Renewable Energy – Friend Or Fraud?

Living where we do and having only electricity connected, the price of which keeps rising insatiably, I get very frustrated when reading about all the supposed benefits of renewable energy, which never seem to eventuate. Once upon a time Australia had the cheapest energy in the world, but then things changed. For several decades now, we have heard how renewable energy is (or will shortly be) competitive with or even cheaper than traditional energy sources such as coal, gas or hydro, but we never see any tangible evidence of this happening. But what we do see are ever increasing power bills as cost effective sources of power disappear. Every year more wind and solar installations are approved, sustainable only due to taxpayer subsidies, yet no one seems willing to say enough is enough and that it’s time to exist without subsidies or admit that it’s not cost-effective and simply a boondoggle.

Bald Hills Victoria - Efficient and non-subsidised windmill in the foreground, inefficient and subsidised windmills in the background

Bald Hills Victoria – Efficient and non-subsidised windmill in the foreground, inefficient and subsidised windmills in the background

Bald Hills Victoria - Renewable and efficient produce in the foreground, single use and inefficient products in the background

Bald Hills Victoria – Renewable and efficient produce in the foreground, single use and inefficient products in the background

When all of this ‘renewable’ stuff started, it involved subsidies for domestic solar panels where those lucky enough to afford such received generous payback from state and Federal governments, thanks once again to taxpayers. No one questioned the iniquity of these subsidies, where it was really the well-off that were able to have solar panels installed (much the same as it is today) and those who were renting, living in areas where solar was impractical (lots of tall trees like us) or those struggling with a mortgage, were subsidising those who were far better off. Many a time did I hear from the latter, who benefited from solar subsidies, crowing about how they were receiving substantial cheques, rather than paying a cent for their electricity. South Australia seemed to have the most generous rebates of any state at the time, but times do thankfully change.

Money for Nothing - (source: Jo Nova)

Money for Nothing – (source: Jo Nova)

Now I’m by no means against whatever form of energy proves to be effective, efficient and genuinely non-polluting, but there must be economic considerations applied to any such program else, in the long run, everyone will suffer significantly. There are many things that people consider essential, but cheap and reliable power must reside at the top of the list, as everything in today’s world exists directly or indirectly due to the availability of reliable and cost-effective electricity. The very poorest of nations usually lack cheap and reliable electricity and suffer as a consequence, so do we really wish to emulate those nations? And with our rush to ever more so-called efficient and competitive renewable energy sources, the exact opposite of what is constantly advertised is being argued. I’m not sure how far we are prepared to go with ‘renewable’ energy before we admit that it’s a failure and simply not viable in its current form, subsidies or not. There’s always talk of low-cost, reliable, energy, but the devil is always in the detail.

Wind and Solar: Cost vs Output - (source: Tallbloke's Talkshop)

Wind and Solar: Cost vs Output – (source: Tallbloke’s Talkshop)

Would they be considered 'beautiful' if they were pumping oil? - (source: Daniel Andrews)

Would they be considered ‘beautiful’ if they were pumping oil? – (source: Daniel Andrews)

We are already seeing the effects of forced (taxpayer subsidised) electricity on our daily lives and it’s going to get a lot worse. Energy Poverty, as it’s been named, has been affecting billions of people around the developing or third world countries for decades, but it’s also now affecting first world countries such as Europe and Australia. The effects on Australians is quite alarming, as it’s being reported that struggling families are resorting to candles for lighting and turning off hot water systems because they can’t afford the power costs. Then other sources are reporting that people are having to choose between food and paying power bills due to the high cost of electricity. Then we have further stories (one of many) where those reliant on wood heating have been banned from collecting firewood and can’t afford electric heating, yet the Clean Energy Finance Corporation wants to burn wood to generate electricity. At what point do we acknowledge that something has gone wrong?

In an apparent bid to reduce the reliance of local residents on red gum firewood — three-quarters of homes rely on wood heating alone as the district has no natural gas supply — pensioners were advised wearing more clothes and opening the curtains would reduce power costs and “keep them cosy”. The offer of an “energy saving” kit was also made: two hot water bottles, a low-energy light bulb, some draught-preventing foam tape and two “snake” doorstoppers.

And then we have the inevitable impact on industry. The closure of Hazelwood power station had a direct impact on jobs, but also an indirect impact on the local businesses that supported the power station and the workers and their families. The job impact of the Bald Hills project was just a blip on the jobs landscape (where are all these long-term Green jobs?), while leaving behind a blight on the landscape. This is just the tip of the iceberg as other industries, especially those that are heavily dependent on electricity are increasingly affected by the rising cost of electricity which, I’m sure, will lead to more of these reports. And while some suggest that renewable energy is cheaper than established forms of power generation (as the latter gets mothballed), I suspect what it really represents is the fact that we’ll just become accustomed to higher prices and in time forget that there were cheaper options available. And, once again, independent, peer reviewed, analysis indicates that 100% renewable energy is far from feasible. Unfortunately, most people never hear the other side of the debate because the media never report on it and those that may filter through (PDF) are usually dismissed without debate (vested interests of Big Oil and all that).

Several businesses reported a doubling in energy prices over 2016, while others reported a staggering 200% increase (or tripling) in energy costs. Much evidence collected by Ai Group (particularly in the Australian PMI®) suggests that energy costs for businesses have been rising over much of 2016 and some businesses considering reducing their workforce or even questioning their ongoing viability as a result. Initially this evidence mostly came from South Australian businesses, but such reports have become commonplace across New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. At a time when margins are already under pressure in an increasingly competitive business environment and limited ability to pass on rising costs, rising energy prices are causing businesses further pain.

Yallourn Power Station - Once it goes, another Dark Ages begins

Yallourn Power Station – Once it goes, another Dark Ages begins

So where are we really headed, an Age of Enlightenment, or another Dark Ages? Given that Australia’s impact on global climate is minimal, no more than 1.4% of that of the rest of the world, why are we so eager to destroy our wealth and wellbeing? The politics and the money involved in the climate change industry appears to have completely overtaken any reasonable discussion about what really needs to be done and by whom. Opinions such as this will be stridently ridiculed and rejected, simply because it would unravel the entire industry built around climate change.

There have been two conflicting responses to Trump’s decision – often heard from the very same person.

On one hand, we are told that the move imperils the planet. Former US Vice President Al Gore says that Trump is damaging “humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis.” Business leader Tom Steyer says the Paris accord is “essential to leaving a healthy, safe, and prosperous world to our children” and blasts the president’s “traitorous act of war.”

On the other hand, we hear the defiant suggestion that Trump’s decision might not be so important, because renewable energy is already becoming so cheap that a future without fossil fuels has nearly arrived. Gore claims the planet is in the midst of an “inevitable transition to a clean energy economy,” and Steyer recently said that the time when “renewables plus storage is cheaper than fossil fuels” has already arrived.

Not only are these arguments mutually contradictory; each also happens to be wrong. Abandoning the Paris agreement does not risk our planet’s future, because the agreement itself does little to solve global warming. And green energy is far from locked in as a cost-effective replacement for fossil fuels. Fooling ourselves on these points means failing to address climate change effectively.

Update 1. And here’s an interesting article about the unintended consequences of solar panels (much like the issue with fluorescent light bulbs that took over incandescent light bulbs):

Environmental Progress investigated the problem to see how the problem compared to the much more high-profile issue of nuclear waste.

We found:

Solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than do nuclear power plants.

If solar and nuclear produce the same amount of electricity over the next 25 years that nuclear produced in 2016, and the wastes are stacked on football fields, the nuclear waste would reach the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (52 meters), while the solar waste would reach the height of two Mt. Everests (16 km).

In countries like China, India, and Ghana, communities living near e-waste dumps often burn the waste in order to salvage the valuable copper wires for resale. Since this process requires burning off the plastic, the resulting smoke contains toxic fumes that are carcinogenic and teratogenic (birth defect-causing) when inhaled.

Update 2. Well that didn’t take long (climate change indeed):

Solar hot water panels have fallen victim to this weekend’s cold snap, bursting, splitting and leaving home owners with plumbing bills in the thousands.

“There’s a device on solar panels called frost valves. They allow a bit of expansion in the panel itself by allowing water to drip out of the panel. But we’ve seen panels with frost valves installed where it’s still happening.”

“I don’t think it’s a quality issue. It’s more or less I don’t think anybody expected for Melbourne to be so cold. They really aren’t made for our changing climate.”

Update 3. And when the wind don’t blow, the electricity don’t flow:

In 2011, CSIRO predicted that climate change would help wind farms:

“The findings were significant for wind-farm developers as they meant increased productivity….”

Although the CSIRO’s research on wind speeds is good news for wind-power development, supportive government policies will continue to provide the strongest incentive for the industry.

Last week, New Zealand wind power company Tilt Energy, which owns the Snowtown 1 and Snowtown 2 wind farms in South Australia, issued a $10 million-$12m pre-tax profit downgrade because of the lack of wind.

It followed a $9m-$12m downgrade for the same reason the previous week by Sydney-based Infigen Energy.

“Production from Australian assets for June will represent the lowest month of production since the full commissioning of these assets in 2008 and 2014 respectively,” Tilt said…

Update 4. Where it started and where this whole boondoggle may well begin to unravel:

Penn State climate scientist, Michael ‘hockey stick’ Mann commits contempt of court in the ‘climate science trial of the century.’ Prominent alarmist shockingly defies judge and refuses to surrender data for open court examination. Only possible outcome: Mann’s humiliation, defeat and likely criminal investigation in the U.S.

Update 5. That said, it may well be too late for Australia as we seem to be heading on the road to economic destruction:

The Finkel review learned nothing from these disastrous outcomes, which have transformed Australia’s electricity from the cheapest in the world to among the dearest. Instead of seeking to reduce the nation’s vulnerability to high cost, low reliability wind and solar, the report calls for a fourfold increase in subsidised renewables by 2030.

Many reports over the past 30 years have proclaimed we are on the cusp of an era when renewables’ costs will fall below those of coal. This allows supporters of renewable energy to fantasise that the substitution of wind for coal based electricity will see prices gradually fall.

But the report’s confidence in this is insufficient for it to recommend the removal of the supposedly unnecessary renewable energy subsidies! And Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, has shown that, even with token reliability back-up, renewables require an electricity price of $108 per MWh.

The Finkel high cost, low reliability regime would see the economy deindustrialised as energy intensive businesses close.

Update 6. Unfortunately, it gets worse:

Paul McArdle of WattClarity goes through each state looking at quarterly trends and prices, and remarks that things are going “off the chart”. We had some electricity crises in Australia in the last 12 months, and 2016 was a significantly more expensive than all previous years bar the major drought year of 2007. But ominously, prices haven’t come down in what should be a “normal” quarter. In Tasmania when dams ran dry last year, and the undersea Bass cable broke, but prices now, when there is no crisis in Tasmania are  only $3.20/MWh lower than the crisis levels of Q2 2016 despite water in dams and a working cable to Victoria. Something has gone seriously wrong with our electrical grid and market. In both Victoria and South Australia prices are higher on average than any previous April-June quarter in the 19 year history of the National Electricity Market. In Queensland and New South Wales, prices are at the “second highest”.

Update 7. And it’s articles like this that makes me wonder what the government isn’t telling us:

The world’s No. 2 seller abroad of liquefied natural gas holds so little in reserve that it can’t keep the lights on in Adelaide—a cautionary tale for the U.S.

Resource-rich Australia has an energy crisis, one that offers lessons for America as it prepares to vastly increase natural-gas shipments abroad.

Update 8. And I’ll bet this won’t get much air time and is typically brushed off:

Liberal MP says people will die of cold because renewable energy drives up fuel prices

Kelly, a Liberal backbencher, said the deaths would be caused by people not being able to afford to heat their homes in winter. He blamed rising fuel costs on the government’s renewable energy target.

Kelly, MP for Hughes in New South Wales, cited recent reports that one-in-four Australian households this winter will be frightened to turn on the heater due to high power prices. He also said the World Health Organisation has made it clear that winter mortality rates increase if people can’t afford to heat their homes.

…but Labor’s calling the comments ‘appalling’ and says policy uncertainty, not renewable subsidies, are the culprit for higher prices.

Update 9. And is South Australia being utterly duped?:

On Twitter, Musk had made an attractive, but guardedly qualified price estimate of $250/kw-hr for installations larger than 100 MWhr. He quickly admitted that price does not include shipping, installation, taxes or tariffs. He failed to state that the price likely does not include site specific engineering, site appropriate cooling systems or site specific grid connection infrastructure.

Indeed. What we do know is that of all the places in the world that have been royally screwed by the Enron economics of green energy none has taken a more vigorous and painful rogering than South Australia.

Update 10. It’s not extreme weather that is the most dangerous, but ‘mildly sub-optimal‘ and here’s a summary:

Our findings show that temperature is responsible for advancing a substantial fraction of deaths, corresponding to 7·71% of mortality in the selected countries within the study period. Most of this mortality burden was caused by days colder than the optimum temperature (7·29%), compared with days warmer than the optimum temperature (0·42%). Furthermore, most deaths were caused by exposure to moderately hot and cold temperatures, and the contribution of extreme days was comparatively low, despite increased RRs. The study was based on the largest dataset ever collected to assess temperature–health associations, and included more than 74 million deaths from 13 countries.

Update 11. And while South Australia fetes the Electric God:

Some Wall Street observers remain skeptical of Tesla’s high stock value, given the potential volatility of the taxpayer subsidies that help sustain the automaker. And that’s a sore point for Tesla’s Elon Musk.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that it drives Mr. Musk “crazy” when critics argue that his company is the creation of government subsidies and handouts. Perhaps he reacts so strongly because he knows they may have a point.

Indeed, the company – which received more than $1 billion in tax breaks to build its Nevada battery factory – has long depended on California emission credits, which it sells to other automakers, as a cash source. The company would yet to have a profitable quarter without the revenue it earns from such credits.

But if it makes Mr. Musk “crazy” that he’s seen as the poster child for corporate welfare, he could certainly take a break from the public trough. Because there are plenty of taxpayers who aren’t very happy about it, either.

Update 12. This is what happens when renewable energy subsidies are removed:

…the renewable energy industry is withering away and dying. It can only survive through government enforced subsidies or bribe-incentives. Once those dry up, so does its trade.

A tiny minority – Elon Musk; Dale “Dog on a Rope” Vince; etc – get very, very rich. But the ordinary folk forced to use their “clean” energy (whether they like it or not) just see their bills go up or, in the worst cases die in fuel poverty, even while the planet we’re supposed to be saving gets carpeted in bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes and bird-frying solar arrays.

While Germany has succeeded in increasing the share of wind and solar in German electricity production to over 30 percent, the average German household spent 50 percent more on electricity in 2016 than 2007. German firms open new manufacturing facilities not in Germany, but in Slovakia and other countries with much cheaper electricity.

Update 13. Think battery technology will be our saviour? One day maybe:

You may have read headlines over the years shouting about batteries that can make your mobile phone last for weeks and charge in seconds. Battery breakthroughs — they’re coming, we’re told.

‘Battery life holy grail discovered’, ‘Charged in 30 seconds’, ‘Battery breakthrough offers 30 times more power’ — these are all headlines from three to four years ago.

So where are they?

Update 14. It takes time, determination, an open-minded audience and a questioning government, amongst other things, for the reality of the true cost of renewables to be accepted, but we are still a long way from achieving that goal:

How should electricity from wind turbines and solar panels be evaluated? Should it be evaluated as if these devices are stand-alone devices? Or do these devices provide electricity that is of such low quality, because of its intermittency and other factors, that we should recognize the need for supporting services associated with actually putting the electricity on the grid?

Wind and solar are not really stand-alone devices when it comes to providing the kind of electricity that is needed by the grid. Grid operators, utilities, and backup electricity providers must provide hidden subsidies to make the system really work.

This problem is currently not being recognized by any of the groups evaluating wind and solar, using techniques such as LCOE, EROI, LCA, and EPP. As a result, published results suggest that wind and solar are much more beneficial than they really are. The distortion affects both pricing and the amount of supposed CO2 savings.

Update 15. So a loan to the Adani coal mine is considered a risk to Australian taxpayers, but free handouts to renewable energy companies is not (note the instigators of the study):

A $1 billion concessional loan to the controversial Adani Carmichael mine project in Queensland’s Galilee Basin could expose taxpayers to a high risk of losing their money, according to an independent business analysis.

The assessment was done by the business consulting firm, ACIL Allen, and commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Update 16. We should be calling it Ruinable Energy and not Renewable Energy:

An iconic Brisbane fishing business that last month announced it would shut down after 97 years, will remain open for a little while longer to fill an influx of orders.

“Electricity has doubled in the time we have been open,” he said.

“We get a $5,000 bill a month, but the part that irks you is that $600 is for electricity and the rest is fees and government charges.

“Any other industrial client is the same, we’re hearing about a plastic recycler who’s had his electricity charges gone up from $30,000 a month to $80,000 and they have to close as they can’t pay their power bills.

“It’s a terrible system we’re in at the moment.”

“The business will probably go overseas because the costs here in Australia are killing us,” Mr Alvey said.

Update 17. This is the sort of thing that I really hate. Global warming and renewable energy preachers like Al Gore or Leonardo Di Caprio just happen to be the biggest hypocrites on the planet:

The home of former vice-president and climate change activist Al Gore burns 34 times more electricity than the average American household, a report from National Center for Public Policy Research has revealed.

According to the report, Gore’s energy use at his 10,070-square-foot Colonial-style home in the upmarket Belle Meade neighborhood of Nashville averages 19,241-kilowatt hours (kWh) a month, compared to the U.S. household average of 901 kWh per month.

Update 18. I guess closing industry is a sure way to ensure energy security. We could go the whole hog and close all energy intensive industries and our power problems would be solved and then we could live the idyllic life of another island nation:

Holden closure will help Energy Market Operator manage SA’s blackout risk, report finds

The exit of a once powerful manufacturing sector will see the state using less electricity, particularly during the all-important summer peak.

Update 19. I thought I’d put this thought up. This morning, 9 Aug 2017, Sunrise had a segment where they discussed the future of jobs and what people would be doing in 20 years time. No one on the panel raised a question about the elephant in the room – Green jobs. So then I did a bit of a search to see what Google would bring up about future job trends and there were no surprises. After hearing for the last 10 years, at the very least, that renewable energy would be where future jobs lay, not a mention is made of this in any job related website. And it must be a topical subject, as the ABC also has an article about job automation, but no mention of Green jobs.

Update 20. And could Australia follow the folly of the UK?

Imagine a sausage factory – the luckiest, most profitable sausage factory in the world. Its machines crank out their sausages, and lorries carry them to supermarkets. So far, so normal.

But this particular factory makes as many sausages as the management and staff choose. If they feel like taking the day off, the lorries and shelves stay empty. If they want to go a bit wild, they sometimes make so many sausages that there aren’t enough lorries to take them away. Or they carry on cranking out sausages even if the shelves are already full.

And here’s the really amazing thing: even when the lorries can’t cope or there is no demand for sausages, the factory gets paid. Indeed, they get paid more for not sending the sausages to the shops than for sending them. This is such great business that the factory is actually building an extension, so it can threaten to make even more unwanted sausages.

Does all that sound completely mad? Of course it does. But it’s what happens in the British electricity industry – where the blackmailing, money-printing sausage factory is a wind farm in Scotland.

Update 21. You can never really be certain as to what you’re getting when it comes to some solar installations:

William Holdsworth’s solar panels were on his roof for five years before he realised they were never connected to the grid.

Six months ago, his son took a closer look at the most recent electricity bills for his home on the outskirts of Melbourne.

He found no savings had been realised in five years, because a crucial Certificate of Electrical Safety, required to finalise the connection, was never received by Mr Holdsworth, the retailer or the distributor.

“There’s no compulsory requirement for these companies to be part of an ombudsman scheme,” said policy officer Jake Tilley.

“This is because regulation isn’t keeping up with new products and services … people are buying what they think is energy service, but the reality is it’s not covered by the protections available in the traditional market.”

While there are 550 business and 4500 installers listed within the Clean Energy Council member base, just 47 retailers have voluntarily signed up to the council’s Solar Retailer Code of Conduct.

“We’ve heard multiple stories of door-to-door sellers making ridiculous claims, often dishonestly claiming that a household will never have to pay for energy again if they get solar panels.”

Update 22. This is an excellent article explaining exactly why our electricity prices have skyrocketed Over the last decade, ‘The Magic Pudding Electricity Theory‘. The graph is the most telling thing of all, showing the effect that renewables has had on prices since 2005 and here we really do have a genuine ‘Hockey Stick‘:

“As the graph clearly shows, real electricity prices have doubled since the turn of the century, with almost all the increase occurring since 2005, and with that increase highly correlated with the increasing proportion of intermittent power generation (i.e. wind and solar), which has also brought us massive threats to our power supply since they don’t work when the sun is not shining and the wind not blowing (or blowing too strongly, as South Australia discovered).”

Update 23. And this is what you get with renewable energy, ‘Australian Households pay highest power prices in the World‘:

South Australian households are paying the highest prices in the world at 47.13¢ per kilowatt hour, more than Germany, Denmark and Italy which heavily tax energy, after the huge increases on July 1, Carbon + Energy Markets’ MarkIntell data service says.

When the eastern states’ National Electricity Market was formed in the late 1990s, Australia had the lowest retail prices in the world along with the United States and Canada…

Update 24. A favourite program of mine is Restoration Man, a British program about people renovating old and often derelict buildings in the UK, and which features on ABC TV. I was watching one of the reruns (as they all are) about a couple restoring an old school in Wales that was to become the most sustainable house and training centre in Wales. However, without a taxpayer’s grant of 67,000 pounds from the local council, this would never have come to fruition. Why is it that everything ‘sustainable’ always requires taxpayer grands?

Update 25. This is truly staggering, climate fraud, yet you won’t hear about it from any main stream media outlet:

All of recent U.S. warming has been faked by NOAA.

Update 26. No one saw this coming; let’s blame it on not having renewable energy certainty (this is but the tip of the iceberg):

Hospitals and health services are being slugged with massive power cost increases as they struggle to balance budgets already under strain.

The cost of electricity has almost doubled for some services after a new 24-month contract came into place last month.

From January the health sector will be hit with another rise in utilities bills when the current gas contract expires.

Update 27. But nothing will stop tragic individuals from blaming every natural disaster on evil oil and gas. And yes, it is insensitive, especially because the assertion is so ludicrous:

Yes, Houston, you do have a problem, and – as insensitive as it seems to bring it up just now – some of it is your own making.

…as the self-styled “world capital of the oil and gas industry”, there’s a connection between rising global greenhouse gas levels and the extreme weather now being inflicted…

Houston and its surrounds are home to some 5000 energy-related firms, 17 of which are counted among the Fortune 500 list of largest US companies.

Update 28. I simply cannot stop pointing out the obvious. If renewable energy is so cost effective, why do we have to keep subsidising renewable energy? Surely be now it can mange on it’s own feet:

TAXPAYERS, not consumers, will bear the burden of the Victorian Government’s drive to subsidise a multi-billion dollar investment in renewable energy.

In developing the scheme the Government had originally proposed the “scheme costs will be recovered via either electricity distribution businesses, the state’s privatised transmission business, or electricity retailers, and ultimately passed through to customers’ bills. To enable this, a regulatory obligation will be levied on one of the above parties”.

However Ms D’Ambrosio’s office said the Government had now decided to fund the scheme from the Budget, but would not be revealing the amount.

Update 29: This is a very enlightening website about global coal plants and the statistics provided here (PDF) about coal plants planned and under construction are very enlightening indeed:

China 583, India 217, Indonesia 145, Turkey 71, Vietnam 84, Japan 43, Australia 0. To a total exceeding 1500.

Update 30..The ABC does an analysis of keeping open the Liddell power station and come to staggering conclusions:

Why does AGL want to close Liddell power station?
The short answer is that it is unreliable and expensive to run.

Who would pay to keep Liddell open?
That’d be you and me.

At the minimum, you’d be looking at several hundred million dollars to keep Liddell running longer. And there’s no way AGL would commit shareholder’s funds for that.

Why focus on a coal-fired station when Australia wants to cut emissions?
Australia has agreed to cut greenhouse emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030. The chief scientist has called for a Clean Energy Target to help meet that.

What is baseload generation and why is it important?
Coal-fired power stations like Liddell provide baseload — or a constant and predictable supply of power.

I’d like to point out some things that the ABC journalists overlooked. AGL sees more money (profit) from the rising cost of electricity and the subsidies renewables bring in (subsidising renewables costs $3 billion a year and rising, and guess who pays for these rising costs and subsidies – that’d be you and me). When you allow something to run down it will become unreliable and expensive to maintain and run (but what better way to go where the money is?). If we stopped exporting all of our natural resources (which are counted against us), the reduction of our greenhouse emissions would the envy of the world (we’d also be a economic basket case, but a small price to save the world while the rest of the world does nothing). Finally, if the wind don’t blow, the electricity don’t flow. No country can survive on renewables alone.

Update 31. The ABC once again suggests that ‘…soaring power prices: wind and solar not to blame’. Very well, if that genuinely is the case, then there is no argument as to why we should not remove subsidies on all electricity generation. The experts are effectively saying that subsidies are not required, so why isn’t the government listening to the experts and removing subsidies? How much clearer can it be:

Wind and solar are much cheaper. Not only is the fuel free and faces no regulatory risk — in the form of a carbon price — but the technology is simpler and quicker to install.

Wind still came out cheapest, with solar only marginally more expensive than black coal.

Update 32. And the ABC is once again pedalling somewhat disingenuous suggestions that the need for base load power is a furphy, but when facts are checked, it’s clear that base load power ie fossil fuel power, is the major source of our electricity stability (and electricity supply overall):

Base load power is a term we’re hearing a lot in discussions about our energy future. But what does it mean, and is it really relevant?

Because wind and solar are intermittent, the argument goes, we need a constant power source chugging away in the background to cover supply when the sun goes down and the wind stops.

Key points:
The ‘base load’ concept is misinterpreted and outdated
Demand varies hugely and energy production needs to be responsive
Hydro can be used to balance intermittent solar and wind
But energy researchers say the term is a “dinosaur” that has been misunderstood, and that it no longer applies to our dynamic energy market.

Energy Production By Source 13 Oct 2017 - (source: Australian Energy Market Operator)

Energy Production By Source 13 Oct 2017 – (source: Australian Energy Market Operator)

Update 33. The ACCC has produced a report on electricity pricing and Alan Moran has analysed what it means and made the same observation as I and many others have. In a nutshell:

The increase in costs from generation and from retail is all due to the renewable energy program increasing costs of doing business and forcing out low cost coal generators.  It is these measures that have led to the wholesale price of electricity rising from under $40 per MWh in 2015 to $90 per MWh today.

The wholesale component of household bills is about one third.  So this cost increase has led to as much as a $400 per household increase on top of the $100 directly paid in green energy subsidies.  The wholesale price effect is far greater for business customers where the energy component can be up to 60 per cent of costs.

The only solution to the regulation-induced crisis we face in energy involves abandoning immediately all subsidies, a solution championed by Tony Abbott, One Nation, the Liberal Democrats and Cory Bernardi.

Update 34. Foodbank has just released its latest report where they state that financial stress is pushing millions of Australians into food insecurity. We were once called the Lucky Country:

A shocking 3.6 million Australians, or 15% of the population, have experienced uncertainty around where their next meal is coming from in the last 12 months, a new report from Foodbank Australia has revealed.

Now in its fifth year, the report surveys charity agencies and recipients of assistance, exposing “bill shock” as a major factor driving the growing need for food relief in Australia.

Foodbank Australia’s CEO, Brianna Casey, said, “The report exposes how increasing numbers of people are falling into food insecurity simply due to the rising cost of life’s basics – like rent and power bills. Financial pressures create difficult choices, such as choosing between heating and eating. Two in five food insecure Australians (41%) have not paid bills in order to have enough money to buy food.”

Update 35. This is likely to become the norm in Australia unless sanity begins to prevail and Australia stops trying to save the world with expensive and ineffective renewable energy while the rest of the world increases their use of efficient and cost effective coal fired power. More than 120 Victorian electricity and gas connections cut off every day:

Energy companies reported disconnecting residential power and gas 46,122 times in the previous financial year.

Victorians raised their energy issues with the ombudsman 3411 times in 2016-17.

Energy and Water Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert said those contacting her office were in much more difficult financial positions than those of previous years.

“What we are seeing is customers in more dire situations,” Ms Gebert said.

“It’s not unusual to see customers coming to us with thousands of dollars in outstanding debt in both electricity and gas. Previously we weren’t seeing the arrears we are now.

Update 36. I’m not sure when I might stop adding to this list, but almost every week another story comes along that simply beggars belief. Flinders Island going for green with renewable energy hub, farewells dirty diesel, except that it’s not:

In December, Hydro Tasmania will flick the switch over to its Hybrid Energy Hub, which will enable the island to be powered by 60 per cent renewable energy on average.

When conditions are right, diesel generators will be switched off and the island will run 100 per cent on renewables.

Hydro Tasmania hybrid energy solutions manager Ray Massie said the project would reduce emissions by 60 per cent and put downward pressure on future power prices.

“This will reduce emissions down to about 40 per cent of what has traditionally been generated from the power station,” he said.

“The use of diesel is a large expense. The overall price for their electricity won’t be going down but it will put pressure on future prices.”

If renewables can’t provide cheaper electricity on a small windy island with no cheap competitor, where can it compete?

Update 37. It’s well known that plants thrive in high CO2 environments and many greenhouse operators introduce CO2 to increase plant growth in greenhouses. Now it’s been revealed that ‘Plants release up to 30 per cent more CO2 than previously thought‘:

ANU researcher Owen Atkin said plant respiration was previously thought to account for five to eight times the carbon compared to human activity.

However the new findings suggested that number could be much higher.

“Each year the burning of fossil fuels releases around 5 to 8 billion tons of carbon … so the respiration by plants is somewhere approaching 11 times that in our new estimate,” he said.

Could it be that plants actually want more CO2 and ever in natures way, they are designed to increase atmospheric CO2 for their own benefit ie, to thrive. And perhaps this happens after an ice age, when the world begins to warm and plants accelerate that warming. Maybe, just maybe, humans really don’t have much influence on the climate afterall.

Update 38. Elon Musk’s giant lithium ion battery completed. $50 million would have bought each of those 30,000 homes a 4-6KVA diesel generator that would have run as long a fuel was added. And ‘Elon Musk Cons South Australia out of $50 million‘. I’m surprised that the SA government hasn’t put out a tender for the supply of Fairy Dust.

South Australian taxpayers will spend up to $50 million subsidising the 100-megawatt battery.

The new battery will produce enough energy to power about 30,000 homes for a little over an hour.

In return, the SA Government will have access to some of the battery’s output to provide stability services to the grid.

The plan (Premier Jay Weatherill’s $550 million energy plan) also included a fleet of diesel-powered backup generators, which have already been installed ahead of summer.

Update 39. And while this is not directly related to the subject, it is very relevant, as it’s used as an excuse for what questionable renewable energy, How to cope in the heat:

Globally, more people die from heat than from bushfire. How well prepared are we for another scorching summer?

The reality is that more people die globally from cold than heat. I well remember school days back in the early 60s when we’d have a week of temperatures over the ton (over 100F or 38C) and then have to go to school where there was no air conditioning or even fans. We seemed to survive. Now they issue severe temperature warnings for the likes of Tasmania when they expect a week of 25+C.

Update 40. Here’s an excellent article by Alan Moran in the Spectator, explaining where we are headed with renewable energy, ‘AGL: impoverishing the nation to boost its bottom line‘:

The supporters of renewable energy continue to claim – as they have for the past 30 years – that wind/solar is or soon will be cheaper than energy from coal generators. Even so, renewable energy supporters continue to lobby for ongoing subsidies, which today provide $85 per megawatt hour on top of the spot price of $80.

Australia’s wholesale electricity price doubled with the closure of Victoria’s 1600 MW Hazelwood Power station which supplied 4-5 per cent of national demand. Hazelwood was made unprofitable by subsidised intermittent wind being able to displace it and force it off the stable output levels for which it was designed.

As a result, Australia has lost its pole position in electricity competitiveness. The gradual increase in subsidised renewable energy in forcing out coal plant has transformed the Australian industry from perhaps the cheapest in the world into, on some measures, one of the most expensive in the world.

18 thoughts on “Renewable Energy – Friend Or Fraud?

  1. Shawn K.

    But Ray, think of the children!

    The politics and business of green energy is disturbing. I have a Prius because it’s a good, fuel efficient car, not because it has a hybrid badge. Unfortunately, having a hybrid badge seems to be some kind of statement, which often incites an odd form of road rage from people driving non-hybrid vehicles, resulting in all kinds of rude behaviour. I know this group doesn’t limit their stupidity to their feelings about hybrids, but it’s a good example of how emotion seems to drive some of the opinions on green energy.

    I don’t know why it’s so damn hard to make realistic, rational appraisals and move forward from there, but as you wrote, it is. I know that photovoltaic power can work for some people, but I also know that it’s not a solution for many more. The thermal storage capability of concentrated solar power looks more interesting to me when it comes to large scale production, but even that isn’t going to offset traditional plants in the near future. When it comes down to cost per kilowatt for commercial production, the promises aren’t being kept. In some respects, current solar & wind sources never will deliver.

    Anyone that thinks solar & wind power will lead to the wholesale replacement of existing plants needs to look at the power demands of an aluminum smelter or steel plant. Other than hydro or geothermal, no green power source can hope to meet industrial demand, and the same goes for massive urban areas with high demands. I think it’s smarter to look at improving efficiency during transmission and consumption, while still working to improve renewable power sources that really can stand on their own and compete with traditional sources.

    Simply regulating traditional sources out of competitiveness isn’t a smart way forward, but that seems to be a key ingredient in making green power viable. Dumb move – unless you’re making money from that process.

    1. Ray Post author

      I think the issues with the Prius (often called Pious) is due to many celebrities making a big deal of hybrid and electric cars (amongst many other issues), suggesting that if you don’t follow them, you’re some sort of Neanderthal or whatever. They always seem to be telling people what to do.

      In Australia, the state of South Australia has gone so far now with green energy, that they totally rely on the eastern states that still have reliable base load power for their continued electricity and have suffered some significant blackouts recently, with more feared. As of today South Australia will have the world’s most expensive electricity. The situation is so parlous, that the South Australian government is planning to spend $114 million to buy diesel generators so that they might avoid blackouts come Summer.

      Other states are following South Australia’s example of banning coal and gas (especially exploration) and there is now a growing fear that we might start having significant blackouts everywhere. A country that has an abundant supply of cheap coal, gas and hydro, is giving all of that up for absolutely no tangible gain. If this keeps up, cattle farmers will soon have another source of income, selling Australians dried cow dung for heating and cooking.

  2. Shawn K.

    Prius sales (and hybrids in general) are now commonplace in Muricuh, so the glamour glow has faded significantly, but the hate for whatever owning one is supposed to stand for still runs deep in some groups.

    I knew that Germany was afflicted by some strong greenness, but I didn’t realize that Australia had become so impractical. Makes as much sense as reducing tire consumption by removing one from your four wheeled car.

    1. Ray Post author

      The madness continues unabated and will continue to do so until reality smacks us in the back of the head. By then it may be too late.

      I forgot to mention that on the day when electricity prices rose across Australia, we experienced our coldest morning for several years. I also understand that Al Gore is, or will be, in Australia early July, which means we’ll be getting even colder weather if his previous visits to other countries is any guide. And I’m planning to go to the High Country next weekend; so it’s certain to be very cold with lots of snow and ice.

  3. Shawn K.

    Algore is just another opportunistic bastard that hit on the right cause at the right time in his life. I think he did more to harm efforts to address climate change than any good he claims. Climates are changing, but nothing good comes from hyping everything, and blaming it all on man made causes. Even if there were 100% consensus and unassailable proof showing that humans had full responsibility for the worldwide climate, flailing around in a global anxiety attack isn’t productive.

    To me, a more rational approach would be to recognize that things are changing, and that mankind has had some impact on where the climate is going, but there’s only so much we can do to alter the present course. Your article illustrates how making reflexive decisions can do more harm than good. Japan is another example, in that the nation decided to turn its back on nuclear power overnight, with nothing online to replace it.

    These are big problems. They can’t be wished away, and they won’t be solved by hashtags & tears.

    1. Ray Post author

      That’s one thing that Bjorn Lomborg has tried to convey for some time. He does believe in climate change, but his view is that rather than giving the UN, bankers, financiers, Big Oil etc trillions of dollars, use that money for better purposes, as well as adaptation. He was offered a position in an Australia university to do work on this, but the outcry from the establishment was so strident that this was withdrawn. And academics talk about integrity; they fear that the truth will emerge.

      If humans have been able to adapt to life in African deserts, Arctic tundras, low oxygen altitudes and oppressive humidity, where the temperature difference between the former can be 100C+, I don’t really see how 2C increase (if that) in a 100+ years would cause us a problem. The current response seems to be that we should return to the caves and no longer dream about going to the stars.

  4. Shawn K.

    Well, it’s going to cause some problems, but I’m not ready to stock my cave just yet.

    From what little I’ve read, Lomberg takes a more measured view of what’s coming. Scary stuff. The efforts to censor him are telling.

    1. Ray Post author

      The efforts to censor him are mainly due to the fact that what he proposes will empty the troughs of money that have been pouring into the climate hustle. It’s quite telling how all of this works. One of our organisations, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), had a new chief executive appointed and one of his first moves was to eliminate a range of departments involved in climate science. His view is: “That question has been answered, and the new question is what do we do about it, and how can we find solutions for the climate we will be living with?”; that is, the science is settled, let’s do research on how to adapt. This was met with immediate outrage suggesting that the science wasn’t settled. So is it or is it not settled?

  5. Shawn K.

    I’d have to wonder at the motives of any scientist or politician that declared that there was no reason to continue climate research. Long term research is at the core of science, and there’s quite a bit riding on how this works out. It’s also pretty stupid to think that good solutions will be executed without the benefit of scientific monitoring of their efficacy.

    I know it’s used frequently, but I don’t believe “settled” is an appropriate term, especially for a system with so many variables over such enormous time spans. If asked about glacial recession, yes, that’s settled; they’re receding. Flatly stating that all questions relating to climate change are settled seems myopic to me, yet that’s being announced (and screamed in everyone’s faces) routines.

    I’m impressed with the science that’s being done, and I’m concerned about the impact that humans are having on the environment, but I can’t believe we know all there is to know. I’d like to see global agreements that are based in reality, and that are actually attainable & beneficial. The Montreal Protocol is a rare example of science leading to a political solution. I’d like to see more of that, and less political/ideological led efforts that accomplish little of their stated goals.

    1. Ray Post author

      The decision was primarily based on the fact that there are so many scientists around the world researching the causes of climate change, such that CSIRO money could be better spent on more productive research. When you consider what the name CSIRO stands for, it’s moved away from that broader research and focussed far too much on climate change.

      One of the things that’s made me a sceptic is the fact that no one seems to be allowed to question the status quo; true science is all about questioning the status quo, especially if there is any doubt about any proposition. And true science is never about consensus, it’s about indisputable facts, the latter which is in short supply when it comes to climate science.

      The other thing that has made me a sceptic is the constant claim that we’ve now reached a tipping point, a point where there’s no turning back no matter what we do. We’ve reached these tipping points once a year for around 20 years now, yet a new tipping point seems to arrive every year with exactly the same dire predictions.

      And finally, I keep reading all the terrible things that climate change will cause, bad bread, bad beer, you name it, yet in the last 20 years, we seem to have more crop production, healthier crops, more forest rejuvenation etc. It looks more like things are getting better and not worse.

      All of this has become a combination of ‘the boy who cried wolf’ and ‘chicken little’. How can you trust any of this anymore, given that every announcement is of dire catastrophe, until the next dire catastrophe? And because of this, we are seeing this energy madness (amongst other things) throughout the world; making life worse, not better for humanity.

  6. Shawn K.

    The U.S. commissioned another aircraft carrier today. At 337 meters long, 76 meters tall, with a displacement of over 100,000 long tons, it’s rather large.

    Someone asked me if the ship was solar powered – and they were serious. Even if the results disappoint, there’s no denying that green marketing is effective.

    1. Ray Post author

      Now if the entire landing deck was a solar panel, then maybe it could run for an hour or two on solar power. Not sure how long the deck would last with takeoffs and landings.

      1. Shawn K.

        I don’t think a carrier would move very fast or far solely on solar power. This one has electric catapults, too. I’m guessing it really needs most of the available 1400 megawatts occasionally.

        They should green the navies and revert to sail power. Pilots will just have to get used to the masts and rigging.

        1. Ray Post author

          I don’t think it would go far at all. It’s a bit like our South Australian government becoming enthralled with Elon Musk and his ‘miracle’ battery farm that will allow around 30,000 homes run for around an hour during a blackout or 2500 homes for an entire day. That could become a real tourist attraction, watch the lights go out in South Australia and marvel at today’s technology.

  7. Shawn K.

    Elon wants to re-roof your house, too.

    After some rough calculations, it’d possibly cost me a mere $20,000 to have it installed (more with a Tesla battery, of course), and it’d possibly only take a mere 16 years to break even – and that’s with several thousand dollars in government subsidies. I have doubts about the math and the efficacy, so I’ll let the Californians give it a try first.

    1. Ray Post author

      I saw that a while back. What’s interesting is that he has apparently received more than $4 Billion in government subsidies and some claim that were it no for that, he would not be where he is today.

      1. Shawn K.

        I know there’ll be mass outrage, but I have a feeling that some of those subsides are going away soon. Maybe some of his companies will be able to turn the corner and survive on their merits, but I have my doubts. Covering a roof with thousands of small panels seems like a bad idea to me.

        1. Ray Post author

          If you could produce such tiles at a similar cost as regular roof tiles or other roofing materials, then I’d support the concept. But until such is the case, most of these great ideas cost too much and, if subsidised, still mean that usually it’s only the reasonably wealthy can afford to adopt them. Just like Musk, the wealthy are the ones that benefit from all of these planet saving ideas.

          A science research project that I managed many years ago involved a photo-conductive compound (in simplistic terms) that could be applied to almost any surface and used to generate electricity. The concept actually worked and the long term idea, amongst others, was to coat commercial building exteriors to supplement regular power. I don’t know whether this ever progressed and suspect that, like many such ideas, it ended up not being as practical and cost effective as envisaged.


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