South Australia’s Wind Farm Fiasco Heralds a Nuclear Powered Future

Er, Tom this is one message that requires your full attention …


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
Sunday Mail
Paul Starick
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.
Sunday Mail

Rear Admiral Scarce orders SA’s nuclear future ‘full-steam ahead’.


10 thoughts on “South Australia’s Wind Farm Fiasco Heralds a Nuclear Powered Future

  1. We cannot keep saying we will receive our energy supplies from the other Grid connected States if the wind isn’t blowing.
    Today at 10.36am SA Time
    MW Production across Grid:
    SA 0
    VIC 18
    NSW 2
    TAS 26
    —- at 12.12 SA Time
    SA 38
    VIC 26
    NSW 0
    TAS 34
    Can we really rely on the Wind to be blowing anywhere?

    We have to resolve the problem of how we will be able to receive an ESSENTIAL SERVICE reliably at a level and price affordable to industry, commerce and the public.

    It cannot be resolved by Greg Hunt going BEGGING TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY ON BEHALF OF HIS FRIENDS IN THE WIND INDUSTRY, an industry which is incapable of providing what it promises. Greg Hunt is failing the people of this Nation by doing it. His role is to look after the people of this nation first and foremost.

    It is not the role of Federal or State Governments to dictate to us what we will or not have – they are there to serve US.

    If the people of SA are persuaded to accept nuclear, they should have the say in where it is placed.

    We should not be badgered by a State or Federal Government to accept High Level nuclear waste from overseas to be stored in ‘our backyard’, just because an inept and stupid State Government has led this State into bankruptcy – the SA Government should not be allowed to pull itself out of debt by dictating to the people what they will and will not allow.

    We have had enough of Weatherill and co’s dictatorship in this State. They’ve taken control of planning approvals, they are willing to do anything to ensure we have no say, even these consultation meetings with respect to the Nuclear issue are nothing more than a farce. They new the preliminary findings were ready to be released, why did they not wait to commence the consultation meetings until people had had time to read, digest and formulate their concerns and questions? Why, because that would have meant people would have had time to group together to seek answers to rational, intelligent questions which they do not want to answer. Will we have the chance to read, digest and formulate our concerns after the Final Report or will he simply say our concerns were considered in formulating the Final Report so we had our say?

    Wind energy is insufficient, unreliable and an expensive exercise, the whole situation of the RET, and the target of reduction needs to be revisited regardless of what was signed off on before anyone had investigated how such targets could be met without destroying environments, health and economies.
    The whole process from the beginning was misguided by concerns driven by emotion rather than by calm investigation and assessment.
    Not only Australia but other Nations were at fault for letting emotion take over calm deliberation. Its time Australia and the rest stopped and took stock of where they are going and what they are trying to achieve and how they can do that without continuing to destroy what they have.
    How did Wind Energy gain such a stronghold on so many apparently intelligent Governments – its not only the biggest Ponzi scheme ever devised its also the biggest case of indoctrination of world leaders ever achieved.

  2. Meanwhile our hapless Minister for the Environment is in Abu Dhabi trying to convince the Arabs to invest in harvesting Australian RET subsidies by spending their hard earned cash on wind farms! Never in Australia’s history has there been such insane, irresponsible behaviour from an Australian Minister — no doubt brought on because the locals have had enough and have told him so.

    1. Terry I agree, the current RET laws in Australia are insane but we are already sending our RET subsidy dollars to countries such as China, India, Spain and Denmark so what’s one more? Like both our main political parties at the moment it’s simply a case of Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

  3. I’d be totally surprised if a former Rear Admiral with previous Governor experience as his qualifications could oversee a Royal Commission into something as vital as future energy supply for the State and come up with reliable, viable findings. Hope I am mistaken.

    The nuclear option would still be 10 years to implementation if green economists and nuclear alarmists could be ignored.

  4. Nuclear power is OK but SA should have started a nuclear power industry 40 years ago instead of going ahead with Mike Rann’s renewable energy nonsense. What we need NOW is reliable coal fired power stations for base level supply … who was the idiot that decided to close the two stations at Port Augusta??? Madness. REOPEN THEM, MODERNIZE THEM AND make sure we have a reliable power supply and cheap. STOP promoting useless windmills.

  5. I thought the commission concluded that nuclear power generation was too expensive for Australian deployment but that SA could make lots of money storing nuclear waste.

    With the storage profits, they can then pay to upgrade the interconnectors and buy more Victorian, brown coal generated electricity.

    1. Ananlitik, not quite.

      The view was that there would not be a viable market for nuclear power at present:

      But that finding involves assuming nuclear power will always be excluded from the LRET. At present when the wind is blowing, the spot price crashes to zero or less, which suits wind power operators with PPAs, who collect the set price regardless – the distortion is explained here:

      SA’s Wind Farm Fiasco: $Millions in Subsidies Thrown at GDF Suez to Reopen Mothballed Gas-Fired Power Plant

      The result is that NO conventional generator can dispatch power ahead of whatever wind power is dispatched, nuclear would be in the same boat.

      SA has – as the post above details – fudged the ‘clean energy’ rules to include a CCGT plant (and to subsidise it with what can be seen as a capacity payment) not because it is ‘renewable’ or truly ‘clean’ but because SA has no other option.

      Wind power is designed to get $45 billion in REC Tax/Subsidy from here on ($3 billion a year from 2019 to 2031):

      What Kills the Australian Wind Industry: A $45 Billion Federal Power Tax

      How quickly would a nuclear industry develop with that kind of backing?

      If a government can, with the wave of its magic wand, call gas a ‘clean energy’ source then, by dint of logic, it should happily call nuclear power ‘squeaky clean’ – if CO2 is really the bogey man claimed. And treat it, for subsidy purposes, more generously than it has decided to treat a gas plant.

      Send RECs to a dispatachable source like nuclear and, within a decade (ie well before the LRET expires) SA could have a source of affordable power, which is secure and reliable and which it could export.

      Wait until the Latrobe Valley coal plants close (sometime in the next 2 years) and watch SA yelp. STT is also willing to bet that the government will have to take over or pay capacity payments to Alinta (or whoever owns it) to keep Port Augusta’s plants running.

      The nuclear story isn’t over by a long shot, especially when (half-rational) members of the lunatic left start pressing for an end to wind power investment and calling for nuclear power instead:

      Wind Industry Loses Support of Lunatic Fringe: Green-Left Blog ‘New Matilda’ Turns Against the Wind Power Fraud

      Necessity is the mother of invention, and SA is suffering from the mother of all energy debacles. The politics of power will eventually catch up with the infants currently in control. Nuclear power is a grown up solution that will prevail, the only question is when.

      But don’t get us wrong, there is no justification for any subsidy for the supply of that which is on offer at affordable prices, now.

      1. You are assuming that the CAGW lobby continue to hold sway so that carbon emissions reduction remains as an item that must be addressed. This is not settled (despite Al Gore’s statements to the contrary).

        And the commission’s tentative finding on nuclear power plant viability requires a truly massively increased carbon tax to be enacted as well as significant lowering of capital costs for the plants.

        Or else equally massive subsidies by the SA state government (which is rapidly running out of income as manufacturing runs down with the reduced reliability and increased cost of electricity).

        Click to access NFCRC-Summary-Nuclear-power-plant-viability-reports.pdf

        Click to access DGA-Consulting.pdf

        Click to access Parsons-Brinckerhoff.pdf

        I’m all for nuclear power (and for Australia to run a closed fuel loop cycle) but the commission’s tentative findings do not support the conclusions of your post.

        If the CAGW hysteria abates (which is as likely as not), then investment in coal plants (new and refurbishment of existing) is much more likely than nuclear power generation in Australia due to the climate of fear propagated by “experts” such as Helen Caldicott

      2. The CAGW lobby will outlast religion. It will most certainly outlast STT; and Helen Caldicott. The significant shift in their camp is the vocal support of nuclear as a solution for their fixation on CO2 gas. STT will take a bet that the Latrobe Valley plants will close and will not be replaced there. You might like to provide your thoughts on what happens then?

        We disagree that the findings do not support the post, when read with our earlier comment to you. Both are premised on the future direction for SA’s power generation. SA does not have a high quality easily accessible coal supply, but could tap into recently identified gas reserves. The threat of a ‘carbon’ tax will remain and result in no new coal fired power generation in the immediate term; and for as long as we have a Coalition peopled by Turnbull, Hunt etc. Labor and the Greens will never abandon CAGW or wind power, their funding depends on it.

        The findings are conditioned on assumptions about current market conditions (which are the direct result of interventionist policy) and, as we saw with the cut of the LRET from 41,000 GWh to 33,000 GWh, that can change in a heartbeat. Our point is that SA will be forced to do so, with gas the winner in the short term and nuclear in the longer term. Although, probably with thorium as the fuel source.

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