Tag Archives: Electricity

AER, ACCC and the ABC join the fray on Qld electricity prices

In last Tuesday’s post It’s gas, not renewables, pushing up electricity prices the federal Minister Josh Frydenberg attacked the Queensland government through it’s state-owned generators for “gaming the system”, which, he said gave Queensland the nation’s most expensive electricity, costing jobs. In that post Queensland’s electricity was shown to be low compared to those of the other eastern mainland states, in recent years and in recent months the lowest.

The state has now been attacked by the AER (Australian Energy Regulator) and by the ACCC. At the end of it all, Steve Austin, the host of Mornings on Brisbane’s local ABC, sank the boot in. So what to make of it all? Continue reading AER, ACCC and the ABC join the fray on Qld electricity prices

Gas to burn

Jay Weatherill’s energy plan involves the construction of a government-owned 250MW gas-fired power plant to provide emergency back-up power and system stability services for South Australians, and power for his resources minister to instruct the owners of Pelican Point to turn it on. Yet his plans for cheaper gas, or any gas, will not work quickly and possibly will not work at all. Laura Tingle in an excellent article published under the title of Power sources: steaming Premiers and Pumped PMs tells us that on the futures market on Wednesday, the June contract for electricity in Victoria hit $147.50 per megawatt hour, compared to a price for the March contract of just $80 as energy traders put a price on the closure of Hazelwood in Victoria at the end of March.

Meanwhile a group of former BHP Billiton and BP executives is consulting with SA to build a private equity funded power station, using gas from a floating regasification plant sourcing gas from the North West Shelf and from Singapore, some of which may actually come from the Cooper Basin in the state’s north via Gladstone.

Is this for real, and how did we get into this ridiculous mess? Continue reading Gas to burn

Politicians lie, while corporates game the electricity system

I can’t make up my mind whether Malcolm Turnbull’s brains have fried, or whether he is just plain evil. I think of Godwin Grech, and think the former. My wife is convinced it’s the latter, and she’s usually right about people.

Anyway politics reached a new level of absurdity last week, as Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal into the parliament, which ended up between a crazed Barnaby Joyce’s legs, while in Question Time Turnbull’s answer to every question about the omnibus bill to change social security entitlements (and save a heap of cash) was to rant about Bill Shorten, blackouts and dreaded renewable energy in South Australia.

All the while, fossil fuel generators are gaming the system, to extract more from electricity consumers, while the market regulator ends up splitting the profits.

Two politicians from South Australia, Premier Jay Weatherill and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis, are very angry, and they’ve had enough. Continue reading Politicians lie, while corporates game the electricity system

Electricity prices: Turnbull’s central policy scare campaign

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addressing the National Press Club last week, described energy as a “defining debate of this parliament”.

His speech set out Turnbull’s vision for Australia’s energy future – covering renewable energy, “clean” coal, gas, power prices and electricity security. He talked up coal, saying Australia as a big exporter needs to show we are using state-of-the-art clean coal-fired technology.

The Climate Council ran a Fact Check and found clean coal is NOT A THING.

    Large-scale wind and solar plants are already cheaper than new “more efficient” coal plants, and waaaay cheaper than coal plants with CCS.

You might expect that from the Climate Council, but Ben Potter in the Australian Financial Review reports that just about everyone is saying the same thing. Continue reading Electricity prices: Turnbull’s central policy scare campaign

Keeping the lights on: Josh Frydenberg wants more gas

wind-solar.img_assist_custom-558x372_220Continuity of electricity supply is no trivial matter. Back in April-May 1996 at our place we had rain on 14 consecutive days. Over the period we had 833 mm or over 33 inches in the old language. A renewable energy electricity supply system needs to survive such a challenge, as do home off-gridders. Imagine not just the lights out, but rotting food in the refrigerator, no pumping of petrol at the bowser, the refrigerators and lights failing at the supermarket, no water coming out the tap. For the whole Brisbane area.

Now with interconnected grids through the National Electricity Market (NEM) established in 1998 South Australia withstood a lesser challenge recently albeit with a huge spike in electricity spot prices, arguably prompting a showdown on where we are going with renewable energy and fossil fuels in this country. Continue reading Keeping the lights on: Josh Frydenberg wants more gas

Climate clippings 162

1. China putting the brakes on coal

China exponentially increased its use of coal in the early part of this century, so that 64% of its energy comes from coal. Now studies suggest that coal use in China declined in 2014 and may have peaked in 2013. No new mines will be approved in the next three years. Continue reading Climate clippings 162

The future of electricity in Queensland

As noted in Climate Clippings 139 (Item 5) the new Queensland Labor Government has committed to a 50% renewable energy target by 2030 so I was interested to attend a public forum last week on the future of electricity in Queensland, chaired by John Davidson as convenor of the West Brisbane Branch of the Queensland Greens. Speakers were John Foster, Professor of Economics at Queensland University, Murray Craig, Managing Director of Solar Centre and Charles Worringham, spokesperson for the Queensland Greens. Continue reading The future of electricity in Queensland

The consequences of vertical fiscal imbalance

This is belated, but I still think worthwhile.

Jess Hill’s cracking article in The Monthly (you can read a limited number of articles online per month without a subscription), and the recent Four Corners program on renewable energy, are required consumption for anybody interested in the history and future of electricity supply in Australia.

In short, the electricity distributors (who hold a natural monopoly over their corner of the market) predicted continued growth in electricity demand and then persuaded the energy regulators to let them increase their charges to pay for said infrastructure. This accounted for most of the growth in electricity prices, despite the nonsense about the carbon tax from the right of politics. The reasonableness of these predictions can be debated; the fact that they led to massive profits for the distributors is now clear. In the face of these increased prices, something amazing happened – absolute demand for electricity dropped substantially. Part of this can be attributed to rooftop solar, some to energy efficiency; regardless, the huge infrastructure spend has turned out to be almost completely unnecessary. Along the way, grid electricity generators have felt the squeeze between falling demand and mandated construction of renewable energy through the RET, and are now lobbying hard to prevent more renewable energy being connected to the grid.

The future is a topic for another post, but there is one point about the past and present that Hill’s excellent report hasn’t really gotten in to. Particularly in NSW and Queensland where the price increases have been greatest, the electricity distributors are state-owned, and the profits have gone to the state governments. Dividends from the distributors have filled a pretty substantial gap in those state budgets; however, they’ve done so in an extremely inefficient way. Billions of dollars has been wasted building unnecessary infrastructure so that the state governments could collect revenue from the monopoly profits. Hill’s article reports $45 billion dollars worth of infrastructure has been built nationally; in Victoria’s privately run grid, one third of the infrastructure spending went towards peak capacity augmentation, whereas in NSW and Queensland about two-thirds was spent on the same area. Based on this, my rough guess is that in those two states, at least $7-8 billion was spent on unnecessary capacity augmentation.

In a sane world, if state governments need more revenue, they would raise taxes. But because of Australia’s strange fiscal arrangements, where state governments spend a large fraction of total government revenue but only collect a fraction of it, it’s easier to whinge about the vicissitudes of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and raise this kind of hugely inefficient stealth tax.

So next time somebody mentions “vertical fiscal imbalance” and “narrow tax bases”, try not to let your eyes glaze over. It’s boring, but it’s important.

Power To The People

That’s the title of Four Corners tonight.

It’s advertised as being about renewable energy. According to reporter Stephen Long on local radio, he and a photographer went to the United States and looked at developments, not just in alternative technologies in power production, storage etc, but also in new models of distributed energy production.

He likened what’s happening to the challenge of the new media to traditional newspapers. Old energy systems will have to adapt or shrink and die.

Newspapers, telecommunications and the entertainment industry have all felt the chill winds of change brought on by new technology. Now science is revolutionising power generation. Technology is making alternative sources of energy cheaper, more user-friendly and, crucially, it’s decentralising production to the rooftops of homes and commercial buildings across Australia.

So why is the Federal Government moving away from its commitment to renewable sources of energy? Why would it consider reducing renewable energy targets, favouring greenhouse-gas emitting coal and gas?

He also looks at new electric cars.

Energy Storage Using Phase Change Materials

Batteries are not the only way for a house to store energy.  This post looks at ways of storing heat and cold directly using phase change materials (PCM’s).  They can be more efficient than batteries as a result of storing energy when outside temperatures are closer to target temperatures.

Continue reading Energy Storage Using Phase Change Materials