Australia’s Renewable Energy Calamity: The Never Ending Story Continues

Australians probably feel like they’re stuck in the MA+ sequel to The Never Ending Story – a horror movie in which a band of lunatics, driven by greed, stupidity and ideology took a little under a decade to destroy a once wealthy and prosperous Nation, while their renewables rent-seeking mates pocketed more than $60 billion in subsidies, paid for by power consumers, punished with ever rocketing power bills.

Forget ‘jobs and growth’, in Australia it’s a fight for survival, more like the Hunger Games.

While Malcolm Turnbull and Josh Frydenberg have clearly lost the plot, Judith Sloan continues to impress with her detailed insights into Australia’s self-inflicted power pricing and supply calamity.

‘Power prices: the sequel’ still fails to generate heat
The Australian
Judith Sloan
31 August 2017

It’s like watching the sequel of a bad movie. The title of the first movie was: Pretending to do something about power prices.

Let’s face it, we are all sick of hearing about Snowy 2.0. It will cost billions, it’s years away and probably will proceed whether or not the business case stacks up — and recall the business case could never be made in the past. The only reason it may stack up now is because the price of electricity is so high and likely to remain so.

But Malcolm Turnbull clearly can’t get enough of the photo opportunities, complete with high-vis vest. There is even a Facebook entry, shouting that the project will create 5000 jobs, enough storage to power 500,000 homes and deliver reliable, affordable energy.

Unsurprisingly, the project’s cost is not mentioned, nor when it will be finished. The strategy is clearly to rinse and repeat.

Pressing the rewind button is similarly in vogue, with the Prime Minister having called in the electricity retailers yesterday for another dressing down and to instruct them to write to a million customers by Christmas to tell them they could get a better deal.

My guess is Turnbull won’t mind the retailers mentioning the fact that they are obeying the instruction of our forceful leader.

So when did bullying become so popular with governments? At the end of the day, retailers will pass on the higher wholesale price of electricity. All the tweaking of retail contracts in the world will not matter if the wholesale price of electricity soars, as it has since the Hazelwood power station closed.

The Turnbull government sat on its hands as 1600 megawatts of capacity — almost a quarter of Victoria’s baseload — was removed essentially overnight.

The government sets the rules, and central to these rules has been the renewable energy target that is in effect a carbon tax of $80 per megawatt hour — in turn driving low-cost, coal-fired power plants out of business.

But is the government interested in ditching or pausing the RET? Not on your nelly.

And if it listens to the rent-seekers in the industry and environmental activists, it will consider implementing the daughter of the RET, the clean energy target. The renewable energy sector will not give up on its drip-feed of subsidies without a huge misinformation campaign.

Just as we were told the RET would lead to lower wholesale electricity prices — they have more than doubled — we are now told a modified CET (with more renewable energy in the mix) will push wholesale prices down, to as low as $60/MWh. (They are now above $100.) Pigs might fly.

We know that the higher proportion of renewable energy used to generate electricity, the higher the price of electricity. Having more solar and wind in eastern Australian will raise prices. There are few gains from heterogeneity as a result of more installations because of common weather patterns. The generators, transmission and distribution companies and retailers don’t care. They will argue for a CET because it suits them.

It’s just a pity for struggling households and businesses. And it will be the end of large energy-intensive industry in this country (relocated to other countries) and its large number of high-paying jobs. There should be no problem achieving our ludicrous Paris emissions reduction commitment because these firms account for almost half the power generated.

If Turnbull is ready to commit billions to Snowy 2.0, why can’t he commit a few hundred million dollars to spur the construction of some high-efficiency, low-emissions baseload coal-fired stations? They are being built in large numbers overseas. If it’s good enough for them, it should be good enough for us. But no more sequels to bad movies.
The Australian

Turnbull takes charge of Hunger Games, the sequel.

 

In his heyday, Graham Richardson was renowned as the ALP’s knuckle man and head kicker in chief. These days, he’s a columnist with The Australian and political analyst on SkyNews.

Graham, an ‘Old Labor Man’, hasn’t lost his empathy for the working men and women of this Country, and understands the mortal threat Australia’s energy disaster poses to their health, wealth and happiness. Here’s Graham providing some very timely advice to the PM.

Turnbull’s policy paralysis on a power play that got away
The Australian
Graham Richardson
30 August 2017

Malcolm Turnbull is running out of options as to what issue he might choose to fight the next election. This week he threw away what seemed to me to be his best option. By far the biggest issue in Australian politics today is electricity prices. Neither the Coalition nor Labor has a credible policy on where that electricity will come from, and a frustrated electorate grows angrier by the hour.

Ordinary households have endured price rises of up to 50 per cent over the last few years and now look carefully at their heaters and the hours they can afford to keep them working. Small business is doing it really tough with electricity prices too. Whether it’s a café or a restaurant, a factory or a shop, these pesky electricity price rises are sending them broke. As for big business, smelting will soon be a lost industry to this country unless price rises can be curbed. Steel manufacturing is already in imminent danger.

The Opposition “policy”, if that is an appropriate term for a debacle, is to push for a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. This is at best a fantasy and at worst a massive con job because it is so unrealistic and those championing it know that. Meanwhile, rather than come up with a bold alternative, the Turnbull government is paralysed by its internal processes, and can only stall and dilly dally rather than make a decision.

The Finkel Report came up with the suggestion close to the PM’s heart. It recommended a clean energy target of 42.5 per cent and it is clear that the Liberal caucus won’t cop it and the Nationals won’t touch it with a bargepole. So, Malcolm Turnbull continues to fiddle while all around him burns.

On Monday, the PM rejected any suggestion of the government building even one coal-fired power station. That was a huge mistake. The Liberals will find it extremely difficult to campaign on minding the till. Labor may have had a tax and spend reputation but the Liberals have found a way to lose this advantage.

The Abbott and Turnbull governments have hugely increased debt and deficit and now cannot possibly claim the high ground in a debate on the economy. If they try it on, it will not require an advertising genius like John Singleton to bring them down.

The Coalition must find a point of difference between themselves and Labor. The massively unpopular reduction in penalty rates is already a plus for Labor and it is the only time unions are unequivocally on the side of the angels. Industrial relations and the almost full time attacks on Bill Shorten over his time at the AWU, will not work anywhere near well enough for an election win. To make a successful comeback when the mob has stopped listening Turnbull will have to take big steps. Instead he continues to shuffle his feet – unsure of where to go and how to get there if he could work out a decent target to attain.

If the Liberals want to save any furniture, let alone bring off an improbable victory, energy policy is the only hope. The Coalition needs to address the dangers of opportunistic clean energy targets, and then explain to voters how the technology is not keeping up with the pace set by its proponents. In the decades before that technology develops coal must come back into calculations.

Because so many coal-fired generators will close in the next decade, unless more coal-fired plants are built, we will be turning on switch and nothing will be happening. Private companies won’t have anything to do with coal because of the threats of the Greens and Get Up! and the shorter lifespan in which such plants would be likely be able to operate.

My message to the Prime Minister is build it and they will come. At least make an effort and remember it is better to go out with a bang than a whimper.
The Australian

The fastest way to end The Never Ending Story.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. “…ideology took a little under a decade to destroy a once wealthy and prosperous Nation…”.
    It is stupid that the destruction is allowed to continue. But you should know that this destruction was Maurice Strong’s intention … as evidenced by his statement at 1992 Rio climate conference.

  2. Jackie Rovensky says:

    The question from the article is not just a matter of what power production system we should be going for but DO we have a Government and PM capable of making a decision free from the constraints of personal ideology. I doubt it.
    Our ‘Leader’ is bogged down and incapable of moving without the weight of his ideology whether that is mainly from a mistaken belief in Renewable Energy being able to provide for our needs or some other consideration.
    Whatever it is he seems to have brought his cabinet under his spell and is holding them so tight they are not willing to go against him.
    We also have an opposition incapable of seeing clearly, an opposition that appears to be moving toward a more Communist approach to Government, where the people have no effective say, only those who pander to their wishes will be listened to.
    Whatever is happening its time it stopped and the Nations needs are placed above the ideology and political grandstanding we are now experiencing.
    This Nation is becoming a place owned by people from other countries – we will not need to consider our Constitution because we will be ruled by people from and living in other Nations – by invitation of our Government.

  3. David Stone says:

    Surely Turnbull’s dithering comes from his son Alex’s major investment in Infigen energy.

    Both father and son are Goldman Sachs men – as they say “there’s no such thing as an ex – Goldman Sachs man.

    The Danes have called the wind industry the most corrupt in history. The reason is its capacity to corrupt the legal system, the political system, the media, the financial system, the scientific community and the thinking of the normally sane citizens of their nation.

    Is it possible that Goldman Sachs’s first and only leader of a nation, Malcolm Turnbull, is putting family before nation – treasonous when you consider the nation will be impoverished so the Turnbull family can line its pockets.

  4. Terry Conn says:

    Re 8james 38 – no doubt about the benefits of ‘nuclear’ power . This country has banned it and prefers to believe in fairy tales of wind and solar powered electricity generation. Whether concerns about ‘climate change’ are as serious as claimed it is a matter of survival for our nation to get rid of this ‘renewables’ insanity and coal is our only hope – gas could have been but the ‘green’ politics of this nation has put a stop to that as well by ensuring all that is ‘mined’ is needed to fill contracts requiring shipping it out of the nation. Insanity prevails.

  5. While I agree with most of the arguments against wind power, I am dismayed by this site’s constant suggesting that coal is a viable source of grid power. It is, only if one is willing to ignore the future of the planet. We simply must quit adding CO2 to the atmosphere. The consequences of ocean level rise, acidification of the oceans leading to extinctions of sea life, and temperature rise are globally devastating.

    There is an answer. Modern MSR/LFTR (Molten Salt Reactor/Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) technology is totally fail-safe and relatively inexpensive.

    1000 wind turbines won’t come close to replacing 1 reactor, due to the low capacity factor of wind power. It would take closer to 5000 wind turbines to generate 10 billion kWh per year (and you won’t get to decide when you get that power).”

    Actually unless it is possible to spread the wind turbines out so that the necessary minimum baseload power is always present (probably impossible), any number of wind turbines will require storage. This problem will just get worse as the number of wind turbines increases. Germany is often offered as an example of wind/solar success. But it is necessary to remember that Germany is about the size of Montana, (and wonder what the country would look like with enough wind turbines to provide anything similar to 100% of its power.)

    As to the cost, modern MSR (Molten Salt Reactors) – which operate at atmospheric pressure, require no massive containment structure, can use the famous stockpiles of “spent” fuel rods (which still contain over 95% of the original energy potential) as fuel at an efficiency of nearly 100%, eliminating the (exaggerated) “storage problem”, are totally fail-safe – are also much less expensive to build with a projected cost on the order of a comparable CCGT plant.

    See thorconpower.com for a company ready to build these reactors on a commercial scale.
    Also see Moltex Energy for a different approach that may have real advantages.
    See timothymaloney dot net for several important articles on these topics. His site is an extremely important resource for anyone interested in the energy future of the planet.

    Modern reactors are built to load follow. Anyone bringing up safety concern re nuclear power is beating a dead horse. Nuclear power has the best safety record by far than any other large scale generating method, and that includes the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Both of those reactors were early types that will never be built again. Chernobyl, an insanely primitive reactor with a positive void coefficient and no containment, blew up because of operator error.
    Fukushima was built in a totally crazy place, well known for tsunami danger, with the backup generators in the basement. The site designers are the guilty ones there.

    Any viable discussion of energy must include serious consideration of MSR/LFTR technology. That is base-load power that will help save the planet.

    • The law in Australia prohibits nuclear power generation and Labor policy is to that same effect. The law and policy is discussed here:

      http://ipa.org.au/publications-ipa/freedomwatch/potential-nuclear-power-australia
      Unless the law is changed, Australia will never enjoy nuclear power. Accordingly, Australia will continue to rely on coal fired power. STT is pragmatic, not idealistic. We thoroughly support nuclear power, but, for now, it’s coal or nothing. If you want to get the law changed in this country, we wish you the best of luck.

      • I am very glad to see your clear statement in support of nuclear power. This is the first time I have seen this clear statement on the site. Please remember to at least briefly mention that part of your understanding in future articles. Just reminding people that the problem is the local regulations, not some problem with nuclear power itself, will help gradually build a pro-nuclear consensus.

        Once again, thanks very much. When enough citizens understand the viability and the importance of nuclear energy, a government can be voted in with the same comprehension of reality.

      • STT has done dozens of posts supporting nuclear power, search ‘nuclear power’ in our search bar and you will find them. We have a post later this week on how Texas’s nuclear plants were able to power through Hurricane Harvey, where its 21,000 mw of wind power shut down due to strong winds.

    • 8james38 maybe you can enlighten us where we can buy an off-the-shelf, reliable, proven technology modern MSR/LFTR (Molten Salt Reactor/Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor)?
      While I agree Thorium reactors may one day become an every day commodity, for the present they are not and Australia’s problem is it needs to “fix” its government vandalised, broken electricity system now not maybe ten or twenty years down the track.

      • Bon, you need to go back and read my post carefully. Right in the middle there are addresses of TWO companies ready RIGHT NOW to build MSR generating plants.
        One of them, Thorcon Power, has an ongoing project with Indonesia where the intent is to build the world’s first commercial MSR. See the site thorconpower and read the news section.

    • Bjames38,

      You need to rid yourself of the notion that CO2 needs to be reduced, this type of thinking has lead the SA government to dynamite a perfectly good coal plant and replace it with all manner of tourist attractions.

      The latest zealot driven waste of money is a 150mw CST in Pt Augusta, what this plant can generate in year playford (before we blew it up) could generate in 22 days. Victoria’s coal plants combined would generate this amount in 50 hours.

      The power from the CST will cost us $75.mW plus $80 plus through the RECS subsidy. The CO2 is pollution belief clouds your judgment.

      Your belief in OA is laughable, once again this type of hive mind group think clouds your judgment.

      What you need to do is approach this topic with the simple thought of how to generate power in the most efficient and reliable way possible, the way to do this is through coal power.

      All synchronous generators are built to load follow, base load in Oz arrives at 4am everyday, our coal plants used to load follow but after Hazelwood shut down they can’t afford to as there is not enough generation. Liddle will close in 5 years so we have 5 years to fix the problem and it will take years to build a coal plant much longer to build a nuke.

      Peak stupid is almost upon us

      • Crakar, You are abysmally ignorant of atmospheric science and the history of CO2 re global temperature. One fact that clarifies things for some folks is to study the rapidity of our current CO2 level growth. Previous natural large fluctuations in atmospheric CO2 have taken place over much longer time frames, and thus have allowed time for animals and plants to adapt. The present rapid change is overwhelming any possible ability for life to adapt, and may overwhelm planetary balancing mechanisms, leading to other major disasters. Look into ocean acidification for a specific large and frightening problem.

        Your other main need is for education about the realities of MSR/LFTR. Those reactors are totally fail-safe. They operate at essentially atmospheric pressure, use no water in the core, and thus cannot explode under any circumstance. They thus require no massive cooling towers nor do they require a massive containment structure. The overall design is much simpler than a standard PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor), and while the cost of construction will come down as the components are standardized and assembly line production is refined, present cost of construction is LESS than a new coal plant – about equal to a CCGT facility.

        This means that Nuclear power, in the form of MSR/LFTR, can provide electricity at a competitive rate – ultimately cheaper than coal or natural gas, with no significant resource depletion. Thus, no matter what you think about the dangers of CO2 rise or other pollution from coal, nuclear power offers a better approach from simple economics.

        I gave references that will provide you with fascinating information that you will both enjoy, and benefit from greatly.

    • CO2 is increasing, and is helping green the planet.
      http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v6/n8/full/nclimate3004.html
      Only fudged data shows any significant warming of the climate.
      http://www.climatedepot.com/2017/01/18/load-of-bollocks-2016-allegedly-hottest-year-by-immeasurable-1100-of-a-degree-while-satellites-show-pause-continues/
      http://notrickszone.com/2017/04/22/believe-it-global-warming-hiatus-real-chinese-and-japanese-scientists-affirm/#sthash.eTYfNjyY.dpuf
      Tide gauges show the sea has been rising at about 1mm per year for the last 100 years.
      http://joannenova.com.au/2015/01/sea-level-rise-was-less-than-thought-skeptics-were-right/
      The ocean is only becoming less alkaline according to models, not real data.
      http://joannenova.com.au/2015/01/oceans-not-acidifying-scientists-hid-80-years-of-ph-data/
      CAGW is bollocks. It’s not about climate, it’s about Agenda 2030.
      As far as where to get our electricity from, the cheapest proven source of generation is coal. Most people just want the cheapest reliable electricity they can get. If molten salt reactors work, that’s great, but there will be teething problems and it is probably wisest to wait and see. We need to build new coal plants NOW.

      • Bj,

        The ice core data proves your CO2 drives temp theory wrong.

        There is snowfall across the se of oz, Its currently snowing in Lorne FFS, I am sure you could invoke some left of field bat crazy explanation linked to CO2 induced warming but the bottom line is the atmosphere needs to be extremely cold to do that. Suggest you look beyond the planet for an explanation

        WRT nukes, it takes far more to build one than just a good idea. It would take 10 years of arguing with people like you that believe in blankets of CO2 trapping heat. A decade of government dithering to decide which one to buy and even then we would end up cutting a deal with the Yanks to buy a light water reactor.

        We don’t have the knowledge to build one, our universities are not geared up to educate nuclear engineers and after all that you will have a 20 fight with the NIMBY’s.

        We could start building a coal plant tomorrow.

        Probably now best to skip fission and develop fusion

        Regards

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