Green energy generates big costs for little gain
Australian Financial Review
21 June 2015
Reports of the death of coal are greatly exaggerated. For green power is still very costly and uncompetitive, and likely to remain so despite all the subsidies.
In this newspaper last week Richard Denniss opined that there was a stampede of investment money out of coal (“Abbott blind to coal decline“, AFR, June 15). He excoriated Tony Abbott both for failing to recognise the death of coal and for suggesting that wind farms, their preferred replacement, are a blight on the landscape.
With exquisite timing, Market Forces, an affiliate of Friends of the Earth, then issued a report that, contrary to the Richard Denniss view, lambasted Australian banks for actually lending $6 in fossil fuel projects for every $1 in renewables.
In fact, the real tragedy is that the banks are lending too much to exotic renewable energy developments. Even the cheapest of these, windfarms, need three times the price at which Australian coal generators can supply electricity.
Australia’s coal resources are so abundant that across the eastern states that they can profitably supply electricity at a cost of $40 a MWh. Windfarms require $120 a MWh.
In addition, because wind generated supply is intrinsically unreliable it needs back-up in the form of fast start generators. Hydro-electricity performs that function in many markets but Australia has relatively little of this. Wind/solar generation in Australia currently has a 7 per cent share of supply. That level requires 6 per cent in additional back-up, according to the estimates by the Australian Energy Market Operator. That means fast start capacity that would not otherwise be needed.
Wind turbine development has been improved over the past 20 years but is now approaching its theoretical maximum efficiency. It will never be remotely price competitive with conventional generators notwithstanding wishful thinking.
Australia’s renewable energy target for 2020 is colloquially though inaccurately referred to as the “20 per cent” target. Parliament has reduced that part to comprise wind (and large scale solar) 41,000GWh to 33,000GWh (in both cases plus an estimated 10,000GWh from rooftop solar panels). Some other changes in this week’s legislation ensure that the “energy intensive” industries, smelting steel and cement, are now fully exempt from the requirement. Those industries account for about a fifth of electricity demand. But their exemption means additional costs for other commercial users and for households.
CRIPPLING COST ON CONSUMERS
Even so, the program entails a crippling cost on consumers. In annual terms this amounts to the price at which the RET certificates trade plus additional costs wind generation imposes on the system. The RETs have an effective ceiling price of $92 a MWh; if they traded at $75 in 2020, this together with an additional back-up and network cost would entail a cost of around $90 a MWh.
In aggregate terms, the annual impost on electricity consumers is therefore from the 33,000GWh and means a cost to the customer of $3 billion a year, on top of which is the cost of the rooftop solar panels of $400 million (assuming their subsidy remains at around $40 a MWh).
Overall, present legislation entails wind and solar panels having over 15 per cent of the market. If, as anticipated, the renewables displace coal they do so at a two fold cost premium. Overall, this results in an increase in the average wholesale cost of electricity of around 25 per cent from the level it would be if there were no regulatory requirement in place. Because energy intensive industries are sheltered from the effect, this is a much higher impost for other consumers.
These matters aside, unlike elsewhere in the world, Australia’s black and brown coal resources are low-sulphur and hence pollution-free. In contrast to windfarms they do not require vast tracts of land and disfigure the natural environment. Nor do they impose the detrimental health effects from low frequency noise and infrasound that, according to the Senate Committee on Wind Turbines, appear to affect 10 to 15 per cent of the population.
All of this has become increasingly topical with the issuance of Pope Francis’ encyclical. For although the Pope has called for drastic reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide, this comes at colossal costs.
Even imposing a requirement like the Australian “20 per cent renewable” standard substantially raises the cost of electricity. And this is the easy part. In order to replace fossil fuels by the sort of numbers the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sees as being necessary to dampen global warming requires unproven and perhaps infeasible technologies. Energy only comprises 25 to 30 per cent of emissions and Australia’s renewable target might therefore reduce emissions by 4 to 5 per cent. This is a tiny step given that the eventual target for Australia is a reduction of 80 per cent from today’s levels.
Australian Financial Review
A very solid effort there from Alan Moran, as he pulls together the numbers that add up to the largest and most obscene wealth transfer in the history of the Commonwealth. A Federally enforced transfer, that is, from struggling businesses and hard-pressed households (that will end up footing the bill for a colossal policy disaster) and foreign owned wind power outfits, like the near-bankrupt Infigen (aka Babcock and Brown).
Alan points to the cost of Renewable Energy Certificates (he refers to them as “RETs” in his article) – under the latest 33,000 GWh LRET target – as an “annual impost on electricity consumers”, being “a cost to the customers of $3 billion a year”.
What Alan doesn’t pin down is the fact that this enormous subsidy rort rolls on until 2031, with a cost to power consumers in excess of $45 billion – and that’s in terms of the REC subsidy to wind power outfits alone. The total cost to power consumers – including building and running fast-start up OCGTs, diesel generators – along with base-load generators holding 1000s of MWs of spinning reserve, all needed 100% of the time to back-up total wind power collapses (see our post here); and $billions in added and improved grid infrastructure – will be anywhere between 2 and 3 times that amount:
Wind Power Fraud Finally Exposed: Senator John Madigan Details LRET’s Astronomical 45 Billion Dollar Cost to Power Consumers
The only area where Alan might have mis-spoken is where he says that coal resources do not “impose the detrimental health effects from low frequency noise and infrasound” generated by wind turbines.
Underground coalmines use large extractor fans, which have been measured to produce low-frequency noise and infrasound comparable to large wind turbines – in terms of both sound pressure levels and frequencies. Heavy earth moving equipment, large diesel engines, rolling mills and crushers etc have all been found guilty of generating plenty of noise – causing sleep deprivation and otherwise giving neighbours hell.
A 2009 federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism report into, inter alia, industrial noise and vibration found that “sound in the frequency range below 20 hertz is normally defined as ‘infrasound’ and can be heard (or felt) as a pulsating sensation and/or pressure on the ears or chest”. It didn’t cover wind turbines, but looked at mining and industrial sources of noise; such as large pumps, motors or fans and crushing circuits and screens (the report is available here) – the key points appear in Section 3.2:
3.2 Health amenity
Noise levels at residences surrounding mines are generally not high enough to have direct effects on health, such as hearing loss. The indirect effects of noise and vibration on the health of people exposed to excessive levels have been extensively documented. Investigations have found that prolonged exposure can adversely affect mental and subsequently physical health, particularly in those most sensitive to noise.
Noise produces psychological effects in very specific ways. These are, essentially, interference with communication or concentration, and sleep disturbance. These factors lead to irritability, which is the first sign of the psychological impact of noise. The psychological response to noise is determined by personal factors and by factors associated with the noise itself.
Low-frequency noise can be particularly annoying and can result in complaints many kilometres away from the source. Low frequency noise can be considered to range in frequency from about 10 hertz to 200 hertz. The common sources are large pumps, motors or fans and crushing circuits and screens. The perceived loudness and annoyance due to low-frequency noise increases extremely rapidly with increasing levels above the threshold of hearing.
Sound in the frequency range below 20 hertz is normally defined as ‘infrasound’ and can be heard (or felt) as a pulsating sensation and/or pressure on the ears or chest, or can cause secondary effects such as rattling of windows or doors. Because low-frequency noises between 20 hertz and 200 hertz propagate with minimal attenuation over large distances and transmit easily through building fabric, it can be quite prominent inside residences without the masking effect of higher frequencies. Low frequency noises are perceived as more annoying than typical mid-high frequency noises by residents. When determining compliance, most regulatory authorities have objective tests to determine whether low frequency noise is present. Where low frequency noise is found to be characteristic of the noise source, an adjustment must be made to measured levels to account for the increased annoyance.
Factors such as the attitude or mood of the person, his or her environment, the degree of arousal or distraction experienced, and whether the noise is felt to be an invasion of privacy or disruptive, will dictate personal response.
This is important for shift workers who sleep during the day. The predictability of noise and how frequently it occurs will also influence the reaction.
None of the above will be ‘news’ to the wind industry’s victims at Cape Bridgewater, Macarthur, Waterloo, Gullen Range; and at a thousand other wind farms around the globe: constant, night-time noise is hell.
STT hears that the Senate Inquiry into the great wind power fraud will hear evidence this week from neighbours of an open-cut coal mine situated in the Hunter Valley, NSW; as well as neighbours of an underground coal mine, and a coal-fired power station at Lithgow, NSW – who have all been suffering for years from low-frequency noise and infrasound. The offending noise coming from a giant extractor fan in the case of the underground mine; from heavy machinery running around-the-clock at the open cut mine; and turbines from the coal-fired plant.
Now, the more infantile from the ranks of the wind industry cheer squad might seize on that kind of evidence as yet another reason to “kill coal”. However, that simply reveals the fantasy world in which these dimwits reside.
Wind power, which can only ever be delivered at crazy, random intervals (see above) will never displace, let alone replace, conventional, on-demand generation sources which, in Australia, means coal-fired power. Moreover, with a couple of hundred tonnes of steel in each and every whirling ‘wonder’, and its colossal re-enforced concrete base, their dream of carpeting the world in millions of these things can only be realised with – wait for it – mountains and mountains of COAL – in case you’ve missed it, the key ingredient in steel:
Why Coal Miners, Oil and Gas Producers Simply Love Wind Power
No, what Alan’s little mis-step highlights is the need for a uniform set of rules concerning the noise generated from ALL industrial noise sources – aimed at properly protecting ALL Australians from that noise, especially at night-time.
As STT followers are well aware, a number of the good Senators on the wind power fraud Inquiry have already started calling for a National Noise Regulator – David Leyonhjelm, for example (see our post here).
In an earlier post we referred to the kind of Regulator required as “the National Noise Cops”:
Top Acoustics Professor Calls for Full Compensation for Wind Farm Victims, as Council Calls for “National Noise Cops”
Such a Regulator has to be entirely independent of industry and the pets who people the slick acoustic consultancies, that work exclusively for the offenders.
And it should be given the power, resources and authority to do for wind farm victims precisely what Councils, State and Federal governments have manifestly failed to do: namely, monitor and control industrial noise sources – including industrial wind turbines – shutting down those sources when they interfere with peoples’ common law rights to live in and enjoy their own homes; and to penalise the offenders when they refuse to follow the Noise Cops’ orders and directions.
Call us sticklers for fairness, but this body, and its rules, should not be allowed to distinguish between noise sources; so that a Coal Mine, Coal-Seam-Gas Plant or Gas Turbine Power Generator will be subject to the same standard, rules of operation and penalties as wind farm operators, which – unlike many other noise sources, like airports and live music venues – currently operate around the clock, with complete impunity. And, worse, with the complete endorsement of State “regulators”, like the South Australian EPA that runs in lockstep with the wind industry’s pet acoustic consultants, who, rather helpfully, wrote the “standards”, which the EPA happily fails to enforce (see our post here).
This is not just about setting up another regulator; it’s about overcoming institutional corruption and systemic regulatory failure, in order to ensure that the long-standing, common law rights of Australian citizens’ to live in, use and enjoy their homes and properties are protected and preserved. The people of this Country of ours deserve nothing less; wherever they live; and whatever the noise source (see our post here).
As to the great wind power fraud, remember, the Federal Government set this mess up in the first place (see our post here); and, therefore, it is well within its power to clean it up and put things right.
In pursuing a proper set of National Industrial Noise Guidelines – with a truly Independent Regulator, with the necessary arsenal to enforce them (fines, penalties or – in the case of wind power outfits – directing the CER to suspend their entitlement to receive RECs) – what the Cross-Bench Senators are chasing is a level playing field.
That is, a properly regulated environment, where all noise-pollution offenders are dealt with in the same way – under the same set of rules; so that no longer can the wind industry callously refer to their victims as “road-kill” and “collateral damage”; and otherwise act with ‘smug’ impunity.
Time for a little “fairness”, Tony. It’s not just a word or an idea – it’s what decent, hard-working Australians strive and crave for. So why not have a chat with the good Senators on the wind farm Inquiry? They’re all ears.
8 thoughts on “Alan Moran: on the Insane & Pointless Cost of Wind Power”
Despite all of the stories that they invent,
The world’s renewable energy still only 3 percent.
Without the use of coal and other fossil fuels, from which place of magic does the money come with which to magically be able to provide the subsidies that are wasted supporting electricity generation using wind and/or solar “renewables”.
Magic money, that is.
Tom, we already have magic money. Look up fractional reserve banking. It’s a bigger scam than global warming.
Reblogged this on JunkScience.com.
It would be really great to involve other industries. When we first became ill in mid 2009, I came across a person who had the same Health issue; with inflammation of the inner ear, needing very similar treatment. And was referred to as being cluster headaches, and required much time in bed, up-to around 3 months to alleviate the pain in the head. He had worked in a engineering workshop. I have also heard of a person who could not work in a local factory because of fans operating and needed to leave his job; the same as us having to farm somewhere else. So this will be a big step forward. Noise/air pressure variance is because of compression and decompression of air. Therefore, the reason for change is the same and I suspect the solution would be similar.
Wind Industry systemic corruption, involving embezzling government funds whilst knowingly harming human health demands a Royal Commission.
Bring it on Senators.