No Contest: Wind & Solar Can Never Compete With Ever Reliable & Affordable Coal-Fired Power

All steamed up: what’s really powering Australians now, and in the future.

 

It won’t be long before RE zealots are forced to accept defeat: wherever you look, coal, gas, hydro and nuclear keep thrashing wind and solar. Not simply because they’re cheaper, but because they work. And when we say ‘work’ STT means delivering power when and whenever consumers need it.

STT doesn’t promote coal-fired power because we love coal. STT promotes it simply because it works and because it provides affordable power to all comers – 24 x 365 – whatever the weather and any time of day or night. It’s that simple, really.

Modern economies aren’t structured around the weather or time-of-day. Industrial economies operate around-the-clock.

If people are prepared to go back to the Stone Age then, sure, why not harness your energy hopes to that lucky old Sun and the Wind Gods. However, for some strange reason, countries like China and India – while paying a little lip service to wind and solar – are furiously building hundreds of coal-fired power plants, in an effort to drag themselves out of grinding poverty and to stand shoulder to shoulder with Europe and America, as industrial economies.

Again, STT doesn’t promote coal-fired power because we love coal. STT does so simply because coal-fired power works: the market says so, and has done so for a century.

Sure, a few wealthy virtue signallers in the West believe they can operate without reliable and affordable power supplies (although that class of clowns run fairly quiet in wind and sun ‘powered’ South Australia). But try telling that to the hundreds of millions who live in grinding poverty, around the globe.

No country ever dragged itself out of agrarian poverty without an Industrial Revolution. And no Industrial Revolution was ever powered by sunshine and breezes.

Australia’s enviable prosperity is inextricably linked to cheap and readily available energy: be it coal, oil, gas or hydro.

The real heavy lifter in that line up is coal.

On any given day coal-fired power is generating between 75% and 85% of the electricity being chewed up across the Eastern Grid.

After sunset on a breathless summer’s evening, the so-called ‘future fuels’- wind and solar – are producing a big fat doughnut, of course; always have, always will. Battery storage is a ludicrously expensive pipe dream and pumped hydro simply squanders between 25% to 30% of the electricity generated and required to pump water uphill for later use.

STT happily promotes nuclear power because it’s cheap, its safe – the wind industry is responsible for more direct fatalities (over 180 vs 56 fire and rescue workers at Chernobyl) – and it works, rain, hail or shine.

Until Australians and their elected representatives grow up and start acting like adults, nuclear power is off the radar. Acting like infants, Australia’s Federal Government banned nuclear electricity generation outright in 1998.

So, that leaves Australians with no choice at all: it’s coal-fired power, or nothing.

Coal’s future burns bright through its support of Australian prosperity
The Australian
Perry Williams
18 October 2018

When the NSW government offloaded its last remaining coal-fired power plant in 2015 for the price of a Sydney suburban home, it ­appeared the fossil fuel’s glory days were numbered. Vales Point, built in 1978 on the shores of Lake Macquarie, was considered near worthless and part of an ­ageing coal fleet headed for an early grave.

Yet three years after buying the power station for just $1 million, co-owner Trevor St Baker has reaped bumper profits and is now scanning the Australian market for more coal investments. “The death of coal has been completely exaggerated,” St Baker told The Australian yesterday from Canberra. “We are now looking decades ahead for coal in this country. The future remains very bright.”

Amid a growing clamour for developed nations to switch out of coal, Australia stands out as one of the most exposed countries globally. It faces a vocal and ­increasingly influential anti-­carbon lobby urging the complete withdrawal of any association with the fossil fuel and pressuring a growing number of large banks, financiers and superannuation funds to publicly shun and shutter funding for coal projects.

For Australia, the stakes could hardly be higher. Coal supplies a whopping 77 per cent of the ­national electricity grid, about twice the level of the US. ­Remove even one large coal-fired power station from the mix at short ­notice and the grid would creak under the strain. Drop coal altogether and Australia stands to lose exports that delivered a record $61 billion in 2017-18, overtaking iron ore as the country’s biggest export earner.

And the costs in jobs would be significant: coalmining employs almost 50,000 people, according to the Minerals Council of Australia, with producers paying about $5bn in royalties to the Queensland and NSW governments last year. The nation’s high standard of living is partly down to booming exports as wealth flows through to the economy.

But the two types of coal mined in bulk by Australia face differing outlooks. Australia’s best quality black coal — known as coking or metallurgical coal and mostly mined in Queensland — goes direct to the steel mills of Asia, with 191 million tonnes to be shipped to buyers led by India, China and Japan this year, raking in $36bn in revenues. There’s no large-scale alternative to using that coal to make steel in Asia and, as with iron ore, there’s little agitation from green groups about its use given its role as a building block for construction and heavy industry.

The critics’ focus falls squarely on the dirtier thermal variety — also known as steaming coal — which has been seized on by environmentalists as the mineral that has to give way if Australia has any chance of meeting its long-run targets of reducing emissions. Mined mostly in NSW’s Hunter Valley, it is also one of Australia’s top export earners, with revenues tipped to top $25bn in 2018-19, second only to top ­trader Indonesia.

Australia’s thermal coal ­exports have nearly doubled in the past decade as demand has risen, dominated by chief buyer Japan, with China, South Korea and Taiwan also major consumers.

While virtually all of our metallurgical coal is exported, about a quarter, or 65 million tonnes, of our thermal coal volumes are kept for domestic use to fuel Australia’s electricity network. With one tonne of thermal coal powering a household for four months, the fuel has been a competitive advantage for Australia over decades.

Despite the growing influence of renewable energy, it is thermal coal that does the heavy lifting and still provides about 75 per cent of power for Australia’s electricity grid. And it was the sudden exit of a major coal-fired power station — Victoria’s Hazelwood plant last year — that made a significant and worrying contribution to the rise in power prices over the past 18 months as generators scrambled to fill the gap with often less reliable supply.

While that doesn’t mean investors will be lining up to build new coal-fired power stations in Australia, it underlines the danger of transitioning too swiftly away from a fuel that continues to prop up the power grid.

Much of the alarm over the ­future of coal stems from a ­report last year from the International Energy Agency that stated investment in new coal power across the globe had peaked and was set to fall. Certainly in the US and Europe, coal has declined and new power stations are ­unlikely to be built. Coal use in the US has fallen 37 per cent since the turn of the century, an even bigger decline than the 26 per cent fall in EU countries over the same time.

The mining downturn earlier this decade, when coal hit rock bottom prices, led some to warn that thermal coal mines could become stranded ­assets with no buyers for their output. Yet world coal production ­actually ­increased by 3 per cent last year after three years of ­declines, according to the IEA.

And Australia provides close to the world’s best supplies because of its high-energy-content and low-ash coal. In Asia, coal demand is ­thriving as developing economies look to hitch a ride towards greater prosperity.

“Global coal demand rose about 1 per cent in 2017, reversing the declining trend seen over the last two years,” the IEA says. “This growth was mainly due to demand in Asia, almost entirely driven by an increase in coal-fired electricity generation.”

Experts warn that getting rid of Australian coal would simply mean even dirtier coal from China, Indonesia and Russia would come in to plug the supply gap.

Asian thermal coal import ­demand is forecast to grow by 54 per cent, or 400 million tonnes, out to 2030, according to a Commodity Insights analysis prepared for the Minerals Council, led by growth from India. “This strong Asian demand growth profile ­potentially presents significant ­opportunities for Australian exporters, particularly if Indonesian exports decline or slow over the forecast period,” the report states.

“Australian coal is ideally placed, in terms of coal quality, proximity to market, infrastructure availability and supplier ­reliability, to share in this Asian demand growth to 2030 and possibly beyond. However, given the competition from other suppliers, Australia will need to add or ­expand mines and infrastructure, particularly rail, in a timely fashion to support this growth.”

And it’s on this last point where significant uncertainty persists. An effective strike on sizeable new investment in coalmines in Australia would threaten to hand market share to regional neighbours — and rivals.

“It has historically taken a minimum of four years for Australian thermal coal exports to ­respond materially to higher price signals, which is probably much longer now,” the report says. “We believe that suppliers in Australia will respond, but the response will be slower than other exporters.”

For Australian coalminers, much will hinge on whether this bullish long-term outlook justifies any meaningful expansion of mines and whether Adani’s closely watched Carmichael mine opens up a new source of supply from Queensland’s Galilee Basin.

Coal will remain an integral part of the energy mix. But a shift away from dirty fuels and a greater emphasis on climate change would mean Australia would face a fight to retain its market dominance in the decades ahead.

Meanwhile, the debate over the future role of coal in the power grid will continue to split the major political parties ahead of next year’s election. The government has said it has no plans to phase out coal-fired power despite a climate change report last week warning of repercussions if the fossil fuel wasn’t ditched by 2050. “If we take coal out of our ­energy system, the lights will go out on the east coast of Australia, it’s as simple as that,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.
The Australian

Perry Williams almost managed an entire article on energy without drifting into the realms of fantasy but, sure enough, he couldn’t help himself with this:

While that doesn’t mean investors will be lining up to build new coal-fired power stations in Australia, it underlines the danger of transitioning too swiftly away from a fuel that continues to prop up the power grid.

There’s that word again. Okay Perry, just what are we going to be “transitioning” to? The Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age?

No industrialised country has ever run itself on sunshine and breezes. No country worth living in, ever will.

And routinely delivering 75-85% of Australia’s power needs – without fail, rain hail or shine – coal-fired power is hardly there to just “prop up” the grid: those numbers sound more like coal-fired power is the backbone, meat and potatoes of Australia’s electricity supply.

Affordable and reliable electricity is the cornerstone of a modern, civil society.

Attempts to run on sunbeams and zephyrs have ended in economic debacles.

Australia’s wind and solar capital, South Australia isn’t renowned as an industrial superpower or economic powerhouse; instead, it’s the butt of international jokes. It ‘transitioned’, all right: South Australia is the only state in Australia to suffer a statewide blackout, has a grid on the brink of collapse, pays the world’s highest electricity prices and, for that reason, is an economic basket case and will remain so for generations to come. No sensible investor would bother with a state that’s more interested in virtue signalling, than meaningful economic growth and prosperity. It’s a basket case, and rightly so.

Any industrialised economy worth its salt is investing in coal-fired power. And if you’re looking for an example of an industrial superpower, then look no further than Japan.

There doesn’t seem to be any indication that Japan will be transitioning away from coal-fired power, in any kind of hurry. And any transition will be to reliable nuclear power, not wind or solar.

In the Land of the Rising Sun, it’s literally full steam ahead: using Australian coal as it builds a nuclear powered future, no doubt using Australian uranium.

Japan committed to Australian thermal coal for power needs
The Australian
Joe Kelly
15 October 2018

Japan’s ambassador to Australia has confirmed Tokyo will defy calls by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to phase out coal by mid-century as part of a scientific appeal to limit global temperature increases to 1.5C.

Sumio Kusaka told The Australian that Japan would consider “all practical ways to further advance decarbonisation” but would need to bolster coal supply in the ­immediate future. He said Japanese plans to ­reduce reliance on fossil fuels in line with its international commitments would see a greater focus on nuclear energy, a form of power prohibited in Australia since 1998.

In recent weeks, Tony Abbott and Ziggy ­Swit­kowski, former chair of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, have called for the prohibition on nuclear power to be lifted to provide for the arrival of small modular reactors that can power towns of 100,000 people.

“I am aware the recent IPCC report contains some firm recommendations in relation to coal,” Mr Kusaka told The Australian.

“However, Japan is a country with very limited resources of its own, and bearing in mind our energy ­security requirements, it would be difficult for us to eliminate coal- fired power altogether.

“With a view to 2050, we are also considering all practical ways to further advance decarbonisation. In relation to this, some of the technologies we are looking at include renewable energy, ­nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage.’’

Mr Kusaka said Tokyo would continue to buy coal from Australia to secure its energy needs into the future. Japan was the largest importer of Australian thermal coal last year.

It took about 82 million tonnes in 2017 and was the second-largest importer globally, taking about 144 million tonnes.

“Japan seeks to further strengthen co-operation with Australia to ensure the stable supply of coal moving ahead,” he said.

An IPCC report released last week outlined that limiting global temperature increases to 1.5C on pre-industrial levels instead of 2C would require the phase-out of coal by mid-century.

Scott Morrison has argued that Australia will not be bound by the findings of the IPCC report and has rejected its push for a rapid global phase-out of coal-fired power.
The Australian

Japan’s Isogo – shows way-to-go: HELE plant sets the new standard.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Weasel Wind's Words says:

    Thanks as ever STT for your clarity.

    I will now transition into my pyjamas and then transition peacefully from consciousness to sleep, secure in the knowledge that STT is striving to keep the bastards and their language honest.

  2. Oops!

    Through some strange twist of fate, the access road to Cape Bridgewater appears to be blocking progress for the global wind industry in South West Victoria.

    Quote…

    Portland Observer August 2018

    BILL MELDRUM

    Wind towers too big for Portland ring road bridge

    A SHIPMENT of 60 imported wind towers expected to start leaving in October from the Port of Portland to the Murra Warra wind farm near Horsham has started to sound alarm bells to authorities and industry representatives.

    The towers will have to be transported on an alternative route because they are too big to travel under the Bridgewater Road bridge, which spans the Henty Highway ring road.

    Glenelg Shire Mayor, Anita Rank, said that some sections of the towers were six metres in diameter.

    The issue was raised at last Wednesday`s renewable energy forum in Portland.

    Committee for Portland vice-president and wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince Engineering boss, Steve Garner, told the forum the size of towers had been getting larger over the past 15 years.

    He said VicRoads either has to lower the road or raise the bridge.

    “I also believe authorities need a lot more time so preparations can be made to co-ordinate these projects – the last thing we need from a Portland perspective is for deliveries to wind farm projects not being made because they can`t get through.”

    VicRoads south-west regional director, Mark Koliba, said VicRoads knows how important it is that the road network leading to and from the Port of Portland is capable of catering to heavy loads, which are continuing to increase in both size and weight.

    “We will be working with Glenelg Shire and Transport for Victoria on a long-term strategy to ensure over-dimensional vehicles can continue to move easily through the region,” Mr Koliba said.

    …end quote.

    • Jackie Rovensky says:

      Oh my, evidence this industry is ‘blowing up’, not only in size but in the belief it can do anything it wants at the expense of the Rate Payers – who will pay for the lowering of the road – the rebuilding of bridges, widening of roads. purchase of roadside properties and land etc., as these towers and no doubt blades get bigger?
      Definitely not the industry because that would increase their costs and make them even less financially viable – if that’s possible.

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