Decarbonising Australia (updated)

I’ve been meaning to post about the Australian Energy Market Operator’s report on the feasibility of a 100 per cent renewable electricity supply system for Australia (H/T commenter Ben). In the meantime, Brian Bahnisch at LP has done a detailed summary, so I’ll refer you there and make a few points of my own.

First, this study should kill off, once and for all, claims made here and in many other places (notably, at Brave New Climate) that the intermittency of renewable electricity is an insuperable problem.[1] The AEMO is the body that manages the electricity market on a minute-to-minute basis, so it has the expertise to assess this claim, unlike the many amateurs who have tried their hands. And, since it might have to do the job, it has no reason to understate the difficulties of a renewables-based system.

Second, the estimate cost of $111 to $133 per megawatt-hour represents an increase of $60-80/MwH on current wholesale prices, or 6-8c/Kwh on retail prices. That’s much less than the increase we’ve seen thanks to the mishandling of electricity market reform. If we wound back those costs, we could actually end up with both 100 per cent renewables and cheaper electricity.

Third, although the study envisages a role for electric vehicles, it doesn’t present a full-scale program for decarbonization. But once you have a scalable, fully renewable electricity supply, everything else is comparatively easy.

Finally, if we take Tony Abbott at his word in wanting direct action to deal with climate change, this report provides him with a blueprint. If we want to, we can eliminate the great majority of domestic CO2 emissions simply by mandating renewable technology and electric vehicles. The cost would be substantial in dollar terms ($250 billion for the electricity component). But, over a couple of decades, it would be a barely detectable deduction from growth in national income.

Update As it turns out, there’s a response at Brave New Climate from Martin Nicholson. Nicholson reports on a study of his own, in which nuclear is included in the mix. On Nicholson’s estimates, this substantially reduces capital costs, a point of which he makes a big deal. But obviously, renewables have much lower operating costs and Nicholson estimates the levelised cost for his system at $124/MWh to $126/MWh. As he says:

As this is in the middle of the AEMO range, wholesale prices are likely to be similar with or without nuclear

Given that very few current-generation nuclear plants have been built, cost estimates for nuclear are speculative. The obvious inference for Australia is that we should push along with renewables, and take a “wait and see” position on nuclear, observing developments in the UK, US, France and China. If they can deliver nuclear safely and at low cost, we can add it to the mix (say, after 2030).

Sadly, I think most of the BNC readership are locked into a position that nuclear must be the answer, which requires them to believe that renewables won’t work. Even a comprehensive demonstration that renewables can deliver a 100 per cent solution at a cost comparable with optimistic estimates for nuclear isn’t going to shift them.end update

fn1. This is part of a rhetorical manoeuvre aimed at pushing the conclusion that nuclear is the only feasible zero-carbon option. Once it’s admitted that 100 per cent renewable electricity is feasible, nuclear advocates need to present a case based on comparative costs. In the Australian context, it will be very hard to make that case, given the need to set up a complete nuclear infrastructure from scratch.

214 thoughts on “Decarbonising Australia (updated)

  1. Quokka, a minimum price of about 12 cents a kilowatt-hour for 20 years is apparently not high enough for the Hinkley C reactor in the UK to proceed. That means that even before the cost of insurance is included nuclear power is more expensive than burning natural gas and dumping agricultural waste in the ocean to sequester the CO2 released. It is also much more expensive than wind or point of use solar. So what is the point of paying more than we need to for nuclear when other alternatives are cheaper?

  2. Fran, I had another look, and I did have it right the first time. 150,000 braids soaked for 60 days, 6 times a year, would be needed to supply one reactor. FWIW, though, I’m starting to agree with the rest of what you say…

    “Look up “Extracting Minerals from Seawater: An Energy Analysis” – Ugo Bardi.”

    Ikon, the reasoning in this paper is flawed. Bardi works out you need 1 Sverdrup of current to process enough uranium to meet our total yearly consumption. He then looks around the world, and identifies the Strait of Gibraltar as seeing 1 Sverdrup of current. He then figures, well, we can’t dam the whole thing without causing massive environmental damage, so what if we just dam a tenth of it? In which case, we’d need ten Straits of Gibraltar (in practice, many more than that) to cover what we need – and where are we going to find those!?

    But why one strait, and then a tenth, and therefore ten(s of) straits which don’t exist, therefore this is all impossible? That’s a strawman fallacy right there…

    Why not 500 extraction fields to begin with ie. one per reactor? Assuming perfect efficiency (which Bardi does at this point), even a conservative 1km/h average current speed requires only a 60m x 100m extraction window to see enough current in a year to supply enough uranium to power a 1GW reactor…and you can find 1km/h currents pretty much anywhere…

    From the paper: “We can conclude that uranium extraction from seawater has a low EROEI.”

    The EROEI of 2.5 he calculated was based on already outmoded technology. To ‘conclude’ as he does would be like concluding in the 1960s that solar technology could never be viable. The huge environmental damage he forecasted was also based on the same technology…using ‘total supply of diesel fuel to the fishing industry’ as an energy comparison also makes little sense to me, but I’ll leave that one for now…

    None of this alters my position on the use or viability of nuclear power. I’m just not seeing any inherent, “insuperable”, limitations to extracting uranium from seawater…

    I’m inclined to accept at this point that, for all intents and purposes, there really is an inexhaustible supply available.

  3. @Ronald Brak

    If your claims about LCOE and total system costs of various technologies are correct, you too should have no problems with the AEMO including nuclear in 2030 and 2050 scenarios with accompanying estimates of system costs. I anticipate your support for such a formal study as quite distinct from throw away, unreferenced, blog comments.

    Be warned though, that if technology costs come from the same source as for the renewables scenarios – BREE’s AUSTRALIAN ENERGY TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT 2012 – your claims are unlikely to be supported.

    It’s time to walk the walk.

  4. Quokka, do you know that EDF is asking the UK government for a floor price of almost 10 pence a kilowatt-hour for electricity from the proposed Hinkley Point C reactor?

  5. In order to shift the public towards acceptance of nuclear, how about a market based mechanism like a steeply rising carbon price? Yes, but the likely next government doesn’t have either carbon pricing or direct support of nuclear on it’s agenda – they want to support the voluntary growing of trees and burial of carbon in soils and hope that the issue somehow goes away on it’s own before the inadequacies of that approach become glaring.

    And The Greens policies on climate get the criticism for being unrealistic and impractical!

    I get the impression that conservative politics pins much on the hope that the climate problem, by the power of positive belief that it isn’t a problem, will disappear on it’s own. Or that it’s solutions gets so politically intractable that a do nothing default position goes unremarked in the mess ie the world will demonstrate that it doesn’t care about climate and the LNP shows itself to be prescient by not caring first.

    If you want to advance nuclear as solution you’d do better doing all you can to bring about the end of climate science denial and obstructionism within conservative politics than getting greens to end their opposition, because it’s not strength of opposition that’s keeping nuclear in a hole, it’s the absence of any mainstream political backing. So lacking that the LNP can’t bring itself to expend effort to even counter the more egregious claims of anti-nuclear activists. And that’s not because of nuclear’s unpopularity – even now I don’t think that it’s set in stone and wouldn’t soften a lot in the face of an absolute conviction of the inevitability of $100 carbon price within 2 decades, no matter who we vote for. ie with the LNP supporting it.

  6. Ken Fabian, I like the idea of increasing the carbon price to $100 within two decades if we have not become carbon neutral by that point. But nuclear is not currently competitive with wind and solar in Australia with a $23 dollar carbon price, so so increasing it to $100 isn’t going to make anyone want to build nuclear power plants. One only needs to compare the cost of new nuclear plants in developed countries with the cost of new windfarms and rooftop solar in Australia to see this is the case.

  7. The main objection to nuclear energy is the negative learning curve documented by Arnulf Grubler at IIASA. A secondary objection perfectly illustrated on this blog thread, is that it’s a distraction. That holds for scarce managerial and political time too. How many words have been devoted here to fringe schemes like seawater uranium mining compared to the critically important viability of geothermal? What would geothermal look like today with more than the token public funding it’s received?

    BTW, AltaRock in Oregon have achieved stimulation of three EGS reservoirs from a single well using a degradable blocker material. I invite readers to spend more time on this and other developments that could actually make a difference.

  8. @Ronald Brak

    Ronald, I suspect that a renewed push for nuclear will be a consequence of conservative politics switching from obstructionism to commitment to solving the climate problem – but not with the depth of commitment to it that could have been cemented in place had the LNP treated the problem as serious a couple of decades ago when wind and solar really did look incapable of rising to the challenge.

    I think that the most influential and powerful commerce and industry voices, when deprived of their preferred free ride option on emissions that the LNP has been offering to date are going to push the LNP to promote nuclear for real – and these are voices the LNP has trouble saying no to (I’d say that it’s continuing obstructionism in the face of all the expert scientific advice is evidence of that). I think that those powerful voices are still strongly influenced by their own anti-environmentalist/anti-renewables rhetoric and will struggle with committing to a renewables only future.

    But nuclear in Australia is in a deep hole and conservative politics can’t push for it or defend it with any kind of believable conviction while it keeps running it’s obstructionist line on emissions. Nuclear isn’t something that can be introduced incrementally like renewables – it needs a whole lot of commitment, from mainstream politics, the public and crucially, electricity generators up front to get started, none of which is there. That time is on the side of renewables, which continue to scale up and get cheaper. Which leaves pro-nukers left with conducting an all out campaign against renewables instead of an all out campaign against fossil fuels. They find themselves promoting of delay on market solutions that would ultimately benefit nuclear because renewables can and will take advantage of them while they desperately try to play catch up. And, bizarrely, they are choosing to be politically aligned with those interests that are devoted to obstruction of emissions reductions policies.

  9. @Ken Fabian
    I really can’t see any push for nuclear power happening in Australia. I don’t see how any politician would benefit from supporting it. The nuclear industy is struggling to survive in countries with existing nuclear infrastructure so they’re not about to throw resources into attempting to develop a brand new nuclear power industry in Australia. This means no money for tours of European reactors for Australian fact finders. Internet babble about how cheap a reactor in India was or how cheap future reactors powered by balls of fissile material will be won’t help reduce costs when tenders for an actual real Australian nuclear power plant are called for. So I don’t see what a politician would gain from supporting something that is clearly more expensive than alternatives even before insurance costs are included, has insurance costs that could be higher than the wholesale price of electricity, is a huge political liability should something go wrong, and is perceived by the public to be dangerous.

    But I do see pro-nukers trashing renewables and opposing carbon pricing. And I do see politicans in favour of fossil fuel subsidies throwing nuke supporters a verbal bone to get them on side while having no intention of throwing any actual support behind nuclear power.

  10. Ronald Brak :
    Quokka, do you know that EDF is asking the UK government for a floor price of almost 10 pence a kilowatt-hour for electricity from the proposed Hinkley Point C reactor?

    This is all gossip. The negotiations are confidential at this time. DECC and EDF have promised that if agreement is reached costs will be transparent (whatever that means).

    10 p/kWh is around the LCOE of on-shore wind in the UK. The current price of ROCs is about 4.4 p/kWh. The DECC 2012 estimates of the LCOE of on-shore wind in the UK are 10.4 p/kWh for England and Wales and 9.3 p/kWh for all UK. All other renewables are more expensive. Nuclear is estimated at 8.1 p/kWh for first of a kind EPR. That may be a little low, but we need to wait and see how that turns out.

    The estimates do not change a lot for projects with a 2018 start:

    Nuclear NOAK: 7.3 p/kWh
    On-shore Wind England and Wales: 10.1 p/kWh
    On-Shore Wind UK: 9 p/kWh

    Projections to 2030 do not change the relative positions.

    Anybody who is interested in the evidence can easily get hold of it. Shock and horror at 10p/kWh for nuclear is dishonest.

    As has already been pointed out in John’s piece, the last cent or pence per kWh is not all that important. The UK Climate Change Committee’s assessment was that 60% of UK’s electricity from renewables by 2030 was the technical limit. And even that needed the Severn Barrage – a project that in my view should never go ahead because it would destroy internationally significant Ramsar listed wetlands. Shore birds are having a bad time right around the world and adding to their problems is not acceptable. Fortunately cost probably rules it out.

    The UK will hopefully not be burning a shed load of trees for baseload power nor will it be using geothermal for something like half its electricity supply by 2030. There is no low emission alternative to nuclear for baseload power in the UK.

    If the UK is to meet it’s commendably ambitious emissions targets by 2030 ish, new nuclear power is mandatory. That’s the way it is.

  11. Quokka, let’s just say that Australia, a country with no existing nuclear power facilities, can build nuclear capacity for the cost you gave for nuclear in 2018. Do you understand that is more expensive than the current cost of point of use solar in Australia or the current cost of wind power? Using a 5% discount rate and not including Renewable Energy Certificates gives rooftop solar a cost of about 13 cents a kilowatt-hour which is much lower than the cost you give for nuclear when distribution is included. The newly opened 420 megawatt Macarthur wind farm in Victoria cost almost exactly one billion dollars and is expected to operate with a capacity factor of 35%. With a 5% discount rate this gives a cost of under 6 cents a kilowatt-hour. The price you gave for nuclear is even higher than burning natural gas and then sequestering the CO2 released by dumping agricultural production in the ocean. So even ignoring insurance costs, why would Australia invest in nuclear power when alternative sources of electricity are obviously cheaper?

  12. @Ronald Brak
    If these cost figures you cite were true 24/7/365 there would be no need for coal, no need for carbon tax and no need for renewable energy mandates. We could dynamite Hazelwood next weekend. Or maybe something has been omitted like integration costs, overbuilding, downtime and LGCs.

    Suppose I wanted to run the air conditioner an hour after sunset. I could be paying 40c per kwh in some places (eg AGL Freedom Plan Adelaide) yet it’s only costing the provider 6c. I’d like the ACCC to look into that. I’d also like believers to wear a bracelet should they need to go hospital at 2 a.m. ‘only to be treated with solar energy’.

    I believe new onshore wind in Australia currently costs about $90 per Mwh (source Climate Spectator) plus the $31 LGC payment. That’s 12c per kwh when available, double your estimate.

  13. @quokka The figure of 90-100 stg/MWh for the EDF has been regularly reported as fact, and not denied. It’s silly to call it “gossip” on the basis that there’s been no official announcement. And it seems unlikely that the cost would be lower in Australia on a greenfield site and with no existing nuclear infrastructure. That suggests $150/MWh as a lower bound here.

  14. @Hermit

    Hermit, the Macarthur wind farm is 420 megawatts, it did cost very close to one billion dollars, and its expected capacity is 35%, and it’s operating lifespan is 25 years. Why don’t you crunch the numbers on that and tell me what result you get with a 5% discount rate? If you don’t know how to do this I can give you some pointers.

  15. @John Quiggin
    There is so much rubbish reported about nuclear power in the MSM that I discount nearly all of it. The gossip may be true and then it may not be.

    Pages 85 and 86 of the AEMO report for estimated LCOE of baseload electricity and note the caution on escalating biogas fuel costs and the technical footnote on contamination of biogas. I detect some element of caution. Note also $151/MWh for CST which is not fully firm and the geothermal and wood burning costs. Your case that nuclear is wildly expensive is weak.

    But we could get an authoritative view if the AEMO produced a report, unfettered by technology restrictions with targets (eg 2040 and 2050) for electricity supply of < 50 g CO2/kWh.

  16. Quokka, if it costs 6 cents a kilowatt-hour to produce electricity from wind and the average wholesale price of electricity is above six cents then if there are no cheaper competitors there will be a tendency for wind capacity to be built until the wholesale price of electricity is six cents a kilowatt-hour. It is possible to quibble with this as wind isn’t actually random, but generally speaking this is the case. Your own figure for nuclear power in 2018 is 11.2 Australian cents per kilowatt-hour. As fuel costs are only a small fraction of the cost of nuclear power, nuclear reactors operate fairly continuously and over time they will receive the average wholesale price for the electricity they produce. This means that in a grid where it possible to build wind power at six cents a kilowatt-hour it will be economically impossible to build a nuclear plant that costs 11 cents or more a kilowatt-hour.

  17. Coupled with that, Ronald Brack, is that as Rooftop Solar PV and water heating total capacity grows towards 50% of electricity demand but with a renewables delivery profile the viability of constant delivery electricity supplier declines. CST then becomes the energy companion of choice.

    The Nuclear lobby routinely fail to appreciate that the financial benefit of rooftop power generation to the owner is at retail power pricing levels not wholesale, and the grid feed in tarrif is an irrelevence in the medium to long term as domestic energy consumption devices adapt to utilise the power at the time of generation, ie fridges with eutectic plates manufacturer installed, washing machines with intelligent sart timers, pool pumps which adapt to the household energy drain cycle, battery systems for low consumption features such as night lighting, televisions, computers and air circulation fans.

    The case for Nuclear in Australia is very weak in the context of a rapidly changing energy demand environment. The N lobby are obviuosly going to take a very long time to realise that the investors are way ahead of them, and gone.

  18. @Hermit

    Hermit, just in case you are having difficulty with working out the levelized cost of energy for Macarthur wind farm I’ll give a little help. As the cost of wind power is almost entirely the capital cost I thought I’d go into that. First we need to work out how many kilowatt-hours will be produced by the wind farm over its life span. This would be its capacity in kilowatts by the number of hours in 25 years by its capacity factor. That would be 240,000 by 24 by 365.25 by 25 by 0.35 which comes to 18,410,000,000 kilowatt-hours. Now to determine how much each of those kilowatt-hours cost we need to divide the amount of money the wind farm cost by the kilowatt-hour total. It’s not enough to just use the billion dollar total that the wind farm cost. This is because if that billion dollars was borrowed then interest has to be paid on it and if you just happened to have one billion dollars lying in your bank account then you are forgoing interest you could be earning on that money or returns you could be getting from other investments you could have made. The traditional figure for these type of calculations is 5% for some reason. The 5% figure used to be just weird as it simply wasn’t high enough to reflect reality, but the horrid global economic situation has made finance so cheap that it’s actually starting to make sense. What luck! You could sit down and work out the total amount of interest payable on a billion dollars at 5% over 25 years is with a formula and a pencil, but it’s probably easiest just to use an online loan calculator. One used for mortages might do, even though not many people take out a billion dollar home loan. If you look at the result you get you’ll see something very interesting. The total amount of money that has to be repaid is 1.753 times the amount of the principle. Something that’s astoundingly easy to remember because the last three digits are primes in decending order. I was so happy when I realised this I went into the kitchen and ate a biscuit.

    Anyway, all you need to do is divide 1.753 billion dollars by 18,410,000,000 kilowatt-hours to work out the capital cost per kilowatt-hour. And that’s the bulk of the cost per kilowatt-hour for the wind farm right there. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble doing the rest on your own, but if you need any help, I’m right here for you.

  19. Arrrrgghhh! Sorry, transposed two digits so 420 megawatts became 240. The total amount of kilowatt-hours produced in the Macarthur wind farm’s lifespan would be 32,220,000,000 not 18,410,000. But you could probably tell that just by looking at it. Sorry for the mistake.

  20. Sorry, in my comment correcting the mistake I made, I should have written 18,410,000,000 not 18,410,000. (I could use power notation instead of using all those zeros, but I try to stay away from that fancy high school stuff.)

  21. @rog

    Rog, I think that electricity retailers will have to drop daily connection fees and and just sell kilowatt-hours to stop people going off grid. The electricity they sell won’t be cheap, but will be cheap enough to prevent most of the population from going off grid. Retailers might not like it, but I don’t see what better option they have to get the most revenue possible out of the assets they have in a world where people can generate and store their own electricity.

  22. @Ronald Brak
    I’ve been out bush not on the interwebs hence the slow reply. I plugged your data into the NREL LCOE calculator, obviously designed for the US. I used interest rate 5%, capex $2381/kw = $1 bn/420 MW, organisation and management costs $30 per kw-year, plant lifespan 25 years. For capacity factor I used 30% not 35% based on UK data. Heat rate, fuel cost N/A and other parameters at default value. The answer came out at 7.8c per kwh. I would add 3.1c for the Australian LGC to get 10.9c per kwh

    That doesn’t include integration costs such as voltage stabilisation and backup generators being throttled back creating higher average overheads per Mwh. We now have overlapping generation capacity part of which is underutilised at any one time. Would this wind farm have been built without the RET and LGC payments? Time to phase them out and see what happens.

  23. Hermit,

    You need to read rog’s link at 4.22 .

    That is the electricity generation future, coming ready or not. Pretty much what I have been saying for the last few years.

    My reading of this obliterates any prospect of Nuclear Power for Australia. The only way that this can change is through government regulation banning future use of Rooftop Solar. That is within the bounds of thinking for the Rabid Abbott, but I think that he would be quickly put down by his colleagues if he tried.

  24. @Hermit

    Hermit, great effort there. Looking at the NREL levelized cost of energy calculator I see you just need to make a few tweaks. Firstly, your estimate for operations and management cost is much higher than the estimate I have for Australian wind power. The marginal cost of Australian wind appears to be cheap compared to other developed countries and Macarthur wind farm uses Australia’s largest and most modern wind turbines. But as long as you can see that this is a point of difference, I’m not worried. Deciding to use a 30% capacity figure based on UK data is odd as the 35% figure is derived from extensive wind measurements at the actual site, so we can be pretty sure the 35% figure is the correct one to use. The variable operations and maintenance cost is extremely low and while technically not zero, zero is a very close estimate. Heat rate has nothing to do with Australian wind farms and should be set to zero. And fuel cost should of course be changed to zero. LGC has nothing to do with the levelized cost of electricity from a wind farm or any other generating capacity. It may affect the decision on whether or not to build a wind farm, but it won’t actually make the wind farm more expensive to build or more expensive to operate, and so should be ignored. If you make these changes you’ll see that your figure per kilowatt-hour will be quite close to my own.

  25. If wind and solar are so good it makes it all the more puzzling why
    1) most of Australia’s coal fired power stations are still puffing away
    2) they don’t drop renewable quotas and subsidies since they don’t need it.

  26. Hermit:
    1) It costs a fraction of a cent to produce electricity from an existing coal plant, or about two and a bit cents with our current carbon price.
    2) See point one.

  27. @Ronald Brak
    Increase the carbon tax then wind and solar won’t be accused of double dipping. I notice pre-1997 hydro doesn’t get LGCs. Could be because it’s reliable.

  28. @Hermit
    Replacing the Mandatory Renewable Energy target with an increased carbon price certainly is an option. But why would “double dipping” be some sort of a problem unless one didn’t believe global warming was a problem? I can see that it might be simpler to just have just one system, but we’ll end up with that any way when the renewable energy target is reached and the scheme disapears.

    And the renewable energy target didn’t apply to existing hydro probably because an incentive isn’t required to build something that already exists.

  29. @Ronald Brak
    I favour a well-founded carbon price which isn’t severely compromised by innumerable giveaways. For example an auction scheme which the Euro system isn’t. Our own carbon tax is riddled with its own absurdly generous giveaways eg 94.5% exemption for smelters. Allow nuclear power if anybody wants to build it. Then we might see where wind and solar sit naturally in the least cost mix. AEMO’s brief to consider 100% renewables suggests someone has picked the winners in advance.

  30. Hermit, do you understand that if we can build wind power for about 6 cents a kilowatt-hour in Australia we will never build nuclear power as long as its electricity costs more than wind power? This is because if the average price of electricity is above 6 cents it will be profitable to build more wind turbines until the average price is pushed down to six cents, making nuclear unprofitable.

  31. Let’s go with 6c. In Australia wind power has a firm capacity credit as low as 3.8% but let’s call it 5%. To guarantee always meeting demand we could build 20 = 100%/5% times as many turbines as necessary. If they were geographically separated there would be extra transmission lines. Even though at times there would be excess production we are now paying 20 X 6c = $1.20 per kwh wholesale for electricity.

    I believe hamsters on treadmills will be down to 1c per kwh in a few years so the world energy problem is solved. Beats me why people think these problems are hard.

  32. Hermit, just because wind power makes nuclear power uncompetitive does not mean that Australia has to become 100% wind powered. There are other sources of electricity other than wind or nuclear. But nuclear power and wind power are similar in that they are both high capital and low or zero fuel cost sources of electricity. This means they will both tend to receive the average wholesale price for the electricity they produce. And this means it is more profitable for a power company to build wind turbines than nuclear power. And this will be the case unless nuclear power becomes cheaper than wind.

    Other low emission sources of energy besides nuclear include utility scale solar which the UK has recently installed for $159 a watt, which in Australia would produce electricity at about 7.5 cents a kilowatt-hour. Another is point of use solar which to an extent outcompetes any form of utility scale generation. And another is burning natural gas and then removing the CO2 released from the atmosphere which right now would cost roughly 10 cents a kilowatt-hour. As new nuclear in developed countries appears to cost more than 15 cents a kilowatt-hour before the full cost of insurance is included, there is no mix in which it is economical to build nuclear power in Australia.

  33. And when you finally have your Solar Energy converted to electricity, you can have one of these

    This is an amazing electric bike.

    Up to 80kph from a 4.5 kw motor fed by a 1.5 kwhr battery for a range of 80 klms.

    This is your ultimate budget commute. less than 50 cents for 80 k commute range (or free if it charged from your own roof) with just 2 hours to charge.

    Of course this bike is illegal in Australia because…….any suggestions anyone?

    There is a video of a German guy doing a 20 klm ride on this bike at YouTube.

  34. @BilB
    That bike is illegal in Australia because it’s a motorbike and so needs to meet Australian motorbike safety standards which it currently doesn’t. If the electric motor was made way less powerful it would suddenly magically transform back into a bicycle. The allowable motor power for electric bicycles was increased in Australia not so long ago, but still seems a bit weak given how fat many Australians are. It seems to me that they could limit electric bicycle speed without limiting their ability to get a fat man with a pannier full of groceries up a hill.

  35. To be specific, Ronald, the current max power level for an unregistered vehicle is 180 watts. There are exceptions. For instance electric wheel chairs can be 4.5 kilowatt. Victoria has a new allowable limit of 250 watts for Power Assist bikes where the rider has to be pedal powering to get assist from the motor up to the 250 watt maximum.

    It is all very pathetic and has been for decades.

    Even powered rollerskates over 180 watts would be illegal, though it would be a grey area if each skate was 180 watts or under. Would each skate be viewed as a vehicle or would the pair be considered as one vehicle?

  36. @Ronald Brak

    That bike is illegal in Australia because it’s a motorbike and so needs to meet Australian motorbike safety standards which it currently doesn’t.

    I wonder what the procedures for making it compliant would be, and if they would radically impinge on its utility? Assuming it were possible to make an Australian-roads-compliant version with similar functionality and at an acceptable cost, you’d think someone with the skills and capital would have a go at it. I daresay there would be a lot of interested parties.

  37. how much of power supply in developed counties is supplied by wind and solar. is it still less that 1%?

  38. It’d need headlights and indicators for a start 😉 And probably a bunch of other things which would increase the weight beyond being able to peddle it…it’s already 53kg. I think I’m missing something…if you want an electric motorbike, there are several which already exist, and are already compliant for Australian roads…what’s the appeal of a hybrid-bicycle/motorbike (bearing in mind small children use bike paths too, so surely there has to be some limit on power)?

  39. I’ve been looking into the one pound a watt solar farm that’s been built in the UK. In Australian dollars it comes to $1.59 a watt. With a 5% discount rate, 1% of capital cost per year for operations and maintenance, and the same lifespan as in England – 36 years, it would produce electricity in Darwin at two thirds the current wholesale price. At the moment in Sydney with a 5% discount rate and without any subsidy, new rooftop solar produces eletricity at a cost per kilowatt-hour well below half that of buying it from the grid. It seems clear that whether we put it on our roofs or build it large scale, solar power will provide a lot of our electricity in the future.

  40. @Nick

    I assume that if it were road compliant you’d be barred from driving in pedestrian areas. I know nothing of the specs of other road-compliant electric motor cycles, so I’m not sure if they’d be as good or not.

  41. @Jim Rose

    Not sure about the developed world Jim but power supplied by wind and solar is probablly greater than 0.8% (solar) and 2.4% (wind) — i.e greater than 3.2% not counting passive solar water heating and people directly using their own PV rather than the grid.


    I thought this looked pretty impressive, but I know nothing about motorbikes. I was actually looking through Vic Roads pages earlier for compliance on something else…they mention most electric motorbikes are fine for L-plate drivers too if they meet the same power-weight restrictions. A quick google search showed engine refits for petrol bikes are available…that sounds interesting! If you could buy and fit one for $3-4000, that could be a cheap bike for the next 20 years…and a minimum of new manufacturing required.

  43. @Jim Rose

    In 2012 across all OCED countries percentage of electricity generated by various technologies:

    Geothermal/Wind/Solar/Other: 5%
    Nuclear 18%

    Source IEA. Nuclear percentage is higher in OECD Europe, despite German nuclear vandalism.

    Little has been added to the nuclear capacity for a couple of decades. In fact most of it was built at a time when GDPs of nations building nuclear power was much less than today. In terms of average capacity per unit GDP nuclear roll was a lot faster than non-hydro renewables have been.

  44. I agree that a mid sized $2/w PV system with no purchase rebates and measly FiT (say 8c per kwh) should pay for itself in a few years in most of Australia. However the despised fossil fuelled generators do the work at night and overcast conditions. They may want more money for that service hence talk of capacity markets in Europe, essentially for remaining on standby. PV may have to be curtailed in some areas due to grid overload. Poland is threatening to do that to German electricity export on sunny days. Gigajoule scale energy storage for surplus PV either distributed or newly built at centralised locations remains out of reach.

    Some suggest getting a Holden Volt, charging the 16 kwh lithium battery with home PV and doing most short trips without petrol. However battlers may not have the $60k sticker price nor live close enough to town get by with mostly short trips. There is little evidence that battery or fuel cell cars will ever achieve the 80% cost reduction that PV has made. I’m suggesting without more related cost breakthroughs PV may be rapidly filling its niche, particularly now with wholesale pricing of the FiT. I would therefore be surprised if Australia got to 2m solar homes. Coal will be with us for a long time.

  45. “German nuclear vandalism” compared to nuclear vandalism of Japan. Any preferences?

  46. Hermit: “Some suggest getting a Holden Volt, charging the 16 kwh lithium battery with home PV and doing most short trips without petrol. However battlers may not have the $60k sticker price nor live close enough to town get by with mostly short trips.”

    80km to work, and 80km home would cover a lot of Australians. If you live further away than that, you save 160km worth of petrol every day compared to what you’d normally spend…

    Battlers who live within 120kms from their workplace can buy a Nissan Leaf in Australia for $40,000 drive away. Even a 30-40% cost reduction in battery costs would bring that down to what…low $30ks? Nissan are offering financing for $85 a week – that seems very affordable considering what you’re saving on petrol.

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