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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…