, and that we don’t really need to worry that much until 2050 anyway.

    To my eyes, events in Texas and elsewhere could well be a harbinger of things to come here in Australia, The specifics will differ, but the end result is similar.

    Note: There’s large number of media articles around on the internet which all say pretty much the same things as the Texas Tribune. Feel free to do your own searches for those.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Des Scahill,
      You ask: “Is Australia going to have a ‘crisis’ of the magnitude we can see occurring in Texas anytime soon?”

      FYI, published by IEEFA:

      “24 February 2020 (IEEFA Australia): Several of the 16 coal power plants in the National Electricity Market (NEM) will be financially unviable and at least one is likely to face closure several years sooner than planned due to coal plants’ poor flexibility and inability to adapt to a rapid influx of renewable energy, finds a new report from think tank, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Green Energy Markets.”
      https://ieefa.org/ieefa-australia-coal-plant-closures-imminent-as-renewable-energy-surges/

      This follows from an AFR article last week (Feb 16) headlined “Coal power stations going broke: Schott”. ESB chair Kerry Schott reportedly said:

      “It makes it very difficult for companies that own these plants to justify maintaining them and it also makes it difficult for them to justify keeping them running. So we’ve got a challenge in that regard.”
      https://www.afr.com/companies/energy/coal-power-stations-going-broke-schott-20210216-p572xn

      On ABC TV’s The Drum on Tuesday (Feb 9), analyst Tim Buckley from IEEFA said:

      “When we’re talking about 30 years pledges of net zero, coal’s the stranded asset that’s easiest to throw under the bus. It’s gone, and so it’s absolutely beholden on Australia to manage this risk and to diversify our economy into industries into the future, not pretend it’s not going to happen.”
      https://twitter.com/ABCthedrum/status/1359421848820219908

      I’d suggest the Australian Government is still in denial, and willing to entertain Coalition backbencher’s fantasies of new HELE coal plants and nuclear.
      https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/barnaby-coal-cefc-mb1883/

      More importantly, is anyone in the NSW, Victorian and Queensland governments paying attention and working on orderly, timely transitions?

      • Des Scahill says

        Hi Geoff,

        The best the NSW Government could come up with was to release a NSW Climate Change Policy Framework which commits NSW to “the aspirational objectives of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and helping NSW to become more resilient to a changing climate.” and ‘defines the NSW Government’s role in reducing carbon emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change.” see: https://climatechange.environment.nsw.gov.au/About-climate-change-in-NSW/Evidence-of-climate-change/Observed-Australian-climate-change

        Emission levels in 2005 are used as the ‘baseline’ Looking at some of the content, there’s mention of the overall ‘uncertainty’ of the predictions, and thus the ‘possibility’ that the predictions may not eventuate at all or even turn out to be beneficial.

        At the state level, it’s mostly a ‘planning’ document, which among other things ‘flick-passes’ much of the responsibility for detailed planning and action down to local councils.

        Queensland is also ‘taking action and working towards an ambitious target of achieving zero net emissions by 2050. We are supporting and building the resilience of regional economies and communities as we face the impacts of a changing climate,’ see: https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/climate/climate-change/response/about

        QLD too, takes 2005 as its baseline year as does Victoria.

        QLD and Victoria do seem to have been more proactive than NSW in responding to climate change, but its maybe co-incidental that currently those two states have Labor premiers while NSW has a Liberal party premier.

        Overall though, to me its abundantly clear that for all kinds of past reasons Australia has basically ‘missed the bus’ so to speak, so far as doing what’s needed to avoid major impacts from climate change

        As Sir David Attenborough said very recently on the BBC – “Some of these threats will assuredly become a reality within a few short years”. That is not something he would say lightly. See: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-56175714

        Now I’m not expecting that Finn (living in Adelaide) is likely to have to burn his furniture to stay warm next winter, as some poor unfortunates had to in Texas. Or that I will have to flee 50+ degree temperatures next summer here in QLD, only to find myself frozen solid a few months later during winter in Hobart, Tasmania.

        What is clear though is that coastal inundation and its associated destruction of housing and infrastructure on a massive scale is clearly on the cards for the future, and that could occur much sooner than many expect.

        There’s not much point in whining or whingeing about what our present national leadership should or should not be doing as regards climate change responses. They take little or no notice.

        Such well known ancient sayings such as “Those whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad with power” may well be given a further completely new meaning unique to Australia in the not too distant future.

        • Peter Brett says

          I suggest you do some serious reading of the papers on sea level rise. Start with “Sea Levels in and around Sydney Harbour 1886 to 2018” by G. M. Derrick. Then graduate to geological studies of the Pacific Islands for the movement of the plates beneath and the sand which constitutes these islands.

          • Ronald Brakels says

            I don’t know that scientific paper. You’ll have to provide a link. Here’s a brief article I wrote on how sea levels have risen by close to 10 cm over the 28 years we’ve had accurate satellite measurements:

            https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/sea-level-rise-solar/

          • Geoff Miell says

            Peter Brett,

            Many pictures of various locations taken many years apart do not inform whether sea level is rising or falling over that period.

            From AAP FactCheck, dated 25 Oct 2019:

            “A spokesperson for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said sea levels have risen by between about 68mm and 105mm in Sydney Harbour between 1914 and 2007.”
            https://factcheck.aap.com.au/social-media-claims/fort-denison-pics-no-indicator-of-sea-level-rise

            The BOM spokesperson is referring to a 2009 study commissioned by the NSW Department of Environment, titled “Estimation of Relative Mean Sea Level Rise from Fort Denison Tide Gauge Data”, by Zai-Jin You, Doug Lord, and Phil Watson, at the Coastal Unit, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.
            https://sealevel.info/You_Zai-Jin_et_al_2009.pdf

            If you wish to be better informed I’d suggest you avoid the science denier and conspiracy theory websites.

        • Des Scahill, thanks for your thoughts.

          If you come across anyone claiming Australia is doing its fair share on cutting GHG emissions, you may wish to show them the graph in this tweet:
          https://twitter.com/simonahac/status/1363816046130434048

          Perhaps you may not be seeing 50+ °C peak summer temperatures in Queensland this decade, but perhaps you might in the next decade (i.e. 2030s).

          “Even if the Paris agreement to limit the global temperature rise to below 2C is met, summer heatwaves in major Australian cities are likely to reach highs of 50C by 2040, a study published on Wednesday warns.”
          https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/oct/04/australian-cities-to-have-50c-summer-days-by-2040-study-says

          On coastal inundation, see David Spratt’s presentation at the first forum of RESET.21 (with included slides) here:
          http://www.climatecodered.org/2021/02/matters-of-fact-that-we-ignore-at-our.html

          • Des Scahill says

            Hi Geoff,

            Thanks for those links, especially the recent RESET 21 slides. Climate science is certainly a complex area of study. There ‘are so many interacting factors, that we need all the help we can get.

            As an initial comparison point, I’ll use Greenland.

            It’s estimated that if all the landmass ice on Greenland alone, (which has an average ice thickness of 1.5 kilometers) were to melt and flow off into the sea, that would raise sea levels world wide somewhere between 7.5 to 9.5 meters. But I’ll use the lower estimate of 6 meters sea level rise from the encyclopedia Britannica, so I can’t be accused of being alarmist by all and sundry.

            The ice-covered area in Greenland is 2.17 million square kilometers, and there is no known volcanic activity in Greenland itself or close enough to it to affect its climate and melt rates. Iceland, which IS volcanic is some 1,269 kms away almost directly atop a junction point of colliding tectonic plates.

            In contrast, the land mass area of Antarctica – as distinct from any frozen sea ice covering the surface of surrounding sea – is estimated at around 13.7 -14.2 million square kilometers. That’s a solid land mass nearly twice the size of Australia and roughly 8 times the size of Greenland.

            On that land mass, the average thickness of ice is around 4 km. In the depths of winter, the frozen sea ice area also grows to around 14 million square kilometers, but recedes dramatically in the summer period. In the unlikely event that the land mass ice would all melt at once, sea levels would rise some 60 meters world-wide.

            During the typical annual seasonal cycle, some Antarctic frozen sea ice gets moved by tidal flows and winds into bays and inlets on various stretches of foreshores of the land mass that coincide with the final outlets from some glaciers.

            In those cases the sea ice can become trapped, then continually gets ground -up and crushed against any hard rock foreshore by glacier pressures, Eventually, that sea ice gets transformed into bigger and deeper floating icebergs that eventually all end up acting as a giant ‘plug’ which stops the glacier flow directly into the sea at that point.

            The huge area of Antarctica and its remoteness, along with its ultra-extremes of weather make collection of data very expensive and extremely hazardous to human life.

            Its the windiest place on earth especially on the coasts and sustained wind speeds of around 200 kph for long periods are common. Average annual temperatures for the whole continent range from -10 degrees C to -60 C.

            But the winter temperatures range on higher inland areas are -30 C in summer and can fall to -80 C in winter.

            A short distance from the Antarctic land mass, on Ross Island, can be found the active volcano Mt Erebus. Despite being in the coldest region on earth, Mt Erebus has a molten lava pool at its summit. The temperature of molten lava can vary between 700 to 1200 degrees C.

            There are only 5 other volcanoes on earth that have a persistent molten lake at their summit, although there are numerous potentially active volcanoes through-out the world, many located on the ‘Ring of Fire’.

            Mt Siple, located on Siple Island is also close to the Antarctic land mass, but is considered only ‘potentially active’. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Siple

            In July 2020 scientists reported that methane gas was bubbling up from the Antarctic sea floor, That can be another indicator of subterranean volcanic activity.
            See: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/22/first-active-leak-of-sea-bed-methane-discovered-in-antarctica

            This press release on Friday 26 6th February 2021 by Energy Minister Angus Taylor contains the following interesting paragraph.

            “The continuing structural decline in emissions from electricity is driven by Australia’s world leading deployment of solar and wind. Since 2017, Australia has invested $35 billion in renewables and we are continuing to deploy new solar and wind 10 times faster than the global per person average.” (see: https://www.minister.industry.gov.au/ministers/taylor/media-releases/emissions-fall-lowest-levels-1995

  12. Did you (not) read about the mother who found her son had died in his bed overnight from the extreme cold ? Many others also died. Not really a joking matter, is it ?

    I have friends and relatives in the US who thankfully survived that extreme weather. They tell me it was far from a funny experience ….. bloody scary, actually.

    So, please don’t joke about people (not) dying in the horrible Texas blizzard conditions. It’s NOT FUNNY … and also most insensitive when people actually did die.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Hi SL

      The official death toll from the Texas winter storm is now nearly 80 people. Every death is a tragedy, especially those of children. I understand and appreciate that for you this kind of thing is never a joking matter.

      But other people cope with tragedy by making jokes about it. It creates a distance that allows them to process an issue. They do this not because they are callous, but because they are not. Its prevalence depends on the culture. It is common in Australia, but far from everyone does it.

      I don’t think these two types of people need to be a loggerheads. I just think they might need a little distance.

      There are sadists who will try to use humour to deliberately inflict pain but that is very different. I am happy to use humour to mock a system that allows children to freeze to death in their beds or go blind from trachoma in the heart of rich, developed countries, but I would never use it to celebrate suffering or deliberately inflict it.

  13. Peter Brett says

    I was in North-West Ontario at a Pulp Mill during a -15 deg C to -40 deg C winter. Someone left an external door open at one end of “digester alley” and progressively along the row of very large vessels some of the instruments and valve actuators froze and the plant had to shut down until it was brought back to normal temperatures many hours later. It was 1979 and with the mill output valued at about Ca$1 million a day it was an expensive day’s outage.“ Later its 400 yard 12″ effluent pipe suspended in the air froze. Once again the mill shut and we had to install electric heating along the length of the pipe.

  14. Ron. You wrote “Of course, despite proving far more reliable than gas and nuclear generation, numerous politicians in the US are blaming wind power for the blackouts, just like in Australia”.

    I don’t agree at all that wind power or solar are more reliable than gas or nuclear or, even clean coal generation for that matter.

    Wind free night= no renewable power, period. Batteries? Pfffft.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      We will know about a high pressure system that results in a wind free night over a wide area well in advance. We can’t predict when a coal power station will break down.

      • At the current rate, there will be no coal power stations or gas and certainly not nuclear.

        So, wind free night = no wind or solar generation. Renewables don’t generate reliable 24/7 base load power so with total reliance on wind and solar, we would see Texas situations on steroids quite regularly.

        Unlike many first world countries that use nuclear power supplemented by wind and solar, Australia does not have nuclear power plants and is actively seeking the end of coal and it would seem, gas.

        It appears to me the only carbon dioxide free solution to producing reliable 24/7 power is nuclear.

        • It appears to me you aren’t thinking very deeply if you think Unclear energy is a viable option for Straya

          We have had 4 inquiries now saying as much

          Let. It. Go

          • What are the alternatives? Reliable energy means nuclear, coal, natural gas, hydro, thermal, oh and oil. Coal is considered dirty, oil is just as bad – and Australia largely lacks it anyway, as far as I’m aware thermal is equally lacking, and hydro is pretty limited. That leaves natural gas, which is expensive, and nuclear which is cheap, clean, and very very abundant in Australia. The only thing holding it back is political opposition. Developing nuclear power not only opens the door to Australia having additional options for defence – an important consideration given Beijing’s rapid expansion and military growth, but would permit Texas style cheap abundant energy – which could allow for a move away from fossil fuel based vehicles. (Petrol and diesel being cheaper more reliable options than electric at present)

            Alternatively Australia can move to relying on wind and solar, which while useful as grid contributors, are not reliable power sources. As soon as the sun disappears and the wind stops blowing the power dies.

          • Ok Ron.

            By what other method can we be provided reliable base load power 24/7?

            Here’s a clue. Wind & Solar cannot do this.

          • Ronald Brakels says

            Oh my god. Didn’t we cover this in primary school?

            Mark, you know how nuclear power plants work? They make steam that is used to spin a generator. Think about it and when you come back and tell me, ooh… three ways to make a generator spin on demand without using fossil fuels or nuclear fission or fusion you can comment again.

        • Mark (and others who think nuclear will save us),
          You state: “It appears to me the only carbon dioxide free solution to producing reliable 24/7 power is nuclear.”

          What’s your compelling evidence, Mark?
          It seems to me you are woefully ill-informed.
          See my comments at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/another-powerwall-price-rise/#comment-978994

          See also RenewEconomy post published on Feb 22, titled “For $100 billion, Australia could have a low cost and reliable zero emissions grid”, by Bin Lu, Andrew Blakers & Matthew Stocks.
          https://reneweconomy.com.au/for-100-billion-australia-could-have-a-low-cost-and-reliable-zero-emissions-grid/

          Also this YouTube video:

    • What’s so pffft about batteries?

      I’ve had over 104hrs of blackouts since owning the Tesla Powerwall (December 2017). A quite of those blackouts were during the day, the battery kept the solar system going on the house in the absence of grid power. I’m in Sydney Metro, even my friends in the Blue Mtns don’t have that much power blackouts.

      Longest blackout? 25 hours. House was happily going along while everyone else was in the black. I was the only house on the block (35 houses) that had power in the dark (notwithstanding some noisy neighbours running their gennies overnight). 3 houses have solar but couldn’t use them without the grid. So, batteries are pfft?

      Texas came within minutes of shutting their Nuclear plants down during the storm.

      France had to shut down their nuclear plant during a drought last year in August.

      https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/nuclear-reactor-in-france-shut-down-over-drought/1952943

      Again, the year before in 2019, France had to shutdown/curtail nuclear plants due to heatwaves.

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-electricity-heatwave-
      idUSKCN1UK0HR

      Imagine how nuclear power plants would fare in Australia?

      So, coal, gas and nuclear all have their flaws. It’s a question of how to mitigate them.

  15. This piece is somewhat deceptive. It claims the blizzard knocked out nuclear power generation but what I’m reading elsewhere states a feedwater pump to one reactor was disrupted which contributed a mere 4% of Texas’ power shortage. Natural gas by contrast – which provides the majority of Texas’ power (45%), crashed to 60% of capacity. Renewables provide 26% and while figures are hard to find, it looks like wind capacity was down to about 50%, and solar likely snowed under.

    While the Texas example is a good one of possible circumstances to be aware of, it’s not IMHO an argument for solar, but rather how a mixed generation grid is essential. And while people are starting to think of disconnecting – relying on battery and solar, in a blizzard like this, that could lead to running out of power and your house turning into an Arctic icebox!!!

  16. This piece is somewhat deceptive. It claims the blizzard knocked out nuclear power generation but what I’m reading elsewhere states a feedwater pump to one reactor was disrupted which contributed a mere 4% of Texas’ power shortage. Natural gas by contrast – which provides the majority of Texas’ power (45%), crashed to 60% of capacity. Renewables provide 26% and while figures are hard to find, it looks like wind capacity was down to about 50%, and solar likely snowed under.

    While the Texas example is a good one of possible circumstances to be aware of, it’s not IMHO an argument for solar, but rather how a mixed generation grid is essential. And while people are starting to think of disconnecting – relying on battery and solar, in a blizzard like this, that could lead to running out of power and your house turning into an Arctic icebox!!!

    (Apologies if this is a duplicate. It doesn’t seem to be posting yet tells me it is a duplicate piece. Oh what I’m unclear as nothing is showing as being in moderation).

  17. Guys.
    Please read my 25 Feb post again. I mentioned nuclear power as Co2 free power generation as an option for base load power since most of you are obsessed with Carbon Dioxide.

    Geoff. For every source you quote, there are as many supporting the alternate view.

    In the bigger picture, this thread has rapidly escalated into ideology issue that I’ll take no further part in.

    Adios

    • Geoff Miell says

      Mark,
      You state: “Geoff. For every source you quote, there are as many supporting the alternate view.”

      But do they have any merit worth consideration, Mark? I’ll repeat again: What’s… your… compelling… evidence, Mark?

      It seems to me we may never know because you apparently have chosen to “take no further part in” engaging.

      Mark, it seems to me you are someone with an “ideology issue”, unable to present compelling evidentiary arguments to support your apparently ill-informed ideological positions. Your “obsessed with Carbon Dioxide” comment suggests to me you are probably also a climate science denier.

      I’m interested in compelling evidence/data/analysis, and will likely challenge what I see as apparently unsubstantiated “facts”, propaganda, fantasies and baseless “alternate” views, like those that you seem to have been propagating here.

Speak Your Mind

*

GET THE SOLARQUOTES WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
%d bloggers like this: