Reaching new lows

For the last couple of weeks, the energy industry has been dominated by discussions about the long foreshadowed closure of Liddell. There has been a great deal of focus on the consequences of the closure during times of high demand.

Amidst all the focus on highdemand, South Australia has been experiencing amazingly low levels of demand in recent weeks. Given that unusually low demand is unlikely to make the headlines, this week we thought we would make it our focus by examining the recent minimum demand outcomes in South Australia and Victoria.

Charts 1 and 2: Demand outcomes below 1300 MW in South Australia coloured by working day/weekend.

Chart 1 shows demand by time of day in South Australia, with each point representing a single dispatch interval. By way of explanation:

  • We have filtered the data to show only instances where demand has been below the 1300 MW.
  • We have coloured working days in green, and weekends in pink.
  • All analysis is based on the TOTALDEMAND field from the DISPATCHREGIONSUM table of the MMS database.
  • We have excluded observations during the 2016 market suspension in South Australia where demand was abnormally low.

Chart 2 shows the same analysis, but on a quarterly basis restricted to 2016 and 2017 YTD. You can see that demand has reached record lows in Q3 of 2017.

Chart 1: South Australia minimum demand has been falling for some time

Demand outcomes below 1300 MW in South Australia coloured by working day/weekend (2010 to 2017 YTD).

Chart 2: Demand has reached record lows in Q3 of 2017

Demand outcomes below 1300 MW in South Australia coloured by working day/weekend (Q1 2016 to Q3 2017).

Chart 3: Demand outcomes below 5000 MW in Victoria coloured by working day/weekend.

Chart 3 shows the same analysis as chart 1, but for Victoria. You can see that demand is now regularly falling below 3500 MW, likely driven by the outage at Portland aluminium smelter. But unlike South Australia, Victoria’s minimum demand is typically occurring early in the morning.

Chart 3: Victoria minimum demand has been steadily falling for several years

Demand outcomes below 5000 MW in Victoria coloured by working day/weekend.

My two cents:

  • Charts 1 and 2 show that South Australia is once again in uncharted territory. At times, the region’s demand is less than its exports of power to Victoria. And with more uptake of PVs, the trend looks set to continue. A good sign for anyone thinking of installing a battery in South Australia.
  • Chart 3 shows that falling levels of minimum demand are not restricted to South Australia – Victoria is experiencing a similar phenomenon. Falling levels of minimum demand will not grab headlines, but they still pose challenges both for the operation of the power system and the electricity market.

As always, all comments are most welcome.