Turnbull does energy policy on the back of an envelope

For over a month now I’ve been trying to do two posts – one on climate as an existential threat, and another on whether 1.5ºC is at all still possible. I keep being diverted.

Malcolm Turnbull has been dithering for months over whether the government would accept the Finkel review recommendation for a Clean Energy Target. For some time now, it has been clear that the climate contrarians in his own party, and the Nationals starting with Barnaby Joyce, would not accept anything that is negative about coal. In the end they asked the brand new Security Energy Commission for advice, in terms that were severely constrained. They got their advice, faithful to the brief in an eight-page letter, and announced a “breakthrough” in the form of a National Energy Guarantee to deliver affordable, reliable electricity with industry and stakeholder consultations to follow, plus the necessary modelling to be undertaken only after the states have agreed. Therein lies the problem.

The attraction of the NEG to the contrarians and coal-lovers lies in this graph, which appeared on the front page of The Australian on Wednesday, and was repeated in the AFR the next day:

I’ll just highlight the second part of the graph with this one from the Oz:

There is going to be a lot more coal and gas around under the NEG than under Finkel’s CET, let alone Labor’s policy. It must be noted here that the states are mostly going a bit further than federal Labor.

Intermittent renewables will be restricted to 24 to 28% of the market, and that includes feed-ins from rooftop solar. If they produce more than that, they simply won’t be used. I’ll come back to how that seems to work, but Giles Parkinson reports that energy consultant David Leitch calculates that under NEG only around 4,000 MW of new large-scale renewables would be required between 2020 and 2030. That is not much.

The ESB advice makes clear that more renewables are only welcome if they are fully firmed and dispatchable. As such they would have to compete on price with existing coal, which as John Quiggin points out, is redefined as ‘dispatchable’. Perhaps they did not understand that Queensland lost 790 MW of coal-fired capacity in the heat last February, and reliability engineer Peter Todd explains that not-so-old coal-fired plants are not reliable:

    Manufactures of power stations rate the life of their plants at 20 years and the high temperature creep failure mechanism in steel pipework and pressure vessels is the reason for this rating.

Federal Labor’s reaction has been that they cannot seriously consider the scheme until modelling has been done. The ESB says they won’t start the modelling until the states agree.

In fact, the only element that requires Commonwealth legislation is the target of 26% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels. Labor and the Greens will never agree, but the Senate crossbench might. In any case, Turnbull wants to have a point of difference over electricity and climate going into the next election. We had a flavour of this when Barnaby Joyce talked to Patricia Karvelis on Tuesday evening.

Joyce said the government won’t cater to the “happy hippies” on energy. The choice is clear, he says. Either you get cheaper electricity with us or you become poor. He based the latter on the calculation that Labor’s policies would require $66 billion worth of subsidies over the next decade.

Giles Parkinson says $66 billion was a figure plucked out of the air that appeared on the front page of the Oz. By Wednesday the Oz was quoting Turnbull as saying that Labor’s policies were going to cost $66 billion.

That’s how fake news is made, gifting the government a scare campaign.

Turning to the states, the AFR reports that the Labor governments in South Australia, Queensland and Victoria have rejected the proposals put up by the Energy Security Board. Then this:

    SA Premier Jay Weatherill said the policy was “a complete victory for the coal industry” and demonstrated Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s “complete inability to stand up to vested interests and act in the pubic interest”.

    Mr Weatherill said the government had cycled through a series of policies that could be seen as a price on carbon but “it all depends on the price you put on it” and Mr Turnbull was more interested in propping up the coal industry than backing renewable energy.

Weatherill is adamant that there must be a penalty on the use of carbon-producing energy. In this regard I found the comments of Professor Samantha Hepburn, Director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resources Law at Deakin Law School interesting (see comments by experts at Gizmodo). She believes that in a modern world, energy security is not just about reliability and affordability. It is also about sustainability across generations. She concludes:

    “Abandoning the CET on the basis of affordability and reliability ignores the fundamental importance, as articulated by the Finkel report, in promoting market and behavioural shift towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.”

She believes that something like the CET is needed to compensate for the externalisation of environmental and ecological costs of fossil fuel production. The damage done by coal and gas must be turned into dollars and represented as cost at the production/consumption phase.

The NEG requires rule changes in the National Electricity Market (NEM). National Electricity Law is normally enacted in South Australia, and then applied in other states, The ESB saw rules being changed in 2018 and implemented from 2019. All three Labor states mentioned have elections by the end of 2018, Qld probably this year, SA early next year, and Victoria late in 2018. All are presently ahead in the polls, but Xenophon in SA and Pauline Hanson in Qld are a factor.

In SA Xenophon is predicted to hold the balance of power, so much depends on which way he would jump. He claims that the SA blackout first gave him the idea of heading back to SA because it symbolised the dire straits that had befallen the state. The NEG is also in large part an energy intensity scheme, which he had favoured long ago.

Somehow I can’t see him working with Weatherill.

In Queensland if the LNP wins it will be with One Nation holding the balance of power. The LNP has promissed to intitiate a coal-fired power station in North Queensland within 90 days and will certainly dismantle the Palaszczuk government’s climate initiatives.

Ben Potter, interviewing Roger Price:

    chairman of Windlab, an ASX-listed developer of wind farms that financially committed to a $160 million wind, solar and battery farm in north Queensland the day after the Turnbull government announced the NEG, said renewable energy projects would continue to be driven by state-based renewable energy schemes, the retirement of older coal plant and the rapidly falling cost of the technology.

His project is part of a giant 1200 megawatt project at Kennedy Energy Park, 290 km south of Townsville and one of 11 renewable projects on the books in NQ. Price must be hoping for a continuing Labor government.

His substantive point is that according to Bloomberg energy firmed up solar and wind will be able to deliver power at less than the cost of upgraded existing coal plant by the mid 2020s. That’s about when a new coal plant in NQ would open for business.

Price says the NEG will not dramatically change outcomes:

    “What federal policy can do is give us a smooth transition or not – and at the moment unfortunately what we have got is ‘or not’,” he said.

He says nothing can change in the NEM unless all states agree, and he can’t see that happening.

The states have also asked advice from the ESB as to whether and they could implement a CET without Commonwealth involvement. The answer should surely be, yes.

There is unfinished business with the Commonwealth also. They asked for advice on a strategic reserve, but further work needs to be done.

I need to do another post to pick apart the scheme to see how it works. Opinions vary from Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute, who says that everyone should support it to Bruce Mountain, who says that it’s shambolic policy that plucks defeat out of the jaws of victory.

My broker distributed advice about the impact on AGL, which said the policy looks simple but would be very complicated to implement. Major retailers, especially those like AGL which have generation assets would be able to leverage their market power. Rod Sims at the ACCC must be having kittens, no doubt expressed behind the scene.

The policy is scalable, so Labor could agree, promising to raise the target if elected. This position has some attraction, because while this week’s Essential Report strongly backs Labor’s position, that may change now NEG has appeared on the scene and Labor could be seen as obstructionist. For the record, respondents backed the CET 65-15. They backed giving incentives for renewables 74-10. They backed the notion of a 50% RET 62-18. And only 15% thought the Government was doing enough about “affordable, reliable and clean energy” as against 61% who thought they weren’t. That may now change.

The scheme essentially provides for retailers to source enough clean energy to meet the 26% target over the period to 2030. The levels required, determined by AEMO, will vary in each participating state, with the whole to add up to 26%. At the same time standards will be set for retailers to acquire ‘dispatchable’ electricity, irrespective of source. By dispatchable, they mean electricity that runs 24 hours a day. These standards will follow usage for the day, and will be based on longer-term contracts. Seems they want to avoid floods of cheap intermittent energy undercutting the old baseload plants, so they remain turned on, chugging away.

Contra to what Turnbull said (ie he’s telling porkies), retailers will be able to meet their clean energy obligations by buying offshore credits. Giles Parkinson says so, Ben Potter in today’s AFR says the same. However, Potter says that with China entering the market and over 90 countries joining the fray, there is every reason to believe that these credits will no longer be cheap.

There are useful introductory articles from Katherine Murphy at the Guardian, Michelle Grattan at The Conversation, Giles Parkinson at RenewEconomy, Sean Kelly at The Monthly.

See also new post: Turnbull’s New Energy Guarantee – ‘shambolic policy’ or ‘innovative and elegant’?

59 thoughts on “Turnbull does energy policy on the back of an envelope”

  1. Brian,

    For over a month now I’ve been trying to do two posts – one on climate as an existential threat, and another on whether 1.5ºC is at all still possible.

    Is 1.5ºC at all possible? Probably not unless widespread atmospheric sequestration is utilised and that’s likely to be very expensive to do and with unknown consequences – a big scientific experiment. The investment decisions that are being enacted today are locking-in climate impacts in decades to come – that’s “Climate Lag”. We are already now over 400ppm – Monthly Average CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa, Hawaii for September 2017 is 403.38 ppm.

    My comment yesterday highlights that gas utilisation needs to begin declining rapidly. See the discussion starting at time interval 0:43:28 on the issue of gas and climate change. Humanity has used up all of it’s carbon budget to keep at or below 1.5ºC rise and it’s probably getting to late to stay below 2ºC.

    Ian Dunlop – I keep referring to his Engineers Australia Big Conversation presentation because there is so much there pertinent to your posts – talks about the “incumbency mindset” and the lack of understanding (& outright wilful denial) of the existential risks. At time interval 1:01:55 is shown a slide on the folly of attempting to adapt to a 4ºC world and what this really means for humanity.

  2. Brian,

    The ESB advice makes clear that more renewables are only welcome if they are fully firmed and dispatchable. As such they would have to compete on price with existing coal, which as John Quiggin points out, is redefined as ‘dispatchable’.

    So, where does solar-thermal with storage fit in? Would it be considered as “fully firmed and dispatchable”?

    Also highlighted in my comment yesterday is a reference to data from Lazard in 2015 for unsubsidised LCOE for solar-thermal tower with storage generation is becoming cheaper than gas peaking generators – see the discussion in the video from time interval 0:55:22. I’m puzzled why McConnell didn’t use the more recent Lazard 2016 study which makes his point slightly more compelling.

    South Australia’s project Aurora, a 150 MW concentrated solar-thermal with 8 hours energy storage generator, provides: “dispatchability”; “running inertia”; and cost-competitiveness at a reported cap of $78/MWh over a contracted 20-year period. Is this project too hard to ignore, with its cost benefits over particularly existing gas generation, and new coal generation (average LCOE ultra-supercritical coal at $81/MWh) in Australia? And as Aurora is leading technology (currently proposed world’s largest CST), prices are likely to go down as experience is gained and generators get even bigger with more storage, whereas gas and coal generation costs will likely rise.

    It appears to me new gas and new coal-fired generation are beginning to lose cost-competitiveness with concentrated solar-thermal with storage. So, what arguments are left to continue supporting new gas- and coal-fired generation? Or does ideology override/ignore the facts/evidence?

  3. During the heat waves that determine the peak capacity required by our system the skies are clear and the out put of solar PV is very predictable. Unlike large scale fossil power stations solar PV can be controlled from zero to max without delays or operating problems. In other words, when it really counts, solar PV is far more dispatchable than any of the steam turbine driven fossil alternatives.
    A similar comment could be made about batteries. Output can be changed very quickly. Solar PV with battery is the most dispatchable source of power during heat wave peak power demand periods. (Solar on its own doesn’t cover the late afternoon peak.)
    Solar towers with molten salt storage and backup molten salt heating will be about as dispatchable as coal fire power or combined cycle gas.

  4. John Davidson (Re: October 20, 2017 at 4:43 pm):

    Solar towers with molten salt storage and backup molten salt heating will be about as dispatchable as coal fire power or combined cycle gas.

    From BZE’s 2010 Stationary Energy Plan in the Executive Summary on page xvii, under the heading “Better-than-Baseload” Electricity Generation, it states:

    Storing the sun’s energy as heat in the form of hot molten salt allows CST plants to provide power that is “better-than-baseload”. Similar to a hydroelectricity dam, CST plants with heat storage can dispatch electricity as needed at very short notice. This is achieved by using the heat from the stored molten salt to produce steam as necessary.

    Unless I’ve misunderstood the details “CST plants with storage” have the same degree of dispatchability as hydroelectricity generation, so I think your statement shown above is incorrect when comparing CST with coal-fired power.

    The BZE proposal (on page 52) states that the steam exiting from the turbine is condensed using conventional air-cooling fan-forced banks to minimise water usage. Queensland’s Kogan Creek black coal-fired 750 MW power station uses air-cooling. Another possibly more attractive method of cooling referred in the report is “the Heller system”, pioneered in the 1950s. Dry air cooling, although more expensive in capital costs and higher power demand, compared with water cooling, enables dramatically reduced water consumption and better performance in extreme climatic conditions.

    Also in the BZE report is Table 2.2 indicating the Lifecycle emissions of various energy technologies. Solar-PV is shown as having a significantly higher Life Cycle Emissions (LCE) when compared with CST.

    Batteries have a considerably shorter operational life, declining performance with age, and utilise some scarce and/or toxic elements in construction compared with CST. Recycling batteries and having to do it more often is, I think, more problematic when compared with CST.

    These considerations suggests to me CST is likely to have better life-cycle EROI and recycling characteristics when compared with solar-PV with battery storage. I’m not advocating prohibiting solar-PV or batteries – I see these as complimentary, but with some less desirable characteristics compared with CST for large-scale generation.

  5. GM: Keep in mind that the BZE report was published in 2010 and a lot of advances have been made for both solar PV and batteries since then.
    I honestly don’t know where the problems are that result in it taking hours to start up and shut down. You may be right that the small (220 MW) steam turbine specified in the BZE report may be more agile than the larger coal fired sets but cycling any high pressure steam turbine is going to use more energy and reduce turbine and steam piping life. Read here about the problems of switching coal fired power from steady baseload operation to only generating for morning and afternoon peaks. Many, but not all, of these problems would apply to solar towers.
    If you have read the BZE report you may have noticed that the tower specification included backup molten salt heating to ensure reliable 24/7 baseload. (If you haven’t, it has lots of interesting graphs and ideas. It really is a credible report that demonstrates that 100% renewable power is practical.)

  6. Geoff M, one of the problems with the ESB 8-page document is that it is short on detail and metrics.

    My sense is that CST with storage (molten salt, pumped hydro etc.) would be considered ‘dispatchable’.

  7. Is 1.5ºC at all possible? Probably not unless widespread atmospheric sequestration is utilised and that’s likely to be very expensive to do and with unknown consequences – a big scientific experiment. The investment decisions that are being enacted today are locking-in climate impacts in decades to come – that’s “Climate Lag”. We are already now over 400ppm – Monthly Average CO2 concentration at Mauna Lo

    I’m always saying stuff like that ( not as wordy or detailed) and get bagged!

  8. Geoff M, the problem with 1.5°C is that before Paris in 2015 most scientists were concentrating on 2°C. There has been a recent study looking at 1.5°C.

    I did a post in August 2015 Is 1.5°C attainable? That was before the Paris conference.

    I decided then that politically it was not attainable. Even the 1.5°C meant overshoot and taking CHGs out of the atmosphere. This should have been part of everyone’s understanding since December 2007 when James Hansen told over 20,000 scientists at the American Geophysical Union annual conference that we had to aim for 350 ppm in the first instance, which was in answer to Bill McKibbin’s question to him a few months earlier.

    At the time McKibbin was thinking of starting an organisation called 450.org, which was on the low side of mainstream science at the time. So then he made it 350 ppm.

    But sadly mainstream science usually takes about 10 years to catch up with James Hansen.

    Any way, I thought I should have a look at the new study, but my initial impression was that it is too optimistic by far. The reasons for this will be important.

  9. Jumpy, I fixed the format. It seems you hit ‘code’ as well as ‘blockquote’.

    Funny, I can’t remember you saying that stuff.

  10. That +2C is inevitable?

    You were saying that all along were you?
    That was the point you were making with all of your comments dredging up instances in the nineteenth century where it had been “as hot as it is now”; all your criticisms of the Bureau of Meteorology for “adjusting the temperature records”; all of your comments that the climate is always changing; all of your comments that the religion of climate change was a greenie plot to bring down capitalism and send us all back to living in caves in the dark?
    My humble apologies sir.
    I completely misunderstood what you were saying.

  11. Dear zoot

    Every one of us has difficulty with comprehension at times. I surely do. But your humility is most becoming. Did your batman ever remark upon it?

    Yours faithfully
    Mr A

  12. Thanks Brian for the sustained analysis and discussion of this enormously relevant topic. I also like to acknowledge our new commentators, your contributions are welcomed and appreciated.

    Probably nothing has enhanced industrialisation and modernity more than fossil fuel. While now nothing puts human achievements more under threat than to continue to pollute our atmosphere with CO2 pollution. We have to quickly smarted up as humanity on how we generate and use energy. Brian your posts and the sensible discussion are some of the most concise around. In fact they are so sensible that jumpy punters feel neglected and have to bring the topic back to relevance; themselves. It illustrates neatly the political crux of this enormously important issue. It is not science and technology which will provide us with a resolution, it will be the inclusion of jumpy punters who feel neglected.

    Ok jumpy, you have been saying that all the time, that is fine with me. However, can we now move on and focus on removing the insidious pollution and adopt 21st century energy production, distribution and consumption. Or do you prefer to continue to talk about yourself and take an obstinate stance on this important issue? If so why, what skin have you got in the game or what are you affraight off to lose? Have you thought through the consequences of your obstnancy and thus enabling the political chaos within our government and nation? Is that your aim, to send Australia back into the 19th century and become a economic backwater in the Asian Pacific region?

  13. Brian (Re: October 20, 2017 at 9:32 pm):

    Geoff M, one of the problems with the ESB 8-page document is that it is short on detail and metrics.

    I read the ESB document to mean “trust us – she’ll be right, mate – it’ll all be sorted out soon“. Brian, I read you to suggest that: the devil’s in the detail! Indeed! I think the ESB document is more about politics and an attempt to establish a point of policy difference between the COALition and Labor/Greens at the next federal election. It’s not about meeting the Paris Climate Agreement objective of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

    My sense is that CST with storage (molten salt, pumped hydro etc.) would be considered ‘dispatchable’.

    From what I’ve seen of the work you’ve done, you seem to me to have a sane grip on reality, and therefore your assessments are based on known facts/evidence.

    Unfortunately, most of our politicians/leaders don’t have STEM backgrounds, and it seems a significant few are unable to understand that the existing Australian fleet of coal-fired power stations have not been configured for ‘dispatchable‘ supply. So I’m less confident that the right decisions will be made based on sound technical/scientific knowledge/reasoning, but rather propping-up loopy/flawed ideology at all costs. I hope I’m wrong, and I will be pleasantly surprised. It needs a critical mass of people to wake up to the existential threats and demand effective action.

  14. John Davidson (Re: October 20, 2017 at 9:13 pm):

    Thanks for the link. It’s significant to note that the mainstream media is now taking an interest in the merits/drawbacks of configuring coal-fired power generators for ‘dispatchable’ supply.

    You may be right that the small (220 MW) steam turbine specified in the BZE report may be more agile than the larger coal fired sets but cycling any high pressure steam turbine is going to use more energy and reduce turbine and steam piping life.

    The issues of cycling high pressure large capacity steam turbines and their associated equipment (i.e. piping, boilers/heat-exchangers, valving, etc.) have been well known for decades. Use of better alloyed-metals, piping and support design, turbine design, failure detection, and failure prediction technologies, etc., have helped to mitigate risks of catastrophic failures and unplanned shutdowns. Combined-cycle gas-fired generators have been in operation for decades, so the experience gained there can be utilised for concentrated solar-thermal (CST) generators for the water/high-pressure-steam/condensed-water secondary closed-loop system.

    Note that the BZE proposal indicates that the molten-salt energy medium used in the primary closed-loop system, although at high temperature (600°C+ on the “hot” leg of the closed-loop), flows at relatively low pressure.

    Although cycling the steam turbine requires more energy, the primary difference between gas- & coal-fired generators and BZE’s CST + storage generators, is that gas/coal is consumed less efficiently, so there are higher fuel costs and emissions, whereas CST has zero fuel costs and emissions – unless the bio-waste backup system is utilised during low solar irradiation periods.

    The 220 MW gross / 217 MW net + 17 hours storage at 72% annual capacity factor limitation is, as I understand it, primarily due to the diminishing returns of energy derived from the heliostat array. Beyond a certain distance, focussing of reflected sunlight from the heliostats at the extremity of the array onto the heat exchanger atop the tower becomes a significant problem.

  15. Not sure GeoffM, if scientific illiteracy is the core of the problem with our politicians. Take the example of the NBN. For example we have currently a prime minister who was an early investor who made massive gains out of the internet revolution while in business. However, no in politics he was at the centre of a disaterous hobbling of that revolution in our country. What for, short term political gains, blind ideology, reactionary sentiments, vested interests or all of the above. The question is not wether the world is going to move on from fossil fuel the question is if a developed country like Australia can afford to play Russian roulette while sitting in a ecological and economic precarious situation.

    Take dispatchability for example, I am sure that most of the key players do know the facts and its implications. However, they are either so far down their strings of lies that in order to avoid to hang themselves they have to extend the lies hoping for solid ground to appear or they have already sold their soul to the devil that they have nothing to lose anymore. As a result the public discussion in this country on energy is abysmal. That said the rot appears to be mainly in federal politics, while most state and local governments seem to just get on with things. Meanwhile business and industry are pulling their hair out in frustration or voting with their feet shifting their investment to more progressive and reliable markets, promised corporate tax reductions or not.

  16. zoot,

    It may be a trifle off topic, but the batman you had to dispense with recently, was he the fellow who attempted to purloin your snuff box? Or was that a different miscreant?

    I don’t demand evidence, merely enlightenment.
    Toodle pip!!

  17. GM: A lot of the capital cost of solar towers will depend on the production and storage of heat. If this heat is used inefficiently the capital cost per annual kWh will go up.
    The BZE solar towers were configured with the aim of demonstrating that the BZE proposal would include the baseload power that the power conservatives keep rabbiting on about. For this reason it was assumed that the towers would operate at full capacity most of the time.
    I don’t have any real feel re what is possible with steam powered generators, what is practical in terms of downturn ratios and/or stop start and implications re efficiency, breakdowns per operating hr and maintenance costs.
    It strikes me that it may make sense to have more generator capacity per mirror for some towers than what was assumed for the BZE design.
    For example, some towers might be designed to average only 16 hrs operation per day. These towers might be started up in time for the late afternoon high demand period and then stopped the next day after the demand has dropped off in the evening. Such a system would have the attraction of being able to run 24/7 at the higher output using the backup heating to make up in the shortfall in power generated using the solar power.
    We may also find that using pumped hydro or whatever to store energy may be more cost effective than the use of molten salt.

  18. Ootz (Re: October 21, 2017 at 11:03 am):

    There seems to me to be a number of instances where when some politicians enter parliament, particularly when they become a Minister, their critical thinking is disabled, and when they leave it’s re-enabled. I guess it must take a strong will to resist the ‘groupthink’ in the party room and ministerial departments.

    Look at Turnbull’s address at the BZE launch of the Stationary Energy Plan in June 2010, and compare it with what he said at his February 2017 Press Club Address through to now – what a difference 6.5 years makes – would the real Turnbull please show yourself?

    Electricity generation essentially requires state approvals to proceed so, as you say, they “seem to just get on with things”, because they have to, while the Feds just posture and criticise. Unfortunately, for best effect, a coordinated, collaborative approach among the eastern states to enhance efficiencies across the NEM would be ideal. WA & NT don’t have to deal with the other states because their systems are separate.

    But liquid fuel security and supply is primarily a federal issue, and I think it’s in a diabolical mess with no political will to fix it. So, if North Korea engages in military conflict, then (even if Australia is not directly involved militarily) we’ll see how robust, or more likely not, our fuel supplies really are. But that will all be too late. And then there’s total denial on ‘peak oil’.

    The degree of incompetence would be laughable, if it wasn’t so deadly serious. Key sections of the media are also culpable in what I see to be false and sloppy reporting. I think there’s a very real risk the incompetent decisions being made now will end up seriously hurting, including the deaths, of many people within the next decade. Many people may find they can no longer afford to live. I do hope I’m wrong about this. People need to wake up and demand effective action before it’s inevitable.

  19. So Governments are laughably incompetent yet all I’m hearing ( except JD ) is Government is the answer.

    I don’t see much critical thinking in a position that has Government as the solution to every single one of mankinds maladies.

  20. John Davidson (Re: October 21, 2017 at 12:02 pm):

    The BZE solar towers were configured with the aim of demonstrating that the BZE proposal would include the baseload power that the power conservatives keep rabbiting on about. For this reason it was assumed that the towers would operate at full capacity most of the time.

    That’s not the way I understand the BZE proposal. The BZE 2010 proposal consists of 3 main elements:
    1. 40% energy supply on average from 50 GW total capacity wind turbine generators at 23 sites;
    2. 60% energy supply on average from 42.5 GW total capacity concentrated solar thermal with 17 hours storage (CST+S) generators at 12 sites; and
    3. An enhanced/upgraded true national electricity grid connecting all 6 states and the ACT. The NT would remain separate as the cost-benefit is not justified.
    Additional hydro generation (5 GW) (batteries & solar-PV weren’t considered significant more than 7 years ago) would complement the grid. Biomass fired boilers to supplement heating of the CST+S thermal reservoirs when required due to low insolation. Hydro and biomass are used as contingency backup for up to 2% of annual demand.

    My interpretation is that wind would supply the energy when it could and the CST+S generators would then fill the gap between the wind supply and the demand from consumers. The objective is to maximise the thermally stored energy during the daytime then draw down as required overnight. Section 4 of the BZE proposal outlines the grid modelling and modes of operation.

    The BZE report describes CST+S as “better-than-baseload electricity generation” which I interpret to mean it could be utilised to run 24/7 at constant output (aka “baseload”) mode, or as “load follower” (aka “intermediate”) variable output mode, or as a “peaker” as needed at very short notice.

    I’m unable to see in the BZE 2010 report where “it was assumed that the towers would operate at full capacity most of the time“. Could you show me the location in the BZE report that gives you that impression?

  21. Ootz, much of what jumpy says comes from a libertarian/individualist/small government perspective. I think he likes to be a contrarian, but many of his questions are genuine from his ideological POV, and I mean ideology in a technical sense in which we all have it.

    Jumpy, your power in Mackay is supplied by Ergon, fully-owned government distribution network and in this case retailer and metre reader as well. Power gets to you by the government-owned high transmission network, Powerlink, and is generated by two-thirds owned government generators.

    The price you pay is subsidised by the government, read, I think, SEQ consumers, to the extent of $600 million pa. This works out, from memory, at about $440 per household or 30 to 140 per cent more than you would otherwise pay. The prices are presently cheaper than in other NEM states and are forecast to stay that way.

    BTW, prices were already cheaper than other states in early June when the government directed Stanwell to change its bidding practices. I keep needing to say that.

    Remember Cyclone Debbie? I was impressed to see 80 Ergon trucks lined up on the side of the highway near Rockhampton with crews at the ready to go out and patch up the power grid when the roads became passable. You know, the roads and bridges supplied and owned by the government at whichever tier, according to their classification.

    Have a thought about who you automatically diss.

  22. There is an article in today’s AFR by Ben Potter and Mark Ludlow confirming most of what I said in the post.

    All states must agree if there is to be a rule change.

    The states were quite pissed off to see the ESB lining up next to the Commonwealth with the states finding out what was happening at the same time as the rest of us. The subsequent phone link-up Frydenberg had with the states was said to be testy to say the least.

    It’s safe to assume that the ESB would have been reminded who they work for, that is COAG, not the Commonwealth, also that electricity provision is a state responsibility.

    It’s true, though, that the ESB was responding to an information request by one of its members, and the advice specifically says that state schemes for renewable energy can continue.

    The look was political, though, with Turnbull able to use the cover of just doing what the experts suggested. So they were co-opted to his political game, which was in the main, to get past the climate deniers in his own camp and sideline Labor/Greens as irrelevant fairies frolicking at the bottom of the garden.

    Will say more later. Have to look for a lost car key, seriously, before it gets dark!

  23. Pay attention jumpy! I said

    ” … most state and local governments seem to just get on with things.”

    to which GeoffM replied

    “Electricity generation essentially requires state approvals to proceed so, as you say, they “seem to just get on with things”, because they have to, while the Feds just posture and criticise. Unfortunately, for best effect, a coordinated, collaborative approach among the eastern states to enhance efficiencies across the NEM would be ideal.”

    and I would entirely agree with GeoffM and would go further. But let me ask you, as an avid free marketeer what is your take on the new energy policy of the Turnbull Government when energy retailers will essentially have to pay a carbon tax?

  24. After Debbie there were Townsville, Brisbane and other city’s Westpac staff dispatched to our area so the local staff could take care of personal stuff and customers could still function.
    There were many example of capitalistic helpers.

    About 30% of Mackay electricity is from Racecourse Sugar Mill, owned by Wilmar ( foreign company ).
    And then there is Adani-Wilmar improving millions of lives.

    I don’t get the notion that Government, having screwed up constantly in almost everything ( without repercussions) can finally get ” the Big Problem ” sorted.

  25. I’m not picking on you Brian at all but if someone as staunch as you still uses a petrol mower when there are electric ones that can be charged renewably then what chance the rest of us?

    It’s like you want to force Government to force you to act.

  26. But let me ask you, as an avid free marketeer what is your take on the new energy policy of the Turnbull Government when energy retailers will essentially have to pay a carbon tax?

    Government isn’t the answer. Has anything I’ve said sunk in ?

  27. OK, key search put off until tomorrow when the rain is supposed to stop.

    I wanted to comment on knowledge, expertise and stuff. My story, in general, is on the About page. I don’t have any STEM since secondary school, but have always had an interest in science and through my main working years had the opportunity of reading New Scientist and The Scientific American without paying for them. During my working period in government, however, I had administrative responsibility for technical areas, for example with microcomputers and using satellites in distance education etc. I chaired the panel that selected the winners of the contract for computers provided to schools. along the way I had a lot of experience of sumarising or covering technical reports.

    With climate I’m happier with climate science than the more technical engineering style stuff. In both cases, I think I’m aware of what I don’t know and often use the words of those that do, attributing where possible.

    In the early days of computers in schools I found that most nerds had ideas about the social effects of the technology that were more than a little bizarre. The senior people in the Education Department was happy to use me as a filter between the nerds and themselves.

    There is not a lot of STEM in parliament, but I’m not sure it would help. Most scientists end up in a narrow specialty, and often think they know more than they do outside their specialty. In climate science, for example, James Hansen says there are three kinds of knowledge – direct observations, paleoscience, and climate modelling, in that order of importance. You need to be on top of all three to give comprehensive policy advice. Within the field of climate science there are almost as many specialties as there are in science itself. People who are right across the field are rare. Hansen is one such. Roger Jones who cut his teeth on paleoclimate science is another. Michael Mann impresses me as does Kevin Anderson in the UK and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber in Germany.

    However, with many climate scientists outside their field they don’t know as much as an informed lay person.

    Within Australian conservative politics climate scepticism/denialism is rife. My elder brother was active in National Party politics for 40 years or so and famously advised me that I was the only person he knew that believed all that stuff. Seems he forgot our younger brother for the moment.

    But he’s a very intelligent person with an answer for everything you might throw at him, which I don’t. Once he encouraged a young bloke called Barnaby J who was thinking of entering politics.

    I’m impressed with Mark Bailey’s knowledge of his brief. Seems his background is law and international relations.

    Turnbull is supposed to be the smartest man in the room, but I know him to be a man whose word is not his bond. That is, he will look you in the eye and tell porkies (it’s a story my wife heard from the lips of someone in top legal circles in Sydney), and can’t be expected to act out of principle at all times.

    In this sector Turnbull is also breaking holy laws of liberal attitudes to free enterprise by telling individual companies what decisions they should make.

    This is a real issue across the board and runs for example to banks. The AFR which business reads, highlights this from time to time. They are not happy.

    Ootz, Turnbull’s brief from Abbott was to kill the NBN stone dead. Turnbull saved it by making it competitive in an area which was always a natural monopoly. But that doesn’t really explain what has become a champion stuff-up. It takes special talent to do that.

  28. Of course there are market failures created by government intervention.
    Participants naturally failing in a market is a positive feature not a bug. When government cause it, it’s a corruption.

    Natural monopoly ?
    Example please.

  29. Participants naturally failing in a market is a positive feature not a bug.

    Participants “naturally failing in a market” is not market failure.

  30. Jumpy, natural monopolies appear to be hiding in plain sight where you live – railways, highways, the city airport for starters.

  31. Those are examples of Governments either crowding out competition or down right disallowing competition.
    There is no way anyone could build a rival airport next to the protected one there now.

    Like all monopolies, they’re unnatural.

  32. Consider the Eyre Highway.
    According to the theory promulgated by market true believers, travelling across the Nullarbor would become cheaper as soon as a second road were built, because competition.
    And ignoring for the moment the fact that it’s struggling to earn a crust, there is only one railway across the Nullarbor – completely anti-competitive – why aren’t there two?

  33. Jumpy (Re: October 22, 2017 at 1:32 pm):

    There is no way anyone could build a rival airport next to the protected one there now.

    Why would you want to build a new airport now (e.g. the Western Sydney Airport)? Evidence I see indicates global supplies of petroleum fuels are likely to begin declining before 2030, and there is a significant risk of it occurring before 2020. Is this paper from The Royal Society’s oldest ongoing peer-reviewed scientific paper wrong? Where’s the affordable, abundant, secure supplies of aviation fuel going to come from to keep the aircraft flying?

    A substantial proportion of Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD) Airport air traffic is domestic. I’ve heard recent statements suggest Sydney-Melbourne is the 4th busiest air route in the world. Sydney-Brisbane is around the 11th busiest. Surely High Speed Rail (HSR) is a far better cost-effective option long-term connecting these cities and regional areas along the route in a post- ‘peak oil’ world? Or have I missed something?

    Like all monopolies, they’re unnatural.

    Would you have multiple water mains owned by different water suppliers outside your home? I think that would be inefficient, and outright silly!
    Would you have multiple power-lines owned by different electricity suppliers outside your home? Sewers? These are all natural monopolies, are they not?

  34. Geoff M, just to let you know, jumpy rarely if ever concedes a point, and there is no obligation to engage. However, sometimes to engage you go to first principles, which can be useful, but to some it’s just frustrating.

    There is always an implication that if you don’t respond it means you agree, but with Jumpy the rule doesn’t apply.

  35. What if I wanted to build an airport for renewable electric aeroplanes only, what are my main impediment?
    Who do I need to ask permission to install many water tanks or put in a bore?
    If I’m not on the electricity grid do I have to pay all the local, state and federal taxes for it ?
    Can I choose to spend on a compost toilet and reduce my rates bill ?

    Respond as you wish or not at all, it’s fine.
    Brian’s caricature of me is off the mark and motivated be reasons I’m unclear of, and unwillingly conceding points is not just a trait I monopolise.

  36. Going to first principles can be useful sometimes, I think; perhaps to clarify some aspect in one’s own mind.

    But to have to do it repeatedly to undermine various straw men or simple fallacies, can be tedious.

    I suppose none of us really “has to” respond.
    But it’s the vibe of the thing, on a discussion forum generally posted to by informed and interesting persons.

    I too admired that drawing of the boy standing in a sea puddle, Brian. It captures the adventurous curiosity, awe and attention a young person can pay to the natural world.

    Good to hear from you again, Christoph.

  37. About the toilet, in our area what we pay is a connection charge, levied whether anyone uses the toilet or not; i.e. for connection to the sewers.**

    As it happens, we have a septic tank. No connection to the town sewer, so no charge. I imagine that in our area, there would be no charge if a householder used a composting toilet and had no other toilet connected to the sewer.

    For watering the garden, we have a tank filling from a garden shed roof. No fee when installed. In fact a small subsidy from both the Shire and the local water supply authority. No ongoing fee.

    However, a few years later they tightened up requirements for where the landowner lets overflow water go to. Not draconian, just basic “being pleasant to the neighbours” requirements.

    My guess on a private airport is the main requirements would involve
    1) air traffic control for safety
    2) noise restrictions if homes situated nearby
    3) safety requirements on the aircraft themselves, e.g. air worthiness, competent pilots, regular maintenance
    4) security measures to avoid hijackings or mid air explosions
    5) compliance with Customs and Quarantine if aircraft arriving from overseas
    ?????

    But I know nartheeng of aviation, Mr Fawlty.

    ** regional town in Victoria

  38. Interesting Mr A, at what point are we able to alter our first principles and why do some abandon their first principles temporarily.
    I mean, suggesting capitalism not Government could be better, to big government/ anti-capitalists is not going to bring endearment but it’s not out of malice.

  39. Nice anecdotes MrA, I payed water and sewerage rate on a vacant block for 3 years. It had neither.

    Perhaps I’ll move to Victoria.
    ( :/ sarc )

  40. Hang on, I’ll concede a point, our Defence Military is a natural monopoly in Australia but private enterprise enhances it.

  41. Jumpy, your other alternative is to get active in your local politics and campaign for fair and just regulations.

    Democracy is hard work!

  42. Mr J

    You asked what I assumed were serious questions, on airports, a composting toilet, the electricity grid and water tanks.

    I answered factually on two of the four, and made some suggestions on a third. You term that “nice anecdotes”. May I suggest there is a difference between fact (regulations) and fiction (anecdote)?

    To repeat what I wrote at 5.47pm, I suppose none of us really “has to” respond.
    Adios, Senor.

  43. There are many alternatives Brian,.
    I’m not as politically active locally as I’d like but more than most I’d guess.
    Earning tax for others can be very time consuming.

  44. Whoa, didn’t intend on triggering you Mr A.
    Heathrow is privately owned, 2nd busiest in the World I think, pretty good safety record.

    I have no doubt your anecdotal story is completely factual and not fiction.

  45. Peter Hartcher in this sat SMH said:

    The policy is much better than a mere surrender to Abbott.

    The policy should be measured in terms of what the country needs, not what the LNP needs.

  46. Heathrow is privately owned, 2nd busiest in the World I think, pretty good safety record.

    But not equipped for renewable electric aeroplanes.
    That constitites a huge business opportunity (Heathrow can’t be a natural monopoly, they don’t exist.) Go for it Jumpy – open your own airport.
    Seize the day!

  47. No worries, takes more than that to upset me, oh mighty Jster.

    Would your story of not being connected be an anecdote… doubtless factual.

    By the way, down here in the cooler State, a landlord pays the sewerage connection charge regardless of whether the house is tenanted. I reckon that is fair.

    If your drift was to complain about govt or council regulation holding back renewable industries and gizmos, well then, show us some evidence. And then follow Brian’s advice and agitate for changes.

    It’s the adult approach. Hard work, but worth the effort sometimes.

    Solidarnosc, Solidarnosc, Solidarnosc, Solidarnosc!!!!!!!

  48. Jumpy: You are right. Sometimes it makes no sense to build things like privately owned toll roads next to each other for the sake of competition. The smart thing is to have a single government owned road that may or may bot be run by private contractors
    The problem comes when ideology is being used to decide what should be done where. Your keep the government out no mater what is symptomatic of this inefficiency causing ideology.

  49. Congratulation to Mr J for derailing yet another sensible discussion on Brian’s concise and cutting analysis of yet another LNP policy failure.

    Yes, who cares about a sensible energy policy for Australia when Mr J’s pet project of free markets is such a ripper. Never mind that free market capitalism is just another ideology and in it’s purest form an utopia or more like dystopia just like communism. However, it would appear from Mr J’s behaviour that the fervent support for his beloved free markets is just a ruse and mainly comes to the fore when the situation becomes tricky, like when being asked asked what he thinks of Turnbull’s new NEG which seems to be solely based on market intervention and a disguised ‘carbon tax’. Imagine the screaming and wailing if Labor would have introduced such policy.

    So let me ask again, how does the NEG shape up from a free market capitalist point of view? What does it say about a party and it’s principles who concocts such a contorted and opaque energy policy. After all these questions are more in line of the OP than Mr J’s derailing attempts with his offerings of red herrings.

  50. John D

    It sounds as if you think these questions need to be decided case by case. Fair enough.

    There’s “market failure” and then there’s “market sheer ridiculousness “.

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