Power Politics: Australia’s Energy Crisis Turns Voters Against Subsidised Wind & Solar

The well-worn mantra is that everyone is all in favour of renewable energy.

And there’s something in it – right up to the point when they have to pay for it. Or right up to the point when the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing and they’re left sitting freezing or boiling in the dark. For some reason, thereafter, power consumers seem to take a very keen interest in where their power comes from, whether they can get it when they want it and how much it costs.

Politics is a cruel trade. No sooner have its practitioners mastered the political mood than a happy proletariat turns into an ugly mob.

Right now in Australia, there is no uglier mob than power dependent businesses and households struggling to pay power bills, which are now the highest in the world.

With widespread Summer blackouts forecast and power prices set to double again over the next two or three years, politicians flubbing around the periphery are going to be crucified at the ballot box.

PM, Malcolm Turnbull and his witless sidekick, Josh Frydenberg have set the gold standard in flummery. Neither of them are game to even mention, let alone tackle, the principal cause of the calamity: the Federal Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target.

Once upon a time, the reasoning went that it was a brave politician who would openly criticise renewables of any description. Turnbull and Frydenberg keep sticking to that formula. However, the vast majority of Australians have cottoned on to the relationship between heavily subsidised wind and solar power, blackouts and their rocketing power bills.

Bill shock looms amid baseload power crisis
The Australian
David Crowe
5 September 2017

Australians are at risk from a dangerous shortfall in baseload power that could drive up household electricity bills, according to a new report to the Turnbull government that comes as more voters turn away from paying higher prices for renewable energy.

The government has been warned of a looming gap in the national electricity supply as coal-fired power stations shut down, highlighting the need for urgent decisions to build new generators that operate around the clock.

The findings, delivered to Malcolm Turnbull and key ministers yesterday, come as consumers ring the alarm on the hit to their budgets from the upheaval in the energy market, with 49 per cent declaring they will not pay a cent more for renewable power.

A special Newspoll, conducted exclusively for The Australian, ­reveals an increase in the number of voters who refuse to pay a premium for renewable energy, with the number rising from 45 per cent in February. Although 25 per cent of voters say they are willing to pay an ­additional $100 a year for renewable energy, this has ­fallen from 28 per cent in a similar survey last October.

The government is shifting its focus to the reliability of new ­energy generators, as well as the push for a clean energy target, amid a fundamental Coalition divide over whether to offer more incentives to wind and solar farms. The new advice from the Australian Energy Market Operator to Energy Minister Josh ­Frydenberg emphasises the need to fix the shortage of baseload power by using coal or gas generators alongside more renewable generators.

The Australian was told the ­report warns of a shortfall that will worsen over the next decade as old coal-fired power stations are closed and the east coast grid loses huge amounts of “dispatch­able” electricity that has been supplied for decades regardless of weather conditions or the time of day.

The government is determined to fix the “dispatchability” issue as well as the “clean energy” demands that come with its stated commitment to meet internat­ional targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Driving the agenda is advice to government on the planned closure of the Liddell power station in NSW in 2022 and Vales Point in NSW in 2028. Those closures would take 3200 megawatt hours out of the east coast grid, double the capacity lost when Victoria’s Hazelwood power station shut down in April.

The advice to the government from several reports, including modelling prepared for the ­energy review by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, shows the next wave of dispatchable power can come from coal as well as a combination of sources including renewables.

Some of the findings counter a push from Coalition MPs for a mammoth investment in a new coal-fired power station in Queensland, using more efficient “ultra supercritical” technology being rolled out in Asia.

A new coal-power station would take seven to eight years to build and could face fierce competition from wind and solar by the time it starts generating, given the steady fall in the cost of ­producing renewable energy. The ­expansion of an existing coal-fired power station is seen as a more ­viable option to add baseload power as quickly as possible.

Liberal National Party MP David Littleproud is calling for the expansion of the Kogan Creek power station in his Queensland electorate of Maranoa, a supercritical generator that is linked to a nearby coal mine and could be ramped up from its existing ­capacity of 700 megawatt hours.

The government is also alive to the potential of new solar farms, given advice that a new facility with a capacity of 800 megawatt hours could be rolled out in less than a year. The latest solar photovoltaic panels can produce 50 per cent more electricity at the same cost as earlier technology, while being combined with battery storage to guarantee reliability.

The government believes the Snowy Hydro scheme expansion can increase its capacity by 50 per cent to 3500 megawatt hours or more, turning a huge amount of solar or other renewable power into baseload electricity to be switched on as needed. While this could take up to six years, the project would add capacity quicker than a new coal-power station.

The Coalition partyroom meets today with MPs at odds over whether to endorse a clean energy target and whether to set a target that could include coal. Backbenchers said yesterday they were reluctant to start a debate on the issue until Mr Frydenberg had considered the AEMO report.

Mr Frydenberg said the report would show that there would have to be “sufficient dispatchability” in the network and that coal was a way to achieve this. “The cheapest form of existing power generation comes from existing coal,” he told Sky News. “It’s also a stable, reliable form of dispatchable power. So if we can keep our coal-fired power stations going for longer then that can provide a good outcome for Australian consumers. We recognise that we need coal in our system and we will ensure that that continues to be the case.”

The latest Newspoll survey highlights the community divide on energy, with 45 per cent of voters expecting an increase in their bills from the shift to renewables while 22 per cent anticipate a ­decrease and 24 per cent expect no change. In a warning sign to the government, 60 per cent of ­Coalition voters believe renewables will increase their bills. Only 31 per cent of Labor voters and 31 per cent of Greens voters believe the same. Voters also appear to be turning against the idea of paying higher bills to use renewable power, with 49 per cent saying they would pay “nothing” extra — up from 45 per cent in February and 44 per cent last October.

While 25 per cent said they were willing to pay $100 a year more for renewable power, this was down from 26 per cent in February and 28 per cent last October. Opinions are divided along party lines, with 59 per cent of ­Coalition voters refusing to pay more for renewable power compared with 38 per cent of Labor voters and 25 per cent of Greens voters.
The Australian

David Crowe is pretty new to the energy game, which explains lines like this: “Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, shows the next wave of dispatchable power can come from coal as well as a combination of sources including renewables”.

Note to David, ‘dispatchable’ means available on demand, rather than available when the wind is blowing at a perfect 11m/s and the sun is at high noon, on a cloudless day.

The only dispatchable source mentioned in David’s list is coal.

Having received power bills which are fully 20% higher than last year and with an appreciation that this country is being powered by coal, power consumers (read voters) have not only fallen out of love with heavily subsidised renewables, they seem very keen to maintain, preserve and build the coal-fired power plants needed to keep Australia at the top of the economic league tables.

Australia’s wealth and prosperity didn’t come from windmills and solar panels: it came from cheap and reliable energy. Coal, gas and hydro, in that order.

Malcolm Turnbull’s home state of NSW backs clean coal plant
The Australian
Geoff Chambers
7 September 2017

The push to build a new high-­efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) coal-fired power plant in NSW has attracted support from 64 per cent of people in Malcolm Turnbull’s home state, as the Nationals move to back new investment in the coal industry and freeze renewable ­energy subsidies.

A survey conducted by pollster Crosby Textor of 1000 residents across the state showed 81 per cent of Coalition voters backed a new clean coal plant compared with 57 per cent of Labor supporters.

Residents polled in Sydney and regional NSW supported the construction of a new coal-fired power station if it could produce “electricity with lower emissions than existing power stations”.

NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee, who commissioned the poll, told The Australian the survey showed there was “significant support across NSW” for the construction of a new HELE power plant.

“Since the recent closure of coal-fired power plants in Victoria and South Australia we’ve seen a reduction in supply and a spike in prices,” Mr Galilee said.

“In the Hunter, AGL intends to close the Liddell power station in just five years and, without replacement capacity, these issues are set to get worse.”

At the Nationals’ federal conference in Canberra this weekend, the party will vote on motions calling for the freezing of renewable energy subsidies, promoting and supporting the development of the Australian coal sector and for the federal government to “fully resist environmental groups who are determined to disrupt and impede” the industry.

A motion, put forward by the Victorian, South Australian and Young Nationals branches, calls for the federal government to pursue further initiatives including “HELE generation” to provide a “more reliable, secure and affordable power supply in regional Australia”.

In July, The Australian revealed the construction of a new HELE coal-fired power station would cost $2.2bn, according to analysis compiled by power and energy sector specialists GHD and Solstice Development Services.

The study, commissioned by the Minerals Council of Australia and COAL21 Fund, said a 1000MW ultra-supercritical coal-power plant would produce electricity at $40-$78 per megawatt hour, compared with gas at $69-$115/MWh and solar at $90-$171.

Mr Galilee said the mining and manufacturing industries, led by major employers in western Sydney and regional resources-based companies, had expressed concerns about the rising costs of electricity and future “reliability of supply”.

“While most generally support more renewable energy, many are concerned about the inability to run their businesses using intermittent wind and solar.

The NSW Minerals Council, which represents resource giants including Glencore, Whitehaven, BHP, Rio Tinto, and Yancoal, claims a HELE plant would future- proof NSW against blackouts, and reduce emissions from the “current levels at the Liddell plant by around 25 per cent”.
The Australian

Eventually, politics catches up with even the cleverest of salesmen. No longer should politicians fear slamming the greatest economic and environmental fraud of all time. Unless they’re in on it, now is the time for our political betters to start promoting cheap and reliable power.

The voting public’s presumed love affair with feel-good power fuelled by sunshine and breezes was more like a one night stand. Now it’s over.

Over to you Malcolm.

Malcolm, Josh, the game has changed.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. David Crowe has never seen daylight before – by the time he catches up to the ‘reality’ of the ‘renewables’ scam many of us will be dead or being tortured by wind farms – regardless of this he is obviously a favoured pet of Turnbull’s so if he manages to catch on and catch up to the wind farm scam we may all benefit from reverse osmosis – unfortunately the nation doesn’t have the time, the LRET must go now, not when David Crowe grows up.

  2. singletonengineer says:

    “Those closures would take 3200 megawatt hours out of the east coast grid.”

    David Crowe needs to learn the difference between power and energy.

    Power is measured in units of megawatts (1 MW means 1 megawatt, or MW)

    Energy is the amount of work done. It is measured as power x hours, hence megawatthours, or MWh.

    This becomes essential knowledge when comparing battery capacity, which in SA’s Tesla example, is 129 MWh (energy stored) with a maximum delivery rate of 100MW.

    To confuse energy and power is to display one’s lack of basic understanding of the topic.

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