Last Chance Hotel: Australia’s Energy Crisis at the Crossroads

No way back from here: Malcolm muddles & Frydenberg fudges.

***

Australia’s energy crisis is a self-inflicted calamity with no apparent end in sight.

The PM, Malcolm Turnbull seems intent on protecting his son, Alex’s investment in Australia’s most notorious wind power outfit, Infigen (see our post here).

While his gormless Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg behaves like a punch-drunk boxer, who cannot land a punch and with absolutely no idea what’s going on around him.

Into that mix strides Alan Finkel; a boffin tasked with trying to rescue Australia’s power grid from imminent collapse, the consequence of loading it up with intermittent, chaotic and erratic wind and solar power.

Some see Finkel as the Great White Hope.

STT will reserve its judgement on that matter: bright and shiny ideas are one thing, implementing them over a pack of rabid, salivating rent-seekers out to prevent you from doing so is quite another.

However, as The Australian’s Nick Cater correctly observes, Finkel’s report on Australia’s renewable energy fiasco offers the Federal Liberal/National Coalition government one last chance to dig the country out of a massive economic hole.

Finkel report is PM’s chance to fix this energy mess
The Australian
Nick Cater
6 June 2017

For the first time in 50 years we have a shortage of active generation capacity

There’s an app for everything these days, even one that tracks in real time the startling cost of Australia’s ­ludicrous energy policy.

We are indebted to PocketNEM for informing us that the spot price of electricity on the National Energy Market shot above $150 a megawatt hour in the eastern states late on Sunday afternoon, hitting $365 in the windmill-powered dystopia known as South Australia. During a largely overcast and windless winter weekend, SA and Victoria sucked up megawatt after megawatt of coal-generated electricity from NSW and Queensland, stretching the interconnectors to their limits.

To whom will the cost of these expensive buy-ins be charged? To the customer of course — you, me and the business we rely on to provide jobs, goods and services.

When the dust settles, the 33,000 gigawatt-hour renewable energy target will prove to be the costliest legacy of the Rudd and Gillard governments. Sure, there are plenty of other multi-billion-dollar blunders to choose from — the cost blowout to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, for example — policies that, like the RET, were implemented with noble intent but vacant attention to detail.

Yet on the scale of bureaucratically orchestrated disasters they are dwarfed by the RET, a Soviet-scale exercise in market intervention that is unravelling before our eyes, presenting Malcolm Turnbull’s government with a diabolical policy challenge that cannot be deferred.

How quickly the world has changed. Barely nine months before Turnbull became Prime Minister the Australian Energy Market Commission, which is supposed to know about these things, predicted that scrapping the carbon tax, falling electricity demand and increased capacity would cause retail electricity prices to fall.

The AEMC’s latest forecast presents a very different picture. Household electricity bills will rise acutely, particularly in South Australia and Victoria. The closure of SA’s brown-coal-fired Northern power station 13 months ago, followed by the closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood power station this year, means that for the first time in at least a half-century there is a shortage of active generation ­capacity.

Last December, the AEMC calculated that the closures would increase the cost of wholesale energy by 55 per cent in Victoria and Tasmania and 41 per cent in SA by the next federal election.

The Turnbull government will get only one shot at fixing this mess before rising power prices start to bite, and it will steady its aim this Friday with the release of Alan Finkel’s review of the National Electricity Market.

It is a chance to rescue energy policy from the sectional interests that want the renewable energy gravy train to keep running, and to frame it to serve the national ­interest. The ideologues, aided and abetted by the self-interested renewable energy lobby, will try to make this a debate about “sustainability” in the hope of deflecting attention from our demonstrably unsustainable energy policy. We must ignore their soft-headed nonsense and focus on securing what we really need: a reliable supply of affordable energy within our carbon emission targets.

The review is unlikely to recommend, nor is the government willing to countenance, the abolition of the RET, attractive as that may seem to energy market ­rationalists.

It should, however, help us recognise that putting most of the burden on the electricity grid to deliver Australia’s promised carbon emissions reduction was a ghastly mistake. It has neither assisted the reduction of carbon emissions nor encouraged the development of new technology.

Even Ross Garnaut, the Rudd government’s professor of choice, called for it to be phased out. The RET “does not necessarily encourage the lowest cost means of reducing emissions”, he wrote in 2011, “nor does it encourage innovation: it favours the lowest cost established technologies that are eligible within the scheme”,

In fact, it can cost up to $100 a tonne to abate carbon emissions through large-scale wind and solar, and up to double that amount using small-scale domestic solar panels.

Meanwhile another arm of government, the Emissions Reduction Fund, can do the same job for less than $12 a tonne. Allowing thermal generators to offset emissions by purchasing credits from the ERF instead of renewable energy certificates at eight or nine times the price may give them a fighting chance.

The review also presents the opportunity to end the sacred treatment of wind and solar and to share subsidies, if subsidies there must be, with low-emission thermal energy production such as gas and clean coal. It would not fix the gas shortage but at least it would give the owners of mothballed gas plants a little more confidence of a return on investment.

If common sense is allowed to intrude, we will no longer pay subsidies of about $85 a megawatt hour for the fitful supply of unstable energy using subprime technology of windmills.

Renewable energy suppliers have little incentive to improve the reliability of their product since it is the public, not they, who are forced to pick up the bill for buying in thermal power at the spot price when the blades stop tuning.

The energy market as currently constructed is a classic example of moral hazard where one party decides how much risk to take, while another bears the cost when things go wrong. If renewable energy companies were made to shoulder all, or at least part, of the cost of their failure to provide electricity at 50 hertz for 24 hours a day, they might invest more in the development of storage.

What could go wrong? After all, Alan Kohler assured us in his column in The Weekend Australian that wind and solar are at the point of becoming cheaper than coal and gas, and batteries are just around the corner. We are about to see a flood of renewable investment that will spell the end of coal.

A clear-headed readjustment of the RET will allow us to test that somewhat brave assumption. Oh, and help us keep the lights on.
The Australian

Alan Finkel: ‘Great White Hope’? Or dashing all remaining hope?

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. dennisambler says:

    “within our carbon emission targets.”

    Forget spreadsheet emissions of CO2, forget AGW. Everything then goes back to normal, money becomes available for essential things and life continues. The climate wouldn’t even notice.

  2. Infrasound is not even discussed when it comes to evaluating noise – but the basics were known 20 years ago. Clean coal is an oxymoron. Get a load of the information at SourceWatch under the coal ash section : the supposed cure for acid rain using exhaust scrubbers has led to buildup of toxic radioactive piles of unstable ash that threatens waterways. Hydrofracking has morphed into a monster cracking bedrock and releasing nobody knows what from behind rock walls while using crazy amounts of water which becomes polluted ; all this while destabilizing underground foundations and causing quakes. Germany had an abortive experiment with wind power and Spain’s solar investment yields almost nothing. The fallacy of green energy is simple : part time supply for full time demand.

    • Dear Whispering Jack, not many targets left standing in that comment. Any thoughts on how we might power our homes and businesses in Australia – where the price of gas is astronomical, if generators can get it, and no one is mature enough to even mention nuclear power?

  3. Wind Turbines are engineering junk made by mainly Danish Agricultural Engineering Companies. Who used to make tractor trailers to carry sheep. They lose up to 50% of their capacity factor every 6 years. These large multi megawatt wide, greater than 101 meters hub diameter, have a fundamental design problem that can cause reverse torque . That wrecks their transmission. They also have linkage problems. The bolts are not that reliable. Ask Henrik Stiesdal. You Australians go back to diggin coal. That will solve your problems.

  4. The UK Renewables Society proudly announced that yesterday Renewables plus Nuclear Power came to >50% of demand.

    Hurrah…..(Today it’s 41%……..).

  5. stpaulchuck says:

    that’s always the problem – no hazard for the perpetrators. If the windmill owners had to pay to supply the missing electricity when their idiot subsidy farms fail to produce, then there’d be a whole different scenario today.

  6. Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Anyone who fondly imagines that wind and solar power are about to become as cheap as chips in some glorious renewable future, should read this tale of Australian woe.

  7. Check out today’s shortfall between fossil and wind.

    Tell ’em their dreamin’.

    http://anero.id/energy/

  8. No doubt Alan Kohler will happily regurgitate the myth (see above) that Las Vegas gets all its electricity from renewables.
    So sad when somebody gambles their credibility then loses it.

    • stpaulchuck says:

      when the wind dies off and the sun goes down the megawatts of neon don’t magic the electricity out of thin air.

  9. You are kidding me! Turnbull’s Son and SA’s Mike Rann’s Brother. All have their twigs in the stump! It’s called Graft…Political Graft… … Graft is defined as the act of taking advantage of your political position or government job by taking money or property in dishonest or fraudulent ways. Makes me sick 😦 No wonder we are so disillusioned….Creeps!

  10. Son of a Goat says:

    Just when you thought it was time to look for that Redhead to light up your candle……comes the answer to Australia’s energy woes.

    From the makers of “Ceres” a $1.5 billion plan to spear 200 turbines into the heart of some of Australia’s prime agriculture land comes the sequel the “Star of the South.” An audacious plan for Australia’s first offshore wind farm (2000MW) a steal at $8 billion. They plan to snorkel out and put 250 giant fans off the coast of the Gippsland. A project that surely would want to make any tree hugging Tasmanian want to swim across Bass strait and declare they want to be Victorian.

    Now comes the third in the trilogy the blockbuster “Macquarie island- Wind Utopia.” These geniuses have uncovered what could be the god damm windiest place on earth, Macquarie island located 3000 km out in the drink between Tasmania and the Antartica. Proving that genius knows no bounds- only the public purse, watch as they create the worlds largest wind park. A fuse blowing 20,000 MW plan and value for money at $70 billion, be spellbound as these boys spear 2000 turbines and the odd sea lion into this remote frontier.

    Connecting every Australian capital city by HVDC cable they light up the land of OZ like a fire cracker. No Taswegian can swim this far, get your tickets now!

    Critics review;
    Ruin the economy: “I haven’t been this excited since Don Dunstan wore pink shorts whilst walking down Rundle St.”

    • LOL, very well played!

    • given they average 50 acres per tower in the USA (STT recently with a link to USA wind farms) that would require 100,000 acres…or 404 square Km. Sadly Macquarie island is only 128 square Km i suspect they will be using dodgy numbers like their output ratings for their towers that any other business would be locked up (stating a capacity of 2.3 Mw when lucky to average 34% of that and frequently almost none….like the last weekend!)
      great info thx!

  11. Gday STT, thought you might be interested in this link to an article about las vegas and its power source. I saw a comment today that Las Vegas gets 100% of its energy from renewables so i thought i would investigate……https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2016/12/23/sorry-las-vegas-isnt-close-to-running-entirely-on-renewable-energy/#c45fbfb3373d turns out they get enough power from solar to power the 140 offices of the government in the city of las vegas!…another lie to add to your huge list of renewable industry lies and exaggerations!

    keep fighting the fight, thx

  12. I read all of info on Stop These Things , stop them how.
    I was listening with interest to the development of a new windfarm in Tasmania.
    WHY?
    Why are these monsters so attractive that they are spreading everywhere, am I living in a fool’s paradise.
    I read how people are saying NO MORE, stop these things.
    I don’t see them stopping only talk.

    • Jackie Rovensky says:

      Some have been stopped and some are ‘on hold’ and may never be installed – that has come about from people not only talking but acting. People need to speak out and get out to inform people of the dangers of these things.
      I have not been involved for very long but long enough to see how people are becoming more aware and willing to speak out, come out, stand out, write letters and submissions, speak at meetings and hearings.
      I have seen ordinary people take on huge roles within groups fighting these things – people who have put their lives on hold while they study everything they can in respect of these things and the dangers they pose and damage they do, just to ensure their local communities are not left without a voice – so they can go to hearings, inquiries and development panel meetings with well presented, documented information to enlighten those who make decisions that affect not only their local communities but the nation as a whole.
      I have seen changes in media with reporters more willing to look and listen and evaluate the situation in a more balanced manner. I have seen some politicians awaken to the dangers these things pose and I have seen how more professionals, academics, environmentalists have also woken to the dangers, as a result there is more independent unbiased research being conducted into all aspects of these things.
      Yes I have seen disappointment, I have seen desperation, I have seen Wind companies and their foolish followers laughing at those who are suffering and I have seen them gloating when they have received approval to install their life and environmentally destroying towers.
      What I haven’t seen is the fighting spirit diminish, it has only grown and I can now see through sites like STT that it is growing around the world.
      What I would now like to see is everyone who reads STT or knows of a project being proposed to speak out, stand out and fly the flag for those who have gone before and join them in working to stop this nightmare.

      • I share everything on facebook.
        I am not effected by windfarm noise
        I have Coal mine and Industry which is causing the same noise effects on me.
        Why is it so hard to accept that this noise issue is a epidemic in the modern world and needs looking into in a serious way not sweeping it aside like we are mentally ill.
        As for the spread of turbines.
        Who is reaping in the Dollars not us we are paying the FAT CATS

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