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Batteries beat Snowy Hydro 2.0 on cost – Sound crazy? Read on…
In the Snowy Mountains, a monumental machine has begun to carve its way into the earth creating a giant tunnel for what will be one of the world’s largest pumped hydro energy storage systems. The Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme is so ambitious politicians may be legally required to wear two hard hats when posing for photo ops.
The project will build giant turbines able to supply 2 gigawatts of power deep underground. Only three existing Australian power stations can provide more. Snowy Hydro 2.0 will store so much energy that — technically at least — it could supply two gigawatts of power for days.
Two ways the project will benefit the environment are:
With these great benefits, it’s a pity it looks like it will be a massive waste of money.
That’s because by the time it comes online, using batteries plus additional solar, and wind generating capacity will be cheaper.
This article will look at how Snowy Hydro 2.0 stacks up against large scale battery storage — both existing and soon to be built. I’ll tell you now it doesn’t look good. The best we can hope for is the project will be a cream elephant rather than a completely white one.
Better value than Snowy 2.0 ?
Despite looking like it will be a giant waste of money, some people argue that without Snowy Hydro 2.0 the Coalition would be doing nothing at all for the environment, apart from expressing aspirations, and it’s better for them to waste money on an expensive project than do bugger all. That may be true, but there would be a greater economic and environmental benefit if the government spent the money more wisely in ways that would make us all better off.
Before going any further, I’m putting my foot down and refusing to tack the stupid point zero on the end of its name. From now on, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just Snowy Hydro 2. It’s not a computer program. If it doesn’t work, we can’t patch it or put out a new version. It’s serious real-world construction with serious real-world consequences.
I’ll only agree to call it 2.0 if the number after the decimal is the number of people who die in accidents on the project. This would cause the original Snowy Mountain Scheme to become Snowy Hydro 1.121+.
Snowy Hydro 2 doesn’t involve building new dams. Instead, two existing reservoirs will be connected by a massive tunnel 24km long. Electricity will be generated when water flows from the upper to the lower reservoir and energy stored when the water gets pumped back up again.
Snowy Hydro corporation states a 27 km tunnel will link the reservoirs, but this is not correct:
From SnowyHydro’s website.
The distance between reservoirs is well under 27km. They aren’t going to add unnecessary zig-zags or make a detour to avoid Hell. The 27km figure is the total length of all tunnels, including a 2.6 km exploratory and construction tunnel. You can see the massive machine that has begun drilling it in the latest monthly video report for the project:
You would think Snowy Hydro, the government-owned company in charge of the Snowy Mountain Scheme, would be able to get the tunnel length correct. The CEO’s remuneration is four times greater than the Prime Minister’s, so you’d expect that would pay for someone at least four times as dedicated to avoiding embarrassing mistakes. Since that’s clearly not the case, the next obvious step is to try paying him five times as much.
The generating and pumping will occur 850m below the upper reservoir level in an underground power station inside a giant artificial cavern. This may be carved out of the natural rock, but if the rock turns out to be unstable — a definite possibility — it will instead be housed in an underground chamber reinforced with massive amounts of steel and concrete at an incredible cost to prevent the mountain from crushing the puny humans for their humongous hubris.
According to the Snowy Hydro Company, testing will begin in 2025, and the scheme will be complete in 2026. But this may be optimistic, and some dam people who understand these damn things say completion in 2027 is more likely. Accidents or lousy geology may push commissioning even further into the future.
The Snowy Hydro Company says the scheme will:
In my opinion, I’d say they got one of these correct. Maybe I should say they got 1.0 correct.
Before I explain more about the power and energy Snowy Hydro 2 can supply, if you don’t know why a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour are different, you may want to read this first.
The planned generating capacity of Snowy Hydro 2 is 2 gigawatts. Provided 2 gigawatts of generator capacity are installed, and the water tunnel is wide enough, that’s how much power it will provide.
There are only 3 power stations in Australia that can provide more power, and they are all giant coal-burning monsters. But if all the hydroelectric dams of the original Snowy Mountains Scheme have their power output combined, it comes to just under four gigawatts. So Snowy Hydro 2 increases the potential power output of the entire scheme by just over 50%.
The Snowy Hydro page says the scheme will be able to store 350 gigawatt-hours of energy:
From Snowy Hydro’s website
But this is not the full story. If you are going to say the scheme can provide 350,000 megawatt-hours — 350 gigawatt-hours — you have a responsibility to point out it can’t provide that much in normal operation. While there is more than enough water in the upper reservoir when it’s full to provide that much energy, I’ll point out the usable volumes of the two reservoirs:
The upper reservoir is considerably larger. This means we can’t use all the available water in the upper reservoir without losing water from the lower one. You can’t pour a schooner into a teacup without spillage.
The lower reservoir will never actually be empty. If you tried to empty it, you’d get too much mud and yabbies in the final flow. This means the normal working amount of energy storage will be much less. This paper goes into detail and puts it at perhaps 40 gigawatt-hours. While I don’t have time to check the paper’s dam conclusions, I’m willing to accept its figure. But I will note that water can be allowed to spill out of the lower reservoir, allowing Snowy Hydro 2 to supply much more than 40 gigawatt-hours if necessary, which is a useful capability to have.
I’ll also note that 40 gigawatt-hours is fine. It represents 20 hours at its full 2-gigawatt power output. Even in an extreme and prolonged heatwave, there should be opportunities to replenish the upper reservoir in the middle of the day when solar output is high and late at night when both demand and temperatures are lower.
One figure I’ve seen given for the efficiency of Snowy Hydro 2 is 80%. The actual figure is 76%1. This is typical for new pumped hydro.2 Since the water for Snowy Hydro 2 will have to travel around 23 km more than usual, I’m a little surprised its efficiency is expected to be that high. But Snowy Hydro 2 will be new and huge and undoubtedly have very high generator efficiency. The water tunnel is also going to be extremely wide, which will reduce flow resistance.
You may have seen much worse efficiency figures given for Snowy Hydro 2 than 76%. These include estimates for transmission losses going in and out. All energy storage will have these losses, although the more conveniently located the energy storage, the less they will be. For example, they’ll be less if it’s located in your home or business rather than the Snowy Mountains.
One advantage of hydroelectric and pumped hydro schemes is their long lifespan. The “design life” of Snowy Hydro 2 is apparently 100 years. All I’ll say is I hope whoever designed it is very young, so we can still give them a hard time if the tunnels collapse in 70 years.
When Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Snowy Hydro 2, we were told it would cost $2 billion. It will actually cost a lot more, but what’s a few billion between friends? The government has signed a construction contract for up to $5.1 billion, but it allows for additional costs to be added on, so that may not be a limit. It also doesn’t include transmission upgrades estimated at $1.9 billion for NSW and a lesser but unclear amount for Victoria. My guess is, at the moment, a reasonable cost estimate is around $10 billion. I think we would have to be very fortunate for it to come in at only $7 billion, including transmission. History shows large scale prestige projects are far more likely to come in over budget than below.
Here we see Malcolm Turnbull — one of the vast number of Prime Ministers we’ve had this century — standing before part of the existing Snowy Mountains Scheme. Why politicians are so fond of wearing hard hats is beyond me when it’s their backs they should be protecting. (Image: Malcolm Turnbull’s Office)
Record low-interest rates should have lowered the cost of Snowy Hydro 2. But since no one has been crowing about this, I suspect all it has done is prevent the estimated cost from climbing even higher. Note lower interest rates also improve the economics of battery storage and renewable generation.
If Snowy Hydro 2 comes in at $10 billion, its cost per kilowatt of power output comes to…
That’s not cheap. Gas generation normally comes to under $1,000 per kilowatt, while Kogan Creek Power Station — the last coal power station built in Eastern Australia — cost $2,100 per kilowatt in today’s money. Of course, these aren’t examples of energy storage. Fossil fuels have to go in if you want electricity to come out.
Even if we’re very fortunate and Snowy Hydro 2 comes in at only $7 billion, that still comes to…
Working out the cost per kilowatt-hour of energy storage capacity for Snowy Hydro 2 is not easy. If we use Snowy Hydro 2’s unrealistic figure of 350 gigawatt-hours of energy storage and a $10 billion total cost, then it comes to…
That’s really cheap. But if we instead use the lower figure of 40 gigawatt-hours, it comes to…
The great thing about upper and lower figures like this is, it allows proponents and opponents of the scheme to look at the same information and enjoy hours of unproductive argument.
For Snowy Hydro 2 to make financial sense, it will have to provide energy at a cost that, all up, is lower than the cost of either:
This article — which mostly goes over my head — argues that Snowy Hydro 2 won’t be financially viable because wholesale electricity prices have been falling. I’m not going to do any complex accounting like that to prove which is better. I’ll just point out the obvious and then tell you what I think. If you don’t like my opinion, please feel free to ignore me like an internet date who spots me first.
Battery storage is the main alternative to pumped hydro. It has the following advantages:
The main drawbacks are:
At the moment, large, utility-scale batteries cost over $300 per kilowatt-hour of storage capacity. If we consider Snowy Hydro 2’s maximum possible energy storage capacity, it comes to only $20 to $29 per kilowatt-hour for a total project cost ranging from $7 to $10 billion.
This makes it look impossible for batteries to compete when it comes to very large scale energy storage, but they don’t need to. This is because the low and falling cost of solar and renewable generation means it’s cheaper to instead build some battery storage plus extra solar and wind generating capacity to…
At the moment, the most cost-effective approach is to use a combination of wind and solar energy generation dispersed over a wide area. But as the cost of solar is falling faster than the cost of wind, in the future, most of this additional capacity will be solar power.
Note SnowyHydro won’t just use this extra generation to charge batteries or pump water uphill. They will sell most of it to the grid, resulting in very low wholesale electricity prices on average. Don’t believe any fossil fools who may try to tell you differently, provided it’s clean, cheaper energy is a good thing.
The cost of battery storage has been falling fast. Here’s a graph showing how its price has fallen for electric vehicles over the past eight years:
The dark blue shows the cost of battery cells in US dollars per kilowatt-hour, while the number above the columns shows the cost of cells wired together into battery packs. Because it’s a bad idea to run an energy storage facility by passing a current through a tub of loose battery cells, we should consider the pack price. In 2020 at today’s exchange rate, it was $178 Australian per kilowatt-hour. In US dollars, they’ve declined 80% from 2013, which is an average fall of 20% per year. While there’s no guarantee their price will fall as fast in the future, they will get cheaper.
A large utility-scale battery is a lot more than just battery packs, and this makes it more expensive than the cost per kilowatt-hour of battery pack capacity on the graph above.
The best example of a large, utility-scale battery storage facility is the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia. — also known as the “Tesla Big Battery”. It was built within 100 days and came into operation three years ago on the 1st of December 2017. It has been expanded since then, but when first built could provide 100 megawatts of power and cost around $89 million. This makes its cost per kilowatt of power…
As it had 129 megawatt-hours of storage capacity, its cost per kilowatt-hour was a little better at…
If Snowy Hydro 2 comes in at $10 billion, its cost per kilowatt of power will be $5,000, which is 5.6 times more than Hornsdale. But its cost per kilowatt-hour of storage capacity is much lower no matter if you think $20, $29, or $250 is appropriate.
Assuming Snowy Hydro 2 costs $5,000 per kilowatt of power output, for that cost, we could instead buy:
If we stack this up against $5,000 worth of Snowy Hydro 2, then the Hornsdale setup has some interesting advantages:
The disadvantage is the low kilowatt-hours of storage capacity, which is only 3% of Snowy Hydro 2’s maximum energy storage capacity:
But this is not as large a drawback as it appears.
Snowy Hydro 2’s operating capacity is expected to be 17%. This means it will provide 17% of the energy it would if it was magically able to operate non-stop at full power. This 17% figure represents an average of four hours a day at full output, although it won’t always be going flat out. Its output will be variable, and on some days, it will provide no energy to the grid at all, while on others it would supply much more than average.
The 5.16 kilowatt-hours of Hornsdale storage capacity would be able to come close to providing energy in a similar way. While its total energy storage capacity is much less, it can supply more than the average amount of energy $5,000 worth of Snowy Hydro 2 is expected to. It will also be assisted by its solar capacity that will reduce the amount of energy the batteries would need to supply during the day and which can also be used to help keep the battery charged. The solar capacity could be expected to supply over one kilowatt-hour on a heavily overcast winter day and over eight kilowatt-hours a day in the middle of a summer heatwave.
If Snowy Hydro used the Hornsdale Power Reserve battery at their expected capacity factor of 17%, then I would expect it to last for well over 10 years. Its capacity would slowly decline, and after 15 years, it may be at 70-80% of its original capacity. But because it also includes one kilowatt of solar panels, they would use the batteries at less than 17% capacity factor. This would extend their life, but it would probably make more economic sense to instead provide more energy in total to the grid and put the additional income towards paying for battery replacements that will be needed long before Snowy Hydro 2 starts wearing out.
Note that if part of a solar farm, solar generating capacity can last 30 years or potentially more.
Because batteries can be located where it’s convenient in whatever quantity is desired, they can lower transmission costs. They are often used to avoid the need to upgrade transmission capacity. For this reason, I am not making the $5,000 worth of Hornsdale batteries pay for additional transmission while it is included in the Snowy Hydro 2’s $5,000 worth of capacity.
The $5,000 of Hornsdale batteries and solar would be able to bring in additional revenue that $5,000 of Snowy Hydro 2 can’t:
Mainly due to its greater power output, I’d expect this set up to bring in far more in payments per year than $5,000 worth of Snowy 2. But because Snowy Hydro 2 may come in at less than the $10 billion or so I expect and because I can’t be certain the additional return from the battery setup will be enough to replace them when they fail, I can’t pick a winner.
Feel free to decide which one wins if you like. But note this is only a financial judgement. The Hornsdale battery example comes out ahead environmentally because it includes solar capacity that provides clean energy.
While I can’t declare a winner, it is interesting that Snowy Hydro 2, which probably won’t come online for at least another five years, couldn’t wipe the floor with batteries installed over three years ago.
A battery bigger than the one in Hornsdale will be completed outside Geelong in November this year. It’s called the Victorian Big Battery or VBB3 for short. This beast will supply 300 megawatts of power and will have 450 megawatt-hours of energy storage capacity. How much it will cost is unclear, but a loan of $160 million has been taken out to pay for it. Just to be on the safe side, I’m going to assume it will cost $180 million. This gives the following costs for power and storage capacity…
At these amounts, which are a reasonable estimate of what large scale battery storage will cost this year, batteries beat the mud and yabbies out of Snowy Hydro 2.
The $5,000 price of one kilowatt of Snowy Hydro 2 power output could pay for:
Alternatively, it could pay for:
Another option would be:
With this final option, it could supply 5 times the power output of $5,000 worth of Snowy Hydro 2 and close to twice its average daily output from battery storage alone. It would also average around 10 kilowatt-hours of generation a day from solar.
I would expect this setup to have no problem bringing in enough additional income to replace its batteries in the future when needed. These replacements will, no doubt, cost much less than they do now.
If my estimate of the cost of the Victorian big battery is correct, it represents a one-third fall in the cost per kilowatt of power output over four years. It’s also a 40% fall in the cost per kilowatt-hour of storage capacity. While I can’t declare a trend from just two examples, if this price fall continues, the cost of large scale batteries in 2026 would be:
There is no guarantee that battery costs will fall this quickly, but I am confident by the time Snowy Hydro 2 comes online, the cost of big batteries will be under $400 per kilowatt of power output and under $300 per kilowatt-hour of storage capacity.
So far, I’ve only compared Snowy Hydro 2 to big batteries. But I strongly suspect by 2026 — the earliest Snowy Hydro 2 could be completed — distributed batteries will be providing storage for the grid at what will effectively be very low cost. This will include business and home battery storage and electric vehicles.
If 1% of Australia’s vehicles are electric by then and half of them are connected to the grid at any one time and able to supply 7 kilowatts of power if needed, that would total to around 700 megawatts or around one-third the power of Snowy Hydro 2.
While I’m not saying we will have electric vehicles able to supply that much power to the grid in five years time, we could achieve it with effort. It might take a lot of effort, but it would still be less than what’s required to bore giant tunnels through 27 km of rock.
Keeping assumptions the same, once 50% of vehicles are electric, they could supply 35 gigawatts of power. That’s the maximum output of over 17 Snowy Hydro 2s.
The Australian government has a clear choice before it:
So I guess this means our future will have lots of low-cost battery storage and the fourth or fifth largest pumped hydro facility in the world.
If I’m right about the falling cost of battery storage, then Snowy Hydro 2 will become the whitest of white elephants. My guess is it will turn so pale it will become invisible. That is, the Coalition will pretend it doesn’t exist when the topic of wasting money comes up.
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Ronald was born more years ago than he can remember. He first became interested in environmental matters when he was four years old after the environment tried to kill him by smashing fist sized hailstones through the roof of his parents’ Toowoomba home. Swearing revenge, he began his lifelong quest to reduce the harm the environment could cause. By the time he was eight, he was already focused on using the power of the sun to stop fossil fuel emissions destabilizing the climate. But it took him about another ten years to focus on it in a way that wasn’t really stupid
“Why politicians are so fond of wearing hard hats is beyond me when it’s their backs they should be protecting….”
Expecting this mob to make rational decisions about future energy supply would be even funnier, if it weren’t so dam serious… .
Another lulu – the big new Victorian Battery will have 450 MWh energy Storage compared to Snowy 2.0 336,000. In other words you would need 748 Victorian big batteries to match the capacity of Snowy 2.0. Only 748! Better start building now.
Another minor issue not considered in the back of envelope article. That is that the Snowy 2.0 asset will have a service life of at least 90 years – and then can be upgraded. The first Snowy Scheme hydro power stations have now reached 65 years age – and progressively being upgraded using latest mechanical, electrical and digital technology. This should take them through to at least 2080 or more than 120 years since originally constructed. Your batteries have a life of about 20 years followed by significantly reducing efficiency. Then you have to pay to have the batteries recycled to minimise environmental damage. Don’t get me wrong. Batteries play an important role especially in frequency modulation and short term, small scale storage. Worth noting that they currently provide only 3% of international storage – compared to pumped hydro 97%. Finally, the article has tackled the wrong arguement. The debate is not between pumped hydro and lithium batteries – but between pumped hydro and gas. Again a no-brainer where our gas prices have increased 300% in 6 years, and the European price has increased by 1000% this year!.
I’d say my estimate of $10 billion for Snowy 2 is looking good at the moment. Also, it may not come online until 2028. I suspect by 2028 stationary battery storage will be quite cheap, we’ll have a very large amount of battery storage on wheels, and the economics of Snowy 2 won’t be looking good. But they are not going to stop building now, so in 5+ years we’ll be able to see how Snowy 2 versus battery storage plus overbuilding solar capacity stack up.
“…the big new Victorian Battery will have 450 MWh energy Storage compared to Snowy 2.0 336,000. In other words you would need 748 Victorian big batteries to match the capacity of Snowy 2.0.”
Certainly not available on a regular basis. The Snowy 2.0 maximum indicative storage capacity to generate 350 GWh would at best only be available as a single-shot (per a wet season, if that) due to the upper reservoir (Tantangara, 215 gigalitres) being substantially bigger than the lower reservoir (Talbingo, 116 gigalitres).
It looks to me that storage capacity allocated for Snowy 2 (2,000 MW) beyond 40 GWh (20 hours at 2GW output) increasingly depletes the available storage capacity for operating Tumut 3 (1,800 MW).
The Victoria Big Battery (300 MW / 450 MWh capacity) will likely be surpassed within the next few years by, for example:
* Wallerawang (500 MW / up to 1 GWh) – received NSW DPIE planning approval in Aug 2022, awaiting financial close
* Great Western (500 MW / up to 1 GWh) – in NSW DPIE planning approval process
* Waratah Super Battery (700 MW / up to 1.4 GWh) – planning in progress
* Eraring (700 MW / up to 2.8 GWh) – received NSW DPIE planning approval in May 2022
* Liddell (500 MW / up to 2 GWh) – received NSW DPIE planning approval in Mar 2022
There are also some other PHES proposals at: https://reneweconomy.com.au/pumped-hydro-energy-storage-map-of-australia/
One thing Snowy 2 will do that batteries won’t, is provide thousands more jobs across a wide range of salaries. Batteries basically employ a handful of expensive sparkies and dedicated box-openers.
Snowy 2 also avoids the need for expensive, hard-to-get-at metals from the Earth’s crust and will deliver power for a lot longer.
I still think it’s worth building on these grounds alone.
A factory making batteries in Australia would have a variety of jobs, too.
Would never happen. The factory would be outsourced and built in SE asia or china instead and operated with cheap labour there.
If we had cheap power in Australia we could have automated high tech factories producing them, But the odds are even in this case they would be foreign owned and all profits would end up off shore anyway.
There are far better things to do with public money is to transfer it to the company doing the construction. Their profits are part of the cost. A very small component goes to workers. Most of the money winds up with the primary contractor, not workers. Very bad public policy. The models show that building additional RE capacity is by far the cheapest. If you want to look at this check out Tony Seba report on Batteries Solar Wind. https://www.rethinkx.com/energy.
Snowy 2.waste is a better name. This project is so badly flawed in every aspect. Let alone a highway for services right through the middle of the park.
Some basic hydro Engineering can help to overcome some of the pretty collosal errors. For starters the giant Talbingo dam has a total storage of 921 GL Tantangara figure is 254GL. Tantangara is the critical storage.Lets take nominal170GL as the maximum storage. Then we have operational head of 670m and 2,000MW capacity – this requires a water volume of approxiamtely 350 cubic metres per second.(allowing for relatively high frictioh over the comparactively long tunnel length). So, we have 170GL – or 170 million cubic metres of stored water available. Divide this by 350 and we get 485,000 seconds or 134 hours. In fact pretty close to the Snowy design of 7 days x 24 hours = 168 hours. Not too bad consideri8ng done on the back of an envelope. Anyway it makes a mockery of the 40 hoiurs in the article. To put into perspective with batteries, Snowy 2.0 will have stored energy of 2,000 x 168 = 336000 MWh. The biggest battery in the world has an energy storage of 300 MWh. No comparison! Then we have the lifespan of the battery of maybe 20nyears versus 80 plus for Snowy 2.0. Again no comparison.
Will the massive battery systems being built have much recycle value at replacement time to offset their huge replacement cost every 10 to 15 years.
At least Snowy 2 will not have this regular expense during its lifetime.
Ground mounted rotating machines (turbine driven motors/generators) have proven over many years globally: to offer superior performance; reliability; and importantly longevity over other forms of power generation or energy storage technologies, at large scale.
The comparisons you make Ron with (wind, battery, solar etc) have no genuine engineering relevance at all, and once again at large scale.
They do have significant political relevance though to the masses; and particularly those hooked onto renewable energy technologies (wind; solar PV, and battery storage) to the exclusion of all other generation technologies, and particularly base load reticulated technologies that all involve ‘Ground mounted rotating machines’ (turbine driven motors/generators).
I’m a glass half full kind of person.
If spending billiions on pumped hydro means they have less or nothing to spend on building coal fired power stations then that is a win.
Personally its a step in a different more positive direction, good on the Libs for giving it a crack.
And if people gave them a pat on the back for not building coal Power Stations perhaps on the next one they may get it a little closer to the mark.
I’ll say it again 2 hrs of peak cost solar going west to east in the morning and the opposite in the afternoon sounds a bit like a small battery and price competition from integrating Western Australia to the national grid. Add some wind farms along the way and I’m guessing it will be under the cost involved for the snow 2.0
We don’t have any solar to give you in your morning – it’s still dark here, and we don’t start generating much until 8:00am in summer (our time), or closer to 9:30 in winter. I guess later in the day, once we have much more solar online (over-capacity), we COULD ship any power that exceeds our requirements to you – but you might not be able to use it then, without curtailing you own systems running near rated capacity.
Or, have you got your directions transposed?
Uh – reversing that may not work either – I’m sitting my office now at 5:18 pm, bright and sunny outside, and my 6kW system is presently generating 743W!
Nope – we are going to need ALL of that, to help offset the costs for cooking dinner – so don’t have any spare to give you.
I’m sure you understand, a solar system typically only approaches rated output for maybe 2-3 hours either side of midday – and then only in summer. I don’t think the “phase difference” between west and east cuts the mustard for solar – we’d need to be twice as far West for things to work – but maybe for wind? We need our power, when you want it.
Yes my bad and just as I was writing I was waiting for a company in WA to get out of bed so I could purchase some flights
It’s sometimes difficult to find information on long distance power line or pipeline transmission costs. But it’s a lot.
A 500 KV HVDC (3 GW?) line in the U.S. was estimated by the WECC (North America) to cost approximately $ 1.484 million US per mile in their 2012 report, so roughly $6 Billion to go 4,000 KM across Australia back then, maybe 50% more, about $9 billion now that materials have gone up in price?
Source: “Capital Costs for Transmission and Substations” WECC, 2012
Estimated line losses on HVDC are about 3.5% per 1000 KM, so roughly 15% line loss end to end, less than half that if power is produced along the whole length. (Source Wikipedia)
A projection on the cost and performance of solar generation along the line, substations, etc. is beyond my spreadsheet powers. I’d bet that someone has looked into it, and obviously no-one’s built it, maybe it could work, maybe the maintenance is too challenging, it would be 4 times longer than the lines to the Three Gorges Dam.
jobs jobs jobs
Profit,profit,profit and donation,donation,donation.
Firstly, with the expected lifetime of the project, compared to batteries, why do you not use levelised cost of storage (see https://www.elestor.nl/cost-of-storage/ – the last formula on the page), rather than the simple, and, of less value, nominal cost of storage?
Secondly, with the cost of energy involved, how does this “blinded by snowy) stuff compare with using tidal power, and, ocean/sea wave power, which, while expensive compared to wind and solar power, are more continuous?
Does this portend the end of the ‘ SMR Nuclear Dream’ ? Along with a quiet burial of associated expert opinions, consultant reports, and findings of committees of enquiry into the feasibility of nuclear power; deep in a dark corner of the government archives?
Or Is Snowy 2 nothing but a dead white rabbit, pulled forth with a flourish from the magician’s PR hat; then shaken momentarily to present a jerky semblance of life sufficient to mislead the voting customers?
Only time will tell.
Ronald, you’ve made a clear assumption in your submissions you’ve been unsuccessful with internet dating.
Maybe if you take an approach with ‘meaningful’ statistics and accounting probabilities your report may gain more weight. For now ill just ignore your article untill you include complex accountancy.
Well Ronald, lots of weird logic and unjustified assumptions in that piece. Do you work for the PR department of Tesla, Neoen or perhaps Premier State lobbying group?
Whether its batteries, pumped hydro, hydrogen or something else, the major issue with any storage is “how much energy can be stored for how much cost”.
I’m not sure where your calculations that SH2 can only store 40GWH not 350 GWH comes from, so lets use a mid point number of 200GWH and a worst case cost of $10B. This still comes in at at cost of $50M per GWH.
Compare this to batteries at a (very optimostic) cost or $200 per KW/H = $200M per GWH.
Batteries are 4 x the cost of PHE.
But here’s the kicker, $200 per KW/H is only 1/4 of the current going cost for utilty batteries, AND batteries are only good for around 4000 charge/discharge cycles (11 to 12 years life). We should not be hoping for a 75% reduction in the cost of batteries that may never materialise, and taking into account the fact that batteries have a useful lifespan of around 12 years compared to PHE with 50 to 100 years, PHE is 1 to 2 orders of magnitude cheaper than batteries.
And finally, claiming that batteries are cheaper than PHE because they are coupled with solar/wind, is quite weird. The intention of SH2 is that it too is coupled with solar/wind or other semi dispatchable energy sources, in the same way any storage system is.
So call it what you like SH2, SH2.0 SH ?? but just get on with it…
Ronald works as a secret Tesla PR hack. That’s a new one!
As for the 40 GWh number – the source is clear in Ronald’s post:
“the normal working amount of energy storage will be much less. This paper goes into detail and puts it at perhaps 40 gigawatt-hours.”
From the paper, 40GWh was the lowest estimate at one mode of operations only, from the paper:
So, the recyclable energy storage capacity of Snowy 2.0 is within a range of about 40 – 200 GWh, depending on the operating regime adopted for Talbingo levels. This equates to between 20 and 100 hours generation at 2,000 MW.
Looks like cherry-picking the most convenient number to prove the point.
Hydro storage still looks like a significantly cheaper option to store energy and provides the baseload outside of solar peak generation. Battery storage works better to smooth out short spikes in consumption, both have their usage.
You state: “Looks like cherry-picking the most convenient number to prove the point.”
To me, it looks like you haven’t read/understood these statements spanning the last two pages in the linked paper:
“If the current operation of Talbingo and Tumut 3 is largely retained (i.e. Talbingo kept close to full), in order to maintain the energy reserves of Tumut 3, the available space in Talbingo/Jounama will continue to be approximately 28 GL. This results in a recyclable storage capacity for Snowy 2.0 of approximately 40 GWh. Any Snowy 2.0 generation beyond 40 GWh would result in up to 190 GL (85%) of Tantangara water being discharged to Blowering where it is lost to Snowy 2.0 and cannot be recycled.
However, if the operating regime was taken to the other extreme and Talbingo/ Jounama were left with a minimum amount of water to run Tumut 3 (28 GL) to accommodate the maximum amount of Tantangara water via Snowy 2.0, the recyclable energy capacity of Snowy 2.0 is approximately 200 GWh. Any Snowy 2.0 generation beyond 200 GWh would result in up to 79 GL (30%) of Tantangara water being discharged to Blowering where it is lost to Snowy 2.0 and cannot be recycled.
Also, emptying Tantangara would be a once-a-season shot, as it would take many months (3+) to refill.”
It looks to me that storage capacity allocated for Snowy 2 (2,000 MW) beyond 40 GWh increasingly depletes the available storage capacity for operating Tumut 3 (1,800 MW).
Michael J Keaney,
You state: “I’m not sure where your calculations that SH2 can only store 40GWH not 350 GWH comes from…”
Perhaps if you had read the section below the sub-heading “Snowy 2 Energy” and looked at the paper Ronald has helpfully provided a link to you might then know, Michael?
You state: “…taking into account the fact that batteries have a useful lifespan of around 12 years…”
I attended a drop-in community information session for Neoen’s proposed 500 MW with 1,000 MWh storage “Great Western Battery” for Wallerawang NSW on Feb 3. I asked a Neoen representative how long an operational life would the proposed BESS have, and I was informed that it’s expected it would be around 15-20 years. I have no reason to doubt that – I think Neoen has most likely gained valuable operational experience with its SA Hornsdale battery.
I’d suggest we need a mix of energy storage technologies – there’s no single technology that’s best to do all.
Due to conditions at the electricity market, it must be assumed that Snowy 2.0 and Tumut 3 will run in phase. If one power plant produces then the other also produces. The same applies to the pumping. It is not possible to imagine that one power plant produces and the other pumps at the same time. It makes no sense.
Well Skuli – if the SH2 downstream reservoir was already FULL, and we got to the point (with renewables) where Tumut 3 could run at half or quarter power – but we knew that later in the day we would need all of Tumut 3, and another 2 GW as well – wouldn’t it just make sense for Tumut 3 to go to full power, and use that extra (otherwise excess) power to start pumping back up from the SH2 lower reservoir?
Then, when peak demand hits, we could make use of SH2 recycled water, without spilling water from the lower reservoir.
So – it IS possible to imagine another scenario – and 1 example breaks your hypothesis…!
I assumed that SH2 and Tumut 3 both connected to the same electricity market at the same time and did their business through there but not between themselves. Therefore if SH2 is pumping when market price is low then Tumut 3 is definitely not producing for a low market price at the same time. I don‘t know if they can interchange power between themselves in such a situation. You tell me.
No Skuli – but I am saying Tumut 3 could be producing at a low market price, in order for Tumut 3 and SH2 to get a compensating higher price when demand dictates (or, otherwise, supply would fail to meet demand – i.e. blackouts).
I think the NEM would be looking at OVERALL prices, AND operational conditions – and I expect causing wide blackouts due to poor anticipation would probably attract heavy penalties.
In Roland Brakles’ article, the ratio “(Capital cost of the power plant) / (energy content of the upper reservoir)” says nothing. In the article, it is calculated as 29000 A$/MWh for 350 GWh in the upper reservoir and 250000 A$/MWh for 40 GWh in the upper reservoir. This is completely wrong and absolutely meaningless and should not be confused with production costs of energy from the power plant. I calculated that in the traditional way with the assumption that the capital cost was A$ 10 billion, interest rate of 6% per year, lifetime of 60 years and purchase of electricity from the Grid was at a price of 30 A$/MWh. The result was a production cost of 144 A$/MWh. If, on the other hand, energy from the Grid is obtained free of charge (which is unrealistic), the production cost will be reduced to 104 A$/MWh.
It can be mentioned that whether 350 GWh of the energy content of the upper reservoir or 40 GWh is used, in both cases the same result is obtained for production costs. With less utilization of the reservoir, the cycle (production/pumping) only becomes more frequent.
It must be borne in mind that when the power plant’s production will be put on the electricity market, the majority of the upper reservoir will act as a backup energy, rarely used but invaluable in cases of emergency for example periods of low wind or sunshine.
Better results could be obtained by computer simulation of the power plant in joint operation with the connected power system.
Now, here’s a thought…
I understand that WA has about 645,000 households.
If a household rooftop photovoltaic system, with 6.6kW of panels, a battery, such as the LG Chem RESU 13, and a hybrid inverter that provides UPS functionality, such as the Goodwe GW5048D-ES, could be installed on each household, for, at most, 15,000AUD, then, …
645,000 x 15,000 = 9,675,000,000AUD.
A much better use of the money…
And, it would provide electricity supply stability and resilience, never seen before in WA.
And, it might make up for some of the GST, of which WA has been robbed.
And spend that $9 billion again and again every 10-25 years?
So, about 4 times as expensive?
Yes, this would help recoup years of stolen gst…!
As we all know, Snowy 2.0 would have ZERO ongoing costs past the $2 billion / $10 billion.
jobs jobs jobs
Australia is pretty dry place and we have few opportunities
Of taking advantage of this Low carbon energy source. Hydro is a gift that keeps on giving for decades. How the comparison can be made between it and solar and batteries which both are poor from the point of longevity and the amount of carbon produced in manufacture I will never understand. Hydro and nuclear my give us enough time to sort these technologies. If a few more people would do the research to see through the “renewable” instant gratification of doing something we could be making real steps on removing C02.
You state “Hydro is a gift that keeps on giving for decades” is accurate, but I think you may be a little confused about the context of Ron’s article.
His article is about Pumped Hydro (PH) – which CAN be compared to batteries – it is an alternative STORAGE medium. Don’t worry – you are not the only one confusing storage and non-pumped hydro – e.g. dealing with SH2 taking more water than can be stored in the lower reservoir, to exceed 40GWhr – in this case effectively taking capacity away from Tumut 3 (extra water is lost from the lower reservoir, read Geoffrey Miell’s comments).
In my view, taking extra water is an alternative non-pumped hydro source, so effectively could provide redundancy – should Tumut 3 have to shut down for any reason.
Perhaps more correctly, you should have stated “PH is a gift that keeps on giving, and taking, for decades”…!
Matthew thank you for your insights.
You have put forward some important arguments that should be unpacked and addressed. Most other comments today however are in various degrees fundamentally off track.
As has been said by many others in global forums over the last 10 years; the energy science subject is large but that should not prevent thinking fundamentally about the underlying thermodynamic realities, and applying the immutable laws of physics in these type of debates as few have done, and unemotionally analysing the global energy imperatives moving forward; and reaching alternative conclusions to the mainstream hysteria, as many nations have already but perhaps too quietly done, so that democracies including Australia can learn about enduring and rational energy science choices fit for purpose in perpetuity.
The future is a long one. Short term solutions to all things are soon exposed and fail and won’t cut it over time.
Thomas Edison taught us that technology evolution is incremental over time. Current known science has already incremented to the point of high understanding of the Energy Science Pyramid, and it is from this point the worlds best and brightest physicists; researchers and engineers are globally focussed on enduring in perpetuity power generation science; but their progress is largely unknown and not well represented in mainstream media.
You state: “The future is a long one.”
It depends what/whom you are referring to. For planet Earth:
In about 600 million years from now, the level of carbon dioxide will fall below the level needed to sustain C3 carbon fixation photosynthesis used by trees. In about one billion years, the solar luminosity will be 10% higher than at present. This will cause the atmosphere to become a “moist greenhouse”, resulting in a runaway evaporation of the oceans. The most probable fate of the planet is absorption by the Sun in about 7.5 billion years, after the star has entered the red giant phase and expanded beyond the planet’s current orbit.
But for human civilisation, it may collapse before the end of this century, if humanity cannot drastically reduce our GHG emissions.
A final revised peer-reviewed paper published on 1 Mar 2021 in the Earth System Dynamics not-for-profit international scientific journal, titled “Climate model projections from the Scenario Model Intercomparison Project (ScenarioMIP) of CMIP6”, IMO highlights the urgency of the climate emergency.
On page 264, Table 1 provides the best computer model estimates and ranges for the years of crossing global mean warming temperature thresholds for 1.5, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0 °C for various GHG emissions trajectory scenarios (SSP1-1.9, SSP1-2.6, SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5).
So, per my interpretations of the data, no matter what GHG emissions trajectory humanity chooses to take from now on, best modelling estimates indicate the 1.5 °C global mean temperature threshold is likely to be crossed sometime between years 2026 and 2029 inclusive – meaning, likely before 2030.
For crossing the 2 °C global mean temperature threshold, for higher GHG emissions scenarios (SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5) the best estimates are all before the year 2050 (i.e. 2046, 2043, and 2039, respectively). Only the lower GHG emissions scenarios (SSP1-1.9 and SSP1-2.6) best estimates are after 2050 (i.e. beyond 2100, and 2064, respectively).
In short, the current global warming, of +1.3 °C (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age) in 2020, is already dangerous, as we know because we are already experiencing it.
2 °C would be extremely dangerous.
3 °C would be catastrophic.
4 °C means human civilisation collapse.
Hi Ronald, good article, but if we are going to be talking about GWh sized batteries then we would be looking at a range of battery chemistries and technologies beyond Li-ion. Obvious candidates are Ambri’s liquid metal batteries, designed specifically for grid scale applications and Vanadium Flow batteries also scalable for grid support.
Have you researched these in comparison with Li-ion? I would expect that we would be talking about significantly lower acquisition and running costs and much longer lifespans.
If we want to go to 100% renewable, it is storage that we need.
Solar is ramping up consistently, and will no doubt be powering our day time needs and supplying surpluses in the near future.
What we need is enough surplus and storage to keep us going when the sun is not up and there is zero coal fired stations giving us any baseline power. We cannot even guarantee solar power during the day, The entire east coast has been covered with rain for almost a week now.
So we dont just need storage to to get us through the night, we need enough for days worth of power.
Battery’s seem to be great at filling a short term peaker type of storage that would replace gas peakers, but not powering a capital city through an 18 hour period type of thing. If Hydro power is to much a waste of money to provide this type of storage then what is left to try?
It might be relatively easy to get to 60 or 80% by just building a lot of wind + solar with a modest amount of storage, and also eliminate another 60 to 80% emissions from transportation.
I can’t see that we could get to 100% everywhere, all the time,
You state: “I can’t see that we could get to 100% everywhere, all the time,”
Perhaps you aren’t trying hard enough?
Some examples I see:
Australian grid: https://reneweconomy.com.au/for-100-billion-australia-could-have-a-low-cost-and-reliable-zero-emissions-grid/
Global perspective: http://energywatchgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/EWG_LUT_100RE_All_Sectors_Global_Report_2019.pdf
And if humanity can’t effectively do that on a global scale in a timely manner, or won’t, then the evidence I see indicates human civilisation is on the path to collapse later this century.
See my comment at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/snowy-2-vs-battery-storage/#comment-1018623
Whether we like it or not, the Laws of Physics and the limitations of chemistry and biology are relentlessly at work. We need to make these work to continue to sustain us, not work against us towards oblivion.
Getting quickly to perhaps 80% renewable energy production with a rapid wind and solar deployment, retaining existing nuclear is a better goal than Germany’s not quite getting away from coal plan.
Getting past 80% wind + solar production in desert climates might be impossible even with 150% capacity, but 20% natural gas power emissions in those places will hardly matter in comparison to today’s 50% coal power that emits 2.5 times the CO2 of gas power. Better a quick, 90% emissions reduction than a slow, ‘pure’ approach.
Winston S. Churchill has said: “Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required.”
See my comment at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/guterres-coal-power-mb1892/#comment-1015735
And if humanity can’t do so in the required timeframe… or won’t…
See a possible future at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/victoria-coal-pollution-mb1908/#comment-1001549
Fossil gas is worse/’dirtier’ than coal if ‘fugitive emissions’/leakage is more than about 2 to 3%.
Humans are responsible for as much as 40% more methane emissions than previously estimated.
The Laws of Physics and the limitations of chemistry and biology are non-negotiable. We ignore them at our peril.
Yes, methane leaks should be kept to a minimum. I don’t accept that a well designed, properly maintained gas gathering infrastructure would necessarily leak anywhere near 2 to 3 percent of the methane. I do believe there are methane leaks in old systems, and massive un-flared gas venting by the oil industry in places without good regulation or oversight.
Accepting that a percentage of energy might have to be supplied from gas is not the same thing as painting a halo on the idea and not looking too deeply into the downsides or the problems.
I see a greater long term danger in HFCs due to their permanence, and an urgency to onvert to ammonia, propane, CO2 and other more environmentally benign refrigerants as soon as possible.
I also see no reason not to build more conventional nuclear power plants and extend the life of existing units. The constant, predictable power production is a good match for pumped hydro.
You state: “I don’t accept that a well designed, properly maintained gas gathering infrastructure would necessarily leak anywhere near 2 to 3 percent of the methane.”
Accumulating evidence indicates methane leakages are much worse than the oil and gas industry would have you believe.
It seems to me you don’t want to look “too deeply into the downsides or the problems” with fossil gas and nuclear. Would inconvenient facts spoil your narrative?
We/humanity need to stop burning carbon ASAP – coal, fossil gas, petroleum oil/fuels, wood, etc. – or we won’t have a civilisation before the end of this century.
Nuclear is too expensive, too slow to deploy, has inadequate fuel supplies to sustain a ‘nuclear renaissance’, susceptible to climate change (e.g. sea level rise, higher ambient temperatures reducing performance).
CO2 can remain in the atmosphere to affect climate for thousands of years.
Atmospheric lifetimes of the most commonly used HFCs (HFC-134a and HFC-152a) are limited to less than 12 years.
IMO, it seems your thinking is unsupported by evidence/data.
I dont think we will need to worry about gas leakage as batteries will replace gas peakers anyway, and gas seems to expensive to build any significantly sized power stations that use it.
What we need is a significant base line power source to replace coal, or huge amounts or storage to pump over capacity solar into.
I though pumped hydro was going to fill that roll, but this article is poo pooing all over that idea.
Batteries just are not currently in a position to do this, the current “big battery “technologies are just doing the job of peakers, not mass storage, and on top of that all the articles i read in this blog about the Canberra testing indicate most will fail or loose their capacity much quicker then expected.
“Batteries just are not currently in a position to do this”
Not true. Both Liquid Metal and Vanadium flow batteries are scalable for grid size applications. Only constraints are the amount of real estate to accommodate them and all of the fossil fuel and hydroelectric technologies also require vast amounts of space by comparison.
Older natural gas collection and handling systems in Alberta were built to capture the bulk of produced gas for economic and safety reasons, then hastily expanded as flaring was increasingly restricted. I’ve heard rumours that in the oil induatry in parts of Mexico no effort was made to capture methane from oil wells, it’s allowed to just bubble off into atmosphere. New satellite technology is uncovering these point sources from corrupt companies.
The distribution systems in cities were likewise built cheap and not as leak proof as they could be if properly maintained, and not rusting out.
I’m aware that natural gas emissions are far higher than they could and should be, at both ends of the industry. That’s why I used the word ‘necessarily’.
HFCs are to be phased out by the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol, as they’re currently on track to cause 0.5 C of warming by 2100. Methane has a similar persistence to the two refrigerants you mentioned, but unfortunately those compounds aren’t the only ones produced.
The Chinese don’t seem to have a problem building nuclear power plants in ever shorter time frames, i.e. six years or less for Hualong, and no, there is no shortage of uranium. The worldwide annual production and deployment of an amount of solar photovoltaic power + storage is taking longer.
(And it’s a false dichotomy, since the various carbon free power technologies have different critical material, labour, and land usage requirements. No reason to shut down nuclear plants early and burn coal until storage can be built. )
It seems to me you appear to be making excuses for the oil and gas industry.
Which part of my statement: “We/humanity need to stop burning carbon ASAP – coal, fossil gas, petroleum oil/fuels, wood, etc. – or we won’t have a civilisation before the end of this century”; do you not understand, randy? Or do you reject that premise altogether?
You state: “The Chinese don’t seem to have a problem building nuclear power plants in ever shorter time frames, i.e. six years or less for Hualong…”
Nuclear power stations are arguably some of the most complex human-built things on this planet. Do you think the total project time required is only “six years or less”, and there’s an inconsequential amount of time involved for any: feasibility study & project plan; licensing, and design and procurement processes, randy?
“In November 2014 it was announced that units 5 and 6 would be of the Hualong One (updated CPR-1000) design, with unit 5 scheduled to be in operation about 2019.”
For China’s Fuqing-5, from a public announcement (4 Nov 2014) to being operational (30 Jan 2021) was 2279 days (about 6¼ years), but I have no doubts pre-implementation planning for it was happening ‘behind closed doors’ long before any public announcement from China. I also note the Haulong-5 project was apparently more than a year late in completing.
Per IAEA’s document titled “Project Management in Nuclear Power Plant Construction: Guidelines and Experience”, dated Feb 2012, Figure 8 shows the typical durations for project phases for large-scale nuclear plants – the pre-implementation project phase typically requires five years (which is much easier to ‘hide behind closed doors’) + project implementation typically requires six years (which you generally can’t hide from satellite observations). So, the credible documentary evidence indicates the minimum time to get any first nuclear plant at a site up from conception to operation is more than ten years in the making. For inexperienced nuclear countries like Australia, expect 15 to 20 years. More than ten years is now far too late to mitigate catastrophic climate change.
You also state: “…and no, there is no shortage of uranium.”
Yep, some estimates suggest at around 4.5 billion tonnes in seawater, but at ultra-low concentrations, at around 3.3 parts per billion. But there are NO technologies at large-scale available currently to economically extract this resource that I can see. Do you see any, randy, or are you basing your hopes on non-existent commercial technology?
Meanwhile, global high-grade uranium ore reserves are much, much less – I’d suggest these are inadequate to sustain a so-called ‘nuclear renaissance’.
See Figure 113 in: https://energywatchgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/EWG-update2013_long_18_03_2013up1.pdf
And apparently corroborated by the World Nuclear Association later in 2013: https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/48/045/48045066.pdf
Ongoing depletion of finite nuclear fuels will only get more expensive (both monetarily and energetically). So unsubsidised nuclear, which is already a much more expensive electricity generation technology (compared with renewables + storage, which is still getting cheaper) will only get more expensive.
And then there’s the nuclear toxic waste legacy that will long outlast any energy benefits gained, that nuclear proponents keep ignoring.
IMO, you, randy (like some others I see, here at this blog and elsewhere), appear to continue to ignore the inconvenient truths. I’d suggest wilful ignorance won’t help us to avoid the urgent and dire risks of civilisation collapse.
You said “Do you think the total project time required is only “six years or less””
No. Your first clue is in the reactors official names – Fuqing 5 and Fuqing 6 These are number Five, and Six at that plant, and obviously since Fuqing 1 was started in 2008, they didn’t just decide to build these the day before they started pouring foundations. 6-1/4 years, and at that it was about a year late? Probably the next 30 or 40 reactors will go faster, especially if they standardize the design. Until now, they have not standardized, deciding instead to build several different designs first.
China has increased their percentage of nuclear power production from 1 to 5 in just the past 20 years, and has plans to double it again in another 10 to 20 years.
Uranium reserves work like any mining reserves. There are different amounts at different prices, so when oil is $200 a barrel there’s considerably more available than at $30. “A 2017 study published in the journal Progress in Nuclear Energy found that extraction of uranium from seawater would reach an economical “tipping point” when uranium prices are consistently $175–$250 per pound” A pound of uranium fuel replaces about 10 tons of coal. Uranium prices peaked at about $80 a ton back in 2007, so this technology hasn’t yet been needed.
It’s taken 30 years from the invention of the lithium-ion battery to the first, barely affordable and usable electric vehicles, as ore recovery, processing techniques, etc. become more efficient. Countries with scant uranium reserves (i.e. India) are using thorium in CANDU full power refueling heavy water reactors, with some success.
Civilisation collapse? You exaggerate. I don’t think the United States would completely fall apart if the citizenry had to pay $5 a litre for personal gasoline use, and a steep carbon tax on all fossil fuels. Until that’s been tried, really nothing’s been tried.
Geoff you are accusing others of ignoring the inconvenient truths about all the evils of fossil fuels and nuclear, but you seem to be doing the same thing when ignoring the capabilities of battery storage to step up and replace these systems.
There is not a single large city in the world that can operate on batteries currently, including a little one like Adelaide with the biggest battery in the world.
You state: “…you seem to be doing the same thing when ignoring the capabilities of battery storage to step up and replace these systems.”
Did you miss my earlier comments above, James? – like this one:
“I’d suggest we need a mix of energy storage technologies – there’s no single technology that’s best to do all.”
See my comment here: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/snowy-2-vs-battery-storage/#comment-1018543
You also state: “…a little one like Adelaide with the biggest battery in the world.”
Neoen’s 100MW/129MWh Hornsdale Power Reserve, recently expanded to 150MW/194MWh, has apparently lost the ‘biggest battery in the world’ status.
Then there’s the so-called Victorian Big Battery that will be 300MW/450MWh, and is due to come into service within 12 months.
Per the Clean Energy Council, there are currently 21 battery projects that are in construction (or due to start construction soon) around Australia. This is based on projects that have reached financial close and are not yet commissioned.
Wallerawang NSW has two BESS proposals lodged with NSW DPIE:
1. Neoen’s “Great Western Battery”, 500 MW with 1,000 MWh storage, at Brays Lane, Wallerawang, about 1.25 km from the existing Transgrid 330 kV substation.
2. Greenspot’s “Wallerawang 9 Battery”, 500 MW with 1,000 MWh storage, on the site of the former Wallerawang Power Station.
There are other bigger battery proposals at various stages of planning around Australia and the world.
The inconvenient truth is disruption is now inevitable. Humanity will inevitably face large-scale climate disruption: either planned by way of rapid, whole-of-economy and society emergency transition to restore a safe climate for humanity and civilisation; or much worse unplanned chaos because of increasingly more hostile physical conditions (i.e. increasingly more locations that are too hot/humid for habitation, increasing risks of multiple food production regions with simultaneous yield reductions inducing global famines, inundations from sea level rise, increasing storm/wildfire damage, etc.) that will consequently induce social and economic system failure.
You say say we need a mix of storage technologies, and i fully agree, even if i have not yet read the 188 page article you linked.
But i am making this comments based on the article that says snowy hydro is a waste of money compared to batteries.
You spent many paragraphs pointing out that hornsdale is no longer the biggest battery in the world, when the point was the (almost) biggest battery could not power Adelaide without the support of coal. Would it even be possible if Hornsdale, the Victorian big battery and great western battery were all combined?
I am doing what i can to help with global warming, I have a roof full of solar(quoted from here), a heat pump hot water system, and all my lights are now LED’s. I vote labor, but they still keep losing. so i dont think i am one of the “bad guys”
And i keep reading this blog for more ideas, even when you tell me my son is going to grow up dodging floods, wildfires and storms, only to end in a mad max style collapse.
I think the ARENA commissioned report “Comparison of Dispatchable Renewable Electricity Options”, even though it was published in 2018, should answer your questions. The graph on page VI, titled “Ranges of Competitiveness” might give you a clue to what you are seeking.
My take from the ARENA report is that PV and/or wind + batteries were indicated to be not cost-effective (compared with other energy storage technologies) beyond about the two-hour duration. However, since the ARENA report was published, battery (and PV and wind) costs have continued to fall and indicators suggest competitiveness for four-hour duration may be within reach.
I see serious 2-hour duration BESS proposals, like Neoen’s “Great Western Battery” and Greenspot’s “Wallerawang 9 Battery”. AGL has a proposal for a 200MW/4-hour duration BESS at Loy Yang, and 250MW/4-hour in South Australia. I don’t see significantly longer duration BESS proposals just yet.
Compelling evidence I see indicates your son will likely grow up on a more hostile planet to the one you and me have experienced. How much more hostile depends on humanity’s GHG emissions trajectory from now on. The collapse of civilisation is not certain or inevitable… yet, but emergency-level action right now is critical. The short term is crucial: what we do now and before 2030 matters, not aspirations about 2050 or later.
You may wish to look at the YouTube video titled “Professor Andrew Blakers: 100% renewables and storage – part 1”, duration 31:27:
Snowy 2 is a great investment in National infrastructure IMO; as was Snowy 1 which was designed more to redistribute water to the western side of the mountains.
There’s something more permanent about Snowy 2 compared to batteries sitting in a paddock. Diversity in storage capacity is also a smart thing in the long term. Solar & Wind farms, using gravity to harness rain & snowfalls, pumped hydro used when most needed and underground turbines – win for me.
Always nice to get costs comparisons though.
All Governments are very proficient at wasting our tax payers money including ours, the list of advantages and disadvantages of both systems are endless, however, I think that we need to have both systems to get a good working grid for everyone, solar works well on sunny days, water works better in wet weather and wind works better in windy weather, with a 100 year lifespan against say 10 battery replacements in that time the Snowy 2 should show some better figures. The bottom line to me is that we need both technologies to work together so rain, hail or shine we have enough stored power to live our lives without power load shedding to worry about. If the government doesn’t waste money on this it will only waste it on something that we wont get any use out of at all most likely??????
I was lost with all the costs per kwhr etc. But a few things need to be outlined. Even the VBB at 450mwhrs and a useable 300mwhrs, that battery will only supply 75mw of power safely to avoid damage as discharging a large battery like this in under 4 hours puts a lot of stress on the chemicals. So the VBB will in effect only give a useable 75mw for 4 hours, then need recharging.
If the battery is used daily and most of its capacity, its life will likely be far less than 10 years. As an example, consider your phone battery and its use and life as they are very similar.
Transmission line costs for all solar and wind farms are borne by us and not the energy generator.
Sure the cost is high for Snowy 2 but if it can supply 1 or more Gw for the peak loads that is far more than batteries will ever provide.
Efficiencies: batteries lose 15% when charging and 15% when discharging through the electronics and the chemical reactions.
It will be the most valuable backup for the renewables when they can’t supply power.
Just a thought… Ronald, it seems to me that your “cost per kW” and “cost per kWh” is very flawed… your calculations would be correct if the system was only ever used once and then left to gather dust, turned completely off… for ever!
If the system is used twice your numbers halve…
Three times equals one third…
Thousands of times… smaller and smaller cost per kW and kWh going into the future.
Sure, an input cost of the low$ “off-peak/abundant” electricity and then just staff and maintenance costs once complete.
Being a local of the Tumut area (one of the towns benefiting from the Snowy 2 project), the side benefit of the government continuing the project is the stimulus to the region. Having lost the majority of the timber industry to bush fires, which our region relies on heavily, the Snowy 2 project is providing much needed employment in the area.
Glad to hear that Aidan.
It seems to me that a majority of contributors to this blog think that overall the project should go ahead. In a project of this size there’s always some aspects somewhere that people ‘don’t like’., and no doubt some unexpected problems or delays will arise during the main construction phase too,
Adding weight to the trend away from coal, is this announcement I found yesterday at https://www.reuters.com/article/coal-india-solar-idUSKBN2BF14C
Coal India Limited ( CIL ), one of the world”s largest coal miners, announced on 23rd March that … ” it plans to keep closing small mines and stay away from opening those that would entail mass hiring…. The group closed 82 mines in the three years to March 2020, resulting in cuts to its workforce of 18,600 employees.” CIL is planning a major shift to the renewables sector in its mining and manufacturing operations., CIL is now importing coal from elsewhere to keep a number of its coal powered generating facilities open in order to meet its obligations to end-consumers until the final time of closure arrives.
Interestingly, CIL has a better reputation than some other Indian companies for the way it treats employees affected by the mine closures. However that may have been forced on them by Indian Government pressure in the past.
Back in mid 2011 the Indian Government threatened to close down 22 of CIL’s mines because of pollution and environmental concerns. See this article here:
Adani Green Energy Limited – (which is part of the multi-national commodity trading Adani Group,also based in India and quite unrelated to CIL) – has for some years now been quitiely building a significant portfolio of wind turbine sources of electricity generation. This link : https://newsriveting.com/adani-green-energy-to-set-up-300-mw-wind-power-project/
gives some details of both a new project and Adani’s overall involvement in the wind turbine sector.
Your guess is as good as mine as to how this shift toward renewables by some of the world’s biggest coal miners will affect Australian coal mine operators, but this 2019 article about bankruptcy of one of the USA’s largest coal mine operators may provide some clues. see: https://trib.com/business/energy/two-wyoming-coal-mines-close-send-700-workers-home-after-bankruptcy-filing/article_773100d1-b5b4-57d8-af49-842518b9e219.html
This Feb 2021 article at :
presents an alternate perspective on the ongoing closures of coal mines in the Wyoming region that seems reminiscent of the hostile reaction to renewables still to be found among some Australian politicians at times.
To quote from that article: ““The Biden administration has declared war on our way of life in Wyoming and American energy. They’ve declared war against oil, gas, coal, and we need all the energy.”
I hope that with Snowy 2.0 we can just get on with it and get it done. It may also help bring about cessation of fracking for natural gas in the Western Sydney region where a small risk of future leakage to underground aquifers that supply a significant portion of Sydney’s water supply exists.
It doesn’t really matter much now what any of us think about the merits of Snowy 2.0, because the major construction works associated with it have already been underway for some 7 months now.
According to this website: https://www.consultanz.com.au/go-ahead-for-snowy-2-0-to-commence-main-works/ “‘Snowy 2.0 has achieved another important milestone with approval by the Government giving the go-ahead for Snowy Hydro to commence main works.’.
That approval was given in June 2020, and on-site main works commenced in August 2020,
‘First power’ from Snowy 2.0 is expected in 2025 and the current completion date for the whole project is 2026. That leaves some buffer time for a later completion date before the planned closure of Victoria’s coal-fired power station Yallourn in mid-2028. See: https://www.snowyhydro.com.au/snowy-20/progress/
As a general principle, it makes sense to diversify our renewable energy sources; although one can argue forever about what the relative mix of potential energy sources should be. So that’s something of a plus for more hydro.
Complicating things though are the as yet unknown future effects of climate change. While a surprising number of people still deny the existence of climate change, not one of them can deny that the thickness of winter snow on Mount Kosciuszko and surrounding areas, has been diminishing for the last 60 years. (see: https://www.sbs.com.au/interactive/2015/kosciuszko-snow-depth/ )
This natural cycle of snow forming on the mountain areas in winter, then melting in the warmer months is the originating source for both the Snowy and Murray rivers.
Less snow to melt obviously means less water flow in those rivers, and that in turn likely affects the economic viability of both the existing hydro generation facilities and and the Snowy 2.0 additions at some future point.
However, the Snowy 20 modelling for the preliminary economic analysis did take past drought periods into account in its evaluations.
You can find many of the documents used to support the economic evaluation needed for the final investment decision at: https://www.snowyhydro.com.au/snowy-20/documents/
What I also found helpful was the FAQ page at: https://www.snowyhydro.com.au/snowy-20/faqs/ Those interested in some summary details regarding environmental impacts and estimated effects on, river flows etc will find those at: https://www.snowyhydro.com.au/snowy-20/faqs/
One point worth noting from the FAQ is that
‘New transmission routes are needed urgently to connect new generation through renewable energy zones and energy storage projects that are geographically dispersed right across the NEM… proposed upgrades to the grid are to the shared transmission network that a range of renewable energy generation and storage projects will connect to as they come online’
Upgrades to the grid allows more renewables to be connected to it and Snowy 2.0 – via its pumped hydro system – can to some extent also serve as a battery surrogate when supply from relatively nearby large scale solar and wind farms fluctuates.
Check out the new liquid metal battery technology that’s coming to market now, after 15 years of development, the Ambri battery, which should be perfect for grid level storage:
It’s in the final stages of engineering for everyday use.
Calcium, Antimony, with a calcium chloride electrolyte.
Runs at 650C I think, housed inside a steel container.
It has the reverse problem of Lithium Ion: heating is good, and it doesn’t run away out of control. If the battery cools from liquid to solid, that’s no problem, you just pump electricity in to liquefy it and get it back in operation.
After 5000 cycles it remains at 99.9% capacity. The cycle operates very like electro-refining.
Made from extremely cheap and plentiful components.
Recycling eventually will probably be just replacing the housing and reusing the same metals and salts to make a new battery.
The three liquid layers are immiscible and I think different densities.
It works by calcium ions crossing the electricity and de-ionising. And vice versa.
My suggestion (raised previously in these blogs) is for “Snowy 1.5” – partially cover the Snowy reservoirs with floating solar. The World Bank is promoting this for developing nations. Some key advantages:
* The solar “farm” does not use farmland
* Excess solar power is used to pump local hydro (very little transmission loss compared with off-peak coal-generated pwoer)
* Reduced evaporation losses (~1metre per year in Snowy region)
* Connection to grid already available
More info here:
Hydro power is a wonderful engineering achievement but I have always thought that gravity is a very ineffective way to store energy. If you could mount all of the concrete that goes into a hydro scheme onto near-frictionless jacks (OK – they don’t exist yet!) then I expect the same amount of energy could be stored by raising the concrete by 1 metre as that available from hydro water.
Marvellous things, frictionless jacks.
I guess to recover 40 GWhr from the concrete by allowing it to descend 1m, you’d also need frictionless hydraulics, MASSIVE frictionless extremely high-ratio gearboxes, frictionless hydraulic pumps, etc., etc., before you even get to the alternators/motors.
You are not asking much…!
Good to be “blue sky”, but I do think we have something something much sooner.
Also – why on earth would you want to use off-peak coal power to charge Pumped Hydro storage? Surely, you would use excess solar & wind – having already installed vast overcapacity to allow for this approach to provide dispatch-able power?
Gravitricity! (better uses for concrete in Snowy 2.0)
I came across this BBC article about a 50t block of concrete that is raised about 16m to store energy:
I also found out that, in the 1800s, buildings in the CBD of Chicago were raised about a metre to avoid being flooded
I think the biggest advantage of the Snowy 2.0 is that you can build it today. i.e. the world’s manufacturing capacity for batteries is already very severely constrained (and probably will be for many years) just to supply the rapid increase in demand for electric vehicles, let alone deep storage for the grid as well.
In other words, I think it is a bad idea to siphon away the lithium battery production for electric vehicles, where there are no technically practical alternatives yet, and spend it on stationary deep storage, where there are excellent technical low-risk alternatives (even if more costly in the end game). With any luck we will quickly develop other non-lithium-battery deep storage technologies that will displace fossil-fuel-based dispatchable generators, but that will not be ready by 2025 or even 2027 at any significant scale.
Based on the various forecast reports linked on this blog, having a dependable 2GW of deep storage available within ~ 5 years will also encourage a great deal more investment in renewables because of the reduced risk of curtailment for new wind & solar generators. It seems that the alternative is either to keep coal stations operating for longer, to build more gas generators (built at huge $/kWh expense because they only run for 5% of the time), or to accept rolling power outages on the few occasions a year when instantaneous solar and wind cannot cover demand, and demand reduction has hit its limit.
Liquid metal battery in every suburb just as water reservoirs for local water pressure and supply.
Smaller grid connections in both cases means little upgrade in poles and wires.
Home rooftop solar shade the home and with 150m2 supplies 8×150=1,200 kilowatts a day or more. All business rooftops add to supply.
We all should have a level of anger that this 30 year old problem was attacked and belittled by Tony Abbott, and the intellect of Australia wasn’t engaged to save our country.
Australia has 8 billion m2 of sunlight.
We have a stable political environment and enough energy to blow every electrical fuse in the world.
We have grandchildren who may not be able to pay to fix Australia when the only cool latitudes will be the Great Southern Ocean.
We can lead the world against China but can not plead our case to save our ‘neck’.
We have all the solar energy and minerals to make us the best in the world.
The world will give us all the money we need, to do all this.
We can start today, with VBB and demonstration suburbs. And then bring in Liquid Metal batteries.
We can start today in the suburbs small scale, small risk.
Cash flow positive.
I’ve always enjoyed reading your well researched, well considered, insightful (and humorous) articles.
However, in this one I believe with all respect your basis of argument for batteries is seriously flawed from the outset. Then – you appear to use a “blended” argument for supporting batteries – which really surprised me.
Firstly, I agree the “pumped” capacity of SH2 is likely “only” 40GWhr – and this should be compared with 40GWhr of battery storage – but you have ascribed the ENTIRE cost of SH2 as the basis for your comparisons – whereas you should only be using the PROPORTION of cost related to the pumped hydro component.
We should put this into perspective – at 9:30pm WA time Friday, I noticed the NEM demand (taking WA out of the mix) was over 17GW (not a small figure), of which a full 84%!!! was being generated by black COAL, brown COAL, and Natural GAS. Of course there was nil solar, but Wind was generating a mere 1.62GW, and the famous Big Battery was generating about 0.04GW, which it only did for a mere couple of hours (i.e. bugger all – why are SA installing numerous Synchronous Condensers instead of batteries, if the Battery is so good? – are they more reliable, more effective, or more cost effective over life for FCAS use?).
Agreeing with your argument that increased wind capacity would help, then we will need 17/1.62 ~ 10.5 times as many wind turbines as we presently have, in order to cover the shortfall (remember, wind capacity is already installed over a very geographically dispersed area in the entire NEM (and even WA was only producing 0.695GW – and I would find it hard to justify a cost of perhaps $9billion for a transmission line to send this East on only odd occasions – we used that power HERE, to offset some Coal).
I guess I could also suggest in the future we may need some proportion of up to 35GW extra generation, to allow many electric car batteries to be charged during the night – ready for use to drive to work the next morning?
I accept the Friday night example may be a relatively rare event (although, last night wasn’t too dissimilar – possibly even worse?), but it will likely occur more often during the longer nights in winter. Surely you don’t argue we should just accept food spoilage, cold water for showers, cold households in winter, hospital and production shut-downs, damage to equipment, etc., several times per year, once we take out the 17GW of non-renewable generation?
In reality, SH2 is just a conventional hydro system (likely limited by “fuel”, i.e. water availability), that can provide 2GW for up to 350/2 = 175 hrs if necessary from time-to-time, with pumps added to provided for “only” 40GWhr related to recycled pumped storage. Would have been very useful during recent events on the East coast.
Perhaps of the proposed $10billion cost, only 40/350 = 12% of this should be charged to the “storage” equivalent. Would make a HUGE difference to your comparison data, huh? As I do not know the construction cost and usage breakdown – between regular hydro, and the pumped component – I do agree the pumped component may likely be a much larger percentage, but 100%? I don’t think so. Uses the same turbines, alternators, switchgear, cavern construction, etc.
I also agree hydro will have ongoing labour and maintenance costs – although historical data suggests to me this is relatively quite small (NZ seem to have this sorted out). c.f. having to change out the batteries up to 10 times during the life of the hydro plant, and inverters perhaps 5 times or more – if you are lucky.
Whilst there are transmission costs and inefficiencies, and hydro round-trip efficiencies are not that flash, I’d have thought we will necessarily have so much overcapacity of wind and PV to cover night times and wind droughts, that these inefficiencies will pale into insignificance, as we will inevitably need to “spill” excess renewable generation on a very regular basis anyway.
Surely, excess renewable can charge a hydro store, just as well as it can charge batteries – and the same “blending” arguments can still apply?
I also think your expectations regarding reductions in battery costs are far too optimistic – the graphs you show suggest these costs are becoming asymptotic – a 20% reduction per year on a reducing figure, becomes an increasingly smaller cost reduction – but, granted, a technological breakthrough MAY, possibly, make significant cost reductions in the future. I do like the idea of flow batteries – where storage capacity (although, not Power) can be increased at very low cost – just don’t see they are reliable enough just yet.
However, Hydro is reliable, and a very well known technology, NOW.
In the meantime, I feel 2GW of extra power and 40GWhr of storage, can only help with the early displacement of coal generation, and provide for integration of more intermittent generators – even if only represents 2/17 ~ 12% cover for the shortfall in my example.
Why is large solar presently less than 50% of the capacity of rooftop PV? Are consortium’s waiting for a 50% subsidy from Government (like we got for our rooftop systems) to make their proposals viable? Or, are they worried their assets will become partially stranded by curtailment? Why don’t they offer a turnkey, with PV and batteries combined – or are batteries just not financially viable at present, as your studies have shown – even at large scale? We COULD sheet home all responsibilities to Government, but it seems to me there is a “chicken and egg” situation – Government will not (can not) shut down coal and NG, UNLESS other sources of both power, and energy, are available – at ALL times. SH2 represents a useful step forward!
Thank you for your insights. You have covered a lot of ground and are obviously an engineer who knows a bit about energy technology quantities.
But I sense your frustration because you feel constrained by the miniscule scale and scope of this important global subject in the context of the local landscape only.
Take a futuristic position and a global context around the global energy technology imperative Ian: which of course must deliver massive, energy dense, clean, safe, low cost, modular, low footprint, reticulated power; in perpetuity, to advance the standard of living and opportunities for all peoples, communities, businesses and nations; whilst simultaneously reducing GHG to insignificant levels permanently.
Bring that spreadsheet out into the open Ian because that is the only one that represents the genuine future arguments and ideas going forward.
Other commentary doesnt cut it and is a distraction to the real discussions.
I agree 100% – like Nero, we are fiddling around the edges, while Rome burns. We are progressing low density sources, and hoping their intermittent characteristics can be managed with as-yet unproven technologies.
IMO, we should be pursuing serious, heavy duty, low emission, long lasting sources of power, and energy (we need both) – and should have commenced this 20-40 years ago. The technology exists.
Studies show a strong correlation between quality of life, and energy consumption. Are we to deny China & India a chance to take their whole population out of poverty?
Yes, I am seriously frustrated by our slow rate of progress, and obvious massive shortfalls.
On that note of frustration, perhaps you should appeal to the forum to weigh into the debate about the: Global Energy Imperative – defined as:
Power generation technologies that can deliver: massive, energy dense, clean, safe, low cost, modular, low footprint, reticulated power; in perpetuity, to advance the standard of living and opportunities for all peoples, communities, businesses and nations; whilst simultaneously reducing GHG to insignificant levels permanently.
Or alternatively; can any other commentator present their own definition and version of a Global Energy Imperative, to service a rapidly expanding global population adequately and well into the future, whilst managing GHG decisively?
“… in perpetuity…”. That only leaves a couple of options with current technology.
Like you imply, the local forum is perhaps only but a microcosm of the Global Energy Imperative – we are fairly unique in having a large land mass, and a small population – so perhaps as a “mix” we can get away with low density, large footprint options up to a point, in the short term, until the Global situation and solutions swamp us.
I have made some such appeals to the forum in the past – but there are few “closed minds” out there – who are unable (or unwilling, or ill-equipped) to see the larger picture – and wish to argue from a point of ignorance.
I agree, modular solutions offer simplified large scale manufacture (read: high volume, low cost), and implementation without the need for massively expensive transmission infrastructure, and massively expensive temporary energy storage options (with no real “value added”).
The NEM alone (without WA’s figures included) had a 17GW shortfall Friday night, and I seriously doubt this represents a worst-case scenario – imagine if we could do this considering the whole World, also factoring increasing requirements as quality-of-life improves, and more transport and agriculture fuel is replace by electric and/or hydrogen traction. A BIG ask, mindboggling…!
Huh – worth pursuing – maybe at least some of the data is available.
Greg yes correct:
“in perpetuity” as it applies to energy science in particular, is really a metaphor for a scientific question:-
“What are the known principals and processes in science, that occupy the apex of the energy science pyramid today; which embody all the scientific attributes, that prove it will remain fundamentally unchallenged by emerging science over time, and remain at the apex of the energy science pyramid for the foreseeable future including beyond”?
And we only have to look to the sun of course to learn about those scientific attributes that endure and deliver massive energy at the energy pyramid apex. Thankfully academic and practical energy science at this level is a mature one globally and has been for a long time.
The task now is to repackage what we know, through new technological adaptations, to repower the world in accordance with a very demanding and expansive “global energy imperative” that can and will usher in the global new age, offering prosperity and opportunity for all, through massive power availability.
Critically needed new age technologies and industries need massive power: a case in point is new age food production technologies. There is a lot that must be done and will be through new age technologies coming on stream, but a modern future is underpinned by massive power availability.
We have about 80 years left to get all this locked and loaded, so the global technology project timing is looking about right from my vantage point.
The discussion though must now broaden and shift, from the impossible generation future espoused near hysterically over the last 10 years; which has temporarily taken hostage of the generation science debate; and move to the possible and enduring technological future discussions.
And you should be a part of these discussions Greg.
Just out of interest, for all the people making comments about this latest SnowJob, if you view
with the proportions of electricity generation, that are from burning coal, for Victoria, NSW, and Qld, the SnowJob is about as environmentally friendly, as using crude oil, or, even, petrol, rather than water.
The electricity generation for most of Australia, is, overall, filthy, and toxic.
When each state in Australia, has wind turbines generating capacity of at least 60% of its minimum demand, and, photovoltaic generating capacity, from household rooftop photovoltaic systems, of at least 60% of its minimum demand, with every household with a household rooftop photovoltaic system, having battery storage of at least eight hours of consumption for the household, then, things like this SnowJob, might be worth considering.
But, first, every household should have behind the meter, battery storage, with usable capacity of at least eight hours consumption. Amongst other things, it would be useful, for energy arbitrage.
You must be pulling someone’s leg, surely…!
Last night, the NEM-watch widget showed an Australian demand of 23.7GW – this was just a snap-shot and probably significantly higher than the “minimum demand” figure you speak of – but let’s go with that probably higher figure anyway.
ARENA’s website https://arena.gov.au/renewable-energy/wind/ states:
“At the end of 2018, there were 94 wind farms in Australia, delivering nearly 16 GW of wind generation capacity.”
16/23.7 ~ 67.5% of minimum demand – so we had already exceeded your 60% figure way, way back in 2018.
Wiki’s site https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Australia states:
“Solar power in Australia is a fast growing industry. As of December 2020, Australia’s over 2.66 million solar PV installations had a combined capacity of 20,198 MW photovoltaic (PV) solar power,”.
20.2/23.7 ~ 85% of minimum demand – so we had already WELL exceeded your 60% figure by December LAST YEAR.
Yet, Friday night, and last night, 84% of the NEM’s electricity was being generated by black COAL, brown COAL, and natural GAS.
You cannot say this is because we didn’t have batteries – as how could we (the Nation) have charged them – right now (daytime) we have no excess of renewables, and are generating 20 GW from COAL and NG. Wind is supplying a paltry 1.2 GW, over the WHOLE OF AUSTRALIA.
Your figures cannot be justified – the reality is that of the 16 GW of installed wind power we had in 2018, I’d guess a lot more now, wind is at present generating less than 8% of it’s installed capacity, and of the 20.2 GW of solar, we could NEVER EXPECT it to generate more than perhaps 5-7 GW averaged over 24 hours, and sometimes very much less than that (in poor weather) – although I do agree with you that we are certainly using HUGE amounts of filthy, dirty power.
For all the number crunchers (and that should be everybody interested in power generation policies), Ian has presented us with a timely ‘fact check’ on the performance of renewables in Australia.
A miniscule contribution not quite, but despite years of overly generous subsidies, grants, and rebates, it seems we may have backed a loser.
Hard to see the growth pathway ahead for Renewable Energy Technologies on these figures of Ian’s.
ICYMI, here are some ‘fact checks’ on the existential threats of climate change.
1. In 2020, per ERA5 data, global mean warming (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age) was already around +1.3 °C, land mean warming was almost +2.0 °C, and ocean mean warming was just over +1.0 °C.
2. The Scripps Mauna Loa Observatory measuring atmospheric CO2 concentrations recorded hourly average levels spiking above 420 parts per million (ppm) on 20 Mar 2021 and above 421 ppm on 21 Mar 2021. I would not be at all surprised if we see daily, weekly, or even a monthly average reading crossing the 420 ppm threshold in the next few months. The last time planet Earth’s atmosphere was so rich in CO2 was millions of years ago, back before early predecessors to humans were likely wielding stone tools; the world was a few degrees hotter, and sea levels were tens of metres higher.
3. Per the report “Climate Reality Check 2020”, page 11, the current Earth energy imbalance (EEI) – the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (between outgoing and incoming radiation), which is driving global warming – is in the range +0.6–0.75 °C for the level of greenhouse gases ALREADY in the atmosphere. So that means we are likely already ‘locked-in’ for a global mean warming in the range +1.9–2.05 °C at equilibrium, with no further human-induced GHG emissions.
4. Regardless of any GHG emissions trajectory humanity chooses to take from now on, best modelling estimates indicate the +1.5 °C global mean temperature threshold is likely to be crossed sometime between years 2026 and 2029 inclusive – meaning, +1.5 °C is inevitable and likely before 2030. I’d suggest anyone who says we can still keep below +1.5 °C is either profoundly ignorant, or lying.
For crossing the +2.0 °C global mean temperature threshold, for higher GHG emissions scenarios (SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5) the best estimates are all before the year 2050 (i.e. 2046, 2043, and 2039, respectively). Only the lower GHG emissions scenarios (SSP1-1.9 and SSP1-2.6) best estimates are after 2050 (i.e. beyond 2100, and 2064, respectively). +2 °C warming would be extremely dangerous.
For crossing the +3.0 °C global mean temperature threshold, for higher GHG emissions scenarios (SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5) the best estimates are all in the second half of this century (i.e. 2094, 2069, and 2060, respectively). +3 °C warming would be catastrophic.
5. The “Hothouse Earth” scenario is one in which climate system feedbacks and their mutual interaction drive the Earth System climate to a point of no return, whereby further warming would become self-sustaining (that is, without further human perturbations). This planetary threshold could exist at a temperature rise as low as +2 °C, possibly even in the +1.5–2 °C range.
6. If humanity cannot get its GHG emissions rapidly reduced, then its inevitable progressively more parts of the world will become uninhabitable.
7. Risks of simultaneous crop failure increase disproportionately between 1.5 and 2 °C, so surpassing the 1.5 °C threshold will represent a threat to global food security.
You state: “…it seems we may have backed a loser.”
What’s your plan to avoid the escalating risks of civilisation collapse later this century, Lawrence?
Thank you for that extra information, Ian.
(out of interest, a namesake of yours, was once prominent in the WA state parliament)
I was not aware of the existing wind farms capacity.
A problem is that, while we need the proportion of total electricity generation, from clean generation methods, to increase to greater than 80% of the electricity generated, on a continual basis, in the event (and, while it is unlikely, it is not impossible) that we suddenly had more electricity being generated by clean energy, than could be consumed by all means, it could have a similar effect to a countrywide EMP – cooking all the electrics in the country.
Perhaps, if we would have about 40GW generating capacity of wind farms, across the country (covering all of the grids, not just that foreign NEM monster), with each wind farm having battery storage of eight hours of its maximum generating capacity (so that, should the wind farm generate at its maximum capacity, surplus electricity could go into storage, to be used later), and, each household having up to 10kW of photovoltaic panels generating capacity, depending on usable (and, practical) roof space, with behind the meter battery storage of four hours of the maximum generating capacity, and, export limiting inverters, the electricity generation across the country, could be cleaned up, and the grids protected for electricity overflows, and, the electricity supply for all of the country, stabilised and clean(er).
As was said in the 1970’s television series, “We have the technology”.
We simply need for the population to sufficiently want it.
It also seems important not to wait for “someone else” to modernise our energy supply.
Everyone who can afford it should fill all available roof space with PV modules and install as much grid-connected battery capacity as they can.
We will then be one step closer to zero-marginal-cost, potentially uninterruptible, better quality, more resilient, more secure, more benign (less concentrated energy ∴ less explosive), inexhaustible, more consistent,
I have never seen that renew economy widget before.
Looking at it on a Wednesday lunchtime Tas is using no fossil fuels and SA is only using a little bit.
It actually gives me hope to see some places are doing it already, even if it is during peak solar
Your car has a fuel tank, or a big battery (both “highly explosive), but we seem to have managed with them for years.
So – you want to work with zero-marginal-cost alone – no consideration for (repeating) Capital costs, or whole of life costs whatsoever?
You’ll send us all broke!
James – have a look at the Widget on a more regular basis, and at night. Yes, Tas does ok, but STILL occasionally tops up with GAS. SA almost always has 250 MW of Gas going – sometimes reaching near 100% GAS. They also export renewable power (credits) to Vic, then import (debit) power back at night, from largely filthy, dirty, the worst, BROWN COAL.
Good some of the time, but not great – and a LONG, LONG way to go to reach 100% renewables – and at high cost despite the low marginal costs involved.
Hi Geoffrey – answering here, as the nesting is too deep for direct reply.
I am happy to accept your challenge – but let’s first look at YOUR fantasies, by way of a case study.
You and Ronald are always happy to quote $ cost / installed kW, you even writing “ouch” regarding other technologies. But, I can demonstrate your basis is bollocks, fake, total FANTASY.
Take as a simple case study – from real world data, rather than academic blustering. I will use my home rooftop PV as a simply example, because I have real-world data for this, and it is easy to understand.
I paid ~ $5,000 for my 5kW system (6.24kW panels, 5kW inverter), and was subsidised ~ $5,000 from the rebate (which SOMEONE has to pay for, then claim back from us – no free lunches).
You would probably say this was $1,000/kW – whereas it is clear it was really $2,000/kW. I realise prices have dropped since, but we can deal with that later.
But this is not the end of the story. My system, which is relatively unshaded, and in Perth (a good zone), so is probably beaten by the odd system, but as I have seen far, far ahead of many others. It originally produced a total energy of 19% of the nameplate rating over the first year, and this figure is falling with time. For convenience, let’s just say 20%.
Suddenly, the installed cost becomes $10,000/kW of energy ACTUALLY PRODUCED. This is STILL not the end of the story. In order for me to access this energy (in the event that we no longer have coal power) I would need an “enabling technology” – let’s say a battery system. What, another ~ $10,000 cost? We are at $20,000/kW of energy ACTUALLY ACCESSIBLE for some of the time – but STILL not at the end of the study.
Even with the battery, I could not go off-grid, as numerous logs show many times there is insufficient excess energy, for several days, to keep the battery charged for overnight use. Maybe I go to 2 systems of above to tide me over (unlikely, under certain circumstances) – so suddenly we are at $40,000/kW (of continuously available energy – perhaps, if I’m lucky).
Now – a PV system may last for, say 15 years before having to be replaced – whereas competing systems have typical lifetimes of 45 years – but let’s just say we only have to replace the PV system only once.
Now, we have to compete with a system that effectively costs $80,000/kW equivalent.
I hear you saying “wind, wind” (and you are full of it! – sorry, seemed too obvious to ignore) – but we have already seen this OFTEN doesn’t come anywhere even NEAR the average 25% of nameplate rating – so the same arguments apply.
You seem to forget, or neglect, the fact that storage whether it be battery or PHE, is only an ENABLING technology for wind and PV – so adds to the cost (and the losses) – and these costs and losses need to be sheeted home to the cost of renewables. Same for needing to upgrade transmission systems, adding Synchronous Condensers, etc., etc.
Compare this with competing technologies, that can continually produce nearly 100% of their nameplate rating, 24/365, WITHOUT all the rigmarole.
Also, batteries and the like serve no real purpose, if we are unable to generate more power than our demand, over days and seasons – and our demand will surely increase with time, and with the addition of electric vehicles. Batteries can only “time shift” an excess of generation, less “return trip” losses, and even then only for a relatively short (and largely inadequate) time period.
Like Lawrence says – in a Global sense you are flogging a dead horse.
Ronald’s statements about the “unreliability of coal power” are similarly (deliberately?) misleading. Sure, they have RENDERED unreliable, from reduced maintenance through concerns of becoming stranded, and from having to operate way off-design so being exposed to thermal cycling fatigue damage that they were never expected to endure. Don’t get me wrong – I want coal OUT – but let’s not propagate fake or irrelevant information to those who are not aware of the facts.
I think James Silcock has made a valiant start to addressing your challenge. However, we need to take 1 step back, and consider this from a Management and Strategic perspective. The best equipped people to plan ahead are the professional energy people – not University academics, nor those without knowledge, nor Politicians, nor the “rose tinted spectacles” zealots like yourself.
You may, or may not, be familiar with the management “Fallacy of Sunk Costs” theory – this says we should not consider “we’ve got so much invested in this, that we just HAVE to keep going” – rather we should be comparing, at this point in time, “what is the best way and cost of going forward from here, and what will the benefits be”. This latter approach could mean the sunk costs are abandoned. Of course, in the Global case we have to also consider the existential threat. You, Geoffrey, do not seem to be considering the overall consequences of the global imperative.
Some how, we need to address a level of ignorance, and unwarranted paranoia – I am no expert in how this can be achieved – but your “chicken little” performance doesn’t help. We need RATIONAL debate.
Yes – both my doctor, and dentist, have the same name on their records (I have to provide DOB to confirm which one) – must be a popular name? No – I am not related.
80% wouldn’t cut it – even with infinite battery storage, the AVERAGE generation would need to exceed 110% or thereabouts (to allow for transmission and battery round-trip losses) – under worst-case seasonal conditions (Geoffrey Miell is hoping new batteries will be able to “hold up” for only 4 hours, not for 3 months during winter for example).
Bret – you may be confusing “installed capacity” (the nameplate rating), with actual generation capability. Obviously without the wind blowing, wind turbines produce zero (0, nada) power – figures I have seen suggest AVERAGE generation is commonly 23-25% of nameplate rating in SE Australia – although newer turbines might approach 50% over relatively short periods during good times of year. We need power and energy 24/365.
No, we would not have an EMP-like event – the generators would simply be “throttled back”, as they are now, to match generation with demand (which could include battery charging).
Given my earlier notes regarding less than 8% of wind capacity overnight, our EXISTING CAPACITY of more than 85% in 2018, would need to go to at least 85×100/8 = 1063% of minimum demand capacity – more, if our demand increases, or we wish to have power at night time during MAXIMUM demand. In other words, our 16 GW in 2018, needs to go to , at the very least, 1063% x 16 = 170 GW of installed wind capacity. A lot more, if we want continuous power, and a lot more again as we bring more electric vehicles on line. That’s one hell of a lot of extra wind farms. 40 GW is nowhere near enough, right now.
Same goes for Solar.
Having said all that – there is absolutely no reason why people shouldn’t “save a quid” by continuing to install rooftop PV, and claiming rebates – unless, of course, they become “zero export limited”, power prices wane (unlikely, I’d think), and FiT becomes negligible (or, has to be paid for as some have suggested). This, of course, has little to do with Generation Strategy issues (Lawrence’s “Global Energy Imperative”). With utmost respect – perhaps Finn and Ronald should “stick to their knitting”. Just saying…!
I extend the same challenge to you as I have to Lawrence Coomber.
What’s your plan, Ian? Please provide evidence, data and credible analyses of demonstrably effective and timely solutions, NOT fantasy.
No one has asked for my plan, but i am going to have a go anyway.
I would promote Wind and Solar to excess, make all new houses have solar if possible.
I would add several Snowy 2.0 around Australia to soak up the excess solar.
I would build about 3 large capacity modern nuclear plants, and use them, and the excess solar and hydro to phase coal completely out of power generation.
i guess 10 years to build them(i would force them through if i was the boss Geoff), plus 40 to 50 years operation will get us through to 2080, by then there should be suitable technologies to replace them,
I would replace gas with batteries.
Fossil free in about 10 years.
I would change all electricity to time of use prices, and remove all the fixed costs from bills, making people want to be energy efficient.
I would make a requirement that car/house batteries had to be grid connected so power could be drawn if needed then promote electric cars in Australia.
Then i would build even MORE solar and make day electricity prices super cheap
This is so I can bring manufacturing back to OZ via robots, and make Australia a high tech power house that can compete with cheap labor in other countries.
Should i become a polly? would you vote for that?
Ian Thompson (Re your comments above at April 01, 2021 at 3:07 pm),
I’m not interested in what seems to me to be your apparent climate denial, cherry picking, wilful ignorance, attacks on me, and your putdown “stick to their knitting” for Ronald and Finn. Where’s your plan, Ian? Resources? Technologies? Timeline? Costs?
You state my ““chicken little” performance doesn’t help”, and refer to “unwarranted paranoia”, which suggests to me you must also think a whole plethora of climate scientists (that I’ve linked to for some of their work), and the people at the Australian Academy of Science, with their report titled “The risks to Australia of a 3 °C Warmer World”, published on Mar 31, must also be a bunch of ‘chicken littles’ and purveyors of ‘paranoia’ too, eh, Ian?
IMO, this statement is appropriate for you: There are none so blind as those who will not see.
Cherry picking your roof top solar project as a basis for typical costing for utility-scale renewables and storage is just laughable. I must confess I had a chuckle when I saw it. Was that an attempt at an April fool’s joke, Ian?
You suggesting “a PV system may last for, say 15 years before having to be replaced” is IMO showing either profound ignorance at best, or being blatantly dishonest at worst.
You state: “I want coal OUT”; but don’t say what you want to replace coal with, how long it will take to transition, resources required and how much it will cost. What about fossil gas and petroleum oil?
You refer to “competing technologies” and use an apparently vague “overall consequences of the global imperative”, but don’t say what they are, or what you really mean.
I don’t see any zero/low GHG emissions alternative solutions for transport, process heat, steel-making, concrete-making, agriculture, etc. – all the other sectors that are a part of and sustain our modern civilisation too. We/humanity need to deal effectively and in a timely manner with ALL sectors.
IMO, you wouldn’t know what a “RATIONAL debate” was.
Chaps, you’re not going to convince each other, nor change each other’s minds. If anything, each of you will dig in a bit more,
The beauty of our current situation is that we are in a position to take action ourselves, and we don’t need to wait for any saviour to fix things for us. The more action we each take individually, the stronger the signal to all legacy stakeholders and their “gas-led recovery” fantasies.
Hi Greg – you are probably correct – I’d just like to see more HONESTY when discussing renewables – and that we become more involved in technologies that almost all industrialised countries are already working with – including SMR’s, Fusion, etc. Yes, I do know the old joke about Fusion being just 30 years away, always, but I feel we will live to regret our short-sighted thinking otherwise, down the track. Check out the status of China’s HTR-PM https://world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Hot-functional-testing-of-HTR-PM-reactors-starts , https://www.neimagazine.com/news/newsfirst-fuel-shipped-to-chinas-htr-pm-project-8453226. And, their future plans. Sure, it’s taken 9 years, but it IS a FOAK. Not arguing that we shouldn’t implement renewable systems in the meantime, or short-term.
So – you think we can fix things by ourselves? I don’t think so – we already buy solar panels and wind turbines from overseas (except for fairly limited local manufacture, mostly of components, possibly mostly under licence).
If we were somehow able to become zero GHG emitters overnight – do you really believe this would “fix things”? I don’t – we are such a tiny actor on the World stage (China, India, USA, Europe, Russia…?).
Can’t we ever learn something, from what large countries are doing overseas? They ARE pursuing SMR’s, Fusion.
Ian, our arbitrary, invented political boundaries (such as national borders) are COMPLETELY IGNORED by the troposphere, as are any other measures of distribution of emissions, which means that country emissions are irrelevant.
We are not a “tiny actor’ – we emit 3 times as much as residents of China, more than the United States (can you believe it?!?), and are only exceeded by the citizens of the oil-producing all-stars. It is much easier (because of the sheer scale of our emissions in Australia), and more effective (a 25% reduction in our emissions is 3 times larger than a 25% reduction in emissions by a resident of China) for us to have an effect.
In fact, a person emitting 25 tonnes CO₂e pa would seem to be rather optimistic and petty asking a person emitting 8.5 tonnes CO₂e pa to reduce their emissions. It is an unreasonable, and probably futile expectation. USA tried that through the first decade of this century, without any detectable result.
Yes, we can each decide to “fix things by ourselves” by identifying and addressing our emissions in each sector in our lives – our electricity use, electricity generation, British diet, British farming, transport, and freight demands (both direct and indirect).
It is actually quite easy to become a net CO₂e sink at the moment, but hopefully it will become much more difficult!
Sorry, but I think your assumptions are a bit “wonky”. The Troposphere is going to respond to the TOTAL of the CO2e put into, and taken out of it, NOT to the quantity per person.
The population of Australia is ~ 26 million, that of China ~ 1,439 million, USA ~ 331 million. Let’s add in India ~ 1,380 million, and Indonesia ~ 273 million. I’ll use your 3 times figure for India and Indonesia, and let’s say 1.2 factor for USA. So, our relative contribution becomes:
26 / (1439/3 + 331/1.2 + 1380/3 + 273/3) = 26/1306.5 = 2%
That is, if our emissions dropped zero overnight, we would have just 2% impact on those 4 countries alone – even less again if we were to add in more countries, like Russia, Poland, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Mexico. etc. No, I’ll stick with my “tiny actor” comment.
You have also failed to appreciate, that all of these poorer countries are seeking to match our energy consumption per capita to improve their quality of life (or, are you going to deny them that?), so their emissions will expand inordinately over time, making our component even more tiny.
No – I am not at all surprised we contribute more per head than the USA – after all, in 2020 the component of their electricity generated by coal was only 19% (c.f. our 54%), as they got 40% of their electricity from gas, a lower CO2 source (c.f. our 19%), and 19.5% from Nuclear. They had LESS from Renewables (20.44%, vs our 24.87%). If we REALLY want to reduce our GHG emissions, just why do we have no Nuclear, and no plan to go there in the fullness of time as we start to deal with displacing GHG’s from the transport and agricultural sectors?
Have a look at this link: https://ourworldindata.org/electricity-mix
Interestingly, Germany’s carbon intensity is put at 301 g CO2 / kWhr, ~ 5.5 times as much as France at 55 g. Just why do you think this is the case? Tip: Germany got 45% from renewables, France just 23%, half of it Hydro – so that is not the answer.
The installed wind from capacity figures that I have found, are, for, as at the end of 2019, 6.279GW for Australia, and 621 MW for WA, and, Proposed (“under construction or committed”) updated to March 2020, 5.635GW and 430MW, respectively; both less than the 60% of total generation from all sources.
Source: Wikipedia article “Wind power in Australia” ->Wind power by state – both the existing and Proposed data sets, apparently retrieved from Clean Energy Council publications.
These figures better reflect what I have been observing on the NEM watch widget.
Of course, it may be that the CEC is full of BS and is publishing rubbery figures, but, the figures that I have cited, seam reasonable and appropriate to me.
Ian Thompson – I suggest that, with the figures that you have quoted, you might want to view the contents of the document published at
I hope that I have the URL correct, character-wise; I had to read it on one computer, and type it into another computer.
Ian and Lawrence
I think you two need to go find a pub to host your debate.
Preferably one with solar PV and a battery.
Not much merit in your comment – displays a lack of empathy & knowledge, & lack of willingness to learn something new, anything!
The only thing necessary for Urban Myths to flourish, is for knowledgeable people to do nothing – you should read Edmund Burke’s full statement here, but take caution, you might accidentally learn something:
To paraphrase Karl Marx “Urban Myths are the opiate of the masses”.
Are you one of these devout, touch the forelock and nod sagely zealots, unwilling to hear of alternative concepts or ideas or knowledge, unless they support your own, personal, extremely limited Weltbild? Brainwashed, perhaps?
Why, for example, have you not challenged Bret Busby’s statements above – that lack rigour and fail the most simple of technical review at first blush. Or, are you simply willing to let this go through to the Keeper, to perpetuate these arrays of Urban Myths? Zero filtering…!
Or, cannot you get your head around technical facts, and the Laws of Physics that govern our existence?
The sole reason for building the SnowJob, is to burn more coal to pump the water into the reservoir.
Bret Busby in Western Australia,
The Snowy Hydro Company seems to think Snowy 2 will be operational by 2026. Others suggest later.
On Mar 10, EnergyAustralia announced Yallourn W will close by 2028.
In the meantime, we may well see a few more coal-fired power stations announcing early closures.
Per Feb 16 AFR article (paywalled) headlined “Coal power stations going broke: Schott”, it begins with:
“Coal power stations are on track to close four or five years before the end of their rated life as plentiful renewable energy coming online makes them unprofitable, according to energy policy tsar Kerry Schott.”
A joint analysis by Tristan Edis (for Green Energy Markets) and Johanna Bowyer (IEEFA), culminating in the report published Wednesday (Feb 24) titled Fast Erosion of Coal Plant Profits in the National Electricity Market: Analysis of Likely 2025 Generation Mix Shows Coal Plant Revenue Reductions of 44% – 67%. The Executive Summary begins with:
“Coal-fired power stations in Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) will confront grave financial difficulties within the next 5 years due to extra competition from a large influx of renewable energy supply. The analysis detailed in this report suggests that the financial viability of several coal generators in the NEM will become severely compromised by 2025 such that closure becomes an attractive or even unavoidable choice for at least one power plant owner.”
Figure 1: Earnings Before Interest and Taxes of Coal Plants 2018 vs 2025 ($AUDm) in the report suggests Eraring, Mt Piper and Vales Point B power stations could experience negative EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) by 2025 for both given scenarios. Yallourn W and Gladstone could also see negative earnings.
I’d suggest there will be less coal burning when Snowy 2 becomes operational.
You forget the determination of the LNP/ALP to burn more coal in Australia, regardless of the cost.
They will find ways to get more and bigger coal fired power stations to be built, until the people of Australia (and elsewhere) have choked to death on the fumes.
Then they will probably use robots to build even more and bigger, coal fired power stations, so that they can pump more stuff uphill.
Hi Geoffrey Miell
You have – once again – entirely missed the point – disappointing.
Not cherry picking – just demonstrating that when you SEEK TO REPLACE an entire existing power system, you need to consider THE WHOLE PACKAGE – not just “cherry pick” an isolated $/kW figure that has absolutely no relevance to the total system and total life cost of EVERYTHING. I thought I was being somewhat “cunning”, by mostly using simple factors of 2 to demonstrate the process – however it seems you cannot grasp the concept that 2+2=4.
You say my choice wasn’t at all relevant to utility-scale systems – and I (partially) agree with this – but at the same time, you need to explain why more than TWICE as much energy is presently being generated across Australia, from systems such as mine (and, many far worse-performing as well), compared with that from utility-scale PV – this is what is laughable. Why is it taking so long to install far more wind turbines? Could this simply be a cost:return:risk issue? Again, I don’t think this observation impacts SQ’s ability to make a quid, nor their clients from saving some money on energy costs by installing rooftop PV – it’s just that this seems A VERY EXPENSIVE means to provide energy when considered in terms of a COMPLETE system. Wonder who thought of it? Probably explains why most people “stay on the grid”, with only a partial system – and more “controls” are having to be introduced.
Yes – I stated a 15-year replacement time-frame for rooftop PV – was doing some “averaging of components” – but if you read VERY CAREFULLY, you will see I used only 1 x replacement for the 45-year timeframe – implying a 22.5 year life. AND – I had allowed for 20% generation OVER LIFE, whereas we all know panels degrade over time, some systems are more shaded than mine, so overall production will be << 20% on average at the end of this time, considering ALL systems. There will be some early panel fatalities. Inverters may not last much more than 15 years (needing to be replaced 3 times, not 2). Batteries might last 12 years, certainly not 45 years. I'd say my calculation methodology was quite conservative – and this was my intent.
What is your problem, Geoffrey – can you just not get your head around REALITIES? Not an energy practitioner, just an academic perhaps?
You ask me to provide details – yet you have not done so, with ALL (enabling) costs considered, in a simple manner. What installed capacity of wind-farms, rooftop PV, solar farms, synchronous condensers, batteries, pumped hydro, additional transmission lines, do we need. How many diesel generators for backup (that can produce 3 times the power of the famous big battery, for much, much longer, c.f. SA) do we need?
I happen to think we should be supporting the development of GenIV SMR's, in parallel with our other efforts – to displace repetitive expensive renewables replacements in the fullness of time – but am not against further roll-out of COMPLETE renewable systems (that I have yet to see, anywhere), to make rapid inroads to GHG-reductions. We are not going to replace coal and NG, unless the replacement systems are COMPLETE.
Your arguments against coal have little merit – as your logic is flawed, both from an accounting, and a cause & effect point of view. COAL has to go, but why make fake claims? ANY system will look bad, if run far enough off design.
AT NO POINT did I suggest we don't face an existential threat.
I just happen to think we need to be also considering a range of options, like Canada, India, China, UK, etc., are ACTIVELY pursuing – rather than to be rushing about waving our hands and following your mantra like a pack of lemmings. James Silcock has suggested we fast-track 3 x full-sized Nuclear plants, and I believe this approach to reducing GHG's as demand for energy increases as vehicles, tractors, etc., become more and more electrified, has significant longer-term merit.
Let's bring a PROFESSIONAL approach to reducing GHG – in all areas – or be left behind in a global perspective. I'd listen to energy practitioners, rather than blue-sky theoreticians any day of the week. I worked on staff at a University for several years (before going out into industry), and do not believe staff are universally omniscient (with absolutely zero disrespect – and I'm certain none would be taken – you are way out of order here). My career has been largely R&D, Management, and (successfully) detecting B.S. in Venture Capital request proposals. Seldom satisfied with statements made by persons having a vested interest.
Ian Thompson (and Lawrence Coomber),
I see more waffle/BS, but no plan, timeline, resources, costs, and no evidence of any rapid GHG emissions reduction (i.e. greater than 50%) within this decade (2020s). You know… the missing key information that “management” – the ones I’m familiar with – usually need to have to make decisions on.
Meanwhile, barring a super volcanic eruption or major asteroid hit, global mean warming will inevitably overshoot the +1.5 °C threshold (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age, likely before 2030, and on the way to probably crossing +2.0 °C threshold around (or perhaps before) 2050, with +3.0 °C in the second half of this century, and possibly +4.0 °C before 2100, because people like you IMO continue to be wilfully ignorant.
See Table 1 in: https://esd.copernicus.org/articles/12/253/2021/esd-12-253-2021.html
Did you read the Australian Academy of Science report titled “The risks to Australia of a 3°C warmer world” and/or watch the 3:44 duration video, or are these inconvenient for your narratives, Ian & Lawrence?
I’d suggest that’s the Laws of Physics for us at work because of ongoing and increasingly dangerous human-induced GHG emissions accumulating in the atmosphere.
We are already at about +1.3 °C warming, and we know it’s already dangerous, because we are already experiencing it.
+2.0 °C warming means conditions would be extremely dangerous.
+3.0 °C warming means conditions would be catastrophic.
+4.0 °C warming means kissing human civilisation as we know it goodbye.
No plan means a plan for civilisation collapse – Well done Ian & Lawrence!
I’m sure younger generations that will need to live (suffer and die) later this century will find your ‘plan’ (or is it a non-plan?) unacceptable.
Australia’s progress towards reducing GHG is so far behind where it could have otherwise been, that the rest of the world doesn’t even bother to invite us to global climate conferences any more.
See: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison-shrugs-off-need-to-speak-at-global-climate-summit-20201210-p56mgg.html .
But I’ll come back to my point of ‘being behind’ further on
Our PM’s response to this UN rebuff in December 2020 was to say:
“Australia’s climate and energy policy will be set here in Australia, in Australia’s national interest, not to get a speaking slot at some international summit,”…”Whatever country that may be, that may seek to impose whatever position on this country, Mr Speaker, Australia’s policy will always remain sovereign within our borders, and nowhere else.”
Reading those words carefully, you see a mingling of an appeal to the more jingoistic right-wing elements of the LNP’s voter support base; along with an implied claim that what the UN was ‘demanding’ was akin to sacrificing Australia’s very sovereignty.
Such language is of course music to the ears of some particular voting segments of the Australian population.
The UN was simply asking the 70 or so countries involved to make a genuine commitment to signal that they really do take climate change seriously enough to attempt doing something about it. The UN even factored in lower targets for some developing countries because they recognized the difficulties those countries faced.
The major visible result here in Australia though, was that we began 2021 with a Federal government that’s not really ‘committed’ to anything at all so far as mitigating the effects of human induced climate change are concerned.
I say that, because the word ‘commitment’ implies a clear objective, coupled with a strong resolve to achieve the goal aimed for, along with a recognition that there will be ‘costs’ of various kinds arising from forgoing other alternatives.
Other countries throughout the world are also grappling with much the same human induced climate change issues that Australia faces. They too have various factions of climate change denialists within their ranks and a myriad of alternative views on just about everything.
And, just like Australia, their governments are also considering the various renewable alternatives available to them and how to best implement those.
There is of a vast difference between ‘considering’ things and actually ‘doing’ things, as I’m sure most readers will appreciate, and so I’ll use a comparison of Scotland vs Australia as a starting point.
Some 20 years ago, Scotland faced at that time transition problems similar to and even more complex than those Australia still faces. Shutting down coal powered generation facilities and their associated loss of jobs, work-force retraining etc was only one of those.
Scotland also had two remaining but aged nuclear power plants (out of an original fleet of 5) which still accounted for 36.6% of their national electricity supply in 2017. Both nuclear sites were nearing the end of their working life, and were also showing clear signs of pending failure quite some years earlier than expected.
Scotland’s response to date to their situation has been:
1) Five years ago (in March 2016), Scotland shut down their LAST and largest coal generating plant, which on its own, had previously supplied some 25% of the electricity needed by all Scottish households
Australia though is STILL subsidizing a number of its coal powered generating plants, and looks likely to continue doing so for some time to come.
2) Scotland’s current policies regarding nuclear power stations are quite straightforward.
These firmly state that they have no intention whatsoever of building any new nuclear power stations at all using even current technology.
Their nuclear policy statements also rather pointedly mention that they “believe that nuclear power represents poor value for consumers. This is clear from the contract awarded by the UK Government to Hinkley Point C nuclear station in Somerset, which will result in energy consumers subsidizing its operation until 2060.”. (ie for another 39 years from now).
Scotland has embraced both wind turbines and hydro as cornerstones of their efforts to switch wholly to renewable sourced electricity generation, and their overall progress has been rapid.
In 2002, the generating capacity from all forms of renewables in Scotland represented only 3% of total generating capacity, with fossil derived coal, oil and gas comprising 80% and nuclear 17% making up the rest.
About that same time Australia was generating approximately 10.7% of its electricity in 2001 from renewable sources,
But nearly all of that came from the Snowy River Hydro scheme, with any remainder representing mostly solar hot systems. see: https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp0001/01RP08#fig3
But for comparison purposes I’ll use these two figs as a 2002 starting point
Scotland renewable generation: 3%; Australia renewable generation :10.7%
But keep in mind that most of Australia’s renewable generation % of 10.7% is accounted for by the then Snowy River Hydro.Scheme , and that in 2002, roof-top solar PV as we know it today verged on non-existent.
By 2006, the Scottish 3% referred to above had risen to 20%
By 2012, the 20% had risen to over 40%
In 2015, the 40% became 59%
By 2019 the 59% had reached 90%
We are not talking ‘ambitious Scottish aspirations’ here, we are talking about generating facilities actually built and producing electricity
In 2016, Scotland also began exporting renewable sourced electricity to neighbouring UK countries, because its own national consumption needs were progressively being exceeded by the quantity of renewable electricity generated. This could be done because the UK as a whole has a national grid which embraces all countries in the UK
By 2018, 28% of the electricity generated within Scotland was being exported – see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Scotland#Carbon_sequestration
In July 2019, the UK newspaper ‘The Independent’ published an article with a headline and sub-heading which read:
“Scotland generating enough wind energy to power two Scotlands
‘Amazing figures’ highlight consistency of wind energy in Scotland, say campaigners”
However, that article understates things a little. The ‘enough to power two Scotlands’ level of renewable sourced electricity only applied to the 6 month period Jan to June 2019 (ie the colder months of the Scottish year). It seems quite reasonable to assume that the electricity generated during the warmer later half of that same year was also at least twice or more above the national Scottish demand level.
Scotland does have a relatively small population (around 5.4 million) which does tend to simplify the overall decision making processes of Government, which in turn often leads to less delay in getting projects underway. That may have played a part in their rapid progress.
That progress hasn’t stopped either.
Scotland continues to explore options such as pumped hydro and ‘green’ hydrogen and also intends increasing its onshore wind turbine generation capability with bigger and more technologically advanced turbines. This link at: https://www.offshorewindscotland.org.uk/ gives some idea of what’s planned.
By way of contrast, according to the government energy website at: https://www.energy.gov.au/data/renewables:
“In 2019, 21% of Australia’s total electricity generation was from renewable energy sources, including wind (7%), solar (7%) and hydro (5%). The share of renewables in total electricity generation in 2019 was the highest since levels recorded in the early 1970s”.
You can almost miss the fact that nearly half a century (49 years) has elapsed between 2019 and and 1970, because it seems a rather curious comparison period.
A key figure in the table on that 2019 web page though, is the rather modest 7% of 2018-2019 renewable generation attributed to solar PV.
Anyhow, I’ll leave it up to the reader to assess the relative merits of a total 21% increase in overall renewable energy generation capacity over 49 years compared to a Scottish increase of 90% over 13 years.
To conclude, I’ll mention that in late December 2020, Bangladesh successfully connected a 173 MW solar farm to its electricity grid. More are planned.
Hi Des Scahill
Yes, and IMHO we (and, the World at large) are much, much further behind than most people (including yourself and Ronald) realise.
Being a Democracy, you would think we get whom the majority vote for, with those same politicians acting on our (majority) behalf. Slim pickings – which is why I am quite apolitical – more of a pragmatic technologist, I’d say. However, just as Governmental politics is governed by a lot of flim-flam, posturing, waffle, and weasel words like you appear to imply, IMHO so are most of the opinions expressed both for, and against, various power generation technologies – of ALL types.
Karen Andrews (recently Minister for Industry, Science and Technology) has been quoted as saying “Policy should NOT be based on Ideology, but rather on Robust Evidence”, or words to that effect – although I think the original statement likely well pre-dated her comment. I agree 100%. On this point:
Wind and PV have obvious pros: – low carbon footprint, extremely low marginal costs, can be implemented progressively at small scale, simple to implement, mostly ok to mass-produce – to name a few. However, they also have some obvious cons: – being intermittent and peaky, they require significant support infrastructure, and they universally have quite low capacity-factors that also vary across time-of-day, weather events, and seasonally, relatively short lifespan.
Similarly, Hydro generates largely GHG-free power, at high capacity-factor, is not intermittent, can load-follow well, but is highly Capital-intensive, and is often limited by fuel (water) availability. Long life.
Nuclear cons include: – large capital costs, slow implementation timeframes, need to deal with waste products, possible proliferation issues (although, I should think less so here in Australia), perception of safety issues (even though death rates/Terawatt-hour are about 20% that of PV). Not good at load-following. Fuel availability may require extraction from sea water. Nuclear pros include: – prodigious power production, at extremely high load-factors. Long lifespan. New age designs appear to have overcome the safety issues (with passive methods), have a higher fuel-burn (even using waste from existing plants), and appear to have largely factored-out the proliferation concerns, by design. SMR’s offer opportunities for mass production cost savings, ease implementation due to reduced Capital cost, offer a high-density source of power, that can be utilised more easily where it is required.
Des – I believe most of the above is Evidence (or, if not, is likely to become so in the near-term). Yes, I agree we need to make commitments – but with respect, the fact that Scotland decided not to continue with Nuclear is by no means PROOF that they have made the most optimum choice – they may very well have “screwed up” – only time will tell.
Des – in my humble opinion, most people do not understand that there is a clear difference between DISPLACING a portion of GHG emissions (although a good thing to do), to that of REPLACING an existing fossil-fuel generator, with a GHG-free generator of equivalent functionality. So far in Australia, we appear to have only DISPLACED some 21% of GHG’s, but have a lot more work to do, to REPLACE 21% of fossil-fuelled generation. I have yet to see ANY turn-key wind farms, for example, that can offer a steady, load-following, power flow to the grid, day and night, summer or winter. Until we reach that stage, we CANNOT permanently switch off our fossil-fuelled generators. To do this, we need MASSIVE storage (not the tiddly Big Battery), MASSIVE over-capacity, considerable Synchronous Condensers, strengthened transmission systems, etc., etc.
I despair when people like Geoffrey revert to naming me a “denier”, and rabbit on about the Existential Threat over and over, should I even MENTION the big “N”-word – regardless of context – comes across to me as a massive smokescreen, as I DO BELIEVE we have a climate change threat, but don’t need it rammed down my throat over and again. To me, it beggars belief that Geoffrey, and perhaps you to, cannot accept that we should, at the very least, be involved in nuclear research – in PARALLEL with renewable roll-outs – even if for no other reason than to hedge our bets. Many other industrialised countries are already doing this, why not us? Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water – Nuclear is a KNOWN low-carbon source of power – in face of the evidence, this ideological attitude smacks strongly of clear climate change denial. I fear we are possibly being “painted into a corner” by incompetent policies – that may eventually overwhelm us to get out of.
Des – I’ll leave you with this thought. Bangladesh has a population of 170 million, uses a nuclear plant, and has a peak power demand of ~ 12 GW (21 GW installed) – mostly NG. https://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/news/power-generation-bangladesh-important-facts-look-2052261 Australia has a peak demand of ~ 31 GW https://www.aer.gov.au/wholesale-markets/wholesale-statistics/annual-generation-capacity-and-peak-demand-nem , and a population of ~ 26 million. It is generally accepted that quality of life, and energy consumed per capita, correlate very well. Let us say the Bangladeshi’s have the TEMERITY to wish a quality of life approaching that of our own. By calculation, then, they will need to get to a peak demand level of 31×170/26 = 202 GW, an order of magnitude more than presently installed (may not mean the same thing as available). You mentioned their 172 MW = 0.172 GW INSTALLED CAPACITY solar farm – which I would say with a capacity-factor of say 20% (year-round average), will provide them about 0.034 GW on average, or about 0.017% of where they’d need to get to, to match our quality of life. Nearly 6,000 times short.
THAT is what Lawrence Coomber is talking about – a humanitarian issue that Scotland has ignored. Pure arrogance, or unintentional ignorance?
And, we have YET TO INCLUDE removing GHG’s from the transport, and agriculture sectors – which will require the generation of even MORE energy! We are not anywhere in the neighbourhood of 21% GHG-free!
In Alberta, Canada we’re going to be stuck at the ‘displacement’ stage for the foreseeable futur.
Canada has 11 GW of nuclear power capacity with very high availability, backed by reservoir hydro and with enormous additional hydro potential.
But most of that is as far away from Alberta’s population as the other end of the ASEAN link is from Darwin. And no one utility has the resources to build a new hydro dam, having given up after 70 years of pouring money down the gopher hole of endless environmental reviews.
So what are we to do? What we *are* doing in Alberta, is converting coal power plants to simple cycle gas boilers, barely more than half the efficiency of combined cycle.
Next door in Saskatchewan, they’re cheering the Boundary Dam coal power plant’s success in capturing the equivalent of ‘1 million cars taken off the road’. Which requires twisted logic to consider any kind of a victory, since the coal power plants in the region that emit more CO2 than ALL the cars and light trucks on the road.
What we Canadians are *not* doing in any large numbers, is comparing our digital entertainment / communications bills to the cost of financing rooftop solar PV and electricity savings, and doing the obvious. Nope, the keyboard warriers need the bandwidth.
The relationship between energy and quality of life is a progression up Mazlow’s Hierarchy. Having light in the dark sufficient to read by is now incredibly cheap with solar, battery, and LED. Modern agriculture can securely feed the estimated 9 billion 2100 population.
Making loads of electricity on a summer day to displace fossil fuels is pretty easy. Our solar produces 70 KW and we use 10. Making and storing enough for winter when we need 70 and we get 10 may be forever impossible here.
Making and storing enough solar power to get through most night and most cloudy day looks do-able, from here. But if it’s not, that’s a discussion we all need to pay attention too.
You state: ” Karen Andrews (recently Minister for Industry, Science and Technology) has been quoted as saying “Policy should NOT be based on Ideology, but rather on Robust Evidence”, or words to that effect – although I think the original statement likely well pre-dated her comment. I agree 100%.”
Who are you trying to kid, Ian? Yourself, perhaps? Your numerous comments that I’ve seen here at this blog indicates to me you (and Lawrence) routinely ignore inconvenient evidence and keep pushing your ideological rhetoric for the fantasy that nuclear can save us.
My earlier comment to Lawrence Coomber above (Mar 31 at 7:27am) included:
“2. The Scripps Mauna Loa Observatory measuring atmospheric CO2 concentrations recorded hourly average levels spiking above 420 parts per million (ppm) on 20 Mar 2021 and above 421 ppm on 21 Mar 2021. I would not be at all surprised if we see daily, weekly, or even a monthly average reading crossing the 420-ppm threshold in the next few months.”
Unfortunately, it didn’t take long – Per NOAA Mauna Loa Observatory (that monitors in parallel with the longer operating Scripps Mauna Loa Observatory) observed and recently published atmospheric CO2 DAILY AVERAGE compilations for:
• Apr 8: 421.36 ppm – NEW RECORD so far
• Apr 7: 418.46 ppm
• Apr 6: UNAVAILABLE
• Apr 5: 418.71 ppm
• Apr 4: UNAVAILABLE – too variable
• Apr 3: 421.21 ppm; – 2ND HIGHEST RECORD so far
• Apr 2: 416.97 ppm;
• Apr 1: 417.60 ppm.
Posted Apr 7, at NOAA Research News was an article headlined “Despite pandemic shutdowns, carbon dioxide and methane surged in 2020”, that included:
“The atmospheric burden of CO2 is now comparable to where it was during the Mid-Pliocene Warm Period around 3.6 million years ago, when concentrations of carbon dioxide ranged from about 380 to 450 parts per million. During that time sea level was about 78 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and studies indicate large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra.”
78 feet = 23.77 m
7 °F warmer = 3.9 °C warmer
Atmospheric carbon drawdown is now essential to return the Earth System to a more hospitable environment for humanity. But first, we/humanity need to get our GHG emissions down fast!
So, Ian, where’s your plan to get humanity’s GHG emissions down fast?
Lawrence is talking about “200,000 x 100MW generators rolled our globally from 2050 – 2085 to progressively power new era technologies”. Sorry Lawrence, that’s far too late – scientific evidence I see indicates unless there’s more than a 50% GHG emissions reduction by 2030 and net-zero before 2040, the Earth System will likely have already crossed the +2 °C warming threshold before 2050, and already committed to +4 °C warming path before 2100. I’d suggest Lawrence’s ‘plan’ means it’s likely ‘game over’ for human civilisation in a “Hothouse” world.
Per World Nuclear Association data, in 2020 globally:
• Five nuclear power plants were connected to electricity grids – Tianwan-5, Barakah 1, Leningrad II-2, Ostrovets-1, and Fuqing-5, totalling 5,521 MWe net;
• Three nuclear power plants became operational – Akademik Lomonosov-1, Akademik Lomonosov-2, Tianwan-5, totalling 1,064 MWe net.
There are currently 443 operable reactors globally, with total rated capacity of 394 GWe.
Meanwhile, per recent IRENA data, in 2020, new renewable installations totalling 260 GW were added. Total renewable power capacity in 2020 was at 2,799 GW with hydropower still accounting for the largest share (1,211 GW) although solar and wind are catching up fast.
Per WNA data, in 2019, nuclear plants supplied 2,657 TWh of electricity globally.
Per IEA data, in 2020 in the OECD:
• Renewable production was 3,269 TWh, amounting to 31.6% of total production;
• Hydro production was 1,556.9 TWh, up by 52.3 TWh compared with 2019;
• Solar production was 433.9 TWh, up by 72.5 TWh compared with 2019;
• Wind production was 922 TWh;
• Nuclear production was 1,777.4 TWh, 6.4% or 121.1 TWh lower than in 2019.
I see that Lawrence Coomber apparently describes renewables as “minuscule boutique power generation technologies” (see his comment at Apr 4 at 8:22pm). On that basis, I wonder then what an appropriate descriptor would be for nuclear?
Come on Geoffrey – get a grip – I agree with Randy Wester 100%.
Ah – those Pavlov’s Dogs are baying again – spouting those EXISTENTIAL THREATS that we all know so much about already from being told again and again – at the mere MENTION of the N-word.
I repeat – I have seen plenty of wind and pv DISPLACING GHG’s – which, I agree, is a good thing – if only a temporary, small, and partial fix.
But I’m seeing little evidence of wind and pv REPLACING the functionality of large COAL AND GAS plants – your SA NG plants can STILL power the WHOLE of SA’s demand, when necessary from time-to-time. And you “suck back” filthy, dirty, brown coal power from the inter-connector, often.
DISPLACING GHG’s, especially early on, is easy. REPLACING coal and gas with the ability to supply sustained uninterrupted power matching demand, 24/7, is much more difficult (and costly).
Yes – many nuclear plants are reaching their end-of-life – some nearly 60-70 years from when they were designed – so of course are being shut down – would you seriously expect them to do otherwise? They also represent 70+ year-old technology. It appears President Biden is supporting nuclear – particularly SMR’s – so you may see those figures change direction very soon. They are also looking at extending some of their existing reactors out to 80 years.
But these details are in many ways not the point. It appears Des Scahill has “outed” your short-sighted, narrow-focussed ideology. It would seem your ideology would rather risk imposing a complete climate change Armageddon upon us all, than allow a possibly-needed nuclear fall-back option – a “contingency plan”. And you call me a climate change denier!
Many other developed countries ARE actively working on SMR’s – do you think they are just doing this for fun? I feel nuclear will definitely be needed in the mid- to longer-term. Yes, fusion is a long-shot, but surely the “Holy Grail” – would make Wind and PV obsolete overnight.
Let me say it again – I’m not against the roll-out of Wind and PV – but I feel it is (already) failing the first hurdle – you just have no concept of the SCALE of the total energy requirement facing us. You would be incredibly callous not to consider the humanitarian aspects. We’ve presently barely scratched the surface of dealing with the Transport and Agriculture sector GHG emissions – as we electrify to address this, we will need to maybe DOUBLE or TRIPLE our energy budget. I am talking World-wide.
All I am saying, is that we here in Australia should be “hedging our bets” – and one way to do that, is to become more heavily involved with Nuclear.
The UK is going ahead with Hinkley Point C, Finland is going ahead with its Olkiluoto 3 (they have had a capacity factor of almost 95% for 10 years for their other 4 plants), as of March 2019 China had 46 reactors in operation (42.8 real GW) and 11 under construction (10.8 real GW), as of April 2020 the US had 95 power generator reactors running, France 57, Russia 38, South Korea 24, Spain 7, and Australia a stand-out, at 0.
Again – when you quote wind and pv installed capacity, my immediate thoughts are “B.S.” – I’m FAR more interested in what they actually produce. Glad to see you thought to include some TWh figures, these are by far more useful – but even then not the end of the story.
How often, for example, were your 922 TWh of wind energy not AVAILABLE to the end user – unlike the 1.777 TWh of nuclear, that would have had full availability, 24/365? How long would your 922 TWh Solar last, before needing replacement of panels, inverters, etc. Presumably not 60-70 years? What “filled in” at night times, and during overcast weather? Nuclear, Coal, and Gas perhaps?
Geoffrey – I am not saying that Wind and PV do not have a place – it is just that the SCALE of our future energy requirements is MASSIVE, and we have not even yet APPROACHED a stand-alone renewable energy system, World-wide – so I believe, despite your ideological protests, that to protect our climate future we DO need to be committing to nuclear. I feel we just MUST consider the growing energy requirements of a great many poorer countries. Anything less, is simply callous and irresponsible.
Ian Thompson (Re your comment at April 10, 2021 at 11:21 pm),
My observations of nuclear proponents/boosters (like you and Lawrence) is that in order to believe the narrative that ‘nuclear will save us’, there must also be the unwavering DENIAL of the reality of the rate of change and (yes, there it is again) existential threat of climate change that’s facing humanity.
IF you can ignore that nuclear fission technologies are:
– much too slow to deploy;
– much too expensive, compared with renewables + storage;
– relying on finite fuels that will inevitably become increasingly scarcer and ever more costly (energetically & monetarily) to obtain;
– creating an ever growing toxic waste legacy that will long outlast any energy benefits gained;
– vulnerable to sea level rise;
– creating a growing nuclear weapons proliferation risk;
THEN it’s easy to adopt the false and dangerous narrative that climate change isn’t that bad. I think that’s “simply callous and irresponsible”.
I still don’t see your ‘plan’, Ian – where is it?
Ian Thompson and Lawrence Coomber
Selective comparisons of Australia with other countries, coupled with misrepresentations and partial truths about what those countries are supposedly doing in relation to human induced climate change impacts, is a well known technique used by denialists.
For example, it is perhaps not quite true that the UK is ‘going ahead’ with its Hinkley Point C 3200 MW nuclear power station and its 2 associated EPR reactors, as that phraseology has overtones of ‘about to commence’.
It is also true that the UK first announced that proposal 11 years ago back in 2010. see:
In 2013, just prior to actual construction commencement the British Government announced it would also be subsidizing the feed in rate paid to the plant.
That subsidy decision followed a withdrawal by one of the construction partners in Feb 2013, who cited “‘building costs that were higher than it had anticipated, caused by larger generators at Hinkley Point C, and a longer construction timescale, caused by modifications added after the Fukushima disaster” as their reasons.
Construction finally commenced in 2016 and was expected to be completed by 2023. But that was subsequently extended to 2025 after it became apparent in 2019 that the project was behind schedule . It has since been further delayed until 2026 due to Covid 19 impacts and lock-downs
The original project cost of between £19.6 billion and £20.3 billion british pounds was also increased in 2019 by £2.9 billion.
Construction is not expected to be completed until 2025.
Fortunately for the UK Government, under the original contract, “Because of the way that the project is being funded, taxpayers and customers will not foot the bill for the increase in costs – EDF and its partner on the project China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN) will pay. “.
see: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-49823305 article of Sept 2019.
That same Sept 2019 article also mentioned that “last week prices for new wind power delivered by 2025 were set at prices as low as £40 per megawatt hour. By comparison, power from Hinkley Point C is expected to cost £92.50 per megawatt hour.”
It’s also worth mentioning that the French power company EDF who seems to be a senior partner in the project approached the British Parliament back in 2016 suggesting that the project be postponed ‘due to a litany of problems’. Among those problems was the soaring debt levels of EDF due to cost over-runs which had lead to a significant fall in their share price
Whan a major contractor to a project starts begging it’s customer to ‘postpone’ things and so somewhat let them off the hook because of a ‘litany of problems’ (their words), surrounding onlookers in other EU countries began paying much closer attention to what was occurring.
Among those countries was the Scottish Government, who at the time, were considering upgrades/replacements of their much smaller aged nuclear fleet. Scotland’s CURRENT policies regarding nuclear power are now carefully worded to read:
“We are opposed to the building of new nuclear stations using current technologies, because and we believe that nuclear power represents poor value for consumers. This is clear from the contract awarded by the UK Government to Hinkley Point C nuclear station in Somerset, which will result in energy consumers subsidising its operation until 2060.
To make sure that any reader of the policies is lett in no doubt whatsoever of their attitude, that paragraph is headed in large bold type: Opposition to new nuclear power stations’.
You can read that wording for yourself at: https://www.gov.scot/policies/nuclear-energy/nuclear-stations/
The other current partner with EDF is now the China General Nuclear Power Corporation, and national security concerns about its involvement began to be raised as early as 2016.
Those concerns were also mirrored in Australia, when following the laying of espionage charges against China in connection with Hinkley C, the Australian government then blocked a proposed $10 billion dollar deal with Chinese companies to take a 50.4% interest in Ausgrid
The Hinkley C project was one of 10 sites originally selected for the construction of replacement nuclear generating plants way back in 2010.
So far, it is the only one out of the 10 that has been proceeded with, it still remains unfinished, is already having its construction cost subsidized, and will receive operating subsidies for another 30 years if it ever gets completed.
It was also surprising and very alarming news to me that as recently as 2016, the then Australian political leadership was even considering at all the possibility of placing the day to day electricity supply for ALL the activities of Ausgrid under the control of a foreign country.
What the hell were they thinking?
In your very first paragraph, you state “Selective comparisons of Australia with other countries … is a well-known technique used by denialists”. Yet you then go on to talk about Scotland and the UK experiences! Say what? Just who IS the denialist – YOU?
Certainly not me – I BELIEVE we have a climate change emergency! I AGREE this is being caused by human caused GHG emissions! I AGREE we need to rapidly deploy GHG-replacing technologies, to reduce our GHG load on the Planet! I even AGREE that wind and solar provide (at least the initial part) of the means to achieve this! Just who ARE the denialists?
BTW – you should check your English – “go ahead” means “begin OR continue with a plan without waiting” – my context given the background, was quite clearly the latter definition.
You have not really added anything to the discussion, that we do not already know. Geoffrey drones on & on & on (maybe he also plays the bagpipes!) about the Existential crisis whenever alternatives are mentioned – seem more like an entrenched anti-nuclear Ideologue, trying to deflect challenges to his narrative by means of smoke and mirrors, rather than a genuine anti-GHG practitioner. ALL technologies have a part to play.
I AGREE with our Government’s decision to block the sale of our Hydro – but had not picked you as a Xenophobe?
I forgot to add in my comment above (at Apr 10 at 12:39pm) that five nuclear reactors were permanently shut-down in 2020. Per WNA database, these included:
• France, Fessenheim-1, 880 MWe net, on 22 Feb 2020;
• USA, Indian Point-2, 998 MWe net, on 30 Apr 2020;
• France, Fessenheim-2, 880 MWe net, 29 Jun 2020;
• USA, Duane Arnold-1, 601 MWe net, on 30 Oct 2020;
• Russia, Leningrad-2, 925 MWe net, on 10 Nov 2020.
That’s a total of 4,284 MWe of nuclear generating capacity permanently withdrawn.
With 5,521 MWe of nuclear capacity connected to grids in 2020, that’s a net gain in global connected capacity of only 1,237 MWe, but operationally only 1,064 MWe was added, so that’s a net loss in global operational capacity of 3,220 MWe.
Based on current rates of growth in new renewables (i.e. solar and wind) that are being added globally, I’d suggest they will soon exceed nuclear contributions for global energy production (TWh).
Geoff Miell – remain passionate – but calm down a bit.
We do not often hear the term “global communities – equalizing energy technologies” because it is not fashionable to think about poor communities in Africa, Asia, and everywhere else really, with little or no electricity supply (about 5/8 of the global population) and being so contemptuous as to believe that they are entitled or deserving in this greedy modern era, of having massive energy available for their communities to industrialise and develop, like an ordinary well off powered up western community such as yours for example Geoff.
How contemptuous are they?
Well that distorted thinking (and its very common) is precisely why I coined the term “global communities equalizing energy technologies” several years ago and introduced it in my middle school lecture series about technologies of the future (12 – 16 years age students). And these young students actually hooked up on it immediately.
Global peace and prosperity is all about the availability of “big energy”. It is not about lean and green, miniscule energy frugality and retreating back into caves with candles as some would have us believe.
But this raises another challenge that we never hear about in blogs and other cyberspace media. How does this fit in with permanent greenhouse gas reversal and generation technologies. It seems to throw another spanner into the works.
Well of course it certainly does, by a global multiplier of about 50 to 100. That is right – and that will come as quite a shock to most – especially you Geoff because you are not a global quantities forward thinker. But not a shock to Ian Thompson is my guess, because he takes the time to think about the broader global energy equation, unlike most others yourself included.
One might expect that Ian being a true-blue Aussie number cruncher though would have come up with that multiplier range (50 – 100 times) ages ago. Well no he did not, and it looks like I have beaten him to it by about 5 years. LOL. You are a fan of Google I know Geoff: try this phrase: “Lawrence Coomber” + “50 to 100 times” to learn what others say about these quantities going back several years.
50 to 100 times. Yes that is about right. For those communities who have not got it – to join those communities who have got plenty of it, the energy needed to industrialise to a modern prosperous standard going forward and effectively, in perpetuity.
To commence and complete modernisation (infrastructure development, energy intensive manufacturing, roads, mining, businesses, rolling stock, all forms of electric transportation, food production, and on and on it goes).
Yes 50 to 100 times of the total annual power currently being generated globally is about on the money to commence/complete the equalising processes, and bear in mind, without global social equality being on top of the agenda regarding new age generation and GHG mitigation science, social unrest worldwide will make it very difficult to survive anywhere with any sense of normality.
So when is the right time to implement “global communities equalizing energy technologies” if ever; well coincidentally and serendipitously I contend, about now is the time, along with greenhouse gas reversal generation technologies. Because they are precisely the same generation science solution.
Massive, clean, safe, low cost power for all people, families, communities, cities, states, and nations.
Two critical global [moving forward] issues solved, for the price of one.
The maths adds up. Remember Geoff the 7.1 + billion on earth today is on target to reach around 10 + billion by 2050. Where is the power coming from to infrastructure up to manage this global quantity.
Back to the molecular science generation issues of scale Geoff; do not be too constrained in your thinking about what you see in the rear view mirror about old school nuclear scaling issues. Scale will be determined by the solution required not the other way around. Technology will (as it must) be tailored to fit the need.
Current thinking in the industry is for modular and scalable smart reticulation mini systems installed everywhere of about 100 MW capacity. A new age global energy imperative would require about 200,000 x 100MW generators rolled our globally from 2050 – 2085 to progressively power new era technologies, and simultaneously reduce GHG to insignificant levels through the period 2050 – 2100.
This is the global plan you should turn your attention to Geoff – you are way off track.
What I have laid out is well within global technological capabilities. And importantly will never require a quantum technology change going forward, more like progressive enhancements only to prop up in effect a “practical in perpetuity generation science, and one that remains always at the apex of the energy science pyramid”.
The minuscule boutique power generation technologies you espouse have zero relevance to future mainstream GHG mitigation + “global communities – equalizing energy technologies” that are being currently developed overseas now Geoff, but without Australian scientists being involved because of our Government policies over many years.
We are totally out of the global scientific loop on this one, which will be led by global consortiums/conglomerates from US, China, France, Japan, UK, and Russia, which are all active in this R&D space for many years already.
What has always surprised me is that the advocates of nuclear power make no mention at all, (or perhaps they are not even aware) that the sun that illuminates this planet is by and large nothing but a giant nuclear fusion reactor in its own right,
Conceptually speaking, my humble solar PV system is already part of a very low cost distribution network for a giant nuclear power station, situated a safe distance away from my house. That same nuclear power station also deals internally with any noxious by-products that might arise which means I have no concerns whatsoever about my house becoming a radioactive wasteland at some future time.
With the conversion efficiency of solar panels rising steadily, (40% is now in sight) and battery storage capability improving in leaps and bounds, any intermittency issues look likely to be sorted out quite soon.
With respect, Des, the facts behind your 40% efficiency claim may prove misleading to many people – so feel someone should set the record straight. I had thought in the interests of accuracy one of Geoffrey’s acolytes might have done this already – but no, I guess it falls down to me.
The most efficient (and apparently the most expensive) panels have efficiencies ranging in the 21-23% range: https://www.cleanenergyreviews.info/blog/most-efficient-solar-panels.
I think you may be confusing the figure, for a research CELL – which of course does not have the area loss needed for wiring, support surround, etc., of a PANEL – as in the following: https://phys.org/news/2007-06-efficient-solar-cells-electricity.html – to quote the article: “The Spectrolab group experimented with concentrator multijunction solar cells that use high intensities of sunlight, the equivalent of 100s of suns, concentrated by lenses or mirrors”.
I really don’t think we are likely to see panels mounted with lenses & mirrors on our houses very soon (would also need tracking to allow them to keep pointing at the Sun). Made me think of SA’s abandoned (and bird immolating) Aurora CSP project – maybe the new cells could be used on this? What I do not understand about these new cells, however, is that if you are shining “100s of Suns” at them, what do you do with the 60% waste heat?
60% x 300 suns at 1000W/m2 = 60% of 300kW = 180 kW/m2 to dissipate.
If your cell was say 100mmx100mm, collecting sun from over 3 m2, that comes to 1.8kW.
I guess not an impossible figure – but still quite a lot – maybe they will add heatsinks with fans, and use this “free” heat for co-generation?
Give me a break!
Resubmitting yet again, as the blog software corrupted the content of my post. The blog software apparently goes rabid when non alphanumeric charcters like the less than symbol are included in posts.
Resubmitting, as my previous attempt to submit the following post, apparently failed.
Bret Busby in Western Australia says
April 4, 2021 at 5:20 am
Your comment is awaiting moderation.
Ian Thompson – The last previous post that I made, within the last 30 minutes,
containing the URL – if you change the year in the URL, to 2021 (which I did to
investigate by experimentation), according to the CEC, at the end of 2020, the
Cumulative Installed Wind Capacity In Australia (for electricity generation using
wind turbines) is specified as being 7376MW; about 7.4GW.
The cumulative totals – for the electricity generating capacity from photovoltaic
systems are as follows.
“Small” which is less than 100kW 13.4GW
“Medium” which is between 100kW and 5MW about 480MW
“Large” which is greater than 5MW about 3.8GW
(the last two quantities, being estimated from bar graphs, as the CEC apparently
ran out of money, and could not afford to publish the tables of numbers)
(a bit like Western Power running out of money, paying executives excessive
remuneration, and not being able to afford to provide us with safe, stable,
electricity, with a local grid supply failure, while I was in the midst of writing
the last sentence above; from about 0200 WST (UTC+0800), for the best part of
an hour, due to either the drizzle we had yesterday (Saturday), or to Western
Power being unable to cope with the switching off of the eastern states
summertime, or, both)
Thus giving a total of about 17.7GW of installed photovoltaic systems generating
capacity for Australia, as at the end of 2020.
So, the feral parliament should, instead of spending taxpayers’ money on the
SnowJob, be providing all households with behind the meter batteries, with
UPS functionality providing for at least four hours of normal consumption,
especially, on this decrepity, decomposing, unsafe, unstable, and, unreliable,
WA SWIS grid.
They have the money; apart from their other squanderting and rorts, they have
their multi-billion dollar parliamentary superannuation fund, where they hide
Anyway, Ian Thompson; these are the latest figures that I have found, avaliable
from the CEC, for the whole of the country, up to the end of 2020.
And, of course, for those touting nuclear power, and the resultant extinction of all life, perhaps, you should go swimming in the sea off Japan, if you dare…
And, for those who still regard batteries as not feasible for stabilising the grids, …
In its new paper — Battery Storage — The New, Clean Peaker — released on the weekend, the Clean Energy Council (CEC) has amassed a battery of evidence that large-scale battery energy storage has become the superior solution to spreading energy generated by solar and wind throughout any day, and instantly responding to peak energy needs in the National Electricity Market (NEM) for long and short durations.
The Fukushima power plant was created on 1971, before PC’s mobile phones or me who is not quite 50.
It was also built in a land full of earthquakes and tsunamis, and even then it took the largest earthquake ever recorded to break it.
The situation would be quite different for a Brand new power plant build in Australia.
The battery paper you linked says that “batteries are now the most prudent choice to meet this level of dispatchable capacity”
I agree with that 100%, but there is no mention of replacing base load power with batteries, How many Horsndale power reserves will you need to power Adelaide through a winter night? And then will they all need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years? That is providing we have enough surplus energy to charge them.
You state: “The situation would be quite different for a Brand new power plant build in Australia.”
James, I ask you:
* Site where? Consider sea level rise and likely increasing ambient temperatures over operating life and decommissioning. US DoD has adopted a 2 m rise by 2100 scenario, and NOAA’s “extreme” scenario is 2.5 m. Professor David Archer has stated: “Past sea level varied by 10-20 metres for each 1 °C change in the global average temperature” (equalized over centuries timescales).
* Capacities? Number of units?
* What ramp rates can they achieve? Demand has never been constant, so how do they adapt to variable demand?
* Support infrastructure required?
* Time required to deploy? We need it yesterday, but practically by 2030 – the sooner the better. Nuclear has demonstrated time and again it CANNOT deliver under 10+ years – not conventional large-scale plants, nor non-existent ‘factory-built’ SMRs.
* Costs? Who pays?
James, do you really have any idea what you are proposing?
What’s the fascination with “base load power”?
Have you seen the YouTube video titled “Professor Andrew Blakers: 100% renewables and storage – part 1”, duration 31:27, that I presented to you in an earlier comment to you above? What do you think is wrong with Blakers’ proposal?
I watched the “100% renewables and storage – part” the idea seem to fall apart when it gets to the part were it says 97% of the storage is Pumped Hydro(10mins.36sec), when we all know that “Snowy Hydro 2.0: More Expensive Than Battery Storage” So we are back to Batteries which might work in remote WA outback towns, but are not going to power an industrial hub anywhere.(or can we admit Hydro is not as bad as this blog portrays)
I am not a nuclear scientist but i will try and answer your other questions.
Where? I would put them close to state borders, Eg NT/WA/QLD border and SA/VIC/NSW border. that would put them in a good spot to power many areas, away from large population centres and rising water levels.
Capacity and Infrastructure, buggered if i know. There are hundreds and hundreds around the world, find the best and imitate them. I would make them big though, to reduce the number required.
Time to deploy. I think a lot if the 10+ years is to do with red tape and planning. If are copying the best ones out there that have proven themselves we may be able to shorten that process.
Who pays? The government. I cant see investors putting money towards a system that is trying to get electricity prices as low as possible., Investors want profit, Australians want lots of cheap power.
Or maybe we could raise the money by taxing electric cars?
This brings up another question who will still be installing solar panels once we start producing surplus power at day time? wont that strip away any profits? companies are not going to keep building solar farms out of the goodness of their hearts, will the governments have to take back ownership of the electricity market to progress pass this point?
I’d suggest that Snowy 2 is not good value – a good example of not enough ‘bang for buck’ – a poor execution. I’d also suggest that’s a consequence of political interference. That doesn’t mean this one cost example is typical for off-river pumped-hydro.
It seems to me that you are so easily dismissing the work of Professor Andrew Blakers and his team. What are your qualifications, James? Do you think you are sufficiently competent to judge?
James, how do you provide cooling for the nuclear reactors, if they are sited, as you suggest: “Eg NT/WA/QLD border and SA/VIC/NSW border”?
I think it’s refreshing for you to admit: “Capacity and Infrastructure, buggered if i know.”
I’d suggest you need to stop digging a hole for yourself – leave it to people who do know.
You state: “I think a lot if the 10+ years is to do with red tape and planning. If are copying the best ones out there that have proven themselves we may be able to shorten that process.”
I interpret that to mean: cut corners and reduce safety standards – a recipe for disaster later.
Experienced countries take 10+ years to deploy. What makes you think Australia, an inexperienced country with minimal expertise in this field, can do better?
You state: “Who pays? The government.”
You mean we, the people, the taxpayers pay.
Of course, having nuclear power in Australia is currently prohibited, per the Australian Federal legislation “Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999”, where Section 140A states:
“The Minister must not approve an action consisting of or involving the construction or operation of any of the following nuclear installations:
(a) a nuclear fuel fabrication plant;
(b) a nuclear power plant;
(c) an enrichment plant;
(d) a reprocessing facility.”
I don’t see that part of the legislation being changed any time soon, so this exercise is purely academic. There’s also the ARPANS Act 1998.
So, you are saying wind & solar & batteries & replicated replacements & synchronous condensers & upgraded trnasmission lines won’t cost us, the taxpayers and users of energy, anything at all?
Must be great to be so naive!
IMO, your last century ideological mindset fails to take the present, and the future into account. I feel you, and Prof. Blaker, have not adequately thought through the “end game”, nor the SCALE of the task ahead of us. I have read through the Australian Academy of Scientists report you quote – and have come away with the feeling they have clearly “left the door open” for nuclear (encourage the development of New Age technologies…), but a search failed to show the word “nuclear” anywhere in the document – in this sense, providing no comment either for, nor against nuclear, I believe they have proven themselves CYA GUTLESS.
James makes a lot of sense – in the face of a climate change emergency, why on earth would we want to (artificially) ignore a KNOWN low-GHG energy source? Your shallow excuses betray an inordinate ignorance of the facts. In this manner, you are the “denier”.
Why on earth would we want to build nuclear plants in earthquake zones, or below anticipated sea level rise, with safety margins, why would we not use a ” mix” of technologies to deal with load-following (if necessary, as more modern nuclear designs are better at this anyway, than the OLD technology you choose to continue to reference).
Do you think power technologists are STUPID?
Who will fund wind and solar required overcapacity, in the face of massive curtailment during “good” times? Already a problem in Europe, becoming a problem for rooftop PV in Australia, already.
I, too, feel much of the extended construction timeframes are more to do with “red tape”, but would also add “deliberately mischievous actions of an ignorant minority” as another possible (likely?) contributor. Same goes for opposition to the safe storage of waste products – in the USA this has forced on-site storage – of 98 reactors (now 95), that have run at very high capacity factors, saving 1.7 million+ lives over coal use, and MASSIVE reductions in GHG’s, for 18-20 years, and more.
The only area I might be at slight variance with James Silcox, is in the choice of technology – I favour GEN IV technology – inherently (passively) safe, high fuel burn, low proliferation potential. SMR’s offer low cost, mass production (factory-built), shorter build times, rapid deployment, more deployment opportunities, etc. China are going to beat us to the “punch” on this, well and truly, with their HTR-PM reactors presently completing final hot testing, and grid connection trials. Canada & Russia too. Yes, they started the build of these “demonstration SMR’s” in 2012, nearly 10 years ago – but they are FOAK. Watch this space – they are already planning future builds – which I would think will go much, much faster than their FOAK – after all, why would they NOT have taken a conservative approach – especially with Fukushima concerns delaying things in the middle of their developments (I hate to think how many MORE people have died, than the 1, as a result of going back to Coal for the interim). This is one of the reasons I agree with James – we need to fast-track a few large nuclear plants in the short term, so we can truly REPLACE coal – not merely keep it on standby, or replace it with the equally problematic NG (like SA is doing at present, also using dirty, filthy BROWN Coal regularly to support continuity of their electricity supply).
Geoffrey, I feel your assumptions make an “ASS out of U”, as they say, as my plan differs very little from yours in the short term. You have not outlined YOUR plan, other than suggest running around with your hands in the air, putting in wind and solar willy-nilly in the short term (to commence only displacing GHG’s in the short term, which I happen to more or less agree with). What I am most concerned with, is the “end game”. When we actually need to REPLACE fossil fuelled renewable backups. Your plan appears to rest on the mere HOPE that batteries will be developed in time, not to send us all broke with costly and ongoing repetitive replacements).
I would like to see Australia’s totally artificial ban on nuclear lifted (we still sell uranium…!), and a genuine effort to be made for Australians to become educated in, and involved with the Worlwide nuclear efforts in this regard (Goverment-supported). This need not delay your roll-out of “displacement only” wind and solar. This appears the only strategic direction in which our thoughts differ.
If for no other reason than to have a “second string to our bow” in the medium term – but I believe will prove NECESSARY in the longer term.
I am hardly a nuclear “booster”, nor even really a nuclear “proponent” – but merely a pragmatic supporter of GHG-reduction, therefore for nuclear to be able to compete – in the medium term – in it’s own right, on its own merits, on a LEVEL playing field.
What are you frightened of? That nuclear might “get up” on its own merits, despite your protestations?
I’ll provide some figures to support these views shortly.
You state: “IMO, your last century ideological mindset fails to take the present, and the future into account.”
Ian, I think you are living in fantasyland. It’s amazing to me how it seems you can see things that aren’t there and ignore much inconvenient evidence/data that is.
Published in the SMH yesterday was an article (paywalled) by Nick O’Malley headlined “Facing the climate ‘endgame’ in a world bound for 1.5 degrees warming”, beginning with:
“The world will break through the more ambitious Paris climate target of 1.5 degrees as soon as 2030 but may still avoid a more catastrophic 2 degrees of warming if governments act immediately to dramatically reduce emissions, according to a new report.”
The Climate Council report, titled “Aim High, Go Fast: Why emissions need to plummet this decade”, is based on new data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and echoes similar findings by the Australian Academy of Science issued last week.
You state: “The only area I might be at slight variance with James Silcox, is in the choice of technology – I favour GEN IV technology – inherently (passively) safe, high fuel burn, low proliferation potential.”
Where are these technologies currently, Ian?
Let’s see, shall we? Per WNA on Gen IV technologies:
* Astrid SFR was cancelled in 2019.
* Allegro GFR: A decision is expected in 2025/2026 as to whether the reactor would move beyond **conceptual study**.
* ALFRED LFR technology demonstrator: Construction of ALFRED **could** begin in the early 2020s.
* MYRRHA LFR project: The first phase consists in the construction of the 100 MeV accelerator, which is a fully modular infrastructure able to function independently as of **2026-2027**, and generating scientific results and revenue.
And where are these SMRs that you say “offer low cost, mass production (factory-built), shorter build times, rapid deployment, more deployment opportunities”?
NuScale, the furthest advanced, expects the NRC to complete its review of the COLA by the second-half of 2025, with nuclear construction beginning shortly thereafter.
Ian, in other words you are placing your FAITH in technologies that don’t yet physically exist and haven’t yet DEMONSTRATED any of the claimed benefits, and are clearly far, far TOO LATE to assist in any meaningful way to get our GHG emissions down fast NOW.
I’ve asked a few times now what is your plan? There isn’t any, because I’d suggest you can’t truthfully provide any meaningful timeline, benefits, resources or costs for a ‘nuclear renaissance’ – nobody can!
I think you are engaging in **supreme hubris** to even suggest Professor Blakers and his team “have not adequately thought through the “end game”, nor the SCALE of the task ahead of us.”
Hi James: I will comment briefly on your last paragraph first, and get back to you later with an explanation about some of the key points of the ‘New Age Global Energy Imperative’; a named globally focussed concept that I introduced several years ago in some energy centric articles and scientific forums, which has since been peer reviewed widely and achieved broad high level scientific supporting commentary, from many reliable sources and prominent voices in the global energy technology space.
Understanding ‘technology obsolescence’ is important James. It has two dimensions to it: (1) continued customer interest and industry usage preference; and (2) time.
A simple analogy that will (and already does) apply to Solar PV Technology on a global scale, would be the modern mobile phone. I started designing and manufacturing Water Treatment and Sewage Treatment Systems in 1986, controlled remotely by the original ‘brick mobile phones’. They were cutting edge and the first and only systems of their type anywhere. Fast forward 35 years and this technology is now obsolete. There would be zero customer interest or industry preference for this old technology now.
This is a good example that any technology at its inception will be globally attractive (to many and most people) on day 1; but its inevitable journey to becoming obsolete has then commenced.
Solar PV Technology has been around for 60+ years James and is well into it’s obsolescence journey.
You might equate it with “natural technological attrition and decline” which effectively smooths out any commercial disruptions and bumps, for the inevitable end game for technologies.
You state: “…‘New Age Global Energy Imperative’; a named globally focussed concept that I introduced several years ago in some energy centric articles and scientific forums, which has since been peer reviewed widely and achieved broad high level scientific supporting commentary, from many reliable sources and prominent voices in the global energy technology space.”
Which “energy centric articles and scientific forums”, Lawrence?
Which scholarly work(s) with your so-claimed introduction of your ‘New Age Global Energy Imperative’ concept that has been “peer reviewed” in any scholarly publication? Please show links to examples.
Name people who you claim have provided “broad high level scientific supporting commentary” and are the “prominent voices in the global energy technology space”? Please show links to examples.
You also state: “Solar PV Technology has been around for 60+ years James and is well into it’s obsolescence journey.”
The price of electricity (LCOE) from 2009 to 2019, for:
Nuclear: has risen +26% from $123/MWh to $155/Mwh;
Solar-PV: has declined 89% from $359/MWh to $40/Mwh;
On-shore wind: has declined 70% from $135/MWh to $41/MWh.
Electricity from renewables became much cheaper as capacity increased, whereas electricity from nuclear and coal did not.
The IEA confirms the world’s best solar power schemes now offer the “cheapest…electricity in history” with the technology cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries.
The evidence I see indicates nuclear is at much more of a risk of obsolescence than solar-PV.
The cries that ‘we can’t run anything’ or ‘we can run everything’ off solar PV are both obviously wrong.
The relative costs of solar PV whenever it’s sunny, and of nuclear power whenever it’s sxheduled to run are somewhat irrelevant because the two are not equivalent. You might as well try shouting ‘but snow geese are free’ when the clerk tells you what you owe for the chicken sandwich.
It’s true, but not relevant, because snow geese are also seasonal and you have to stand the cost of hunting, cleaning, storing, and preparing one, and you might not be lucky enough to have one when you need it. Solar PV’s a bit like that – a nice windfall on a sunny day, but no help on a cold night.
And here we reach the point where you people always start talking about batteries and thousand mile long DC power transmission, and when the math tells you it’s impossible you might talk about cheaper battery cells manufactured in great quantity using techniques and materials as yet undiscovered.
Yes, building a modern nuclear power plant takes time – about five to six years, assuming there’s little or no political or competitive sabotage and interference. The debate has gone on long enough, and the ‘run everything on renewables’ success has been pretty limited, except where everything ran on hydro power already.
So is Snowy 2 a bad idea? I’m not sure, because I hope it’ll improve the grid. Is putting silicon solar PV on every unshaded roof a good idea? Sure seems to be. I marvel that there’s no solar cell and panel factory in Australia, but they’re building nuclear power as fast as possible in the countries where the factories are, and yet there’s such adamant opposition to the nuclear solution that Canada and France rolled out in the 1970’s.
Your latest statement is: “Yes, building a modern nuclear power plant takes time – about five to six years, assuming there’s little or no political or competitive sabotage and interference.”
Your previous statements (on Mar 29 at 6:24am) in response to my earlier question was:
“You said “Do you think the total project time required is only “six years or less””
No. Your first clue is in the reactors official names – Fuqing 5 and Fuqing 6 These are number Five, and Six at that plant, and obviously since Fuqing 1 was started in 2008, they didn’t just decide to build these the day before they started pouring foundations. 6-1/4 years, and at that it was about a year late?”
I repeat for one last time: The minimum TOTAL PROJECT TIME for new nuclear reactors for planning, approvals, procurement, site preparation, construction, grid connect, and commissioning to operational status is **10+ years**.
The MEDIAN CONSTRUCTION time (for the part that cannot be hidden, but excluding the pre-implementation phase of the project – the very substantial part that’s hidden ‘behind closed doors’) for nuclear reactors worldwide:
1981-1985: _ _ 83.97 months (circa 7 years)
1986-1990: _ _ 92.10 months (circa 7 2/3 years)
1991-1995: _ _ 80.83 months (circa 7 ¾ years)
1996-2000: _ 120.03 months (circa 10 years)
2001-2005: _ _ 57.45 months (circa 4 ¾ years)
2006-2010: _ _ 75.92 months (circa 6 1/3 years)
2011-2015: _ _ 66.40 months (circa 5 ½ years)
2016: _ _ _ _ _ 74.00 months (circa 6 years)
2017: _ _ _ _ _ 58.00 months (circa 4 ¾ years)
2018: _ _ _ _ 103.00 months (circa 8 ½ years)
2019: _ _ _ _ 117.00 months (circa 9 ¾ years)
In the Australian Academy of Science report titled “The risks to Australia of a 3°C warmer world”, Recommendation 1 (on page 13) states:
“Join global leaders in increasing actions for tackling and solving climate change as a matter of urgency. Australia lags far behind the best practice demonstrated by many countries. Given how much Australia stands to lose if GHG emissions are not reduced, we also recommend that Australia accelerates its transition to net zero GHG emissions over the next 10 to 20 years.”
In the Climate Council of Australia’s report titled “Aim High, Go Fast: Why Emissions Need to Plummet This Decade”, it includes (on page 55):
“With a renewables-led economic recovery, it is possible to rapidly scale-up our actions and trigger a virtuous cycle of accelerating decarbonisation that cuts our greenhouse gas emissions deeply by 2030 and achieves net zero emissions by 2035. It starts with stepping up our efforts now, recognising the urgency of the challenge we face, and getting ourselves onto the right trajectory.”
From an editorial in Nature, dated Mar 9:
“Clearly, nuclear energy will be with us for some time. New plants are being built and older ones will take time to decommission. But it is not proving to be the solution it was once seen as for decarbonizing the world’s energy market. Nuclear power has benefits, but its continued low take-up indicates that some countries think these are outweighed by the risks. For others, the development of nuclear energy is unaffordable. If the world is to achieve net zero carbon emissions, the focus must be on renewable energies — and one of their greatest benefits is that their sources are available, freely, to all nations.”
randy, how does new nuclear help with rapidly reducing humanity’s GHG emissions – no more coal or gas by 2030 – when the TOTAL project timeframe for new nuclear reactors have DEMONSTRATED time and again they simply CANNOT DELIVER within the REQUIRED time? Answer: it doesn’t – it’s all much TOO LATE.
It seems to me that you (together with Ian and Lawrence) are wilfully ignoring inconvenient evidence/data. Why is that, randy? The evidence I see from numerous accumulating comments at this blog indicates to me it’s wilfully ignorant ideology. That’s on YOU.
“If we don’t solve the climate crisis, we can forget about the rest.”
Apologies for using snowy Hydro as en example of all Pumped hydro, others have been using the same idea at me with that English nuclear plant that is way over budget is an example of all nuclear and that annoys me too.
I dont have any relatable qualifications, my knowledge comes from years of reading solar quotes blogs and the information that is linked. I honestly beleave that Andrew Blakers ideas are good, my issue is more with this article that suggests pumped hydro is a waste of money and we should be using batteries instead, that is NOT what Andrew is saying. I would rather see my tax dollars go to pumped hydro then coal subsidies.
my agenda is not to push nuclear, my Japanese wife told me last night she would not like to see it hear in Australia, But I see it as the quickest way to remove fossil fuels from Oz, a temporary solution until other technologies can take over.
At no point did i suggest cutting corners on safety, that is you putting words in my mouth. I am suggesting copying the proven best and safest and pasting it in OZ, the plans have been done already, and if it is best in the world stuff i would hope approves could be swift.
As you have said, this is purely academic, am am throwing out ideas and contributing to the conversation(not designing cooling systems for nuclear reactors on the NT/WA/QLD border)
So, you are saying wind & solar & batteries & replicated replacements & synchronous condensers & upgraded trnasmission lines won’t cost us, the taxpayers and users of energy, anything at all?
Must be great to be so naive!
Geoff you are not the Cristopher Columbus of GHG emissions:-
I also understand that global climate change is largely fuelled by greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel energy generation, and gasoline powered engines. I also understand that well over half of the world’s population are energy starved; and as such are denied opportunities to aspire to reach the modern standard of living enjoyed by those of us fortunate enough [like you Geoff] to exist in an energy abundant society.
It is axiomatic surely that the energy deprived must do whatever and by any means possible, to redress this imbalance. The math around this premise is astonishing.
The current world’s total power generation output by all forms will need to increase by a factor of between 50 to 100 times (at least) and be steadily rolled out systematically and globally over the next 50 years, to begin to definitively redress this energy imbalance and moving societies forward into the next century!
Moving the world forward technologically; is not only about (1) stabilising GHG at insignificant levels permanently, but also and simultaneously (2) “powering up” the entire world’s population to enable the pursuit of a modern era of prosperity and standard of living by and for all peoples.
The key point is that GHG mitigation concepts and technologies, are intrinsically linked with “global societies equalising power generation technologies”.
Let us not forget: the current global population of 7 billion will increase to over 10 billion by 2050, irrespective of whatever scientific and technological advances brings forth in the near foreseeable future; or worse, does not bring forth. It will still be around 10 billion with or without the right technological solutions put in train about now.
Energy commentators and readers might benefit from pondering a bit on the simple term “the new age global energy generation imperative”; it has a books worth of meaning in its few words. The “new age global energy generation imperative” demands a massive and enduring energy science technological solution that:-
1. Must be an energy dense power generation technology able to deliver massive, safe, clean, and low-cost power; and be one occupying the apex of the energy science technology pyramid;
2. Reduce power generation global greenhouse gas emissions GHG [from combined sources] to insignificant and ongoing manageable levels permanently;
3. Be of scalable and modular design, and easily deployed systematically and cost effectively; to power ‘’new age energy intensive industries and businesses’’ throughout the world;
4. Cost effectively enables all individuals, families, communities, states, and nations, throughout the world, the opportunities to aspire to achieve (1) prosperity through industrialisation and modernisation, and (2) a modern standard of living; and particularly post year 2200.
The key takeaway phrase is: “massive, safe, clean and low-cost power”; and nothing less than this technological pursuit and outcome will cut it.
The technology that gets that right – will precipitate a falling into line of all other critical technological imperatives including: stabilising the worlds peoples and societies, and most certainly be regarded as “global in-perpetuity energy science technology” enabling all things that follow.
In closing Geoff: I recommend that you focus more on my above comments rather than the dead end fantasy arguments you are mesmerised by, and switch from your narrow focussed and meaningless global power generation perspective moving forward; to a more quantitative and purposeful viewpoint in which MODERN SCIENCE takes precedence over your illogical and dangerously misguided REAR VIEW IDEOLOGY.
Could you please explain to me how your estimate of a global population
of 10 billion by 2050, (compared to an existing estimate of 7.87 billion in 2021) is arrived at..
It’s an important point, because you then use your 10+ billion estimate to further claim that global energy demand will rise by some 50% or even 100% as a result.because of rising living standards in the world’s poorer countries. .
The ‘Worldometer’ website at: https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/world-population-projections/ shows instead a figure of 9.73 billion by 2050, with world population almost but not quite stabilizing at 10.87 billion in 2100.
The Worldmeter estimates are derived from revised 2019 United Nations forecasts which can be found in detail here: https://population.un.org/wpp/
along with maps by specific countries and regions at: https://population.un.org/wpp/Maps/
A wide range of forecasts can be found on the UN website, and the UN stresses that “The population projections are based on the probabilistic projections of total fertility and life expectancy at birth.”. And of course they use the mean of those predictions as their selected forecast of the future.
Since 2019, its been discovered that actual fertility rates are far lower than expected, and this has resulted in rather gloomy headlines in some media such as:
“The sharp decline in global fertility rates may lead to a demographic time bomb, with some populations expected to halve by 2100”. see:
Such forecasts are of course wildly variant from your own, but just like yours, have obvious implications for future energy demand.
As well a mounting number of extreme natural disasters, along with the impacts of such things as COVID 19 .and declining food supply due to environmental pollution could I suggest, be further factors that might reduce human global energy demand over the next 50 years or so.
But anyhow, to get back to my original question, “How is your estimate of a future global population of 10+ billion by 2050 arrived at?” To my eyes, that figure seems quite unreliable for use as a basis for forecasting future demand..
Thanks for raising a very important point about projections of population growth. I think they are simply NOT credible.
The Earth System is already ‘locked-in’ on a trajectory to surpass +1.5 °C global mean warming threshold (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age) likely BEFORE 2030 (regardless of any or no further GHG emissions), and likely to surpass +2 °C warming before 2050 (unless we rapidly and drastically reduce GHG emissions from now on).
See Table 1 in: https://esd.copernicus.org/articles/12/253/2021/esd-12-253-2021.pdf
Risks of simultaneous crop failure will increase disproportionately between 1.5 and 2 °C, so surpassing the 1.5 °C threshold will represent a threat to global food security.
Inadequate global food supplies mean likely global famine, and if that continues long enough, then billions will likely die. These are ‘threat multipliers’ for geopolitical conflict, and ultimately civilization collapse.
Inevitable and unstoppable sea level rise also threaten low-lying major prime agricultural lands for food production (like the Mekong Delta, Bangladesh, etc.).
So I wonder how a population of 10+ billion people could exist by 2050, if (an) inadequate global food supply situation(s) manifest(s) before then, due to sufficiently worsening climate change that induces simultaneous and severe multiple ‘breadbasket’ region failure?
You appear to have “given up”, before you have really started?
I’d hope to think your planning is not predicated on a massive loss of life.
Unlike you, my project management plans invariably include contingency planning, and a degree of ‘slack’ inbuilt.
I rely on compelling evidence/data and prudent risk management.
Evidence I see indicates we/humanity have already failed to prevent the Earth System progressing to a more hostile state for humanity and human civilisation. There is no carbon budget remaining for +1.5 °C warming – we are well and truly overdrawn. There is no carbon budget for +2 °C warming if a sensible risk-management approach is taken.
The outstanding question now is how far will we/humanity fail. Can we halt warming somewhere between +2.0 and +2.5 °C global mean warming, by rapidly and drastically reducing GHG emissions on a global scale within this decade and eliminate them well before 2040, together with large-scale atmospheric carbon drawdown measures in the coming decades (to eventually return atmospheric CO2 levels back below 350 ppm), or will the Earth System surpass +3, +4 or perhaps +5 °C warming threshold before 2100, with consequent civilisation collapse and large-scale suffering?
Regardless, disruption is now inevitable. Brace for impact.
Hi Geoffrey Miell
Saw your post about basically the +2 °C warming carbon budget has already been missed (if maintaining a sensible risk-management approach). Depressing, as we can only have a 1% impact on the World ourselves, and don’t have much leverage to force rapid changes elsewhere. Otherwise, a great step forward would be to demand a 1-child family policy, worldwide – this would appear to have a much greater impact on GHG-reductions, than anything else the World presently has in it’s works.
I bring a (tiny) amount of good news to the attention of all those who may have missed an implication behind my posting of 2050 World Annual Primary Energy Supply requirements – of between 266,000TWh by the EIA estimate, and 870,629TWh if we use the UN population figures, the USA’s recent per capita primary energy consumption, and take a humanitarian approach.
The (tiny) bit of good news, is that each 1 kWh of energy produced from wind, solar, and hydro (and, I might add, nuclear), will displace around 3 kWh of primary energy. This is because coal stations, petrol and diesel engines, etc., are only about 33% thermally efficient – you have to burn enough coal to produce 3 kWh of heat energy, in order to recover 1 kWh of electrical energy. Pretty much the same goes for petrol engines, diesel engines, and even NG-fuelled Gas Turbines. Nearly ALL the battery energy in an electric car goes to turn the wheels – whereas about 33% of burned petrol energy goes to the cooling system, another 33% to exhaust gasses, and only 33% to useful mechanical work (or less, depending on operational regime).
The same argument doesn’t (quite) apply to the vast quantities of oil burned in many colder countries, to provide domestic heating – this is practically a 1:1 relationship, 1 kWh of energy derived from burning oil, provides 1 kWh of heat to the room. However (and Geoffrey will be ahead of me here, as he has one, as do I), 1 kWh of electricity can generate maybe 4 or 5 times as much heat to the room (or hot water system), if a heat pump is utilised – engineers refer this effect as the ‘Coefficient of Performance’. The only problem here, is that they cost a lot more than a tank to hold oil, and don’t last for nearly as long.
So – EIA’s value of 266,000TWh comes down to ~88,670TWh using renewables and/or nuclear, and my (humanitarian) 870,629TWh value comes down to ~290,210TWh.
Ok, still huge figures – but maybe your OECD renewable figures totalling about only 0.34% of my (humanitarian) 2050 primary energy requirements, should instead be quoted as 1%.
Hey, Geoffrey – look on the bright side – you just made a 300% win!
You state: “Depressing, as we can only have a 1% impact on the World ourselves, and don’t have much leverage to force rapid changes elsewhere.”
More like 1.2% (in 2016), if you EXCLUDE fossil fuel exports (and the land sector).
Australia is the fifth biggest miner of fossil fuel carbon, behind China, the USA, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Australia is a vast coal and gas exporter. The CO2 potential of these exports is more than twice as much as the GHG emissions Australia emits domestically. Australia is the third biggest fossil fuel exporter globally, in CO2 potential, after Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Australia is an emissions superpower, and it’s total (domestic + export) GHG emissions contribution continues to rise.
See page 5 at: https://climatejustice.co/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Australia-_-an-emissions-super-power.pdf
What Australia does matters on a global scale. Australia needs to drastically reduce both demand and **SUPPLY** of fossil fuels.
Point taken…! Yes, I was only looking at OUR share of the GHG-burden.
However, we don’t actually BURN the fossil fuels we export – just dig them up and ship them – normally the CO2 charge would go to the jurisdiction that actually generates the CO2 – wouldn’t it (my assumption)?
But I do see your point – if we ban coal, natural gas (and, while we are at it, also uranium) exports – also I guess beef and sheep exports (include wheat?), as these generate methane that they wouldn’t if we didn’t grow them for export – then OUR GHG emissions would go way down. Though, maybe this would not make much of an impact on the World scene – as I imagine our customers would simply go to Brazil for beef, and get their coal etc., from elsewhere?
Since we don’t have much in the way of manufacturing exports, I guess we’d need to move on to more of a subsistence lifestyle? Live in caves maybe? Use gum-leaves?
I’m having some doubts we could maintain a comfortable lifestyle, merely by making and selling green hydrogen, and electricity, overseas…?
Ian Thompson (re your comment at May 2, 2021 at 6:29 pm),
You ask: “However, we don’t actually BURN the fossil fuels we export – just dig them up and ship them – normally the CO2 charge would go to the jurisdiction that actually generates the CO2 – wouldn’t it (my assumption)?”
Humanity’s GHG accounting scheme ignores the reality of the physical world we live in – CO2 emissions don’t recognize human geopolitical jurisdictions.
I refer you back to my earlier comment: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/snowy-2-vs-battery-storage/#comment-1051593
Ian, how far do you want humanity to fail?
Focus on what really matters now.
Well, yes Geoffrey – but, we still have to survive – otherwise climate change will only impact our pre-‘starved to death’ dead bodies…
With respect, the 10 billion figure IS a round-up of 9.73 – and I wouldn’t think ANYONE could accurately estimate population in 30 years time, to the 2nd decimal place, or perhaps even the 1st.
With regard to total energy estimates for 2050, in another post I had posted a link (IEA as best I recall), that showed total global energy requirements rising from a little over 600 quadrillion british thermal units in 2019 or 20, to an estimate of a little over 900 quads in 2050, near enough to a 50% increase (and corresponding to about 266,000 TWh).
I have reason to suspect this estimate DOES include a degree of improvement to quality-of-life, globally – as would be expected I’d hope – as well as the estimated population increase, and likely improvements in energy efficiency (although I didn’t look further into this latter aspect).
Perhaps 10+ was a slight exaggeration, perhaps it isn’t? Would we want to risk an underestimate?
Your quoted EIA figures of an estimated overall increase of 50% in GLOBAL energy demand between a 2010 base and 2050 coincide with those at
I would point out though, that the difference between (say) 10.1 billion and 9.73 billion is 370 million people. That’s more than 14 times the entire population of Australia. It’s also greater than the current estimated 332.5 million population of the entire USA
So when you start ’rounding’ numbers that are in the billions you run the risk of over or understating demand forecasts by a factor of 100 times, which of course suits the nuclear lobby groups.
On the flip side of that coin, using the higher approximated number also leads to higher estimates of the human death toll if things go badly wrong (for whatever reason).
I’ll mention too, that the EIA came into existence in 1974 solely as a response to the oil crisis that arose during the period October 1973 to March 1974.
It’s then purpose was to facilitate at an international level the flow of oil to those countries whose supply had been severely disrupted by the total embargo those Arab countries who were members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC).
That embargo was applied against all countries that OAPEC perceived as being supporters of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
Fast forwarding to today, EIA’s original roots lie firmly in the fossil fuel industry, but now include the nuclear sector. In recent years the organization has been regularly accused of downplaying the role of renewables and emphasizing nuclear.
With respect, I’m not sure your conclusions are at all credible – the EIA link you provided is the same as the one I posted elsewhere (unless it was redacted), but clearly shows primary energy of a little over 600 Quads in 2018, not the 2010 base you state – the reason 2019 is not (safely) relevant, is that at the peak of COVID a lot of energy use was curtailed. The estimated 2050 figure is shown as a little over 900 quads (~266,000TWh) – I’d say near enough to a 50% increase in energy consumption, “for Government work”!
You say rounding would overestimate population significantly, yet 370 million divided by 9730 million is less than 4% – I’d defy ANYONE to be able to estimate population in 30 years time, to that level of accuracy!
You then say ’rounding’ could risk over- or understate energy forecasts by 100 times! Say what? The issue is ratiometric – assuming a fixed energy consumption per capita, the error would only result in the SAME 4% figure. Would you seriously plan for future generation requirements, to better than 1%?! Goodness, Des, even the steel in power station building structures have a 10% strength de-rating factor, BEFORE large factors of safety are then included (at least, in our AS4100 standard).
To put some perspective into this – the following site shows population estimates over time, for a range of assumptions – the graph shown is quite interesting – the blue lines show the estimate for +or- 0.5 child – and range from between 8.5 billion, and about 10.5 billion for 2050. The graph shows a series of sample trajectories, and a median estimate of 9.74 billion – to appease you, note their references are not EIA, but rather largely United Nations figures.
You should note the fact that birth rate has a huge impact, see the World Population section – Africa is expected to increase population by over 200%, Asia by 41% (of a large number to start with), and Oceania by 100% (but only of a relatively small number). This section also shows a World population growth estimate, admittedly from 2000, of 60%.
Clearly – another way to assist the GHG issue, is to enforce a much lower birth rate. Do you think this is really likely to happen, in India, Bangladesh, Africa, etc.? It seems population attrition may prove the ONLY thing to ‘save us’…!
As I’ve stated before – at 1% TOTAL IMPACT, we in Australia can do the best we can, but we have very little ‘leverage’. AT MOST, we will have only a 1% impact on World outcomes – probably more like 0.3%.
Now to put energy requirements into perspective. Please note, that MANY people, and websites, confuse ENERGY requirements, with ELECTRICITY requirements – (primary) ENERGY requirements include coal (which only supplies about 34% of it’s thermal energy, to electrical energy in a thermal [steam] plant), oil and gas used for heating in colder countries, petroleum products for transport, etc., etc., and ALL of this needs to be ‘electrified’ if we are to have zero CO2 emissions form these sources. I do acknowledge we are targeting ‘net’ zero, but you have to realise there are other sources of CO2 as well – e.g. agriculture, that also need to be offset.
Now, the USA’s per capita use of ENERGY, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_energy_consumption_per_capita is quoted as 305 million BTU/person/year – which I calculate as 89,386.7 kWh/person. This is 11th on the list, a LOT less than Iceland, Qatar, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Trinidad & Tobago, and even less than Canada! If I assume now, that these higher use countries drop back their energy consumption, USA stagnates, we have only a modest improvement in our social progress, and the poorer countries have their energy use brought up to this 2021 level by 2050, we can use the population figure to have an alternative energy estimate.
89,387 kWh/person x 9.74 billion persons = 870,629.4 TWh…!
So – if we were to do the humanitarian thing, we should allow for a 2050 demand estimate of 870,629.4/266,000 = 327% of the EIA estimate.
Of course, the USA is unlikely to wish to stagnate, nor the Middle East countries to go backwards, so it is unlikely poor countries will achieve parity – but there you go – a HUMANITARIAN outlook.
These numbers are HUGE, and Geoffrey’s OECD 2019 Total renewables output figures of 1556.9TWh hydro, 433.9 solar, and 922 wind = total 2912.8 TWh, or 2918.2/870629.4 = 0.34%, pale into near insignificance.
The World has an AWFUL long way to go – I agree with Geoffrey – I don’t think we can make it – UNLESS we (the World) pull out ALL the stops.
For me, I am in favour of ALL low-GHG technologies – and despair that nothing much has been done for over 30 years (I worked in the USA in the mid-1080’s, and noted severe industrial pollution in Germany during a stop-over on the way home – there was much talk of acid-rain destroying much of the Black Forest). At the time, I felt we simply HAD to do something – and thought nuclear offered a way out. Instead, we (the World) did far too little, far too late.
And, of course, now, the feral government, in yet another embezzlement, is about to start building a massive fossil fuel power station; Snowjob Hydra 3, to power the pumps to pump the water (and the s##t involved) up the hill.
I told you that the sole purpose of the Snowjob Hydra 2, is to justify(?) burning more fossil fuel for electricity generation, to power the pumps to pump the water (and the s##t involved) up the hill.
Liked your ABC link re- NSW proposed NG-fired plant – but I think you may have got your interpretation entirely wrong?
As I write this, I note the NEM widget shows NSW is presently generating 5.26GW from BLACK COAL, importing 0.85GW from largely coal-based sources, 0GW NG, and 0.002GW wind…! Did you note that – NO gas?
If they put in 0.75GW of on-demand NG, I only see that as a good thing – their population is about 468% that of SA, and I’ve seen SA using nearly 1.5GW of gas from time-to-time (Twice as much) – Geoffrey Miell fully supports this use, as a very necessary interim transition measure, and so do I. NSW is presently using 0, nada, nothing. On-demand means just that – they will only use NG when power demands require this to be done (which will happen more and more, as more intermittent supplies are added – UNLESS they come with sufficient batteries).
Bret – you have to realise that we need both Power (GW), and Energy (TWh), to be available when we need it – whether for cooking dinner, running refrigeration in shopping centres, keeping the lights on in hospitals, or running large industrial plants, etc. Discontinuities are generally unacceptable – although France IS motivating some demand time-shifting. NSW is simply going the way that SA has already gone, IF they are unable to get energy companies to step up to the plate with alternative dispatchable supplies (read, I guess, renewables with batteries, or whatever). There certainly does appear to be some lack of confidence to commit to this.
Interestingly, at this time SA’s 2GW of wind installed capacity is only generating 0.09GW – and this is unlikely being curtailed as they are still importing from largely coal-based sources. Small solar is generating 0.93GW, nearly 400% more than large solar’s 0.235GW. The next largest contributor is NG, at 0.354GW – SA could not do without this, UNLESS they imported more COAL-sourced power.
You claim ‘Snowjob Hydra 3’ (sic) will be used to pump up the SH2 storage – but this makes little sense at all, with little purpose. I read NOTHING in the article to suggest this would be the case, and why would it? Just a conspiracy theory?
Going back to our need for Power (GW) continuity – the only possible reason I can see, for WHY using NG to pump up the SH2 reservoir could make some useful sense, is if excess Power is available NOW, but Demand is expected to exceed the entire Generation Capacity available (including the NG plant), down the track. In that (unusual, I would hope) case, an extra 2GW of POWER would be available from SH2, to top up the shortfall – which would not have been available if it had not been topped off.
With respect – I think things are a little more complicated than you understand.
1. ” ‘Snowjob Hydra 3’ (sic) ” – 1) you may not know of the Hydra – a monster that tends to grow more heads, as time goes on, which is applicable in this case, and, 2) it is a snowjob – what has building a massive gas burner, otherwise have to do with the “Snowy Hydro”, being the official any thence, misleading, name of the funding that is to be used for building the massive gas burner? It is simply another case of fraud and embezzlement, like the previous feral parliament scam, where the Medicare levy was increased solely for the purpose of buying firearms.
2. As I have posted in another thread, whilst we are ruled by creatures that are yet to come down out of the trees, and thence, to learn to walk upright, on the ground, if we would have the proportional photovoltaic electricity generation, compared to the now civilised country named Germany, Australia would be able to generate at least 13GW of photovoltaic electricity (I believe that we have more available sunlight, than Germany, but, I may be wrong in that), and, if every household would have behind the meter battery storage (to which, the funding that would be misappropriated to fund the Snowjob Hydra 3, would go a long way), the status of stabilised electricity supply in Australia, would be changed considerably, toward clean electricity.
All we need, is an educated Australia (and, yet another feral parliament policy, in Australia, is to restrict access of the plebs, to education, to keep the plebs as uneducated as possible), and, a less apathetic, and, less gratuitously argumentative, populace.
“official any thence” should have been “official, and thence” – typo – sorry.
Yes, Bret – I DO know what a Hydra is – a MYTHICAL creature – pure FANTASY.
IF we are to dump coal, which most of us desire, then we DO need a fast response ‘on-demand’ source of power. Geoffrey Miell would 100% agree with this, and has stated as such in these blogs. If no consortiums are willing to risk their Capital to provide this capability by means of integrated intermittents/battery systems, then the NSW Government has basically said THEY will instead build 0.75GW natural gas fired station – which WILL provide fast response power, on demand as required to support further displacement-only intermittent sources. The fact that they would do this within an existing Corporate Structure, doesn’t appear at all relevant to the issue. Conspiracy – no, I don’t think so – merely trying to allow further intermittents to be deployed.
On your statement that if we went the way of Germany, without you justifying your assumptions I am unable to follow your logic. Germany has a population of 83.78 million, is more than 3 times our nearly 26 million.
Their INSTALLED solar capacity https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Germany in 2019 was barely over 49GW, and their capacity factor 11.1% – meaning their AVERAGE generation was only 49 x 11.1% = 5.44GW, or 47.5TWh for the year (c.f. Australia’s 1721 of primary energy demand – with less than 1/3rd of Germany’s population).
How do you get to 13GW, which appears to be 239% greater than the FACTS. The realistic figure, scaled according to our lower population, works out at around 1.7GW – maybe this could be ‘pushed’ to 2.5GW if we allow for more sun here. How are this low figure (less than 10% of our present demand), and your behind-the-meter batteries, going to supply the needs of Hospitals, Shopping Centres, large industry, the General Transport industry, Agriculture, etc., etc.? This energy transition is not JUST ABOUT YOU – we need a Global approach.
Besides, 49GW = 49,000,000 kW of solar installed capacity at say $400/kW installed (happy to have this figure adjusted), would cost $19.6 billion, more than twice the $9 billion you thought should be better invested.
Ok Bret – some people may have noticed I provided a cost estimate for the entire 49GW of solar installed (based on $400/kWh – my 5kW system cost me $5k, plus another $5k of rebate, so really a cost of $2,000/kWh – so I don’t believe my lower $400 figure is not at all unreasonable – note this is for rooftop PV as you suggest, not large scale which would be more efficient and less costly – I was dealing with the “status quo” of your suggestion).
However, this was possibly misleading in a sense, since just before I had ‘scaled’ the German 45GW, to our population. If I now do this, the installed capacity becomes 15.2GW, and the cost $ 6.1 billion.
Hopefully, the same people also noticed I also had not included the cost of your proposed batteries – Tesla Powerwall 2’s cost about $12,000 to $ 14,000 each, but let’s say $ 12,000 for two batteries (half-price, I estimate this is the very minimum your proposal could get away with). Each has a usable capacity of 13.5 kWh, so 27 kWh for $ 12,000 = $ 444.44/kWh capacity – but let’s say $400/kWh to make the math easier.
Now, your proposed 15.2GW installed capacity still only generates 2.5GW, but suddenly costs ~ $ 12.2 billion. This is equivalent to 2GW for (2/2.5)x$12.2 billion, = $ 9.76 billion.
I think this alternative investment of yours then looks pretty sick – basically nearly the ~ same Capital cost as SH2, same power output, about 0.06% of the 49GWh storage capacity of SH2, and maybe only 25% of the life. Sorry Bret, I think I’d MUCH rather go with Snowy 2.
BTW – I think large scale solar should have a considerable higher output (capacity factor) than rooftop, and a lower $/kWh figure. Better capacity factor, because the panels can have a better angle to the sun than the higgledy-piggledy nature of suburban rooftops, will be less subject to considerable shading common to suburbia, and may even be steerable. Lower cost, due to economies of scale (less crawling into domestic ceilings, nailing in support brackets, running wiring through awkward cavities, etc.).
I don’t know what the ratio between rooftop PV and large scale is in Germany – all my search strings ended up showing only the total PV figure – and customer testimonials!
Oops! My bad – I had a typo ’49GWh storage capacity of SH2′ should actually read ’40GWh storage…’ – then erroneously carried this into the battery calculation. Worse, I also had missed including the number of batteries involved, so my battery storage calculation was well out (will teach me not to rush things).
So – to generate 2GW average power, you would need 15.2×2/2.5 = 12.16GW of installed capacity – this is 12,160,000kW. Using your 645,000 household figure, this would be an installed capacity of 18.85kW on each – about 3 times the 6.66kW panel limit we have here in WA. Plus, the 5kW inverter limit would mean you couldn’t generate the required 18.85kW anyway.
However – my error – 645,000 households with 27kW usable of batteries, becomes 27×645,000 = 17,415,000kW = 17.415GW of effective storage.
This is 17.415/40 = 43.5% of SH2’s pumped storage capacity – so a lot better than I had first thought. But, still less than half the storage, and still with only about 25% of the life.
I STILL cannot see where you dredged up the 13GW figure from. Your proposed system had insufficient panels, inadequate storage, and I suspect you may also have failed to add back the STC values, so your true costs have been grossly underestimated. Sorry – I think SH2 is a FAR better option – AND it will allow us to implement FAR more intermittent renewable generation into the system – displacing COAL – isn’t that just what we seek?
Even LCOE figure FAR favour Utility Scale PV (US$29/MWh-$42) and Wind (US$26/MWh-$54), over rooftop PV (US$150/MWh-$227) which is around 5 times the cost. Rooftop PV is an EXPENSIVE way to go – only works for us because we get a large subsidy, and because we can get the power we self-consume, at wholesale price. NOT the way to help the National economy.
Des Scahill thanks for your comments.
You misread my comment about global power estimate to meet the critical “global new era energy imperative” Des. I did not say “that global energy demand will rise by some 50% or even 100%”.
What I said was 50 to 100 times [multiplier?].
Obviously, you will be stunned beyond your wildest imagination now that I have cleared that one up – but you should not be!. In percentages then, if that is your preference, equates to 5,000% – 10,000% times [existing today global levels of demand from all power sources].
I recommend you simply agree and sign off with those demographers that calculate an increased global village by 2050 to be no less than 10 billion + people, and you will be on the right side of the equation.
And with that human quantity in mind, there becomes an axiomatic clarity that looms large [for some visionary analysts] that most ordinary people like you and me Des, simply cannot extrapolate what that really means moving that human quantity forward into a new global era of modern standard of living for all peoples. Many global scientific leaders in their respective fields though, are thankfully not logjammed and paralysed by the quantities, and it is these people who will move the needle to where it must move to going forward.
It will take massive power availability everywhere: to industrialize those who are not yet industrialised [and importantly, re-industrialisation of those who currently are].
That is right Des – everything around you has a life span. People seem to forget that. Every bit of material that exists around us [except the natural world] has a useful life span and must at some time be replaced [or scrapped] and make way for the next incarnation of whatever [building, highway, ship, technology, infrastructure, etc etc]. Where does the replacement stuff come from without massive power resources.
And that is just the start of the new age technology conversation – for example energy intensive food science and technologies to replace the already outdated and inefficient natural agricultural processes.
Talking about equations Des – quantities drive the best and brightest scientists, mathematicians, researchers, physicists, engineers, and academics thinking within all disciplines and subjects.
Quantities determine answers from science that must and therefore will be applied to global solutions thinking going into a new technological era.
The answers around the ‘global energy imperative’ moving forward that I have discussed for many years now at an academic level Des, are not those miniscule warm and fuzzy ones, that have most commonly and unthoughtfully been cobbled together and embraced by many, through misguided media hype.
Focus on quantities Des and expand your focus to the global imperatives that must be satisfied in perpetuity for all peoples, to have any chance of a thriving human existence moving everyone that follows us forward.
And nothing less than that should be tolerated. And I expect it will not be tolerated peacefully.
Nuclear energy promises Utopia, but instead delivers Purgatory
“Purgatory’ consists mostly of: construction delays, cost over-runs, project abandonments, closures halfway through expected operational life, occassional but infrequent supply disruptions affecting lots of people for quite long periods, clean-up costs at end of life; all randomly spiced at times with the surfacing of long-hidden corruption and deliberate cover-ups of ‘problems’.
All of those are sometimes accompanied by “Horror” when the first massive tentacles of additional ‘unexpected’ costs begin to appear shortly after preliminary work starts, later to be followed by ‘Panic” when maybe half-way through you find you’ve run out of money, no-one is prepared to lend you any more and your country’s international credit rating has slipped from A- to B-. That triggers a rise in the rate of interest on every single one of the billions of extra dollars you borrowed internationally to fund the project. That’s because the country becomes considered to have greater loan default risk.
Numerous world-wide examples of all or some of the above seem to accompany every generation of nuclear reactors, and are easy to find if you bother to investigate for yourself. I haven’t seen anything at all that convinces me that similar or even new types of purgatorial problems won’t arise with the latest generation.
As well, the flames of ‘social resistance’ to nuclear, perhaps small to begin with, steadily mount in height as time goes by, and visibility of these problems emerge.
It’s relatively easy to look at single instances of nuclear ‘failure’ and attempt to ‘explain each away’ by suggesting that only ‘country-specific’ factors or ‘one-off unique circumstances’ were a cause, and all is well elsewhere. Or as some are prone to do, hype-up those things which support the advancement of nuclear, and ignore or gloss over everything else.
At present, Australia does NOT have ANY of the following:
– ‘legacy’ nuclear plants that will require the expenditure of billions on closure, dismantling, clean-up etc
– any major present difficulties regarding nuclear waste storage and disposal.
– large quanties of contaminated drinking water and land arising from a nuclear power station source.
– any of the ‘nuclear’ problems that I’ve lumped together earlier as ‘Purgatory’
Why anyone would want to knowingly run the risk of possibly inflicting ANY of these misery inducing outcomes on our already despairing population (and paying others exorbitant amounts of money to do so) is utterly beyond my comprehension. Especially when we have virtually none of those potential problems at all at present.
I notice too, that no mention at all of cybersecurity concerns is made by nuclear advocates. Those concerns, which are still very poorly addressed by the industry, have the potential to escalate my metaphorical “Purgatory” considerably
How about concern for human life?
Including Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukishima, how about the following figures for ‘Deaths per TWh of electricity Produced’:
These figures were circa 2018 – taken from a feature article in a respected electronics magazine, from a Feature article written by a Dr David Maddison – maybe Geoffrey has heard of him?
I’m not sure if I’ve already posted this info, but…..
I found some figures and charts on the OurWorldInData website that are relevant, and the specific link is here:.
The figures on that website are:
Death rates from energy production per TWh
Brown coal 32.720
Those numbers are quite different from yours, and appear to be the number of deaths in the year 2014.
Nuclear and the various renewables ALL have figures so far below those even for natural gas, let alone coal and oil, that no matter which one of them you choose, a massive reduction in death rates arising from energy production occurs.
So, that’s the medical perspective.
But there are also other perspectives, for example
How long would it take for each of the alternatives to begin reducing the death rate? The original Snowy River dam took 25 years to complete, and the remoteness of the site, plus the difficulties in transporting materials, providing accommodation and supplies for employees and so forth were significant factors at that time.
In contrast, the Hoover Dam in the USA, built during the Great Depression, took just 5 years to complete. Construction commenced in 1931 and was completed in 1936
However, the resources thrown at the Hoover project were massive. At any one time, 24 hours a day, there were 21,000 people involved in the construction, and there were over 100 deaths along the way.
So.. hydro is ‘good’, but the time taken to construct and reach rated output capacity can vary enormously.
In the case of the Hoover Dam, it took from approx 1920 to 1930 to go through the initial processes of first selecting that site in particular compared to others available, comparing impacts on towns, farming land, wild life and the environment in each option, and also getting feed-back from various communities that could be affected.
The time-line starts from shortly after the return of military personnel after from WWI, only to find there are no jobs. So the concept of a major infrastructure projects arises to address the problems gets ‘talked about and discussed’ with nothing actually happening for 10 years.
Then society experiences 1929 Wall Street crash, and officialdom attitudes rapidly become: “OMG! We need to do something and do it now! Where are our cheque-books! Followed by: OMG! the banks we had our money in are all failed and bankrupt. Quick! Somebody print some more!
Its a familiar pattern, The only difference is that today, it is now a prospective ‘Climate Crash’ with enough past and continually increasing convincing evidence that it’s approaching FAR more rapidly than originally thought.
Hm-mm – the bottom of the graph in your source acknowledges one report authored in 2007, and another in 2016 – I’m not sure where you got your 2014 date from? Could OurWorldInData have been a short term snapshot?
My article also pointed out the Chernobyl Reactor was, I quote, a ‘simple and cheap design whose purpose, apart from producing energy, was to generate as a by-product plutonium for nuclear weapons with no regard to safety’. One thing about Nuclear – it has the highest Capacity Factor – at around 93%, of ALL other electricity-producing technologies – I even saw logs of US reactors, showing one reactor ran at 101.6% of its nameplate rating, for an entire month. Thereafter, ~ 95% – like many others.
I had the idea, yet to be verified, that because my data covered TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukishima (at least over 1979 to 2011), it was done over a longer time-frame, rather than a point in time (which, as you suggest, would not be truly representative of the rate over lifespan). It did state the nuclear figures were ‘from mining, right through to waste disposal’. Don’t know if it covered decommissioning – unless that comes under the mantle of ‘waste disposal’. I’m going to chase this up.
Incidentally – I think Fusion is the Utopia we seek (and, the true Peak of Lawrence’s triangle) – just have no idea when this may become available. Several groups are working on solving this – we are doing nothing as far as I can see.
Now here’s an interesting aspect to the feral government and its increasing support, and misappropriation of taxpayer’s money, for fossil fuels –
In an unexpected decision widely hailed as historic, Germany’s highest court has ruled that the government’s climate legislation is insufficient, lacking detail on emission reduction targets beyond 2030. The decision “significantly strengthens” climate action by ruling that if the government fails to protect the climate, it could violate citizens’ fundamental rights, legal experts said. Youth activists, who had lodged the complaint to force the government to do more to mitigate climate change, said the ruling was a timely decision ahead of Germany’s federal election this year. Conservative and Social Democratic ministers from the ruling grand coalition government blamed each other for the lack of post-2030 clarity and promised they would present reform proposals. However, it is likely the task of finding a solution will be up to the next government after the September general election, which could catapult the Green Party to power.
With the Australian feral parliament’s demonstrated contempt for the Australian people, and our health and safety, and, for the economy, and, for the environment, it is interesting to note that we also, have a feral election coming up soon (if only we would have democratic elections, so the we, the people, exclusively select the members of the feral parliament).
An equivalent, constitutional, court case in Australia, would be interesting, especially, involving, as part (but, only, part) of it, the misappropriation of public money for the criminal imposition of the Snowjob Hydra 3 massive fossil fuel burner, with its sole justification of “because we can” (if they legally can), would be interesting, to be determined by the High Court of Australia, whether the Australian feral parliament has the constitutional power to institute a war against the people of Australia, as the feral parliament is doing, and, to violate the rights and freedoms of Australians and of the Australians to come, by its actions.
And, it would be good, if Australia would have a political party that would campaign in every state/territory in Australia, with candidates in every electorate, with the primary policy of protecting the environment.
Brett, when you provide a link to an article, please just quote the one or two most relevant sentences. Otherwise the authors might get cranky with us since they get, like, one grain of barley for every click. I wouldn’t want them to be cranky with us as I happen to know Kirstine Appunn has a mean right hook.
I agree that proportional representation would be more democratic than partisan politics, and in fact I was leaning that way myself a few years ago.
However, I came to realise that, no matter how it’s configured, one day of democracy every three years (ie. the electoral process) just isn’t enough, and is very inefficient.
I used to vote green many years ago, but i would not do it now as the greens are more about helping every minority in existence then concentrating on the environment.
And another concept that has not been explored in Australia., where the feral government and the WA state government are doing what they can, to deter the use of clean energy, is the application of Vehicle to Home (V2H) and Vehicle to Grid (V2G) incorporation in grid stabilisation, and, energy arbitrage.
An example is described at
and the times of usage of such vehicles, and, fleets of vehicles, could have significant effects on electricity grids; both in the drawing of electricity, to charge the vehicle batteries, and, the discharging of energy, to maintain and stabilise grid electricity supply, depending on the timings involved.
Given that, in ten years time, Australia will probably be unable to buy any new internal combustion engined motor vehicles, and, will be able to buy only battery powered vehicles, this is a significant aspect that, whilst the feral parliament obstinately ignores it, will need massive adaptation of the grids, economy, and, personal lifestyles.
So, the feral parliament, if there is anyone with any intelligence left in there, needs to be investigating concepts, such as the one in the article, and, the widespread provision for every household and every business, to be capable of V2H and V2G energy transferal.
And, whilst the intent of the feral parliament, may be for Australia to regress back through the Dark Ages, the populace needs to abandon its apathy.
After all, when it happens that the rest of the world no longer buys Australian products, because Australian products are regarded as environmentally destructive and therefore, harmful, and the rest of the world, especially China, starts calling in the debts owed by Australia, that Australia can not pay, because Australia can not sell anything to any other country, then, things get even more bleak for the people.
Des Ian Geoff and others:
It is true that nuclear generation technologies in the context of this debate means global mainstream electricity power generation.
But the key point when comparing nuclear with all other known generation technologies, is that nuclear science sits permanently ad-infinitum, on top of the energy science pyramid, now and forever.
Further, the immutable laws of physics, and thermodynamics teaches us that nuclear science, once fully mastered and exploited in a new age of ‘’massive, safe, clean, and low-cost power generation technologies’’ the generation potential [from the physicists perspective] will be as massive as is scientifically possible: and importantly continue to be so for the rest of human history.
This fact foremost among many others, is what drives global energy dense technology science forward.
And this is why the world’s best and brightest physicists, researchers and engineers will and must [and have] now turned their focus to mastering the “new age global energy generation imperative ” through nuclear generation scientific breakthroughs.
Once mastered, this massive power availability will usher in a “new paradigm of global energy intensive technologies” [which is an intense and exciting new debate emerging] covering just about every technology sector we know of, but notably the sciences and engineering surrounding molecular syntheses/deposition from raw base elements, of most of what is important and needed for human life to prosper and flourish for example, including synthesizing protein and nutrition from unrefined base elements at a local level, and at very low cost for all global communities.
But current global issues cannot be solved: dysfunction poverty and social unrest cannot be turned around: by elevating any current generation technology to a false status of “preferred mainstream and universal generation technology”. That status can only be occupied by the technology that provides the best scientific chance to genuinely underscore an “all global nations industrialisation / reindustrialisation; and modern era standard of living for all peoples common policy” being largely structurally in place globally by 2100; whilst simultaneous reduce GHG to insignificant levels permanently.
That’s it, and nothing less in ideas; discussions; opinions; and policies will cut it. Get connected with understanding quantities in all things and their inexorable complex connectivity and entropy.
Ian is attempting to extrapolate some key global power generation metrics moving forward from existing or historical baseline data but is log-jammed in quantifying the minutia in play when it comes to elevating 10 billion to a largely equal modern standard of living and prosperity by circa 2100.
Simple linear [scale] projections [on all metrics] into the future are not valid constructs. This subject requires logarithmic thinking and beyond. Baselines vary in all things and all places, but one thing is in common between them, moving forward from any baseline requires a logarithmic analysis. Similar in some ways to what we all understand about compound interest. Except on steroids.
I agree with Ian’s overall analysis though that the quantities in all things become staggering to comprehend. This fact alone teaches us that we should not be satisfied to “derate” and fall short on what we should be aspiring to achieve within this century, for our preferred global baseline generation technology.
The future has outstanding promise for all, contingent of course in having massive energy available at very low cost, to power critically needed new age energy intensive technologies and industries, to be developed globally.
We can and will of course learn new aspects around physics science over time, and we can all agree on that, but the key determinants in molecular physics that we should strive to master and apply to energy dense nuclear power generation science moving forward, are already well known and indeed immutable.
You are living in what seems to me a complete fantasy land, that ignores the following:
1) Geopolitical Realities
International relations are declining rapidly and look likely to do so for a while. Australia’s relationships with some major countries are deteriorating .
We’ve already begun increasing our own defense budget, with more increases to come, The political and social unrest in the Middle East and parts of Europe looks troublesome too from a military aspect.
Additional significant defense outlays will likely be required for some time.
2) Covid 19 has had a huge global economic impact, reducing economic activity significantly, and also placing huge demands on public health systems that require very significant funding to address.
In many countries, the combined economic effects of just COVID have lead to huge deficits, significant drops in both consumer demand and international trade, disruption of supply chains, and in some cases cuts in overseas aid to poorer countries, or a diversion of existing aid into Covid related needs.
All of those AID cuts have been at the expense of other essential long-term aid programs related to food and water supply, sanitation, roads, education, and other infrastructure such as houses, industrial buildings etc. .
Very large amounts of money are still needed NOW to deal with just the immediate medical aspects of COVID. Future large amounts will needed to cover longer term lingering COVID impacts plus those further needed to compensate for the effects of all the other non-covid disruptive flow-ons I’ve mentioned.
3) The nuclear industry, overall has a long and chequered history of ‘corruption’ and failed deadlines and projects. There’s scant evidence as yet, that those attributes have changed. It seems sensible to me to let others hand over double-digit levels of $billions, and wait at least 2 decades or more as a minimum to see what happens with all that money.
4) Climate change impacts.
Lawrence, you seem to have no comprehension at all of the scale of the present level of disasters of all kinds world-wide, let alone what’s to come.
Some of those are solely human caused, some a mixture of past human bred chickens coming home to roost combining with natural processes, and many have little or no relationship to CO2 levels at all,
A recent example is the discovery of some 27000 or so toxic containers of DDT dumped into the ocean offshore from California reported in ‘The Guardian’ and other media in April 2021.
The containers are now corroded and leak. . They are also considered to be just the tiny tip of an enormous iceberg of large quantities of DDT dumped over the period 1970 -1990 on both sea and land in the USA and Canada.
No one at present has any real idea of the full extent of the problem, (let alone its solution) other than that it’s mammoth overall, can’t be reversed, but only mitigated at best, and any mitigation solutions will cost $billions.
The link to the Guardian article is: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/29/californias-legacy-of-ddt-waste-underwater-dump-site-uncovers-a-toxic-history
Another much smaller example is the Flint City water crisis (which lasted from 2014 -2019) when its 100,000 residents, including children were found to have been drinking water contaminated with lead
A rather larger example closer to home is back in 2002, when the mighty and once pristine Waikato River in NZ was declared a ‘no-go’ zone. That river is a major resource of water, recreational activities and powers a humber of hydo-generators, It also empties eventually into Lake Taupo, a major tourist mecca.
The public was advised to ” not to go near the water when boats pass close enough to wet them with spray”, so toxic had the water become. NZ $250 million to be spent over a 27 year period was allocated in 2013 to remedy the problem.
See: https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/9020416/Waikato-River-in-serious-decline and also:
Back when the Kyoto Protocol was first signed, the UN had to make a perplexing decision. There were so many causes of climate change and pollution that it was impossible to tackle and fund them all at once. The decision was made, and rightly so at THAT time, that reducing CO2 levels
would achieve the maximum global benefit overall and possibly help pave the way for solutions to other non-CO2, and non-energy related problems as well.
That of course does NOT mean that all the other non-CO2 related problems all miraculously vanished away never to be seen again, simply because of reluctant signatures on an agreement to do the best you can about reducing CO2 emissions at a date of your choice, so long as it’s not more than 50 years away.
So… we fast-forward from the Dec 1997 adoption of the Kyoto Protocol, to the present day. We find that for various reasons, insufficient CO2 reduction has been achieved globally, and alarm bells are ringing loudly about that.
Meanwhile, all the other non-CO2 problems have quietly festered away since 1997, and grown hugely in size, because they were already large to begin with.
So too has a yet un-finalized COVID-19 situation with no certainty at all about its end date globally.
At this juncture, the Nuclear Lobby, has – to use a literary metaphor – yet again resurrected themselves as a King Arthur, accompanied by a small band of warriors, whose abilities so far surpass anyone else’s, that they alone can succeed in completing the task of finding the Holy Grail of CO2 Reduction.
For some strange reason, their visionary leaders seem unaware, or deem unworthy of notice, the hordes of evil warriors comprising members of some dozens of tribes within the NON-CO2 realm, standing just outside the gates of Camelot, planning their entry, so focused are they on their single task.
To sum all that up, I’ll relate my comments to the 4 points I began with.
What I’m essentially saying is this:
We have huge outlays coming up to meet huge needs in 3 areas quite unrelated to CO2 emissions. Those are:
defense and other military equipment,
: both the short-term and lingering long tern impacts of COVID 19,
: addressing more strongly the problems related to NON-Covid related
pollution and environment issues which are mounting rapidly.
Any one of those 3 above requires $billions to fix.
Any two of of the three together could require outlays possibly beyond our ability to meet.
All the three have relatively short time frames within which to fix before it becomes impossible to do so.
The total amounts involved are potentially so huge, we might even simply run out of money to fund just one or two them, if our economy continues to decline for reasons beyond our own control.
The timing of the arrival for the need of those outlays is fairly short. Its not 15 years away, or 10 or even 5 in some cases. Some of them need to be planned for and started NOW;
Do we really want to add to that list further questionable outlays on nuclear?
(read again my introductory Point 3 regarding nuclear at the head of this post)
Opps, a couple of slip-ups,, I’ve used ‘non-covid’ instead of ‘non-co2’ in a couple of places. It’s pretty obvious where that’s happened. Apologies.
(Ahh… the joys and problems that can flow from ‘subconscious’ touch typing. of words that begin with the same 2 letters)
I think you are descending deeper into fantasy, wilfully ignoring the urgent and critical challenge facing us all:
“If we don’t solve the climate crisis, we can forget about the rest.” – Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany
The +4 °C global mean warming threshold could possibly be crossed as early as the mid-2060s with best estimate for around year 2078, under a continued (business-as-usual) high GHG emissions scenario.
See Table 1, SSP5-8.5 scenario in: https://esd.copernicus.org/articles/12/253/2021/esd-12-253-2021.pdf
+4 °C or higher global mean warming means likely civilisation collapse.
I’d suggest a collapse of civilisation means likely vast knowledge loss.
Nuclear science, among many other areas of knowledge, could be lost forever.
The DEMONSTRATED deployment rate of new nuclear technologies is far, far TOO SLOW to avoid a continued high GHG emissions trajectory path.
Only renewables now have the capacity to rapidly and drastically reduce GHG emissions in the REQUIRED timeframe, but that’s not for much longer.
I had thought that multiplying the per capita energy consumption of a well developed nation, by the population of the World in 2050 predicted by the UN et al., was a reasonably innovative thing to do – to seek closer to (humanitarian) energy parity throughout the World – recognising at the same time, though, that this would limit so called ‘social progress’ of the more energy-intensive countries, or even send them backwards (to quote Einstein ‘my biggest mistake’…). I could not bring myself to use Iceland’s per capita figure however, as this is a stand-out – so I used the US figures instead. This showed we would need over three and a half times as much energy, than most pundits were estimating. My bad – I had thought of, but not used, a reasonable multiplier for ‘social progress’. I’d hope we had developed beyond the present US status, by 2050. Having lived and worked there in the mid-1980’s, I think they were then, about where we are now, in terms of disposable income, quality of life, etc. 35 years ago…
Lawrence, I have quite often found some of your comments more than a little ‘cryptic’ – and my 3.5 times figure clearly doesn’t gel with your 50-100 times multiplier factor.
However, with a prompt from your post above I think I have now ‘got it’. Your are speaking (quite correctly) of an energy-requirements-equivalent to ‘Moore’s Law’. Geometric, or exponential increases, from what is a low valued beginning. I’m not sure how to approach getting the data to substantiate this, but AM going to ‘have a go’ – it, after all, makes a huge amount of sense. BTW I feel Fusion will (ultimately) be at the very top of your energy triangle – just may need fission for the interim, transition period, until the technical issues are solved (that rings a bell – use gas and coal to support renewable downtimes, while waiting in hope for battery developments).
Hi Lawrence, Des, Geoffrey, et al.
Ok – so I think it is well worth looking at the graph shown in the link:
If that doesn’t look very much like an exponential growth of World Total Primary Energy Consumption, then I would like to know what does – although I would like to add that the ‘top’ of the graph does seem to flatten somewhat around the late 1970’s then around 2010 – couldn’t decide if this was of some form of ‘saturation’, or perhaps the fact that primary energy tends to ‘discount’ hydro, wind, solar, and nuclear derived electricity sources (don’t allow for the 33% thermal efficiencies of fossil fuelled sources).
So – I downloaded their source data into a spreadsheet – then made an ‘adjustment’ for the renewable and nuclear sources (by multiplying their contributions by 3) – plotted both – and can say that the supposed flattening can be attributed to the advent of significant nuclear additions in the dataset around the late 1970’s, and of wind and to a lesser extent solar starting to make impact around 2010 (although, these are not huge effects).
I graphed the raw, and revised datasets, and could see the differences are not great – but the revised dataset showed even more pronounced exponential tendencies. Then plotted log(energy) against log(year) – pity I don’t know how to present this herein, but the log-log graph was fairly straight – although even showing a slight curve upwards. Suggesting, I would think, growth even exceeding exponential..!
The dataset only went from 1800 to 2019 – so I added in the known total primary energy consumption for 2020, than added a 2050 line – where the ‘adjusted’ value could be varied as a percentage of the 2020 total – then added this to the log-log graph.
I can say this – the EIA data suggests 2050 global primary energy consumption will increase about 50% above the 2020 figures – yet in the log-log graph, both a 100% increase (doubling), or even a 150% increase, do not look at all unreasonable. So – the figure of 182,000TWh for 2020 primary energy, if adjusted and fully ‘electrified’ to a 68,171TWh/year ELECTRICITY requirement, will become around nearly 153,400TWh ELECTRICAL by 2050…!
To put this into perspective, the Hornsdale Wind Farm has an installed capacity of 315MW = 0.315GW (from Wiki). Multiplying this by 24 and 365, this equates to 0.315x24x365/1000 = 2.76TWh/year (installed). This site https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornsdale_Wind_Farm shows it supplies 1 TWh/year – which appears reasonable when considering normal capacity factors for wind turbines in Australia.
So – the World needs to have 153,400/1 = 153,400 Hornsdale-sized wind farms (or equivalent 1 TWh/year solar farms) operating by 2050. Let’s say they already have this 10% done (doubtful), so we need only 90% x 153,400 = 138,060. In 29 years, this amounts to 138,600/29 = 4,760 per year, or 4760/365 = 13 Hornsdale-sized wind farms completed PER DAY – World-wide, starting from RIGHT NOW.
Of course, after about 20-25 years, the earlier installed turbines will have worn out https://www.twi-global.com/technical-knowledge/faqs/how-long-do-wind-turbines-last , so then you would need to be installing and operating an additional 13/day wind farms, to replace them.
So – now we’ve got to 26 wind farms of Hornsdale size to come into operation around the World, daily. This rate would need to continue to 2050, but then maybe more than DOUBLE for the next 30 years.
Of course, the same rate of battery installations adequate to provide uninterrupted power would need to go on in parallel, together with likely an even greater replacement rate than for the turbines.
Help – I must have made a mistake in some calculation – I just cannot see that Geoffrey’s ‘PLAN’ has adequately dealt with this SCALE (even if distilled down to our local situation). If we scale to our 0.33% of World Population, this states we (in Australia) will need a new Hornsdale-sized farm (or 1 TWh/year equivalent) put into service once every 23 days, going to every 11.5 days as old farms start to be decommissioned. Even more quickly, if we consider that our energy requirements might be greater than the world average (which is almost certainly the case). Perhaps 1.5/week going to 3/week? COMPLETE wind farms, of Hornsdale size.
I have a question – does anyone know the AREA of the Hornsdale wind farm footprint?
So – last post I had used our ratio of population, to estimate our share of the Global 13-26 Hornsdale-sized wind farms required to be installed per week in Australia – to cover our 2050 no GHG component.
This was probably incorrect – a better figure would have been to use our (known) share of primary energy to do this. This ‘ups the ante” by a factor of 3 – so my 1.5 farms per week is ‘firmed’. In fact we first need to ‘catch up’ to present day fossil-fuelled replacements, so I’d think 3 farms per week is more realistic – from the get-go.
The Hornsdale Wind Farm cost about A$89million to construct. Also, I’d think you’d need about 4 x Hornsdale Power Reserves, at least, to ‘firm’ each wind farm – this site https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hornsdale_Power_Reserve suggests a cost of A$161million to construct (as expanded).
So – ($89 + 4x$161) million to construct each firmed 1TWh/year wind farm, or solar equivalent (although, solar may need additional ‘firming’.
That works out to about A$16billion will be needed per annum, for the next 29 years. I guess do-able – but I’m not seeing much happening at the present time, at this scale. The longer we ‘wait’, the greater the rate of installations needed.
Hi. A very interesting article. Thank you. One question which I have not been able to answer even after reading the feasibility study (shortened)j. Where is the power coming from to pump the water uphill?
There are no solar or wind generators nearby, nor could there be as it is a National Park, so I can only assume that the water will be pumped using coal fired generators. If thats the case then it isn’t a green project.
One thing that wasn’t mentioned in your comparison was the cost of maintenance. I would guess that running and maintaining underground tunnels and power stations isn’t cheap.
Thanks again for the analysis.
By the time Snowy 2 is completed most of the energy used to pump the water uphill will come from renewables. This is because it will be charged when electricity prices are low mostly pumped uphill with renewable energy and at the moment the eastern state’s electricity supply averages close to being half renewable at these times. While there are some losses, electricity can be transmitted a long way so solar and wind energy from South Australia or Queensland can contribute to filling Snowy 2.
One figure I have for maintenance costs for hydroelectric projects is 3-5% of their capital cost per year. Obviously, a lot of money. Hopefully, being a modern new project Snowy 2’s maintenance costs will be towards the lower end, but given the power station will be in an underground cathedral, this may not be the case.
As I understand the Snowy 2.0 feasibility study 2017 only presented cost of storage without including the cost of pumping.
Depending on what you are looking at, these cost estimates can be obtained from the right site
As I understand the Snowy 2.0 feasibility study 2017 only presented the cost of storage without including the cost of pumping.
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