Australia’s energy policy is a self-inflicted calamity driven by an obsession with intermittent wind and solar. Only a complete collapse of the grid will cause those who pretend to govern us to get a grip. But, thankfully, a complete ‘system black’ is on the cards this coming summer.

The Federal Energy Minister, Angus Taylor has been reduced to waffling about ‘green’ hydrogen and has been otherwise co-opted by rent-seekers, merrily profiting at the expense of every productive industry, business and household.

With a Federal election looming – against the backdrop of an unfolding power supply and pricing disaster – you might expect Taylor and Scott Morrison, his PM, to start advancing the case for nuclear power in this country. But these characters sound more like spin doctors for the wind and solar industries than champions of industry, business and trade. Neither of them is game to use the ‘N’ word in public, as if their Liberal party were chasing Green-held seats in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Pathetic doesn’t cover it.

Those that apparently claim to understand energy security, keep peddling the same hackneyed myth that, with a few giant batteries thrown in, we are well on our way to an all wind and sun powered future. It is, of course, perfect nonsense.

And those sitting on the so-called Energy Security Board must know it. If not, they should go back to their day jobs as policy spin doctors, marketing executives and university lecturers and leave the task to trained engineers and market economists.

Australia gains the bulk of its electricity from coal, gas and hydro in that order. Each of which are available as and when power consumers need it.

Wind power is only delivered when the wind is blowing at a sufficient and constant speed, and solar is only delivered when an unimpeded sun is shining during the period between sunup and sundown. Sunset and calm weather are the reason why wind and solar will never amount to meaningful power sources. It’s that simple.

Faced with the hopeless intermittency of wind power, boffins and policymakers now talk about “wind droughts” like there’s something sinister about calm weather; some kind of fossil-fuelled back conspiracy, as it were.

But, as STT sees it, the only conspiracy afoot is one against common sense and reason.

Whether or not the wind and solar cultists that sit on the ESB like it, coal-fired power is the backbone of Australia’s electricity grid. Without it, this country would descend into Stone Age chaos in next to no time.

What Australians are faced with is a mixture of delusion and wishful thinking. Neither of which are going to keep the lights on.

Rafe Champion has been spelling it out in recent posts with the team at Jo Nova.

Here he is, spelling out again.

Will it work to press on with more wind and solar power with existing storage technology?
Jo Nova Blog
Rafe Champion
24 August 2021

The dilemma Australia faces is that if we keep stuffing subsidized unreliable energy into the system we will force stable fuels out, and be carbon free, but we will also be free of 50Hz cycles, 24 hour power, aluminium plants, and manufacturing jobs. Policy-dreamers are using magical words like “battery” and “pumped hydro” as if Australia is a scaled up Mechano Truck run on Monopoly-money and we can expect reliable rain for the first time in 2 billion years.

The Energy Security Board, chaired by Kerry Schott, has at last delivered a report to the Federal Government with proposals for market reforms to resolve a looming crisis in the national power supply or at least the NEM, the National Energy Market that covers the south-eastern states, excluding WA. The crisis is twofold – increasing grid instability and the threat of supply if coal plants are forced out of business prematurely. Both of those issues arise from the rapid escalation of intermittent inputs of wind and solar power because Australia has the gold medal for the rate of increase in installed RE capacity.

Kerry Schott, the chair of the ESB, has signalled that the ‘simple’ plan to move towards net zero emissions is to get in as much renewable energy and hydro as we can and back it up with pumped hydro and batteries.

The fundamental problem is the gap in RE supply on windless nights when the supply is zero. No amount of installed capacity is helpful in the absence of wind and sun, in the way that a chain is only as strong as the weakest link and a flood protection wall is only as good as the lowest point regardless of the high parts or the average height.

How much can we expect from pumped hydro and batteries?
The Snowy 2.0 project will probably cost north of $10 Billion and it will take years to complete. It is expected to deliver as much power as a big coal power station like Bayswater for about six months. So to replicate Bayswater we need a second Snowy 2.0 but where can that be located? And even then, the two Snowys (and associated wind farms) only replace 2GW out of some 20GW of coal capacity that we have at present.

Moving on to batteries. Some people in the industry will tell you they are not supposed to deal with wind droughts, they just deliver instantaneous inputs of power to stabilize the grid in the face of fluctuations of wind and solar input. But still there is talk about putting batteries at Liddell and Yallourn to cover the gap when they close. The problem is the difference in scale between the power that you can get from the battery (after it is charged) compared with the power delivered by the coal plant. The pathetic scale of big batteries is explained here.

Many of the problems in the green energy transition are covered in the briefing papers from the Energy Realists and you can see them all here.


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August 29, 2021