Derp, a 20 year history

Noah Smith’s classic definition of “derp” as “the constant repetition of strong priors” was developed with particular reference to solar energy, to refer to people who’ve taken the view, at some point in the past, that solar energy can’t work, and who are neither willing to change their minds, whatever the evidence, nor to state their views once and for all and remain silent thereafter.

The classic illustration of this would have to be Ted Trainer of the University of New South Wales. For the past 20 years, he’s been writing and rewriting the same paper, showing that renewables can’t possibly sustain a consumer society. Here’s a version from 1995, and from 2003, and here’s the latest.

What’s striking is that, while the numbers change dramatically, the conclusions don’t. The 1995 report says, in essence, that solar PV is totally unaffordable for all practical purposes. [1] So, our only hope is to embrace a massively simpler lifestyle,

The most recent version, written at a time when cheap solar power is a reality, has much less scary numbers. He estimates that the capital investment required for decarbonization of the economy would amount to 11 per cent of GDP. That’s still an over-estimate but it’s in the right ballpark. Trainer rightly observes that this number far exceeds current investment levels and is unlikely to be attained. But, unlikely as it may be, it would certainly be chosen if people accepted Turner’s conclusion that the only alternative was to live in huts with peat roofs.

And, over time, the insistence on negativity about renewables has led Trainer to promote views that are the opposite of his original concerns about simplicity For quite a few years, his work was published primarily at pro-nuclear site, Brave New Climate[2].

If Ted Trainer actually wants to help save the planet it’s time for him to abandon the campaign against renewables and urge society to accept the relative modest reduction in the rate of growth of income needed to decarbonize energy supply. Once the prospect of massive extinction has been staved off, we will have plenty of tiem to think about a simpler lifestyle.

fn1. As an illustration, the cost of a system to charge an electric car is estimated at $350 000, an estimate that is supposed to take account of optimistic projections of efficiency gains. These systems haven’t quite arrived yet (as usual, there are a bunch of technical difficulties to be overcome) but it appears they will soon be on the market for less than $10000. These systems have an obvious potential to resolve the problem of mismatch between peak PV availability at midday and peak demand in the evening, and may therefore reduce the conflict associated with the idea of a “utility death spiral”/

fn2. BNC ran into the same problem. In his eagerness to push the idea that nuclear power is the only way to save the planet from global warming, Barry Brook ran slabs of anti-renewable nonsense from climate delusionists such as Peter Lang.

220 thoughts on “Derp, a 20 year history

  1. I find that a good bottle of Penfold’s Grange Hermitage (1959) is also an outstanding product.

    It does nothing for the memory function of the brain, but it certainly helps lubricate the wheels of ALP/LNP corruption.

    It helps if you have News Ltd aware of the Grange on 6th March 2014, when the ICAC only becomes aware of it a month later.

    News Ltd doesn’t do journalism, it does extortion.

  2. Sports: Are games based on real sports like soccer, football, volleyball, basketball etc.

    Remember that you can open the compatibility mode through the file properties settings by choosing the compatibility tab.
    On the face of it, a gaming console seems far cheaper with
    a much lower initial outlay.

  3. @ Val, on rooftop PV and grid costs.

    “Btw the way the ESAA report also agrees with what I said in my first post that solar (distributed generation in general) tends to have lower distribution costs because it’s used nearer the point of production.”

    1) Not quite. The long ESAA report, which covered all “distributed generation” technologies including dispatchables like CHP and gas micro-turbines, said that where grids are near capacity and DG reduces peak demand, DG may allow the grid to postpone expansions (but not reduce current grid costs). The report also said: “There is some evidence to suggest that DG systems actually increase network costs due to the bi-directional electricity flows associated with them.” The “bi-directional electricity flows” are you exporting your solar power to the grid, Val.

    2) This other ESAA paper ( states unambiguously that rooftop PV specifically does increase grid costs:

    “In some areas, there’s been so much solar energy installed that network providers have had to spend millions of dollars in upgrades to cope with increased supply of electricity into the grid.” (p.4)

    “Solar homes still use the grid, typically exporting electricity in the middle of the day when the sun is shining, yet importing power at other times. The costs of providing the network are mostly the same or even more expensive as a result of rooftop solar energy. It’s important to remember that exporting electricity puts pressure on grid infrastructure—pressure it wasn’t originally designed to withstand. This actually increases the costs of running the network as operators have to ensure high levels of power exports do not overload the system and cause safety issues or even blackouts. To Recover the real costs of operating the grid, network businesses adjust their charges. This means eveyone pays more, particularly those without solar.” (pp.4-5)

    So according to ESAA, rooftop solar power not only incurs its full share of transmission and distribution costs, but actually increases them for the whole grid.

    No question about it: grid costs for rooftop PV are higher, not lower, than those for dispatchable generation like nuclear.

  4. @Will Boisvert
    No Will you are looking at the wrong section re distributed costs, they did say what you said, but they also said distributed systems are cheaper because the generation is closer to the usage. Just think about it – you have a few big systems sending power to one of the largest distribution networks in the world, or you have a lot of local systems. Think about it. I will chase up the actual quote later, but it’s not the bit you’ve quoted.

    As you quoted, the report said “there is some evidence to suggest” that DG systems increase costs, referring to a paper by Jelena. They don’t produce any actual evidence that it has happened. The discussion paper appears to be based on the report, and it looks like they’ve taken that suggestion and run with it. I’m not privy to the politics, but that’s what it looks like.

  5. Hi again Will, this is from Jemena (sorry not Jelena) paper
    These technical challenges are well documented and are not insurmountable. Smart networks of the future are designed with DG in mind. However the transition of the existing distribution networks to smart networks would have to occur, by necessity, over a relatively long period of time due to the significant investment required. The pace of transition can vary depending on government policy.

    Which sounds pretty much like what I’m saying really.

    They also say

    From JEN’s perspective, there are no barriers to connecting micro DG units to the grid.

    Micro DG units are the things we are talking about – solar PV units.

    And another thing – all that terrible energy that’s feeding into the grid and making everything so difficult – well my energy company, as I’ve already noted, pays me 8c per kWh for that energy and sells it to others for 22c kWh or more. Presumably some of that 14c+ kWh difference could go towards the grid costs? Strangely enough both you and the ESAA seem to have forgotten about that, in your sums. Can’t imagine why.
    (Sarcasm alert)

  6. Damn the block quotes worked the wrong way! I did them right, honestly! (Well I thought I did)

    The para from “These technical challenges … government policy.” is Jemena, and the sentence “From JEN’s perspective, there are no barriers to connecting micro DG units to the grid” is Jemena. The rest is me. Hope you can make sense of it.

    Prof Q if you happen to read this, I don’t know if you would have time, but I would be grateful if this could be fixed?

  7. NREL found in a recent study;

    “Key Findings

    – The integration of 35% wind and solar energy into the electric power system will not require extensive infrastructure if changes are made to operational practices.

    – Wind and solar energy displace fossil fuels. A 35% penetration of solar and wind power would reduce fuel costs by 40% and carbon emissions by 25%–45%—the rough equivalent of taking 22–36 million cars off the road—compared to today’s system.

    – Increasing the size of the geographic area over which the wind and solar resources are drawn substantially reduces variability.

    – Scheduling generation and interchanges subhourly reduces the need for fast reserves.

    – Using wind and solar forecasts in utility operations reduces operating costs by up to 14%.

    – Existing transmission capacity can be better used. This will reduce new transmission needs.

    – Demand response programs can provide flexibility that enables the electric power system to more easily integrate wind and solar—and may be cheaper than alternatives.”

    National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a national department of the US Dept. of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

    The above summary highlights a number of points Will Boisvert is ignoring. Up to 35% renewables penetration does NOT require extensive infrastructure changes if operational changes are made. Fuel costs can be reduced by 40% and CO2 emissions by 25% to 45%. This is the main game, reducing the call on non-renewable fuels and decreasing CO2 emissions significantly. Grid costs are not the main game. Grid costs and challenges are a secondary concern. Will Boisvert is now arguing about inconsequential secondary issues.

    The central issues are;

    (Q1) Do renewables deliver a sufficiently positive EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested).
    (A1) Yes. Studies show returns of about 10:1 for solar and up to 20:1 for wind.

    (Q2) Are renewables cost competitive with non-renewables?
    (A2) Yes. Renewables’ rates in cents per kWh retail are competitive when coal pays CO2 emission costs and when nuclear power’s subsidies are removed.

    (Q3) Can renewables be integrated into the Grid?
    (A3) Yes. The experience of Germany and South Australia proves renewables can be integrated into the grid. New studies in the US suggest intermittency of 100% renewables generation can be most economically solved by over-building generating capacity by up to 3 times. Advances in heat storage, pumped storage and other solutions will likely change this ratio downwards.

    (Q4) Are renewables the safest option for the environment?
    (A4) Yes, renewables markedly reduce greenhouse gas emission, distribute their environmental impact widely and very lightly and are not subject to catastrophic accidents like nuclear power.

    The main game is to have energy available indefiinitely (renewables) and to not wreck the environment (clean energy). The grid costs argument is very much secondary. We might need a bit less grid or we might need a bit more grid. No matter! That’s not the main game.

  8. @ Ronald Brak, on nuclear and utility solar in United Arab Emirates,

    “I’ve just been reading about the UAE. Suffice to say that given that utility scale solar is currently being installed for about a euro a watt it is considerably cheaper than the $30 or billion they are spending on nuclear capacity”

    Actually the cost match-up between utility solar PV and nuclear in UAE is pretty even, with maybe an edge to nuclear. (Using the NREL LCOE calculator,

    1) Nuclear: Total capital costs for the Barakah plant, 5.6 Gw due on line in 2017-8, are reported at $32 billion, or $5,700 per kw, which includes rather large costs of building roads and transmission lines out to the plant (UAE’s road and transmission grids are pretty underdeveloped) and the first fuel load. The KEPCO consortium is reported to have contracted to run the plants for 60 years for a further $20 billion, which works out to about 0.7 cents per kwh O and M; that sounds a bit low, so let’s say it’s 2.5 cents per kwh, like the average US plant. Assuming 5 percent interest, 30-year payback and 90 percent capacity factor, that works out to LCOE of 7.2 cents per kwh. After the mortgage is paid off the LCOE will drop to 2.5 cents per kwh, so over the plant’s 60-year life the average LCOE would be 4.9 cents per kwh.

    2) Solar PV: For a hypothetical UAE solar PV farm, Ronald, you’ve proposed 1000 euros per kw capital cost, or $1380 per kw. That sounds a bit low; the lowest mention of utility solar I could find was 1200 euros per kw in Germany 2 years ago. Also, UAE doesn’t have a well-developed, geographically extensive grid to plug into, so a solar development of Barakah’s size would also likely require large-scale construction of transmission and road infrastructure, adding billions to the cost, so that expense should be factored into the capital cost as it was for nuclear.

    Ignoring those caveats, at $1,380 per kw, 5 percent interest, 30-year payback, 25 percent capacity factor (possibly too high) and 1 cent per kwh O and M, we get LCOE of 5.1 cents per kwh. After 30 years the solar plant will likely have to be replaced, so those LCOE costs won’t drop to O and M costs for the second 30-year period, so possibly over the whole 60-year life of a nuclear plant, the average LCOE of nuclear will be a smidge lower than solar PV.

    3) So it’s essentially a toss-up whether Barakah nuclear plant or utility solar would be cheaper over a 60-year period in UAE, given generous assumptions on the cost of solar PV.

    We could make slightly more pessimistic but perhaps more realistic assumptions about solar PV: 1500 euros per kw capital costs, reflecting the need to build extensive road and transmission infrastructure in a land without a well-oiled solar installation industry; 20 percent capacity factor, reflecting poorer performance after many years in UAE’s high temperatures and sandstorms. Under those assumptions, solar pv LCOE would be 8.7 cents per kwh, higher than nuclear even during the 30-year payback period.

    The bottom line: depending on which plausible assumptions you choose, either nuclear or solar could be the low-cost option on LCOE grounds. It’s not crazy cost-wise for UAE to build either one.

    4) But then we have to consider not just the cost but the quality and performance comparison of nuclear and solar. Nuclear reactors are very reliable—historically the most reliable in the electricity business—and they work at night and under cloud cover, when solar conks out (and thus imposes extra costs of storage or backup on the system). Reactors are simply a better quality of generator than panels. So Emirati planners could be thinking, “solar and nuclear are in the same ballpark on LCOE, but we want a power plant that’s reliable and works at night and on cloudy days.” That may be why they chose nuclear.

  9. @Will Boisvert

    Nuclear fission power is not renewable.

    (1) What do we do when nuclear power runs out?
    (2) How are the nuclear wastes going to be safely stored for the tens of thousands of years necessary?
    (3) Why do at least six countries, namely the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Spain and South Africa, use only a once-through nuclear process and then go to waste storage?
    (4) Why do plutonium cycle plants, Japan, Switzerland, and previously Spain and Germany, use only a twice-through cycle?
    (5) Why are there are currently no plans to reuse plutonium from used MOX fuel for a third pass in a thermal reactor?
    (6) Why are there no commercial fast reactors available which MIGHT then be able to use the used MOX fuel for a third pass?
    (7) Why are there no thorium cycle reactors functioning anywhere?

    The answers to these questions indicate the enormous technical and cost barriers to stretching nuclear fissile fuels by closed cycle plutonium and thorium. In the correct technical sense fissile fuels are non-renewable. In the practical sense, they are very difficult and dangerous to stretch for extra cycles of use. Nuclear power rpoduction is declining as a percentage of all power production. There are good technical, economic and safety reasons why this is so. It is a real outcome of the real problems of nuclear power.

  10. Will Boisvert, you suggest that utility scale solar in the UAE may have a 25% capacity factor for solar in the UAE. You do say that is possibly too high, and while it may be possible to get a 25% capacity factor in parts of the UAE, it is a little high for the populated areas of the country. But it’s close.

    So if you accept that in a fairly cloudless location fixed solar PV can operate at about 25% of capacity, why do you think that 15% is the appropriate figure to use for Australian solar in the example I gave, for PV that is situated to produce most of its electricity “during a few hours either side of solar noon”? Just how much cloud do you think we have in Australia? Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city, is three degrees from Dubai’s lattitude. How about we ask John if the skies there are overcast about half the time?

  11. An update on the cost of solar: Italy is installing solar for 0.9 euros a watt. India has solar bid at 12 US cents a kilowatt-hour, and the US at 9 cents a kilowatt-hour:

    And not long ago I read about how Austin Texas has arranged to purchase solar power at about 8 US cents per kilowatt-hour. India has installed solar at about $1.33 US per watt, and presumably can do it for less now.

  12. @Fran Barlow
    The coup de grace will be when forms of energy mandated by quotas ‘man up’ and renounce any outside help. It just takes a stroke of the administrative pen. Then we’ll know for sure what electricity resellers really want.

  13. @Fran Barlow
    The coup de grace will be when forms of energy releasing CO2 ‘man up’ and agree to pay the cost of removing any greenhouse gases they release from the atmosphere. It just takes a stroke of the administrative pen. Then we’ll know for sure what electricity resellers really want.

  14. I think it’s time we added grid integration costs to the claimed costs for intermittent power sources such as wind and solar. The UK Academy of Engineers does this but others like NREL and our own BREE do not. For starters you have the fixed costs (finance, deprecation) of the partially idled backup power source. On another thread I gave an example of gas backup to wind power adding 50% to the average real cost. There are also some variable costs like fuel burn to maintain steam pressure. Other costs may include voltage and frequency control of spiky output. Both Poland and the Czech Republic will block power surges on transmission shared with Germany on sunny days when Germany’s 32 GW of nameplate solar fires up. Our total PV is just 10% of theirs at 3.2 GW.

    Another variable may be voluntary demand cuts by heavy industry. Here in January metals industries did this to help avoid blackouts with the financial terms a secret. We can only hope it wasn’t as absurdly generous as the $1bn cash paid to brown coal generators for hurt feelings over the carbon tax. Mandated renewables and demand management sound great except some mug has to pay for it.

  15. @Hermit

    I’m perfectly OK with all inputs to the grid paying an apt contribution to the maintenance of the grid including any special provision needed to integrate their supply. OTOH I am also keen for all suppliers to bear the full pollution/damage cost of their processes, measured in lifecycle damage to the commons terms.

  16. Also one renewables bear this charge, those selling to the grid should get full grid parity price. If the grid is selling at 45cents per kWh then that’s what the supplier gets.

  17. Hermit, the amount of auxillary services added by the AEMO to deal with South Australia’s wind capacity is zero. Are you suggesting we should add zero to the cost of wind power in South Australia?

  18. And thanks for that link, Fran. It was interesting to read how the Czech Republic has cancelled their plans to build two reactors on account of the low wholesale prices that have resulted from new renewables. This is a story I expect to be repeated, particularly in countries where higher levels of sunshine will make solar even cheaper. For example, it is inconceivable that after Vietnam’s six year monotorium on nuclear ends that nuclear will be viewed as an economical option. Even though the country as a whole suffers from a severe case of Melbourneitis, it is still a lot sunnier than the Czech Republic.

  19. @Ronald Brak

    Actually if you read the link that’s not quite what it says about the Czech nukes. The link was misleading. Apparently the regime thought the price and package the tenderer wanted, which included state guarantees, was too high. They wanted to do pick and mix and include more local labour. They may still go ahead with another tenderer.

    For the moment though, the development is on hold.

  20. Oh, I got that same link Fran, I just wanted to know moar about the cancelation of the Czech reactors and went looking and found the article in the Economist. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

  21. Why are all these weird spam things coming through on this thread I wonder? Has prof Q just given up on it and left it to its own devices?

    @Will Boisvert
    Will Boisvert. I may have messed up the formatting on my last post, but I am still seriously waiting for an answer to my question. Why have you and the ESAA both apparently overlooked the fact that the electricity distributors earn money from solar energy feeding back into the grid, which they sell on? If they need to introduce new measures to ensure safety etc, surely that can be funded through the money they’re earning. Why wasn’t it taken into account in their discussion and hypothetical example (which you also have used)? It looks like motivated reasoning to me, or less politely, like an attempt to deceive.

    C’mon Will, answer the question.

  22. @ Ronald Brak, on solar costs vs nuclear costs in United Arab Emirates.

    Cost data indicate that currently utility-scale solar PV projects in UAE are substantially more expensive than the Barakah nuclear power plant.

    For example, Dubai completed a 13 MW portion of the, ahem, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park last October. The total project budget was $33 million dollar, or $2538 per kw. ( It will produce about 24,000 MWh per year, for a capacity factor of 21 percent. (httpcolon// That gives it an average power production of 2.73 MW, so a capital cost of $12,088 per “average” kw. The Barakah nuclear plant, with a total project cost of $5714 per kw and a capacity factor of 90 percent would have a capital cost of $6348 per “average” kw, so only about half the effective capital cost of Dubai utility pv.

    You’re right that India and China are building utility PV plants for $1300-1400 per kw. But everything is cheaper in India and China; they are building nuclear for $2000-3000 per kw. Costs are higher in UAE, which is why Barakah costs twice as much as similar nuclear plants in Korea.

    But the cost of utlity pv in UAE may come down. They are planning a 100 MW utility-scale PV plant now for $215 million. (httpcolon//–with-promise-of-more-to-come_100013217/#axzz2zAUr2DTS) That will still likely be more expensive on LCOE than Barakah; given that nukes are also much more reliable than solar plants, it makes sense that UAE is building a lot more nuclear than solar.

  23. @ Val,

    The price markup the grid charges when it resells the solar electricity you feed into it may just cover the grid’s costs of transmission and distribution. It might not be enough to fund grid upgrades.

  24. Hmm

    Oklahoma passes law to bill homeowners for selling excess renewable capacity to the grid, with no debate.

    Tellingly, this law was backed by a Koch-backed astro-turfing group called ALEC. Apparently the governor was totally into Jeffersonian free enterprise or some such thing, even though the state had to step in to protect the grid operators. It does seem that the free enterprise thing is an empty vessel into which any wealthy parasite’s ideas can be poured.

    I’m thinking that this is going to make the heads of Tea Party types explode, figuratively speaking.

  25. Several points;

    (1) Has “heartbleed” or something similar hit JQ’s blog? Why the high number of spam posts in this thread? And no, in this case I am not actually referring to Will Boisvert’s posts.

    (2) I had never heard about ALEC before. I read the Wikipedia article about it . ALEC is beyond frightening but then so many developments in the US are now. Real life in late stage capitalism has become like living in a cross between 1984 (Orwell), The Trial and The Castle (Kafka).

    (3) Bombshell: Study Ties Epic California Drought, ‘Frigid East’ To Manmade Climate Change.

    (4) Will Boisvert continues to push nuclear power. The reality is that is is already being overtaken by renewable energy despite all the dis-incentives being invented and legislated by nuclear and fossil fuel advocates in an attempt to stop renewables.

  26. @Ikonoclast

    Re: Heartbleed … apparently WordPress is affected.

    Re: pushing nuclear power …

    I have no problem with people pushing for nuclear power. In some places, it may well be the least harmful technology to either continue using or to build anew. I’m far less concerned with the persistence of nuclear power in our systems than I am with the persistence of fossil HC fuels.

    I do wonder though if the advocacy of those keen on rapid decarbonisation, as Will Boisvert and Quokka and Hermit seem to be, really is properly pitched. Really, at least as things stand, there are any number of more feasible options in Australia than building nuclear here, and in any event, the key argument — effective and rapid decarbonisation — is yet to be won here or in most other jurisdictions. The advance of renewables is undermining resistance to that policy every day of the week, rendering resistance moot in a way that nuclear power, in most places, cannot hope to do any time soon.

    This is primarily a politico-cultural battle, and we must find a way to win this argument while parrying the advancing threat of ecological devastation. Renewables are the right tool because they wedge the enemies of humanity rather than its friends.

  27. For the record, I am not entirely against nuclear power. That will surprise a few.

    (1) Realpolitiks suggests nuclear power and nuclear reactors will be around for a long time yet. Superpowers and great powers will not relinquish nuclear weapons. There is a case that MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) has restrained major powers from major direct confrontations to date. The Ukraine crisis will be a new test of this doctrine. Top class submarines and carriers will likely continue to use nuclear power plants.

    (2) Nuclear medicine – Reactors are required to produce nuclear isotopes.

    (3) Nuclear research – Research reactors are required for nuclear research.

    (4) Test and experimental reactors – (Overlaps with point 3) Research should continue into fast breeder and thorium reactors to determine if they can be made safe and economical. However, stringent conditions for commercial deployment (if it ever occurs) should be set. R&D is unavoidably a government subsidy in this arena and always will be. No other subsidies should be made to nuclear power and it should meet stringent environmental guidelines, full liability guidelines and be fully commercially funded with (no other subsidies beyond the R&D) before commercial deployment.

    This would likely see nuclear reactors decline to military, medical purposes and research purposes for the foreseeable future. Most uranium and thorium should stay in the ground until safe, multi-cycle nuclear power is developed (if ever it is developed). Using uranium once-through or twice-through as we do currently is actually throwing away most of the resource into imperfect nuclear waste storage facilities. Much of this waste is now dangerously unrecoverable even if multi-cycle processing were developed.

  28. @Ronald Brak
    I suggest SA gets away with high wind penetration because gas fired plant like Torrens Island, Pelican Point and Hallett accommodates variability. How about the $91m cost of the Heywood interconnector upgrade? The main purpose seems to be to offload RET mandated wind power onto Victoria and import cheap brown coal fired electricity when the wind isn’t blowing.

    Despite frequent mentions of South Australia’s RET helped ‘success’ with their 1.2 GW of fickle windpower they are well beaten by Tasmania’s 2.8 GW of mostly reliable but RET excluded hydro power.

  29. Hopefully, spam cleared out now. More of it seems to be getting past the filters.

  30. @Hermit

    You are using emotive, biased words to disguise the fact that SA is making progress towards a renewable grid. Let’s replace the biased words with objective words and add a bit more of the true picture.

    “South Australia currently achieves high wind power penetration with the assistance of gas fired plants to accomodate variability. All wind power produced is substantially free of GHG emissions and the supplmentary gas fired generation produces less GHGs per unit power than coal. This is an environmental gain on both counts. Consider the $91m Heywood interconnector upgrade. This allows the export of clean energy to Victoria thus displacing the need for brown coal generation in that state. In the rare cases where the SA grid is short of power it may import power from the Eastern part of the grid. Overall, major reductions of GHG emissions by the SA system have been achieved.

    SA’s wind power has not yet grown to match Tasmania’s hydro power in overall production. SA Wind and TAS hydro also have different reliability characteristics. This is always the case with renewable energy; it varies by type and region. Research continues around the world, with various studies showing that grid reliability with 100% renewables can be achieved. Our own AEMO has said that “100% renewables is feasible.”

  31. Hermit, you are using emotive, biased words to disguise the fact that SA is making progress towards a renewable grid. Let’s replace the biased words with objective words and add a bit more of the true picture.

    “South Australia currently achieves high wind power penetration with the assistance of gas fired plants to accomodate variability. All wind power produced is substantially free of GHG emissions and the supplmentary gas fired generation produces less GHGs per unit power than coal. This is an environmental gain on both counts. Consider the $91m Heywood interconnector upgrade. This allows the export of clean energy to Victoria thus displacing the need for brown coal generation in that state. In the rare cases where the SA grid is short of power it may import power from the Eastern part of the grid. Overall, major reductions of GHG emissions by the SA system have been achieved.

    SA’s wind power has not yet grown to match Tasmania’s hydro power in overall production. SA Wind and TAS hydro also have different reliability characteristics. This is always the case with renewable energy; it varies by type and region. Research continues around the world, with various studies showing that grid reliability with 100% renewables can be achieved. Our own AEMO has said that “100% renewables is feasible.”

  32. Correction: Historically the Heywood interconnector has been used to import power into SA. The upgrade is mainly directed at allowing SA to effectively export its growing surplus of power.

    This actually bolsters my argument above. I might note a full report is available on this. Hope the link is not too long. We can be pleased that the professionals who do this work go into it fully (166 page report) rather than just emotively dismissing it as some do.,d.dGI

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  34. Imagine if you will a massive counterfactual. Instead of the band of RW populist spivs and their fellow travellers we have running the country on behalf of those trashing the planet’s ecosystem and the interest of working humanity therewith, in an utterly unexpected move, opinion here drains swiftly away from the majors and in favour of a coalition of parties committed to rapid decarbonisation.

    The parties have some differences, but they are all keen in getting us as close as possible to 100% FHC-free in stationary energy by 2030. On victory in 2015 following collapse of the now reviled band if environmental and human despoilers led by Tony Abbott, the DC (Decarbonising Coalition) set up a technology neutral EIC (Energy Infrastructure Commission) to look at the options and come up with a best fit solution.

    They discover that nuclear power in this country would make the overall cost of the suite of options more expensive and in practice prolong the realisation of the DC goal, since in practice, insufficient nuclear capacity could be deployed by 2030 to compensate for the retirement of Australia’s FHC capacity. It takes into account the likely opposition to nuclear power here, and says it won’t consider this in the best-fit until polls show that 50% of people would be happy to site such plants in the places likely to be most feasible. It identifies the locations and conducts community consultation. It finds 75% opposed.

    It’s pointed out that most non-hydro renewables are not as despatchable as nukes, and that unless geothermal power were deployed in places connected to loads, then demand management and in practice, very substantial energy storage would be needed or else hydro would need to be used to cover the non-daylight hours, pushing up the wholesale price. The EIC proposes more pumped hydro, more energy efficiency in buildings, support for massive V2G infrastructure, the phase out of registration of all non-electric non-grid connectable light commuter and commercial vehicles by 2022. It proposes an accelerated program of state tendering for industrial scale renewables — wind, wave, tidal, marine turbines, geothermal, PV, CST, waste biomass from landfill and sewage … It rejects CC&S on the basis of cost, and that stable formations for longterm storage are too finite a resource, and that the intergenerational burden imposed would be unethical. The EIC accepts that occasionally, in anomalous circumstances, supply shortfalls may require some recourse to FHC generation or outages. Some CCGT is kept in black start mode for such occasions, estimated to be possible for 40 out of the 8760 hours in any year.

    The proposals are implemented. The per capita demand for power declines by about 20% by 2030, though our population has grown to about 30 million. Stationary power is in real terms about 20% more expensive, though because each of us uses less, we’re no worse off and of course many of us are being paid by the utilities to supply power to the grid at peak pricing. Virtually all vehicles in major cities and towns are near zero emissions, not merely of CO2 but all the other toxics that once came from ICE tailpipes. Even heavier vehicles are converting to electric. Landfill gas is being used to back up the renewable system. The air is clean, respiratory disease has declined sharply, and Australia is a net exporter of oil rather than an importer.

    Would people on the right be unhappy at that scenario? Sure they’d be miffed at having lost that part of the culture war, but even they would surely be privately happy at how things had worked out?

  35. @Fran Barlow

    No, I don’t think people on the right would be happy with that. They want to have it all now, lord it over the poor and wreck the world so nobody else can enjoy it after their death. That is their true motivation.

    As to possibilites, if climate change becomes real enough and scarey enough to all classes (other than the extreme wealthy who really do not care) then action along the lines you envisage could happen quite fast. The timeframe you mention is feasible if people get truly frightened and motivated. However, I expect the right will start large wars to divert attention and fears and to entrench their own power till they die. They don’t care about outcomes after they die.

  36. Will Boisvert, if the Dubai solar facility does have a capacity figure of 21% that would be surprisingly low. And on the subject of capacity factors, have you worked out about how many kilowatt-hours one kilowatt of solar PV that is positioned to produce most of its electricity “during a few hours either side of solar noon” will produce on a cloudless day?

  37. @ Ikon I suspect there is hidden agenda behind beefing up SA-Vic transmission. That is to use more brown coal power when the gas price escalates, uncannily like Germany. The threat to Germany’s gas is Russian extortion while the threat to SA’s gas is world pricing when exposed to LNG export.

    My predictions for the next 20 years. Petrol will hit a ceiling and declining demand will keep it there as we use less and less private transport. A few electric cars for the rich but no hydrogen fuel cell cars. Bulk energy storage won’t come down much in price. CCS won’t be made to work but big units like Hazelwood and Bayswater will need replacing so we’ll agonise over that. Emissions reductions will be largely due to economic contraction and depletion not policy. We’ll abandon GDP as a measure of welloffness and pseudo-rationing will take many forms be it jobs, food, healthcare or energy. There will be no serious new sources of energy as we will be consumed with navel gazing with this thread being an example.

  38. @Hermit

    It’s worth replying in detail. I agree with some of what you say.

    1. Hidden agenda to burn more brown coal. Some indeed may have this agenda, particularly the interests which own brown coal and the brown coal power stations. They don’t want to be left with stranded assets. I am not sure they have the lobby power to influence the Heywood interconnector decision. There are plenty of other good reasons for the interconnector upgrade. The detailed report would cover them. Even without brown coal lobby influence, I suspect the interconnector would be upgraded and indeed would have to be upgraded for supply balancing and economic reasons.

    2. Petrol will hit a ceiling and declining demand will keep it there as we use less and less private transport. I agree with that. I can only guess at the ceiling. Maybe $150 to $200 a barrel. I doubt the economy could float any more money than that for oil.

    3. Electric cars. I think there will be quite a few electric cars and even a majority. But overall, private automobile numbers will level off soon and then decline. Hydrogen fuel cells will remain a speciality niche. That technology is not suitable or economic for cars.

    4. Bulk energy storage WILL still come down significantly in price.

    5. CCS will never work that is for sure. It is both geologically unfeasible and energetically unfeasible. It’s a total lame-brain idea. A myth, a subterfuge.

    6. Emissions reductions will be largely due to economic contraction and depletion not policy. It seems so to date but renewables might still gather momentum.

    7. Renewable energy may well work but there are other greater problems waiting in the wings like water shortages and already built-in climate change.

  39. Hermit, from 2009-2012 South Australian wind power never varied in output by more than 5% within a five minute period or 20% in an hour. Looking at Victoria I see they experienced about a 20% drop in grid demand in an hour last night. How horrible for them! I wonder how ever did they cope? This morning Tasmania had about a 10% change in demand in half an hour. Shocking! Queensland suffered less destruction with only around a 7% change in electricity demand in an hour last night. Obviously we need to take steps to combat this. I suggest making solar panels and a small amount of energy storage compulsory for all new buildings so they’ll only draw a constant amount of power from the grid, as god intended.

  40. Ikonoclast, brown coal generators did use their power to attempt to affect the Heywood connector upgrade. They opposed it on account of how they did not want more cheap wind power from South Australia entering Victoria. After all, they’ve been mostly successful in keeping wind out of Victoria, why would they want to let it in from South Australia?

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  42. @Ronald Brak

    Interesting. This means they attempted to stop it and failed. Maybe they are not so influential as some think.

    Our society is responding too slowly to energy and climate change challenges. This is due to the established power of old, fossilised capital. (Play on word intended.) New, innovative capital is still battling these entrenched interests. New, innovative capital will win I think. I just wonder if it will be too late.

    I would prefer a better system than late stage capitalism but that probably isn’t going to happen in my lifetime.

  43. Ikonoclast, while the deck is stacked in the favour of fossil fuel incumbants – they don’t need to pay the full cost of emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases and nor do they need to pay for the heavy metal, ozone, particulate, and other pollution they emit – but they can’t run roughshod over everything. There are rules, which they’re more than happy to exploit to their advantage when it suits them. The advantage to consumers of the improved interconnector is supposed to be about four times its cost, making it one of rare transmission upgrades in recent years that will actually lower prices for consumers. With that sort of advantage any further delay can’t really be justified. But an excellent case can be made that the upgrade is too whimpy, so maybe the baleful influence of incumbants has had an effect.

  44. PS: I should mention that when when I say the interconnector will lower prices for consumers I don’t mean that electricity retailers will actually lower the prices households pay. Ha ha ha! That would be crazy! What I do mean is, the price increases we will have will be slightly lower than what they would be otherwise. After all, we didn’t go though all the trouble of reforming the electricity sector just so people could have lower prices now, did we?

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