Transmission too

In my article arguing that electricity from solar PV (and wind) could soon be too cheap to meter, I didn’t mention transmission networks. That was for space reasons.

The case for public investment is actually stronger for transmission than for generation. Electricity transmission lines have the same cost structure as renewables (low operational cost and long lives), if anything more so, meaning that the cost of transmission depends primarily on the need to secure a return to the capital invested.

More than this, the electricity grid as a whole is a complex network in which valuing the services of any individual component is just about impossible. That in turn means that relying on markets to make optimal investment decisions is untenable.

For these reasons, the electricity transmission network should never have been privatised. I’ve been arguing for renationalisation for years.

Amazingly, in the new low interest environment, this idea seems to be gaining traction, at least as regards new investment. Labor has proposed a $20 billion public investment. The government hasn’t gone that far, but is seeking to use its own borrowing capacity to provide low cost finance for transmission investment ( a half-baked compromise, but better than nothing).

47 thoughts on “Transmission too

  1. Thank you, John for filling the transmission network gap. I would also like to have read your thoughts (not mind!) on (“big”) battery storage in the context of solar and wind energy (e.g., SA’s Hornsdale Power Reserve).

  2. “Electricity transmission lines have the same cost structure as renewables (low operational cost and long lives), if anything more so, meaning that the cost of transmission depends primarily on the need to secure a return to the capital invested.” – J.Q.

    Since capital is an invented notional quantity and can be invented (electronically printed) at near zero cost (certainly at zero interest cost) by the government as fiat money, then it needs no earnings return. In a functional finance system, the government can print the money, exchange it to acquire the resources to build the network and then charge for electricity at a cost which seems reasonable to return the capital over an appropriate time-span to extinguish the government’s book debt to itself and withdraw that spending capacity from the private sector (with regard to other macroeconomic factors.

    Why pretend that government capital needs a return? Why pretend the government ever needs to borrow capital from anyone? Why pretend that private depositors (business or personal) need or deserve more than a government guaranteed deposit facility which gives a real interest return of zero? Those seeking real interest returns greater than zero may go to (hopefully very heavily regulated) private capital markets.

    Eventually, we ought to hope that maybe we can evolve a democratic socialist system beyond the need for private property (as distinguished from personal property), money and markets. “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – variously attributed.

    Hmmm, I am betting a broken button that I don’t get answers to my actual questions. If “betting a broken button” isn’t a saying then it should be. 😉

  3. It may be possible to connect the WA to the rest of the states. But looking at the North Sea Link from Norway to the UK which is 1.4 gigawatts and 720 km but costs maybe $3 billion it’s clearly going to be very pricey at the moment and it may be better to just build more renewable capacity and storage on both sides of the country given they are getting cheap.

  4. Ronald: What map are you using? Mine shows a large sea between Britain and Norway. A better model for costs might be the 2,000 km HVDC lines China is stringing to its Western deserts – though they have mountains in the way rather than the Nullabor Plain. The argument for a link to WA is smoothing across time zones: I don’t know how strong this case is.

  5. James: We have a sea between Western Australia and Eastern Australia too. An ocean, actually. We call it the Southern Ocean but in the UK it’s the Ocean formally known as Southern. So we can put the HVDC lines on land or in water. I vote for water personally. That way if they drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight and there’s a spill we can just throw in some chopped up potatoes and use the HVDC line to have a nice fish and chips fry up.

    The time shifting justification doesn’t look good if it is assumed generation and storage costs will continue to fall. But HVDC costs have fallen a long way and probably have more falling to do.

  6. I like the kiwi proposal to build a really big battery at the bottom of Te Waka. They’re talking 5-12TWh of storage, about 5GW of generation, with the idea being that it will largely obviate the problem of one dry year (they currently get one every 5-10 years but that’s expected to become more of a problem as we transition to the 3+°C warmer world). It would, as a deliberate side effect, mean they could accommodate a ridiculous amount of solar and wind generation.

  7. Moz, rather than build a big battery it would be much cheaper to just built extra solar and wind capacity. Or just solar if the price is right. There’s enough room on NZ rooftops for the required PV capacity.

  8. Crikey, can you give me even a rough estimate of how much more solar NZ would need to cover the evening peak loads in winter without a battery? My guess is you could cover every rooftop in the whole country with solar panels and you still wouldn’t have enough. Not just because it is dark when the load peaks, but because there isn’t enough time-shiftable generation capacity to make up for it. Without at least some pumped hydro you quickly end up with surplus electricity during the day and having to use fossil generators to support the evening peak. Which means the question isn’t “do you need a battery” but what sort of battery, where, and so on.

    The people who ran the numbers quickly decided that it was going to be easier to build one big battery above an existing hydro dam, and since the obvious site has a very large capacity indeed the question is whether it’s better to build a small dam initially and extend it later, or save money by building a big dam now. As JQ says, with zero interest rates the future value of money is the present value, so “pay extra to build the dam in two stages” doesn’t make direct financial sense – you would need to count build time or construction capacity or something to justify the two step.

  9. Moz, the dams supply the peak power demand, as they do now. The solar is so there is enough water to meet peak demand by reducing the need to use hydroelectricity during the day.

    It does mean electricity will be very cheap in years with normal rainfall, which will make some people sad. But we can use their tears to top up the dams.

  10. Ronald, that’s not how the kiwi system works now, and without major new dams it couldn’t be made to work that way. That’s why they’re looking at 5GW of new hydro capacity. There are few places left to build new hydro dams without major damage to the environment, this pumped basic is one of the least awful proposals.

    I’m struggling to find a succinct overview, and the daily peak data is limited to one sentence (bah!). But in short, the winter peaks are still supplied by gas plants, and in dry years they fire up the coal burners. The milk powder industry is big and still coal centred as well. But there is a shift to electricity for energy, and estimate of between 50% and 100% increased demand by 2050.

    https://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/resilient/powering-our-future here’s a pop sci overview
    https://www.mbie.govt.nz/dmsdocument/7040-energy-in-new-zealand-2019 detailed view (pdf)
    https://medium.com/land-buildings-identity-and-values/pumped-hydro-update-ec4538cbdb87 Barnsley talking about his pumped hydro proposal
    https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/100-renewable-electricity-grid-explored-pumped-storage-%E2%80%98battery%E2%80%99 the minister talking about the study they’re funding

    A rejected hydro proposal: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/govt-rejects-hydro-bid-for-pristine-west-coast-river/JFIX5TRGBF2Q6PJ5PH6TJFIYPA/

  11. Moz, you wrote: “…the idea being that it will largely obviate the problem of one dry year (they currently get one every 5-10 years but that’s expected to become more of a problem as we transition to the 3+°C warmer world)”

  12. The other point about HVDC lines is that costs do not grow linearly with their length, unlike HVAC lines. A large part of the cost of any HVDC line is the rectifiers, inverters and switches at each end, required regardless of length. Comparing the expense of a Perth-Adelaide HVDC line by the expense of a much shorter and undersea one in Europe with a very different use case is not really sensible.

    Whether the benefits in time shifting and redundancy will ever be enough to make a transcontinetal HVDC line economic I don’t know, and I’d guess no one else does either. But it does seem worth a feasibility study.

  13. If anyone wants to read a study on WA interconnector you look up: Investigation of HVDC Trans-Australian Interconnections ByProf. Simon Bartlett AM March 2019

    One of the reasons it gives for building it is to help coal generation in WA.

  14. Ronald, so yes, major new solar could help in dry years. But the problem is that there isn’t enough storage in the hydro lakes to get through a dry year, even if they just use hydro as peaking plants. Doing that *and* doubling electricity use would absolutely require something else. The good news is that there’s already a fair bit of demand matching going on, I believe there’s ongoing work to replace the old overnight hot water and heat storage setup with smart meters that can cope with heat pumps. Peak shedding systems in industry are pretty common.

    One amusing option would be the “hydrogen economy”, in the form of production near sea level and combination at Tekapo. A rough guess says 5kWh of electricity produces a litre of exhaust water, 220l/MWh so adding 1TWh of hydrogen electricity a year would be 220Ml … less than one day’s supply, but hey, every bit helps. And for every kg of water you have to pump 0.1kg of hydrogen up the hill. Also requires hydrogen generation that can be modulated quickly to match the excess supply curve.

    But realistically you are looking at pumped hydro.

  15. Moz of Yarramulla,
    You state: “But realistically you are looking at pumped hydro.”

    ARENA commissioned a study in 2018 to look at ‘dispatchable’ renewable electricity option technologies. The report suggests:
    “PV or wind driven batteries, pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) or hydrogen; concentrating solar thermal; bioenergy and geothermal all have a role to play.”
    See: https://arena.gov.au/knowledge-bank/comparison-of-dispatchable-renewable-electricity-options/

    ANU Professor Andrew Blakers and his team have been studying how Australia can transition to 100% renewables (solar-PV and wind) with energy storage (off-river PHES & advanced batteries), electricity transmission links and energy demand management.

    The YouTube video titled “Professor Andrew Blakers: 100% renewables and storage – part 1” (duration 31:27) below was published Jul 23, has Blakers presenting some of his team’s findings.

  16. Geoff, the kiwi case is off the scale of that report. 1000+ hours is about a month, and the kiwis want to get through a dry year. The general principles still hold, but that report says dry biomass, hydrogen or pumped hydro. One of those three is very familiar to the grid engineers and the other two are experimental on the scale we’re looking at. Conceivably they could convert one of the Waikato coal plants to biomass using the central North Island forests, but the scale would be a bit daunting (the largest biomass plant in the world is only 780MW).

  17. Moz of Yarramulla,
    You state: “…the kiwi case is off the scale of that report. 1000+ hours is about a month, and the kiwis want to get through a dry year.”

    Perhaps you misunderstand what off-river PHES means?
    I’d suggest you see the YouTube Video titled “2017 CURF Annual Forum – Andrew Blakers keynote”, published by the University of Canberra on 18 Dec 2017, where Professor Blakers talks about the benefits of off-river PHES (from time interval 0:13:37 to 0:21:23):
    – minimal flood control costs – minimal catchment areas for top and bottom reservoir pairs means lower flood risk
    – much larger heads available (of the order of 400 – 900 m in Australia)
    – 22,000 sites in Australia available – only need to pick 20 best sites delivering 0.5 TWh in Australia
    – water is recycled, with evaporation suppression that can reduce evaporation rate by 80-90%.

    There’s a discussion on HVDC transmission from time interval 0:08:12 to 0:10:56.

    A global off-river PHES site atlas can be found here: http://re100.eng.anu.edu.au/global/

  18. Geoff, Can you point to a study of any sort that looked at off-river pumped hydro sites in New Zealand? Seeming to contradict me by saying “Australia can…” isn’t necessarily relevant. Especially since you don’t ever bother saying *why* Australia is relevant to the electrical grid in Aotearoa, or how the things you link to contradict the kiwi experts.

  19. NZ has such a huge amount of hydro annual generation (it is actually fairly consistent from year to year; a dry year is ~5% less generation) and capacity that their options seem pretty straightforward. Basically, there is a lot more wind+solar being built. The share of hydro+gas in NZ generation never goes below 60% (figure 2 in ‘energy in NZ 2019’) so there is massive scope for increasing wind+solar generation without worrying about expensive/lossy storage like PHES.

    PHES is just the wrong tech for dealing with long periods (months) of low generation anyway…

    In Australia, on the other hand, things a a bit less obvious in the long term, but basic transmission upgrades+being able to run fossil fuel plants at low capacity factors+a couple of hours of storage looks like the obvious near-term approach.

  20. Moz in Oz,
    You ask: “Can you point to a study of any sort that looked at off-river pumped hydro sites in New Zealand?”

    Did you bother to look at the YouTube video given in my comment above (at OCTOBER 23, 2020 AT 12:26 PM)? See from time interval 12:07, where the whole globe is shown. From time interval 12:45, Australia and New Zealand are shown. The dots on the maps represent all the PHES sites.
    Did you look at the link to the global off-river PHES site atlas that I included in my comment (at OCTOBER 23, 2020 AT 2:52 PM)? You should see there are multiple sites shown for NZ on the global atlas. If you want more info, I’d suggest you contact the people directly who did the study.

    You state: “Seeming to contradict me by saying “Australia can…” isn’t necessarily relevant.”
    What makes you think NZ is so different from Aus with respect to off-river PHES?

    You state: “Especially since you don’t ever bother saying *why* Australia is relevant to the electrical grid in Aotearoa, or how the things you link to contradict the kiwi experts.”

    Are the Laws of Physics different in New Zealand? I think not.
    I’ve highlighted some of the work by Blakers and his team – take it or leave it, no skin off my nose.
    Who are your so-called “kiwi experts”? – you don’t say. Perhaps they are not so well-informed on the possibilities of what can be done?

  21. Geoff, I didn’t look at videos, I’m literate. The “global off-river PHES site atlas” did not work for me at all, I spent a good 10 minutes clicking things and trying to discover how to get anything to appear on the map but no luck. Is this one of these “you have to use Edge with all protections disabled” things? I’ve seen Blaker’s work before, and I’m strongly in favour of that sort of short-term storage in Australia (although I think the obvious first step would be to start using the three PHES systems we already have, rather than letting the fossil generators that own them keep them out of the system to maintain prices). But politically that might be harder than letting Scotty from Marketing show up in a hard hat to a new project.

    I’m wondering why you still insist that the actual concrete proposal for a specific site is irrelevant (ie, you appear to have looked at none of my links) compared to a map study done by Australian academics. I’ve contributed to that sort of desktop study in the past (the BZE one) and I would never presume to write off an on-the-ground effort sight unseen based on a desktop study.

    Once again:
    https://medium.com/land-buildings-identity-and-values/pumped-hydro-update-ec4538cbdb87 Barnsley talking about his pumped hydro proposal
    https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/100-renewable-electricity-grid-explored-pumped-storage-%E2%80%98battery%E2%80%99 the minister talking about the study they’re funding

  22. Moz of Yarramulla,
    You state: “Geoff, I didn’t look at videos, I’m literate.”
    I’d suggest the videos contain a wealth of useful information. If your internet bandwidth/quota is a problem, perhaps you may wish to consider alternatives to view it – public library, friend, relative, etc.?

    You state: “The “global off-river PHES site atlas” did not work for me at all, I spent a good 10 minutes clicking things and trying to discover how to get anything to appear on the map but no luck.”
    I had the same problem. I’d suggest that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the study. If you are keen to view the interactive atlas, I’d suggest you contact the relevant people to ask how.

    You state: “I’m wondering why you still insist that the actual concrete proposal for a specific site is irrelevant (ie, you appear to have looked at none of my links) compared to a map study done by Australian academics.”
    Have I “insisted”? Where?
    The Barnsley link you have provided (thank you) is for a specific potential project at one specific site. It may (or may not) proved to be suitable – that’s the point of doing a detailed study to find out before committing serious resources. One unsuitable site doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t others that are better and more suitable.

    Did you scroll deeper down the webpage for the Global PHES Atlas? I note the disclaimer includes:

    “None of the PHES sites discussed in this study have been the subject of geological, hydrological, environmental, heritage and other studies, and it is not known whether any particular site would be suitable. The commercial feasibility of developing these sites is unknown. As with all major engineering projects, diligent attention to quality assurance would be required for safety and efficacy.

    There has been no investigation of land tenure apart from exclusion of some environmental areas and urban areas, and no discussions with land owners and managers. Nothing in this list of potential site locations implies any rights for development of these locations. Accuracy of the sites depends on the accuracy of the source data. There may be sites that fall into protected areas or urban areas that are not identified by the source data. In coastal regions there may be a few lower reservoirs sitting on top of the ocean due to limited accuracy of the DEM data.”

    Scroll further to Figure 3, and you should see Australia has of the order of 6,500 GWh per million people of potential PHES, while New Zealand has more (almost 8,000 GWh per million people).

    Scroll further, and you should see “How much storage is needed?”

    Did you actually look, Moz of Yarramulla?

    The key point that Blakers says in the “2017 CURF” video from time interval 0:15:21:

    “And Australia is hardly the most mountainous country in the world, and so, we are better off than Denmark and Holland, but most countries have far more mountains per capita, than Australia. So there’s 22,000 dots that you can see there, many of them on top of each other, and the important point is we can afford to be extremely choosey, in choosing our pumped-hydro sites in support of 100% renewables. That means if there is site – there’s a legless lizard, or there’s a heritage issue, or there’s limestone caves in a particular area – you just go over the hill, and there will be another potential site, or the next hill, or the next hill…”

    Per Google search, the Global PHES Atlas webpage appears to have been published on 7 Feb 2020.
    I note your link (thank you) to the Dr Megan Woods post is dated 26 Jul 2020.
    Perhaps the Global PHES Atlas by the Blakers team has prompted some further investigation by the NZ Gov into PHES?

  23. Claiming that some ginormous amount of storage is needed to enable 100% renewables has been a favorite strawman of people opposing action for decades now (hence, Snowy 2.0).

    The problem is not that very large (months of storage) PHES is technically unfeasible, it is that:
    a) it is both expensive and environmentally disruptive.
    b) it is pretty much completely unnecessary for the next 20 years, and even then, would only be utilised at full capacity once in a blue moon.

    More sensible 100% systems have PHES or battery storage over 12 hours or so and use something else to deliver the last few percent of electrical energy associated with long periods of low solar/wind generation. Eventually, you are going to need to produce a lot of renewable liquid+gas fuels anyway, because not everything can be directly electrified.

    But what is needed over the next decade is very much simpler and in line with what JQ was suggesting.

  24. Ben McMillan,

    There’s a trade-off between energy storage and interconnectors. More storage is required if there are weak or no interconnectors. Very large (i.e. months of storage) PHES is unnecessary if you have strong interconnectors to other widely dispersed regions. See the “2017 CURF” video from time interval 0:08:21 to 0:10:56.

    You state: “b) it is pretty much completely unnecessary for the next 20 years…”

    The climate emergency is evolving faster than previously predicted.
    What we/humanity does within this decade (perhaps within the first half of this decade) on human-induced GHG emissions and energy will determine whether human civilisation continues to prevail or collapses later this century.
    See my comment at: https://johnquiggin.com/2020/09/28/no-planet-b/comment-page-2/#comment-228973

    The latest climate science says the timeframe to reduce GHG emissions and transition to 100% renewable energy is much shorter:
    * 2020: No new fossil fuel developments of any kind (coal, gas, oil);
    * 2030: 50% reduction in GHG emissions; 100% renewable energy;
    * 2040: Reach net-zero GHG emissions.
    See my comment at: https://johnquiggin.com/2020/09/28/no-planet-b/comment-page-2/#comment-229280

  25. Ben – yes, a small amount of storage goes a long way; the next step is enough storage to cover overnight following sunny days, not enough to cover weeks or months. Not investing in storage at that lesser level because we don’t know, yet, how things will play out past that seems a way “forward” designed to hold us back – perfect as the enemy of good enough or in this case, better than nothing. Or at least better than coal and gas.

    Gas plant shifted deliberately to backup under market arrangements that reward them for time spent NOT being used would help – if we ever have planning actually designed to reduce fossil fuel use. I do think existing hydro can be managed and modified to better suit a role of complementing RE – less “baseload”, more “dispatchable”. I would think favouring higher peak outputs and discontinous use over steady output. Climate change itself may turn out bad for hydro in some places and improve it in others.

    Australia may be better placed to turn to batteries than many other places – no deep cold winters to get through – and how far they have come already ought to be cause for some cautious optimism. There is so much R&D effort going towards better batteries now that I cannot see how we cannot get significant improvements – tech device makers, cordless tool makers, EV and solar equipment makers are all chasing the next best battery and the company that does will be worth $trillions and they know it. But as much as that helps, we need Australia to be lined up with the nations determined to face up to it, not lined up with those who want to preserve the value of fossil fuel “assets”. The successes of wind and solar may be most significant of all politically, for breaking down what was almost universal opposition from business leaders and lobby groups. Now it just a majority of them, with some of those equivocating.

    I think the best mistake the mainstream Left made was support for wind and solar – as gesture politics – and the best mistake the mainstream Right made was to let them – as give em enough rope politics. Neither are covering themselves in glory and I’d like to think that much as the grudging acceptance of some RE by the LNP appears to cover a deeper opposition, the gestures of support for coal and gas by the ALP cover a deeper support. But I think the ALP will continue to be at pains to differentiate and dissociate their climate position with The Greens, far more than they will seek to differentiate themselves from the LNP.

  26. Geoff: Sorry, like Moz, I’m allergic to videos.

    If you want 100% renewable electricity (not energy) by 2030 that is indeed a different story (I think 90% by 2040 would be more realistic on the way to net-zero by 2050).

    But I think there is too much of an obsession with 100% renewable electricity in the near term and not with the emissions from other sectors that are actually responsible for most of the problem. In the UK, the electricity sector is 23% of carbon emissions. So you can see that by itself, completely decarbonising electricity won’t make that big a difference. Also, getting from 90% zero-carbon generation to 100% is difficult/expensive. What will make a big difference is generating more relatively clean electricity and using it to decarbonise the other big sectors (transport+heating).

    Also, note that France and the UK have similar emissions per capita, despite French electricity generation being almost zero carbon…

    UK emissions per capita are roughly 1/3 of Australia’s, so cutting Aus’s by 50% shouldn’t require extreme steps.

  27. Ken: what looks useful at the moment in storage is maybe a couple of hours time-shifting to cover the evening peak (and taking over ancillary services/rapid response from gas). Batteries, even at current costs, are going to beat PHES in that role.

    The current needs for storage though are very modest. Which is why I think very-long-term storage is largely a red herring. As an example, Snowy 2.0 is being built to try to emphasise a problem that doesn’t yet exist.

    The thing that will actually make a big difference now is building lots more solar and wind and building transmission to connect it to the load centres. It isn’t even connecting regions. Look at north-west Victoria, where you have excellent renewable resources within a couple of hundred km of Melbourne, but weedy little power lines.

    The obvious way to make fossil turn off is just to generate lots of clean energy.

  28. An odd thing about this huge sunburnt country is the apparent lack of suitable locations for solar farms. This is because the developers are all eying off the few remaining places where there is still adequate transmission capacity for new solar farms. It’s easily fixed by building new lines, but that’s an additional expense no one wants to pay.

  29. Ben McMillan,
    You state: “Sorry, like Moz, I’m allergic to videos.”
    Allergic to information?

    Australia’s current GHG emissions per sector (per Blakers’ video presentation published Jul 23):
    1. Fugitive emissions: _ _ _ 10% – stop extracting coal, gas and oil
    2. Electricity generation: _ _36% – transition to renewables
    3. Land transport: _ _ _ _ _ 13% – electrify
    4. Low temperature heat: _ _7% – air-sourced heat pumps
    5. High temperature heat: _ 11%
    6. Aviation & shipping: _ _ _ 5%;
    7. Industrial processes: _ _ _ 7%;
    8. Land sector & other: _ _ _12%.
    [ Looks like there’s a rounding error somewhere]

    Sector items 1 through 4 represent almost two-thirds of GHG emissions.
    Deep emission reductions can be achieved through renewable electrification, that need to be done by 2030.
    Emissions from sector items 5 through 8 will be more difficult to eliminate.
    Three-quarters of emissions are from coal, gas and oil.

    Each country will have their own unique challenges.
    Three-quarters of the world’s population lives in the sunbelt regions (±35° latitude).

    You state: “…getting from 90% zero-carbon generation to 100% is difficult/expensive.”
    Having planet Earth become uninhabitable is not an option, and there’s no planet B!
    Expensive becomes irrelevant when it’s existential!

    “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.” – Winston S Churchill

  30. Geoff: putting 35% of the emissions in the ‘too hard basket’ (and then desperately trying to make up the shortfall in the electricity sector) is exactly the kind of thing I object to.

  31. “You state: “Sorry, like Moz, I’m allergic to videos.”
    Allergic to information?” – Geoff Miell.

    I will watch videos but I am allergic to;

    (a) pretty panning shots which convey little information;
    (b) slow talking commentators who repeat things and treat watchers like they are morons;
    (c) annoying, repetitious, electronic background music;
    (d) videoed talks with poor video, poor sound and ill-prepared, poor delivery speakers.

    Trouble is that that covers 95% of information and seminar videos.

    I play such videos, if I do at all, at 1.25 or even 1.5 speed to try to get through them quicker and garner the information.

  32. One thing we should be talking about is consuming less. Excess consumption of non-essentials is one of our main problems. We have to stop treating the world like it is our amusement park and start treating it like it’s the only place where we, and all the plants and animals we depend on, can live. This will mean living frugally on less energy and materials, less consumer toys and indulgences. While improving health, welfare and education spending, we must greatly reduce spending on all non-essentials in the economy. Conspicuous consumption, wasteful consumption and rapid obsolescence and fashion changes promoting more consumption must be completely rejected. A demand-led recovery via high consumption of non-essentials will be completely unsustainable and will wreck the world faster. Only state-developed health, welfare and education plus the renewables, recycling and circular-economy build-out can be permitted to maintain demand. That is the only viable way forward. We are now in a planetary emergency.

  33. Ben McMillan,
    You state: “…putting 35% of the emissions in the ‘too hard basket’ (and then desperately trying to make up the shortfall in the electricity sector) is exactly the kind of thing I object to.”

    Can you please show where Professor Blakers puts “35% of emissions in the ‘too hard basket'”? Would you have preferred him to lie and say it’s ALL too easy, Ben?

    What Blakers does say is:
    “…we can make a 75% cut in emissions without inventing anything new – we just need to go out and do it. And then that leaves the remaining sectors … But we have this low-hanging fruit of 75% of emissions which we can just go out and do in the next ten years…”

    Are you saying Blakers is ‘sugar coating’ the situation?

    What’s your alternative, Ben? Can you point to an effective plan to rapidly reduce the majority of our GHG emissions in ten years, or are you finding reasons not do do anything? Are you saying it’s ALL in the ‘too hard basket’?

    But then again, perhaps we are all deluding ourselves that we/humanity can avoid catastrophe?
    See: https://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2020/10/taboos-and-illusions-in-environmental.html

    Ben, do you think we/humanity should try to do something effective or just give up, and thus condemn human civilisation to collapse later this century, and perhaps ultimately humanity and most (if not all) life on planet Earth? Would that be acceptable to you, and to your family? Something to ponder…

    I have no doubt there are many people dodging these inconvenient questions.

  34. “We are now in a planetary emergency.”

    Consumption. Consumers. It’s exponential. it’s asymptotic. It’s population.

  35. You have a 2050 goal when you are going to do nothing about anything. I’m going to learn Russian by 2050 so I can read Tolstoy in the original! So I say. Of course I will never learn it. And by 2050 I will most likely be dead or (low probability) a non compos mentis 96. Saying we have a 2050 goal is like a person saying he is going to think about taking take shelter in a firefight after he takes a shot in the heart.

    Those under 30 now are going to be truly furious with older and richer people when the sh** hits the fan in a few short years time. I wouldn’t be surprised if they withdraw all rights to live or at least to be supported from we older people. I am not advocating that but I can imagine desperate and angry young people doing it. It will be survival of the youngest and fittest. If you are over 50 you can forget it. Over 40 and not super-fit for your age? You can forget it too.

    Whilst attempting to lose a bit more weight and get a bit fitter at 66, and having no medical pre-conditions, I still have no illusions. I already consider myself a dead man walking because I know what’s coming (to a high degree of probability). All it takes is basic scientific literacy, a bit of reading and the ability to not kid yourself. Very few people seem to possess and exercise these relatively simple abilities. Hence, why we are in so much trouble.

  36. You Australians are weird, taking your fast internet for granted. Here in Australia, I’ve only had internet fast enough to reliably play video for 2 years and 10 months. My parents in Queensland have internet fast enough to play internet but it only works now and then.

  37. Geoff: well, there are many ways of getting a 50% reduction in emissions (e.g. over the next 10 years) other than your “one true path”. Iconoclast’s suggestion of just consuming less is one obvious one, but there are a whole spectrum of options. Mostly this involves taking another look at the stuff you put in the ‘too hard basket’.

  38. @Ikonoklast

    will watch videos but I am allergic to;

    (a) pretty panning shots which convey little information;
    (b) slow talking commentators who repeat things and treat watchers like they are morons;
    (c) annoying, repetitious, electronic background music;
    (d) videoed talks with poor video, poor sound and ill-prepared, poor delivery speakers.

    Agree 100 per cent. I’ve unfortunately done the occasional (d), but i absolutely refuse to have any part of (a) or (c). And no one could accuse me of talking too slowly

  39. Prof Q: it might amuse you to know that I have to slow my video playback from 2x speed to 1.5x speed for the likes of you. But since you often provide transcripts I’m rarely forced to actually watch you read 🙂

  40. Ben McMillan (at OCTOBER 26, 2020 AT 8:31 PM),
    You state: “…well, there are many ways of getting a 50% reduction in emissions (e.g. over the next 10 years) other than your “one true path”.”

    Firstly, it’s not MY “one true path” – please don’t misrepresent what I say.

    Perhaps there are many ways, but I asked you to “point to an effective plan to rapidly reduce the majority of our GHG emissions in ten years”. IMO, so far you haven’t.

    You then state: “Iconoclast’s suggestion of just consuming less is one obvious one…”

    This raises the question: How much less consumption is required to get a 50% reduction in emissions in ten years? 50%? – You don’t say – IMO, it’s all very vague, ‘hand waving’ stuff. What do you then do to eliminate the remaining 50% emissions?

    And what are the usual consequences of reducing consumption? – the COVID-19 crisis should give you a clue – substantial job losses. So, are you suggesting many, many ‘Arthurs’ and ‘Marthas’ become chronically under-employed/unemployed? Do you tell many people they will never have a job for the rest of their life – they are surplus to requirements? How do you support them, or perhaps you don’t? You (or your family members) perhaps might be involved. I’d suggest many, many idle hands make mischief, that leads to civil unrest. Is that what you are advocating, Ben? Careful what you wish for, Ben!

    You finish with: “…but there are a whole spectrum of options. Mostly this involves taking another look at the stuff you put in the ‘too hard basket’.”

    IMO, this is all very vague stuff, that’s not helpful at all. What options, Ben? How do you suggest the ‘too hard basket’ be tackled in the required timeframe? You don’t say.

    It seems to me you’re rubbishing Professor Blakers presentation, yet you’re unable to offer any effective, timely, minimally disruptive alternatives. IMO, wishful thinking and vague notions offered for highly complex problems aren’t effective plans/solutions.

    What I fear is nothing effective will get done in the available time remaining, while the multitudes of climate deniers/fossil fuel proponents/ignorant fight a rear-guard campaign of predatory delay, and the well-meaning squabble over what “best” mitigation path we should be taking. Meanwhile, the Earth System physics likely begins to take hold, leading us along an irreversible path towards an increasingly more hostile and perhaps ultimately an uninhabitable planet – that helps no one.

  41. You Australians are weird, taking your fast internet for granted. Here in Australia

    My mum, who is in her 70’s but vigorously resists the title “aged” once commented that I look fuzzy in video chats. It turns out that she’s used to 4k video because in NZ 1Gbits down, 400kbits up is $150/mo so naturally “everyone she knows” just defaults to 4k for everything. Except us povo luddites in ‘straya, where the bush telegraph is only good for {buffering}… 480p… {buffering}… with pauses.

  42. Geoff, you’ve consistently refused to engage with what I or others write, preferring instead to restate your existing points more emphatically. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that you are only interesting in getting our agreement with whatever you say.

  43. Moz of Yarramulla,
    You state: “Geoff, you’ve consistently refused to engage with what I or others write…”

    I suspect your definition of “engage” is to agree with you (and/or others). Are you the one interested in getting explicit agreement from me?

    If I see something I disagree with then there’s a good chance I’ll engage, and include reasons for disagreeing/challenging (usually with references/data), as I have done with you (and others). Perhaps this is what you don’t like, and perhaps you’d prefer an ‘echo chamber’?

    If I see something I may agree with, or don’t have an informed opinion on, or are unfamiliar with the subject matter, or can’t be bothered, then I won’t necessarily make a comment. I may (or may not) learn something from it, but I won’t necessarily advertise it here.

    IMO, I don’t see you (in this thread at least) presenting compelling counter-arguments to mine when I’ve challenged you.

    You also state: “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that you are only interesting in getting our agreement with whatever you say.”

    If you (or anyone) think any of my presented arguments/evidence/data are bogus, then present your compelling counter-arguments/evidence/data – it’s ‘simples’. We all might learn something in the exchange. Views may shift, or we may ultimately agree to disagree.
    But please don’t misrepresent, or resort to logical fallacies and/or personal abuse – IMO, that’s a dead give-away that arguments are hollow.

    Believe me, I’d like some of the evidence/data I’ve presented to be wrong, but wishing it doesn’t necessarily make it so.

  44. Geoff:
    If you want to learn about other strategies apart from your one-true-path to decarbonisation, I think stabilisation wedges are a good place to start:
    https://cmi.princeton.edu/resources/stabilization-wedges/introduction/

    Looking at the scenarios in the IPCC’s “Shared Socioeconomic Pathways” is also potentially helpful.
    https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-how-shared-socioeconomic-pathways-explore-future-climate-change

    There is more detail about what mitigation strategies are used in:
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378016300681

    Scenarios compatible with 1.5C or even 2C pretty much inevitably take ‘all-of-the-above’ approaches to reducing emissions.

  45. Ben McMillan (at OCTOBER 27, 2020 AT 9:22 PM),
    You state: “If you want to learn about other strategies … to decarbonisation, I think stabilisation wedges are a good place to start:…”

    Thanks for the Princeton link. I note the webpage has no publication date that I can see – IMO, not a good sign. The webpage outlines: “…15 strategies below has the potential to reduce global carbon emissions by at least 1 billion tons per year by 2060, or 1 wedge.”

    The latest climate science I see says that’s too little, too late – net ZERO GHG emissions by 2040 (preferably earlier). Climate scientist Peter Kalmus at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (see my comment to you above at OCTOBER 26, 2020 AT 11:08 AM) says:

    “…”net-zero by 2050″ is disastrous and tantamount to climate denial.”

    I’d suggest you look at the video of Earth System scientist Professor Will Steffen published on Apr 23, but then you say you are “allergic to videos” – IMO, that’s your problem in choosing to restrict what information you partake.
    See my comment: https://johnquiggin.com/2020/09/28/no-planet-b/comment-page-2/#comment-229280

    I’d suggest the Princeton webpage is IMO mostly pro-fossil fuels, pro-nuclear propaganda, delaying the exit from coal, gas and oil. The evidence I see suggests:
    * It’s now too late for gas as a “transition fuel” and gas is already being outcompeted by new renewables;
    * CCS doesn’t work;
    * Biofuels don’t work – expensive, poor EROI, competes with food production, increases GHG emissions, etc.;
    * Nuclear fission is too expensive, too slow to deploy, relies on finite fuels that cannot support an aggressive “renaissance” expansion long-term, and creates a toxic waste legacy that will long outlast any energy benefits gained.
    See my Submission (#215, #215a, #215b) at: https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/committees/inquiries/Pages/inquiry-details.aspx?pk=2542#tab-submissions

    On Oct 19, Lazard published their latest annual Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (LCOE 14.0) and Levelized Cost of Storage Analysis (LCOS 6.0).

    “…(LCOE 14.0) shows that as the cost of renewable energy continues to decline, certain technologies (e.g., onshore wind and utility-scale solar), which became cost-competitive with conventional generation several years ago on a new-build basis, continue to maintain competitiveness with the marginal cost of selected existing conventional generation technologies.”
    See: https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-and-levelized-cost-of-storage-2020/

    The Carbon Brief article you link to is more than 2½ years old, and the ScienceDirect paper is more than 3½ years old. I’d suggest much has happened in climate science and renewable energy technologies since then.

    You finish with: “Scenarios compatible with 1.5C or even 2C pretty much inevitably take ‘all-of-the-above’ approaches to reducing emissions.”

    No matter what humanity does now, the latest climate science I see says 1.5°C is inevitable and the planet is likely to pass this temperature threshold before 2030. If we/humanity don’t rapidly reduce GHG emissions within the 2020s then the planet will overshoot 2°C before 2050. The climate emergency is evolving faster than previously predicted.

    A scientific article published on Oct 6 in Nature Communication titled “Temperature variability implies greater economic damages from climate change”, suggests a worst-case climate scenario around the $500 trillion mark in damages, and a best case scenario around $30 trillion.

    I suspect you mean well but the information you are offering IMO is dated. I’d suggest you (among many) need to get up to speed.

  46. This is super informative! I’m doing some research for a client of mine, I don’t know a whole lot about solar PV yet so I can’t agree or disagree but I’ll have to do my research. Thanks for sharing.

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