Tell ’em they’re dreaming

The title of a piece in Inside Story on nuclear power in Australia. Readers won’t be surprised to learn that I don’t think it’s feasible in any relevant time frame (say, before 2040). I don’t expect nuclear devotees to be convinced by this (I can’t think of any evidence that would have this effect), but I’d be interested to see someone lay out a plausible timetable to get nuclear built here sooner than my suggested date.

To clarify this, feel free to assume a conversion of both major parties and the majority of the public to a pro-nuclear position, but not to assume away the time needed to generate a legislative and regulatory framework, take proper account of concerns about siting, licensing and so on.

181 thoughts on “Tell ’em they’re dreaming

  1. @BilB
    People think of fuel cost per litre not tonne. Bunker fuel has recently gotten down to $360/t which is about 1200L assuming similar density to diesel. They used to say a diesel engine cost $35 per kw to manufacture. Infer that a 100 MW ship engine running on oil will then cost $3.5m capex. A 100 MW mini nuke will cost hundreds of millions even though the running cost is minor and refuelling may be every 2-4 years. The crew will be more highly paid and the paperwork, port approvals, licence renewal and so on will be more costly.

    In Germany recently you can buy what is said to be 100% nuclear electricity for your home. Perhaps a nuclear cruise ship will be next and that will start a trend. Just don’t expect to dock in Auckland harbour.

  2. Hermit, the only comparison that matters is the kilowatt hours per tonne of fuel which I verified by two methods. There are a number of fuel grades but large ships use the bunker c grade which has deen at the $650 price bracket for most of the recent years. Further more if you read the link you would see that the shipping industry is about to have to compensate for their very heavy sulpur dioxide emissions. Further cost.

    The only reference to the cost of the Sulzer engine that I have found is that it costs “many millions upon millions of dollars, in fact more than the cost of the ship that it is installed in”. Now that sounds like a suitable budget for a little Nuclear power plant.

  3. Why would I want to buy electricity, least of all Nuclear generated electricity, when I can produce my own electricity at my home and factory? You are having difficulty grasping the wholesale versus retail price thing, Hermit.

  4. BillB that’s great if you can run all your appliances at night and in prolonged rainy weather from your own solar. My panels will be a decade old next year and in fact I’ve been able to go for a year at a stretch without paying conventional sources for either electricity or car fuel due to feed-in tariffs and biodiesel. Alas I conclude neither are serious long term options for the broader economy, not even close.

    Nobody knows what nuclear ship engines will cost as that info is behind a wall of secrecy. Some limited information is here. As world oil supplies get tighter refineries will adjust their output mix towards more profitable liquids like jet fuel and less towards bunker fuel. Despite recent oil price declines I think we will have major fuel anxieties before 2020 and I rate it as a more pressing problem than climate change.

  5. 2040 doesn’t necessarily sound like an irrelevant timeframe to me.

    See fig 4, (RCP2.5 to likely stay under 2degC) here

    “In the majority of low-stabilization scenarios, the share of low-carbon electricity supply (comprising renewable energy, nuclear and CCS) increases from the current share of approximately 30 % to more than 80 % by 2050, and fossil fuel power generation without CCS is phased out almost entirely by 2100” (IPCC SPM wg3)

    My bet is 80% from RE+nuclear by 2050 will be much cheaper than by RE alone. Then we got 20% to go by 2100. SA may be able to get to 50% renewables by 2025 but thats the easy half (and the one being focussed on in the comment thread).

  6. All credit to you Hermit for your pioneering solar commitment. Being early adoption leaves those people with the older technology. Your “model T” solar package is not the right system from which to projdcg the future effectiveness of this technology, unless you have replaced its components as efficiencies have improved and costs have plummeted. The system hat can be put together today is fully offgrid compatible and effective through all solar circumstances.

    Your link to a Nuclear powered ship built in the late 50’s is hardly any indication of the thinking of today. There was no “wall of secrecy” there. If you read the information carefully you would havd picked up that the cost of the Nuclear reactor and propulsion system was half the cost of the ship, much the same as is suggested for the cost of today’s huge diesel engines.

    The glaringly obvious reality is, Hermit, that the claims made for Nuclear energy by its proponents for cost, safety, ease of operation and commercial viability, do not stack up against the “market” uptake reality when examined against the obviously natural application of powering bulk shipping.

    There is a mamoth credibility gap here.

  7. Nuclear is safe enough; nobody got an evidently harmful radiation dose at Fukushima but many died in the stressful evacuation. If people can overcome their fears the biggest stumbling block to nuclear will be cost. Nuclear can replace coal and perhaps will help make synthetic fuels via cheap hydrogen. However unless there is some way of storing terawatt hours of intermittent energy there seems little alternative. That’s to radically reduce emissions while producing enough power to meet reasonable expectations.

    World emissions are increasing yet a third of the population lives in poverty. There has to be something wrong with the current thinking.

  8. The Nuclear Industry is not commercially marketable as is fully evident from the shipping industy’s complete rejection of it. The only hope for Nuclear is in a “political” sale to a gullible public or government.

    That is what this whole “debate” is about. Win over enough technically deficient politicians and it might have a chance at adoption. So far the Australian public have shown sufficidnt good sense to leave Nuclear in the “don’t need it, don’t want it” basket.

  9. @BilB

    Nuclear believers cannot be reasoned with. I have posted a wealth of links to scientific and economic peer reviewed papers indicating a number of facts about nuclear fusion power. I mean over the last several years on this blog. The believers completely ignore all the empirical data in favour in their belief in endless, cheap, safe nuclear power. It’s a belief unshakeable by any and all empirical facts to the contrary.

    I have a theory that some people have a fixation on nuclear power based on the “Peaceful Atom” propaganda they saw in youth which in turn gained tremendous emotional effect from the awesome demonstrations of nuclear power as a weapon in that whole era (Hiroshima up to the H bomb tests, the latter actually being fusion initiated by fission of course). These awesome demonstrations of power are seared into their consciousness as an almost mystical power in the way that a child, naive primitive or religious fundamentalist revers deities or elemental forces. They cannot overcome or modify this childish, quasi-religious, worshipful response to nuclear power with their adult logic.

  10. Indeed you have been a diligent researcher and debater, Ikonoclast. Definitely there is an appeal for the shiny white building that pumps out power for ever more, if that were only true.

    I am tending now to think that pro nuclear falls into the climate denial belief category, a desire for a simple solution stirred along by a classic establishment derived force of greed. The one who amazes me is Barry Brooke who has allowed mind boggling anti solar exaggeration on his pro nuclear web site while at the same time being a consultant for wind power. What was all that about.

    The evidence is that Nuclear is simply not market competitive. The industry has had a massive opportunity to develop compact and cost efficient power sources for the shipping industry , but has failed to rise to the challenge. Meanwhile their proponents have done everything they could think of to demolish and or discredit the solar renewable industry. Anti nuclear is about real concerns, anti solar is about preventing better alternatives to become irreversibly established. Too late.

  11. @BilB

    Yes, Barry Brook is truly baffling. He comes across as a very intelligent, likeable guy not a ratbag at all. He even seems sincere. But his support for nuclear makes zero sense. As a scientist, he should have all the tools to analyse the situation properly but he completely fails to look at nuclear power objectively.

    Paid shills for nuclear power are easier to understand. They will write anything for money and don’t care if it’s true or not.

  12. @Matt
    Matt, nuclear power is currently more expensive than renewables, particularly in Australia where there is no existing nuclear power industry. So it would be dumb to spend money on nuclear power when other low emission options are cheaper. And nuclear power doesn’t become more useful as the percentage of electricity generated by new renewables increases. It becomes less useful and more expensive. This is because nuclear powerplants save very little money by reducing output or shutting down when demand is low and/or wind and solar production are high. Only about 4.4% of the wholesale cost of electricity from the proposed Hinkley C reactor in the UK will be fuel. So if a nuclear power plant only operates at full capacity half the time it almost doubles the cost of the electricity it produces. So if it costs as much as electricity from Hinkley C it would go from about 19 cents a kilowatt-hour to about 37 cents a kilowatt-hour which about 10 times or more than the current average wholesale electricity price in Australia. Other options are much cheaper.

  13. I saw that open letter, Hermit, and it makes no sense at all. Basically these mainly bio oridnted scientists are saying that having nuclear reactors will somehow protect biodiversity, meanwhile loggers takd massive chunks ouf of the amazon and poachers ard working at speed to kill the kast of the Rhinos and elephants.

    The real bio diversity protectors are people like the Spanish guy who set about restoring a wetland that had been drained as a failed attempt at cattle grazing in order to achieve sustainable aquaculture fish farm. In the so doing put back into place an entire ecosystem supporting huge flocks of flamingoes, while making a profitable fish farming business. Absolutely no nuclear energy required, just the activity of “the little grey cells”.

    I know that you are going to launch into a “land for bio fuels starving the poor” theme, but that does not hold up to examination either. The argument that “boundless Nuclear energy would be put to the production of “clean ‘efficient'” hydrogen is a nonsense where the hydrogen is to power 35% efficient ICE’s.

    Our biosphere is at risk to human beings behaving foolishly, whether they be loggers clearing rain forest or bio scientists taking pointless political positions which promise everything but deliver nothing.

  14. @BilB
    Er, what about replacing coal? Leave it in the ground as if it was asbestos. A quick calc give coal electricity 64%, nearly maxed out hydro 8% and soon-to-be-expensive gas 21% total 93%.

    As for hydrogen production it could be done at low incremental cost in batches when there is temporarily surplus output from any low carbon source. In that case the efficiency with which it is subsequently burned may not matter so much. As for food production and distribution the calorific EROEI is said to be 0.1 or 10 kJ of fossil fuel in for every 1 kJ of food energy out. The cities will starve unless farmers, processors and delivery people can get alternative fuels.

  15. @Hermit

    That’s right. They haven’t thought it out properly. They have strayed outside their field of their expertise. There are plenty of peer reviewed papers which show;

    (a) nuclear fission power is not economically viable;
    (b) nuclear fission power is not safe;
    (c) a nuclear fission build-out will not prevent adequate CO2 emissions in time to prevent AGW;
    (d) fission fuel is limited and on a mostly once-through cycle system as now it will run out about 2050 with the current reactor fleet.

    The only papers or letters that claim differently are those by the nuclear power industry (a vested interest) and those by people speaking outside their field of expertise.

    These facts of course never make any impact on nuclear boosters.

  16. I don’t know Bradshaw, but Barry Brook is far from being a “heavy hitter” when it comes to nuclear power and energy economics. He made a spectacular hash of Fukushima and his go-to experts on the economics of renewables have been Peter Lang (a climate denialist and economic illiterate) and Ted Trainer (discussed previously here). As an energy economist, Brook makes a great climate scientist (see also James Hansen).

  17. Look, I think that nuclear power is absolutely fantastic, in principle. It’s the unknown unknowns in execution that makes it such a monster.

  18. @Hermit

    “Some here should point out where they’ve gone wrong.”

    I will point out where the article writer has gone wrong.

    The article title “IPCC Working Group III Recommends Nearly Quadrupling Nuclear Energy” is highly misleading. The IPCC did no such thing based on the passages the reporter or blogger produces as evidence. To demonstrate this I can quote the part of a passage which he actually bolded;

    “Nuclear energy is a mature low-GHG emission source of baseload power, but its share of global electricity generation has been declining (since 1993). Nuclear energy could make an increasing contribution to low-carbon energy supply, but a variety of barriers and risks exist… ”

    Does this sound like a recommendation? No! It sounds like a very hedged “could” if a variety of real and difficult barriers and risks “could” be overcome. Then it lists the barriers and risks.

    “Those (barriers and risks) include: operational risks, and the associated concerns, uranium mining risks, financial and regulatory risks, unresolved waste management issues, nuclear weapon proliferation concerns, and adverse public opinion (robust evidence, high agreement. New fuel cycles and reactor technologies addressing some of these issues are being investigated and progress in research and development has been made concerning safety and waste disposal.”

    The final positive statement about “progress” is debateable. One can legitimately ask if any real progress has been made. Many academic and research nuclear scientists (not part of the vested interest in nuclear power generation) do ask that question. These academic and research nuclear scientists also point out that uranium is a non-renewable fuel and current economically and energetically recoverable reserves will substanially run out at current use rates by about 2055. The current reactor fleet size (minus a few retirements and plus a few new plants) will burn all the fuel by about 2055. There is absolutely no point in expanding the fleet.

    Humorous footnote.

    In a similar vein to the above beat up, I “could” beat John Quiggin in a 10 km cross-country IF I “could” lose 15 kg of excess weight and IF my musculo-skeletal frame “could” absorb the necessary training and IF my dedication to fitness and training “could” actually manifest itself and continue for the necessary length of time and IF my native genotypic and phenotypic physiological adaptedness to distance running is at least close to a par with John Quiggin’s and IF my ageing effects and life insults to my body are not significantly worse than John Quiggin’s. There are lots of “IFs” in there just as there are lots “IFs” in the IPCC statement.

  19. @ Ikon you have a way of reversing information so ‘Ponting hits ton’ is really ‘Ponting out first ball’ when you read between the lines. I’m more inclined to go with WNA’s 90 year estimate for uranium reserves
    but others have reasonable sounding longer estimates. No doubt you will find a tortuous interpretation that suits your view.

    To repeat the key issue; the world is now using 17 terawatts of power of which about 14 TW comes from burning fossil fuels. To help the world’s poor by 2050 we’ll want 25 TW of power of which less than 5 TW is fossil fuel. Last year in Australia 1.5% of our electricity came from solar and 40% of our primary energy requirement was for oil based transport. We have less than two human generations left to completely reverse our carbon dependence. Have a go twisting that around.

  20. @Ivor

    Actually Monckton was never an academic, and Sloan and Windschuttle have long ceased to be so. Also, Windy was a radical lefty in his academic days – he only turned right after he quit.

    More generally, that’s enough substance free bagging of academics as “capitalist”, “bourgeois” etc. Any more on those lines and you can take your comments to a non-academic blog.

  21. @Hermit

    We do it with solar power, wind power, various forms of energy storage plus energy efficiency, passive design and a drop in wasteful material consumerism in favour of human services like health, welfare, education, arts and culture. Even then it’s not going to be easy and there are many other problems that will come up.

    I don’t accept estimates from vested interests. They lie, propagandise and use all sorts of rubbery figures and dubious categories. A classic is “yet to be discovered reserves”. Many of these vested business interests just assume more reserves will be discovered when the scientific, geologic reality is that much of the earth is prospected out. We pretty much know where all the non-renewable reserves are now. There are very likely no really big game-changing finds left to discover. There are no doubt small bits and pieces left.

    So anyway, if 90 years of U fuel was left (which is highly doubtful) what do you propose then? We would have ratcheted ourselves to even higher populations and production levels when the rug is pulled. So the crash is bigger. Not a good idea. You or rather your descendants would then be banking on fusion. It might or might not arrive. Probably a 50% chance at best even 90 years out. A better precautionary principle is to be modest, work on renewables and then latter get more ambitious again if some tremendous breakthrough is made like safe fusion.

    Safe fusion always makes me think of “Blue Energy” in the last remake of “V”. Why did they cancel that series? It was fun despite the plotholes.

  22. @Ivor

    Stay cool and polite to J.Q. mate. Mind you, I need to take my own advice. I very easily could have been warned too.

    If we want to keep posting as virtually the only ones with Marxist or Marxian views here we need to know when NOT to hit Submit Comment. As I say, I need to take this advice as well.

    Best to stick with arguments on issues not persons.

  23. @Ikonoclast
    I suspect you’re right that fusion will never arrive but I also suspect batteries will never store enough energy to run a city for more than a few minutes. Gen IV reactors have gone online in both Russia and China this year. They can run for centuries on thorium, existing spent fuel and otherwise discarded uranium. The US once led this field but now seems content to navel gaze.

    Maybe now is as good as it gets w.r.t. car ownership, eating steak, plane travel and central heating. Xmas retailers don’t like the new frugality but perhaps it’s the way of the future.

  24. Maybe the Visitors will arrive with blue energy, beguile us, take us over and then destroy us. Then again, maybe not.

    I think the “New Frugality” will arrive. It’s a good term for it as the misleading “Austerity” or “Economic Austerity” is taken. The New Frugality will be a virtue “forced upon us by our impudent crimes”.

    ” Think now
    History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
    And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
    Guides us by vanities. Think now
    She gives when our attention is distracted
    And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
    That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
    What’s not believed in, or if still believed,
    In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
    Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with
    Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
    Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
    Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
    Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
    These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree. ” – T.S.Eliot “Gerontion”.

  25. Hermit, just let me get this straight:

    1. You live in a state that has gone from generating almost 100% of its electricy from fossil fuels to generating about 40% from wind and solar inside a decade and it achieved this at low cost.

    2. In this time the cost of new wind and solar capacity has fallen below that of new coal capacity and far below that of new nuclear capacity.

    3. The average wholesale cost of electricity in South Australia has declined in this time.

    4. The in the variation of wholsale prices in this period, with fewer periods of high prices and frequent periods of low prices and occasional periods where prices are close to zero or negative, hurt the economics of baseload generating capacity such as coal or nuclear more than dispatchable generating capacity.

    5. In this time the quantity of coal and natural gas used to generate electricity has declined in real terms and is much lower than it would be without the new wind and solar generating capacity.

    6. One of the state’s two coal plants was shut down in this period and when the carbon price was in place the remaining one operated in seasonal load following mode. Also, 480 megawatts of gas capacity at Torrens Island Power Station are to be put in mothballs in 2017.

    7. The cost of nuclear power has increased in this time. At current exchange rates the minimum wholesale cost of electricity from the proposed Hinkley C reactors in the UK will be about 19 Australian cents a kilowatt-hour. That is very roughly six times higher than the current average wholesale electricity price in Australia. Other new reactors don’t compare well either.

    8. One of the two worst nuclear power disasters in history occurred in this time.

    9. ??????

    10. Therefore we need to build nuclear reactors in South Australia and the rest of Australia.

    Is that about right, Hermit? Is there anything in those points that is incorrect?

    Sorry that point 9 is so vague, but I’ve never been able to understand that one.

  26. If most households used renewables and were equipped with their own energy storage systems, very little distributed power would be required. Furthermore, a blackout happens in a city because the distribution network—usually transformers—takes a blow, perhaps a lightning strike, overloading part of of the grid; on other occasions, it’s a power station which cops it. For a city which relies almost entirely on bulk power generation and distribution, there are also deliberate blackouts during heatwaves, where a suburb might have 30 minutes to two hours of no power, the purpose being to keep demand below maximum supply capability. If, on the other hand, most of the households are responsible for their own day-to-day power production and storage, then there is only limited threat from lightning strikes, from generator shutdowns, or from heatwaves: a few random households might run out of energy—temporarily—but others would budget effectively.

    My point, by means of meandering way, is that in a city which has a very high percentage of households looking after their own power production and storage, there is actually less risk of widespread blackouts, rather than more risk. It would be an interesting event which could cause a blackout in such a city, of a nature which wouldn’t cause at least as much havoc in a city reliant almost entirely on the current power generation and distribution systems. In other words, change the nature of power generation and consumption, and you change the system’s risk exposure profile.

  27. RB my relatives live in SA not me though some have recently left for greener pastures. In 2011 it was thought SA had the third highest retail prices after Denmark and Germany. I think we should review relative prices next year after power sector shakeouts in other states. SA is not a nuclear virgin with the Maralinga A-bomb tests and now producing ~5,000 tonnes a year of U3O8 which could triple. Holden is due to close 2017 and the ASC’s workbook may be drastically reduced from 2019. Uranium enrichment and nuclear power generation are logical alternative industries for SA. Get rid of Northern coal station and also export both renewable and dispatchable power to Victoria.

    DO on current parameters i don’t think purchased batteries are a good bet for the homeowner. We need to know future feed-in tariffs (export prices), daily connection fees and grid (import) power prices. For off-grid homesteads it is recommended you get 2 amp hours of battery for every watt of PV plus a backup diesel generator. For 4 kw of PV that is 2 ah X 4 k X 12v = 96 kwh that will need its own kid proof and sound proof shed with the generator. it’s too much particularly if the batteries say lithium ion only last a few years of heavy use. I wouldn’t want the grid shortening the battery life by secretly drawing charge at odd times. However if the power companies can work out a fair deal in which they change the batteries it could pay.

  28. @Hermit
    Okay Hermit, let’s say Harry Potter waves his magic wand and all present batteries and any made in the future immediately crumble into dust. How does that in any way increase the desirability of nuclear power in Australia?

  29. @Ronald Brak
    Electricity demand never falls below a certain minimum which for Australia could be something like 20 GW out of around 50 GW installed capacity. To get an affordable amount of intermittent wind and solar generation to supply that minimum will require energy storage which for most countries means batteries large or small. Otherwise that minimum demand will be met by the cheapest power source, namely burning coal in already built power stations.

    Our 2013 emissions are frustratingly similar to what they were in year 2000 at around 550 Mt of which about 200 Mt comes from the electricity sector. A spectacular reduction in emissions could be achieved by replacing coal with low carbon dispatchable power, say knocking off 150 Mt. That is evidently not easy to achieve with renewables and efficiency. Increasingly we’ll also need to displace oil based transport which will create additional demand low carbon energy.

  30. Well there you go again, Hermit, determined to demand that renewable energy do “it” in exactly the same way as fossil fuels have done, BAU.

    6 million water heaters with 3.5 kw heating elements is where your 20 GW night time minimum comes from all charging at staggered times in the off peak, with the rest coming from street lighting, refrigeration, and a few hospitals, clubs and pubs.

    In the distributed solar energy structure the bulk of that 20 GW is sourced from PVT panels during the day. The balance will in the future, once Australia is rid of its obstructionist denialist thick headed politicians, come from solar thermal hybride facilities in the Simpson Desert which will deliver grid baseload power 24/7 power as required. Yes CSP, remember the CSP? With energy stored in the form of heat in either or both of concrete blocks or salt tanks.

    In the renewable energy future the total amount of grid based energy production infrastructure goes down, and the largest part of the energy system is owned privately by individuals. This structure is financed more sustainably and is more robust in the face of our future climate dilema, and once implemented has the very real prospect of reducing the severity of global warming.

  31. A little technical note. Steam turbines designed for CSP are most similar with those designed for Nuclear energy use. So an industry established to manufacture ship board 100 megawatt Nuclear power systems would also be serving solar CSP builders, and retired ship board Nuclear systems would see their steam turbines recycled in the solar energy world. Fossil fuel steam turbines are not compatible with solar, as I understand it.

  32. Further. Keep an eye on this

    ….technology. I predict that this tiny engine will become the solar outage energy backstop, powered by natural gas.

    Assuming that its developer’s claims prove out, this 70cc engine will provide 2.5 kw of clean quiet and efficient energy for battery charging on those few days when the sun is not delivering.

    Wait for the howl of protest “but it is not a pure system with a combustion engine, it is using fossil fuel and emitting CO2”, to which the answers are, “very little fossil fuel, and very little CO2” in the grand scheme of things.

    For the ultra energy purists this engine can be run on ethanol or biodiesel.

    In the offgrid system I am designing, cooking is done with natural or bottled gas, and the backup power comes from this little engine or similar, gas powered. Airconditioning is an absorptive lithium bromide or ammonia system, which can also be powered by gas for non solar backup. If bottled gas is utilused then the system has extdnded isolation stability.

    Don’t let anyone tell you that there are no solutions. They are wrong.

  33. Simpson Desert factoid; Australia’s most advanced geothermal plant Habanero and Australia’s first commercial fracked gas well Moomba 191 are just 50 km apart in the vastness of the outback. I guess they didn’t get the memo about all the solar energy. Ditto the UAE and their current nuclear build.

    BillB it’s strange how we can’t seem to shake off noisy pistons for heat pumps, gas fired trigen and backup generators. It contradicts the idea of fixed axis PV having no moving parts to wear out. In the suburbs the noise of generators could generate hostility late at night which is why I doubt people in the suburbs will go off-grid.

  34. Fracked gas and hybride CSP are highly compatible, Hermit.

    The liquid piston engine doesn’t have a piston as such, it has a sliding hollow plate which also serves as heat exchanger preheating the combustion gasses, hence its higher efficiency while being a four stroke engine.

    Absorptive airconditioners have zero moving parts other than fans to move air around, PVT has one moving part, its water circulation pump, and the LP engine has just two which make it very low vibration and its slide plate porting makes it very quiet. Zero points for research, Hermit.

    What will make houses in the suburbs go off grid is the greed of the energy distributors with their billing structure swinging around to billing for connection rather than product delivery. Should grid operators fail to work with distributed energy, they will find themselves with very few customers in the end as dven business customers see the advantages of self sufficiency.

  35. Hermit,

    Average wholesale price of electricity in Australia currently: about 3 cents a kilowatt-hour.

    Average initial price of electricity in Australia after introduction of a $100 a tonne carbon price: about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour.

    Average wholesale price of electricity from proposed Hinkley C reactors without including the cost of insurance or increased spinning reserve needs: about 19 cents a kilowatt-hour.

    Average wholesale price of electricity from proposed Hinkley C reactor with insurance and increased spinning reserve requirements included: much more.

    Average wholesale price of electricity in Australia 10 years after a $100 a tonne carbon price is introduced: Much less than 10 cents a kilowatt-hour.

    So Hermit, at what point does it make the slightest bit of sense to build nuclear power capacity in Australia at even half the uninsured cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour of Hinkley C, let alone use nuclear reactors like “batteries” and fill in when wind and other low emission energy sources aren’t providing enough energy to meet demand? We have much cheaper low emission methods of meeting demand and they include biomass, pumped storage, thermal storage, and currently solar panels and lead acid batteries can provide electricity at a lower cost to homes and businesses than nuclear power in Australia.

  36. From what I can work out the number of houses in the suburbs proper that have voluntarily disconnected (i.e. were connected, now not) may be zero. The ‘sustainable’ house in Chippendale Sydney appears to be grid tied. Ten or twenty years from now I expect that number to be the same, namely zero. Therefore the recently fashionable term ‘death spiral’ for electricity providers seems a little dramatic, more suited to walking the plank in a pirate movie.

  37. @Hermit
    Hermit, people are not dropping off the grid because it currently does not pay for itself. Similarly, nuclear power plants aren’t being built in Australia because they don’t pay for themselves. The difference is home energy storage is around the breakeven point while electricity from new reactors overseas costs multiples of the average wholesale electricity price in Australia.

  38. @BilB
    BilB, I’m looking at taking my parents off grid and interestingly enough it may be cheaper to do it without a back up generator. Looking at their energy use it looks like I can replace it with an LPG heater.

  39. @Hermit
    And Hermit, I’ll point out that homes will only drop off grid in major towns and cities in Australia if we have a major attack of the stupids and electricity distributors drive people off grid. There are two components to people’s electricity bills. The cost per kilowatt-hour which exists to make electricity distributors money, and the daily supply charge that exists to make electricity distributors money. The reason we have daily supply charges is solely to discourage conservation of energy. The reason it’s not higher than it is currently is because it is horribly regressive and unfair to pensioners, the unemployed, and low income earners. But with the decreasing cost of home and energy storage, electricity retailers will be forced to lower supply charges or see their customers start to disappear as they drop off grid. And this will be great for lower income earners and less great for the rich, and by rich I of course include the senior executives of Stanwell corp. who make $8+ million a year each. Queensland in particular has played with raising supply charges to discourage solar installation, but that creates problems with social justice and practically with people dropping off grid. Since they would rather make more money than less money, daily supply charges will be reduced or eliminated so people won’t have an incentive to drop off grid and low income earners will overall be better off and big users of electricity will be worse off.

  40. An elderly couple with gas cooking might use 10 kwh of electricity a day. In overcast winter the average 4 kw of panels might produce as little as 3 kwh a day. Any compact battery would run out after a few rainy days and with no grid connection the lights go out, fridge thaws etc. Seven or so years later with more health problems and less cash you have to replace that battery. Maybe it’s easier just to stay on the grid.

    The power companies know this so I think they will keep asking for and getting increases for rates and connection fees. We can only hope the pricing tribunals rein them in somewhat. Based on BREE’s AETA projections nuclear power will cost 3X as much wholesale as already built coal with no carbon tax. However most of those coal stations will need to be replaced 2025-2035. I guess it all depends on how much much we really want to go low carbon.

  41. Hermit, to use 10kw in an stove appliance one would need to have every element on at full power without the energy regulators cycling for an hour and a half. Your claim is demonstrably false.

    I do a fair bit of experimenting with appliances at my factory, and the combination that is most energy efficient is the 3 mode grill/convection/microwave from kmart at $119 and the breville barbque grill

    This grill cooks all manner of food in just a few minutes. Cooking from both sides at the same time shortens cooking time immensely. With this combination I can cook a full meal for 2 with 600 watt hours. Cooking a roast would take more, but not as much as you would think. The other very efficient appliwnce is the slow cooker. I have one here from Woolworths which cost $20 and is a 1.5 litre cooker with a 150 watt element. This is brilliant for soups, stews, and casseroles, and will deliver a decent meal for 2 in just 2.5 hours (375 watt hours).

    The Breville grill is a 2400 watt total appliance and so needs a decent inverter supplying it but its on time is under half an hour. The plates pull off for dishwasher cleaning and all oil waste drains off into an easy clean tray, even when the unit is opened out as a barbque grill.

    Seven years on with more health issues the couple have many thousands in the bank that they did not have to pay the electricity supplier, so replacing the batteries is not the problem you imagine. Furthermore the batteries have in that time become much cheaper and vastly more efficient.

  42. It is said that average household electricity consumption has declined from 22 kwh per day to 18 kwh. Combining ABS and ESAA stats I get a 2013 residential per capita figure of 6.6 kwh per day. Because PV has come down in price/performance it doesn’t follow the same will happen for batteries. After 200 years of development lead acid at $150 per kwh remains the standard and every petrol car owner knows starter batteries don’t last many years Choosing my words carefully you would be insane to disconnect from the grid if you live in the suburbs. We’ll have prolonged cold snaps and days when 45C + temperatures linger on into the evening.


    Samsung have bought into Younicos, and are guaranteeing the battery life of these power stations for 20 years.

    The original 5MW/5MWh unit in Germany I linked to the other week cost €6 million. That’s €1.20 per watt, and €1.20 per watt/hr. 1GWh of capacity for €1.2 billion. It was built and up and operating in less than a year.

    This 6MW/10MWh unit in the UK is costing £18.7 million, or €3.80/W, and €2.40/Wh. That’s pricier, but still not bad. 1GWh of capacity for €2.4 billion.

    It’s ridiculous and untrue to say battery costs have not come down. Even my Makita Li-ion batteries are almost half the price they were 2-3 years ago. Deep cycle lead acid batteries are also much cheaper and more widely available.

    I suggested the other day that every industrial park in Australia could easily accommodate one of these on a spare half acre to acre of land. Other obvious locations are every ageing sub-station and switchyard in Australia that’s due for replacement or upgrade in the next 20 years anyway. Not to mention all the previously abandoned ones spread through the suburbs. There’s at least one disused 5-storey (iirc?) underground substation I know of in the Melbourne CBD that’s the size of half a city block…

  44. Southern California Edison are turning a building into a lithium ion battery pack than can supply 100 MW for 4 hours or 0.4 Gwh storage. Australia uses nearly 700 Gwh of electricity per day. While lithium ion batteries have fixed electrolyte large packs of them require air or liquid cooling as per the Tesla EV. Sometimes large lithium ion battery packs overheat and catch fire I note. Maybe phones and cordless tools are their ideal application, not grid storage.

    A corollary to energy stats is the likely effect of our steady net population increase of 0.3m – 0.4m a year. From Figure 6 here
    and our energy intensity of 830 grams of CO2 per kwhe each new Aussie would seem to create another 2 tonnes of emissions per year just for home use, never mind transport or industrial processes. Could be why we’re not making any headway on emissions.

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