There is never a dull year in the NEM anymore, with each new year seemingly presenting a new serving of volatility, market changes, and policy announcements. 2023 was no different.
Paul started writing on WattClarity in late 2007, so as such, we ticked into our 16th year of operating the site in 2023.
In true WattClarity style, this year I present my annual ‘wrap-up’ in the form of analysis and statistics about our NEM coverage on the site, so please enjoy.
Disclaimer: This article in no way constitutes the typical robust or in-depth analysis that we aim for, but hopefully provides a light-hearted overview of 2023.
With nine days to go in the 2023 calendar year, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we have avoided reaching the same peak of the energy crisis that we experienced in 2022 – which was front and center my wrap-up this time last year.
The chart above confirms that 2023 delivered us a ‘quieter’ June and July compared to energy crisis peaks in 2022.
Nonetheless, we had no shortage of events and market developments to cover on the site throughout the year. Below is a chronological timeline of significant news and analysis we published for each month in 2023:
In January Federal Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, wrote an opinion piece online entitled “Rethinking Capitalism”, Paul noted this on WattClarity (and the possible implications for the NEM) on the day. We published our annual GSD report on January 31st, and shortly after Allan O’Neil wrote the article “Farewell Liddell” drawing upon statistics from the report.
February began with the RERT being dispatched in the QLD region on Friday 3rd February. In February we also published our GenInsights Quarterly Update for Q4 2022 – as part of that work, Paul published snippets from the report including this summary about the expectations around closure dates for Liddell and Eraring.
Further delays in the return-to-service of Callide C3 and C4 units were announced in early March. Overseas in the UK, we were intrigued to see a very rare use of their contingency coal-fired generation fleet to avoid a supply shortfall.
Allan O’Neil took a look into differences in outcomes following the infamous ‘x5 constraint’ being split into two. In Mid-April, Linton posted an in-depth review of Self-Forecasting performance across the NEM, following recent changes to the procedure. On the 28th of April, the last unit of Liddell Power Station officially closed.
In early May, Tristan Edis of Green Energy Markets published a deep dive into renewable generator performance. That article then inspired Allan O’Neil to then look into curtailment (both network and economic) for renewable generators. Later in the month, Paul posted the article “We’re not building enough replacement dispatchable capacity” following analysis for our Q1 GenInsights Quarterly update.
June began with an AER notice regarding fines paid by Stanwell in relation to activity after the Callide C4 explosion in May 2021. Later in the month, Paul noted an increasing frequency of large reversals in Target Flow on the Victoria-to-New South Wales interconnector.
In July I wrote this summary of Q2 price trends compared to previous years, noting a much higher number of incidences with negative prices. In the second half of the month, Jonathon Dyson posted this well-read explainer about Inertia – an increasingly more relevant and important concept in the NEM.
Further details about the proposed design of the incoming Capacity Investment Scheme from the federal government were released in early August. South Australia saw over four hours of price volatility on Friday evening the 11th of August. At the end of the month, the AEMO released the 2023 ESOO, and we noted the warning bells sounding from the mainstream media who reported on its release.
In early September, I spoke at the Smart Energy Council’s Queensland Expo about current price signals for storage duration in the NEM – that speech was followed up by a longer analysis piece on the site. On the 27th of September, the Bouldercomeb BESS in QLD caught fire.
On October 9th, the new ‘Very Fast’ FCAS markets went live. October also marked two years since the beginning of ‘Wholesale Demand Response’ in the NEM – Linton provided this review of outcomes since its introduction.
In early November, Paul provided some context about South Australia’s electricity imports/exports to clear up recent social media commentary. Towards the end of the month, thunderstorms in South Australia caused outages for nearly 30,000 customers whilst also causing two syncons to trip.
Following the release of our Q3 update of GenInsights Quarterly, Paul noted the significant impact that rooftop solar is having on large-scale VRE. On December 14th, NSW saw RERT negotiations begin and an actual LOR2 condition largely driven by high temperatures throughout the state.
There is work for the rest of us authors to do in 2024 to catch up to Paul’s number of contributions..
Paul was head and shoulders above the pack, publishing 195 articles in 2023 (at last count). With nine days to go in the calendar year, I have little doubt that Paul can crack the double century before the new year.
My pick from Paul’s articles from this year is “Here’s 7 Observations that jumped out to me in a first skim of the 2023 ESOO” which summarised his initial observations, and provided an interesting contrast against some of the other commentary in the media at the time. Paul’s articles can be found tagged under his name here.
Linton contributed 18 articles throughout the year.
My pick from Linton’s articles from this year is “What inputs and processes determine a semi-scheduled unit’s availability” which contains a very useful and well-thought-out flow diagram to help market participants and analysts understand the source of availability data more thoroughly. Linton’s articles can be found tagged under his name here.
I contributed 37 articles this year, which can all be found tagged under my name here.
We published 19 guest-authored articles on the site in 2023 with Allan O’Neil leading this peloton with 9 contributions. We received a significant number of compliments about many of these guest-authored articles as I highlight further below.
We’d like to thank our guest authors who contributed articles to the site this year: Allan O’Neil, Tristan Edis, David Leitch, Nick Bartels, Bruce Miller, Tom Geiser, Ryan Esplin, Jonathon Dyson, Kate Summers, Blake Ashton, and Aditya Upadhye.
You can find the articles these guest authors have written by clicking on the links for each of their names above. These articles can also be found under the ‘guest author’ tag on WattClarity.
Most Read and Discussed Articles
Although we never intentionally shape our content around ‘getting the most clicks’ or even ‘generating the most discussion’, I thought it is worth noting the articles that received the most views and comments by our community of readers throughout 2023. From a quick glance at our web statistics, these were the top 5 most-read articles on the site from 2023:
- Has rooftop PV in South Australia recently been curtailed with these low points for demand? by Paul McArdle
- Another (Tesla) big battery fire in the NEM … this one at Bouldercombe BESS in QLD by Paul McArdle
- Discussion Paper released on Capacity Investment Scheme by Paul McArdle
- Current expectation for closure dates of Liddell and Eraring Power Stations by Paul McArdle
- What inputs and processes determine a semi-scheduled unit’s availability by Linton Corbert
And, below are the top 5 articles from 2023 with the most comments:
- We’re not building enough replacement dispatchable capacity by Paul McArdle
- Current expectation for closure dates of Liddell and Eraring Power Stations by Paul McArdle
- AEMO releases 2023 ESOO on Thursday 31st August 2023 (Australia’s NEM is perched on the edge) by Paul McArdle
- What’s happening around Wagga? by Allan O’Neil
- Price volatility in VIC and SA on a warm summer evening, Thursday 16th February 2023 by Paul McArdle
Our thousands of loyal newsletter subscribers were great to us again this year – we saw a 14.5% uptick in newsletter subscribers since the beginning of the year and a 34.3% increase since the start of 2021.
Appearances in other media
Throughout the year numerous journalists or market commentators either referenced our analysis directly or requested comments for their own articles. Below is a summary of occurrences of these which I have stumbled across whilst putting this article together:
In March, David Leitch wrote ‘Never mind Eraring, the Liddell coal closure in April is the one to watch‘ on RenewEconomy, which followed on from and referenced prior analysis from Paul on WattClarity.
In April, we were referenced in The Guardian by Peter Hannam in his article ‘‘Turning out the lights: what is the legacy of the Liddell power station?’. In a related story, Perry Williams from The Australian highlighted risks identified from WattClarity analysis in his article ‘Power players say they’re confident about supply when Liddell plant is turned off’“. Endgame Economics flagged Allan O’Neil’s analysis of Liddell Power Station in their ‘Weekly Dispatch’ blog post on the 20th of April. Also in April, we were quoted and referenced by The Australian Financial Review‘s Angela Macdonld-Smith in her article ‘Energy transition is on as AGL shuts unit at Liddell’. Paul also provided quotes for their articles ‘Power data system failure under investigation in Victoria’‘ and ‘Removal of coal power will put pressure on grid this winter’ later in the month.
In May, Mark Ludlow of the Australian Financial Review quoted an analysis from Paul on WattClarity who provided context about the length of the Callide C outage in their article ‘Power prices to spike after delay in return of blast-hit power station’.
In June, Sophie Vorrath of RenewEconomy referenced a WattClarity post about Kogan Creeks’ industrial action in her article “Coal outages strike across two states as power prices march up’.
In September, Christiaan Zuur, the Director of Market, Grid, and Investment Policy at the Clean Energy Council referenced us in his LinkedIn piece ‘South Australian directions: what is it actually costing?’
In addition to these references, several of our articles were copied over to other news websites throughout the year:
- Darwin to Dili: Contrasting challenges in Timor-Leste during an energy transition appeared on PV Magazine in February.
- Why Capacity Factor is an increasingly simplistic way to compare solar farm performance appeared on PV Magazine in March.
- Some analysis of electricity usage (and solar production) at home appeared on PV Magazine in April.
- Long or short on energy storage? A deep dive into price signals for duration appeared on RenewEconomy in September.
- Bigger or better: Are newer wind farms outperforming older ones? appeared on RenewEconomy in November.
- Rooftop solar is crushing* the returns for large-scale VRE appeared on PV Magazine in December.
Feedback from readers
From time to time we come across some very generous compliments from readers online. Below I have compiled screenshots of some of the kind words that we received over the year. To view the collage of images, please right-click “Open Image in New Tab”.
In addition to the compliments we receive on social media, individuals occasionally reach out to us directly. Below is one such compliment from George at Energy Intelligence who emailed in earlier in the year, and was happy for us to share his compliment in this wrap-up:
WattClarity is my go-to for what I need these days Paul. Thank you for what I consider an excellent read and insight into many aspects of the market that I consider crucial for me and the customers I service.
– George Yerondais 23/02/2023
Others in the team will be working through the Christmas period (and maintaining WattClarity) but I will be taking a small amount of time off over the break. My holiday plans include attending the Woodford Folk Festival where I’m hoping to catch Scott Armstrong and QLD Energy Minister Mick de Brenni speak on local and state energy matters.
From myself and the WattClarity team, I wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I look forward to what will surely be another busy year for the energy sector in 2024.