It’s the kind of article we expect in RenewEconomy, but this one by Angela Macdonald Smith is in the Australian Financial Review – Future for gas to be cut short by batteries and renewables:
- The conventional wisdom that gas will play an increasingly significant role in electricity supply as the market switches more towards renewables to back up that intermittent supply source, has largely gone out the window.
Now it’s a discussion of how much an opportunity gas has before it gets squeezed out of the mainstream generation market by solar/wind and storage – not on carbon emissions grounds, but on costs.
She’s citing new research by consultancy Wood Mackenzie and GTM Research which suggests that by 2025 the cost of buying and installing batteries will halve, while wind sees a further 15 per cent decline and solar shrinks a further 25 per cent. They see the use of gas falling by 70%:
An attraction for batteries is that wind can be used to charge them in off-peak times for almost nothing.
- Ten years further on, by 2035, the combination of renewables and batteries should be beating not just baseload gas but also gas for peak-period generation.
- The forecast is then that within two decades, gas will be used only for emergency back-up in South Australia.
Scott Morrison was stupid enough to mock SA’s big battery as like the ‘big banana’. He said:
- “30,000 SA households could not get through watching one episode of Australia’s Ninja Warrior with this big battery. So let’s not pretend it is a solution.”
Thus demonstrating that he didn’t understand that the battery was mainly for grid stability. South Australians I’m told reserve the right to mock their own big battery, they don’t appreciate eastern-staters doing it.
The article says the batteries will be different from the current Tesla model, which consists of masses of small batteries connected and stacked in containers. New lithium mines are opening in WA, but I’d bet a different technology will win out. I don’t know whether the new Taiwanese aluminium battery is scalable, but it can charge in one minute, and is fit for more than 10,000 cycles.
Friday’s AFR saw an article by Ben Potter Cheap new energy and CO2 cuts right in front of us – GE. At a Deakin University/Minerals Council conference, Christian Bennett from Ge told the gathering:
GE Global Power Plant Efficiency Analysis shows that the thermal efficiency of Australia’s coal fleet could be lifted from 35 per cent to 39 per cent through a program of upgrades to turbines and boilers and the use of software and data analytics to get more out of them.
Doing so would get 1500 megawatts of new power out of the existing fleet, almost the size of Hazelwood, reducing CO2 by 19 million tonnes. It would mean spending only $57 million-$114 million, which amounts tohat’s no more than $3-$6 a tonne of CO2 saved, or a quarter to a half of the cost of CO2 emissions abatement under the Coalition’s widely denigrated Emissions Reduction Fund scheme.
- Efficiency upgrades to existing coal plant could take their place alongside new grid scale batteries being built by Tesla and Neoen in SA and by Lyon group in SA and Victoria, surging small-scale solar power and batteries and increased use of “demand response” to help shore up the grid.
Under demand response, customers are rewarded for curtailing their power usage and making “behind the meter” batteries, smart pool pumps, airconditioners, and electric vehicle chargers available at times of extreme demand to avoid blackouts. Industry says it can make nearly 700MW available for demand response trials next summer and 1938MW by the summer of 2018-19.
I’ll just remind people that back in 2009 The Greens knocked back Rudd’s climate plans because they would ensure that burning coal continued into the 2030s. Now we seem to be contemplating with equanimity a role for coal past 2050.
That conference was on Monday. On Wednesday, according to Giles Parkinson at RenewEconomy, EnergyAustralia told a conference convened by the AFR “The truth about coal is that it is not cheap”:
- EnergyAustralia, the owner of the ageing Yallourn brown coal generator and one of the big three energy “gen-tailers”, has ridiculed suggestions that a new coal generator would cause energy prices to fall, describing such claims as a “myth”.
The head of EnergyAustralia Catherine Tanna says that coal plants were old legacy technologies; they were not cheap, they would not bring prices down, and were of a different era – a solution that “my grandfather would have built.”
Tanna has said previously that the best way to reduce prices is to ensure more renewables are brought into the market.
Unfortunately Parkinson then goes on to repeat the myth that Queensland generators were gouging the market, which suddenly fell when then energy minister wrote to Stanwell to get them to change their bidding practices.
It’s an inconvenient truth that the letter was sent in June, after Queensland had already had the cheapest prices for about three months.
Business itself is largely asleep at the wheel, as one would expect. Less than 10% of businesses are seriously using renewable energy. The vast majority say renewables are too expensive. Ironically the few who do use renewables cite cheaper cost as the reason.
Here we have markets acting irrationally on the basis of false information, supported in their ignorance by political propaganda from those who actually know better. If they don’t know better they are incompetent. Looking at you Frydenberg and Turnbull.
Meanwhile renewables are breaking out all over.
New South Wales has launched a home batteries guide to deal with the safety problem of lithium-iron batteries.
There are proposals for an $8 billion offshore wind farm for Victorian waters.
Queensland launches “world’s largest” EV fast-charging network from Coolangatta to Cairns.
Queensland eyes a new new transmission line to unlock cheap renewables.
- The Queensland government has unveiled plans to build a new 500km transmission line in the north of the state to unlock barriers to more than 2000MW of large scale wind, solar and hydro projects, and create 5000 jobs.
The chief beneficiaries of the plan will be the proponents of the 1,200MW Kennedy wind and solar park – the largest project of its type in the world – along with other wind and solar farms, and some hydro projects.
Energy minister Mark Bailey says it is clear that it is cheaper to build new wind and solar than new coal plants. Indeed, wind and solar projects are now being signed off at prices – $55-$70/MWh that are well below the current price of wholesale electricity from the state’s coal and gas dependent grid, which is more than $100/MWh.
Bailey also signalled the project would likely mean the end to plans to build a new coal fired power station near Townsville. “If we’re sensible, we will” not build it, he told the Townsville Bulletin.
And still some of our political leaders sprout the need for cheap base load coal. The LNP opposition promises to initiate a coal-fired power station in North Queensland within 100 days of taking office. That’s if the Commonwealth government doesn’t get there first with the Northern Development Fund.