Earlier in the week, we detailed how South Australia’s wind farm fiasco has left its taxpayers on the hook for tens of $millions in subsidies, to be directed to the French owner of a mothballed Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power plant at Pelican Point, on the Lefevre Peninsula north-west of Adelaide.
Not that its vapid Premier Jay Weatherill or its Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis will ever admit it, but the heavily subsidised deal they have struck with GDF Suez to guarantee the 24/365 availability of 479MW of dispatchable (ie ‘controllable’) power, is a monumental concession that SA’s too-long held dream of being powered by the wind has turned into energy chaos and an economic nightmare.
There are 3 electricity essentials – that the power source and its delivery to homes and businesses be: 1) reliable; 2) secure; and 3) affordable. Which means that wind power – a wholly weather dependent power source, that can’t be stored and costs 3-4 times the cost of conventional power – scores NIL on all three counts.
Nuclear power, on the other hand scores a hat-trick in that regard. Moreover, for those who get nervy about CO2 emissions in the electricity sector (CO2 being that odourless, colourless naturally occurring trace gas, essential for all life on earth), the mighty atom ticks that box as well, as the only stand-alone base-load generation system that does not emit so much as a whiff of that much feared gas during operation.
While Labor still runs guff about ‘powering’ South Australia with daylight and fluky breezes it seems, however, that SA is not entirely overrun by energy illiterates. The eagerly awaited findings of a long-running Royal Commission – headed up by a former Naval Officer, Kevin Scarce – into the (obvious) merits of nuclear power have been delivered; promising some future respite for SA’s powerless homes and blackout beleaguered businesses, like Port Pirie’s Nyrstar.
Having thrown all of its energy eggs into the wind farm basket, South Australia’s hapless Labor government has little choice but to subsidise the immediate re-commissioning of gas-fired plants and, in the longer term, to couple up to a nuclear powered future, as detailed by SA’s Sunday Mail in the lead up to the report being made public.
Get set SA for a nuclear future
14 February 2016
A NUCLEAR power reactor to spearhead a push to lure industries with low-cost clean energy is likely to be a centrepiece of the Nuclear Royal Commission’s first findings, released tomorrow.
In a landmark move for Australia’s long-running nuclear debate, Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce also is likely to recommend the state become the home for a high-level radioactive waste repository but not earmark any sites.
Rear Admiral Scarce, a former state governor, tomorrow releases tentative findings from his 11-month Royal Commission, which heard from 128 witnesses and was handed more than 250 submissions.
A series of public meetings — the first tomorrow at 6pm at Adelaide Town Hall — will make the findings available for public consultation ahead of the Royal Commission’s final report on May 6. Rear Admiral Scarce declined to give details of the report’s findings but said he hoped their release would trigger healthy discussion about the facts.
“The whole process is designed around sharing the information within the community, so that, eventually, when the report is complete, if government decides to take action, the community has a basis to make a decision,” he told the Sunday Mail.
Throughout the Royal Commission’s 34 days of public hearings last year, Rear Admiral Scarce consistently emphasised the critical need for community and social approval of any recommendations, saying this could happen only with clear facts and debate.
Rear Admiral Scarce also was careful not to endorse publicly any further expansion of the state’s role in the nuclear industry, repeatedly stressing he had no predetermined view and was investigating numerous options.
But in December last year he emphasised the “certain amount of attraction” of small modular nuclear reactors to provide a plentiful supply of greenhouse gas emissions-free power.
The Royal Commission, which commissioned a business case to study costs and technology, heard an Australian nuclear reactor would cost between $3 billion and $16 billion.
It also heard evidence from the state’s high-voltage electricity network operator SA Power Networks that sites in the Adelaide Hills and Port Augusta would be suitable for a 1000-megawatt SA nuclear reactor to be connected to the network.
The business case assumes nuclear power plant operations would start in 2030 and canvasses electricity demand in 2020, 2030 and 2040.
The state Economic Development Board also held business meetings in Adelaide and Melbourne to inform the Royal Commission, particularly to supply credible numbers about business opportunities created by low-cost clean energy.
In November, Rear Admiral Scarce said some believed this was a wonderful opportunity to reinvigorate the SA business environment and said, at current rates, Australia would not meet its zero carbon emission goal by 2050.