Energy policy’s slow inch away from the abyss

Well here’s a turn-up.  Malcolm Turnbull, apostelistic slaughterer-in-chief of carbon emissions, is not only acquiescing in producing more of them but is seeking to divert funds from an agency set up to kill coal to assist in its resurrection!

Turnbull is pressuring the Clean Energy Development Fund, the renegade agency created by Gillard and protected by the ALP, Greens and assorted know-nothing independents, to provide funds for “modern” coal-powered generators.  It has also talked the $100 billion Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank into changing its lending policy to support for coal-fired electricity generation.

The plan is to get a station in northern Queensland which is said to be commercially viable and is said also to provide $863 million in “social benefits”.

You can see where this is going.  We are to have some whizz bang new facility employing an expensive high tech system that will get a government subsidy.

Hopefully this new technology will not be the government’s barren love child, Carbon Capture and Storage, a technology that will always be twice the cost of conventional plant.   Australia has fruitlessly spent tens of millions of dollars on this dead end, largely to assuage its own guilt and that of BHP’s CEO about making money for the country and the company by selling a product that ensures the world’s destruction due to carbon dioxide emissions.

The government funding will likely be contingent upon a plant that uses “supercritical” coal technology, the high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) plant.

This gets about 50 per cent more energy from the coal itself but is thought to cost 30-40 per cent more in capital. For Australia it means a premium cost of perhaps 20 per cent.  Not bad set against wind that has a 200 per cent premium for an intrinsically unreliable generation.  But hardly “commercial”.

The new departure comes days after the “expertariate” (including the head of ACiL Tasman) had proclaimed that no new coal plant would ever get off the ground in Australia.  Bloomberg New Energy Finance has also just published an appraisal that put the HELE cost at $134-$203 per megawatt hour but then again the shonkiness of its estimates should have been recognised by a gullible media when it also reckoned we could get wind for $61 per MWh!

The Turnbull recant on coal is a recognition, after nearly three months, that Trump means an end to the global emission policy, which the PM had previously sacrificed the Liberal Party leadership to defend. And his U-turn was doubtless assisted by the compelling evidence that wind is not only dear but undermines system stability.  Turnbull may also have been prompted to compromise by a recognition of his own political vulnerability following the goring he received from Trump and the rebuttal of his claim that the export of unwanted “refugees” to the US had the new President’s unqualified support.

Government support for a new coal power station means it will be excessively expensive but nonetheless the policy demonstrates that the government is at least one step ahead of the commentariat in inching its way back to policy sanity on energy.

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21 Responses to Energy policy’s slow inch away from the abyss

  1. incoherent rambler

    Meanwhile Dannograd shuts down a 3c per kwh electricity generation facility.

    Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.

  2. john constantine

    As long as there are subsidies and massive upfront profits, our social justice elites will occupy the space.

  3. .

    If the greens and left were serious about global warming, they’d welcome nuke and hydro with open arms.

    All we need do is nothing but allow more of them to operate by eliminating (in effect) prohibitory regulation.

    If you really wanted to reduce CO2 emissions, you’d look at savings such as foreign aid and tourism promotion an put it into new hydro and nuke that you’d sell off, along with giving possible new operators, consumers and constructors a tax holiday on construction and for the first 20-30 years of generation, transmission and retailing. No extra taxes on coal or gas or petroleum and no targets otherwise.

    The evidence is in and we should really do nothing. If there is no noticeable temp or sea level rise by 2o30, global warming will die as an idea.

  4. James of the Glen

    Anyone catch the barf inducing sludge on ABC RN this morning with Geraldine Doogue gushing over Michael Mann (soon to burn kero getting to our shores)? Not a word about him falsely claiming a Nobel Prize. Not a word about cherry picking up Yamal way. Not a word about hiding results and bullying other scientists. Lots of words about “the scientists” and “deniers”. Lots of words about how “renewables” will save the world.

    Doogue is a poorly researched (but loves to create the opposite impression) parrot.

  5. Mark M

    Floods, hail, storm surges: Why Adelaide’s weather has gone a little crazy lately
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-03/why-has-adelaides-weather-gone-a-little-crazy-lately/8238174
    They can’t blame coal-fired power, as they don’t have any.

  6. Mark M

    @James of the Glen, #2284631, posted on February 4, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Sen. Malcolm Roberts has challenged Prof. Michael Mann to a debate whilst Mann enjoys his book-promotion, fossil-fuelled flight to Australia.
    https://twitter.com/SenatorMRoberts/status/827269051961323521

    Pathetic Mann claims he needs 96 more scientists.

    Roberts agrees to Mann’s comical 97 v 1.

    Quote Mann, who is terrified of debating skeptics: “Good-faith debate is not only OK, it is welcome — and critical”

    https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/02/02/aaup-says-colleges-should-defend-professors-targeted-online-harassment-due-political

  7. nonetheless the policy demonstrates that the government is at least one step ahead of the commentariat in inching its way back to policy sanity on energy.

    Huh! don’t be silly. Malcolm is all about Malcolm. He just wants to be seen to be doing something. Malcolm doesn’t give a hoot about energy, renewable or not.

  8. “$863 million in “social benefits”.’

    I’ve always found that, for things like ‘low, low price’, ‘social cost’, ‘social benefit’ and percentages of experts who agree with me, one should always pick an odd number that’s high but not too high. 9.9, 99, 990 are too close to perfect while 9.7, 97, 970 etc have been done to death.

    863 is a very convincing number no matter where you put the decimal point and I congratulate the factoid-manufacturers who came up with it. Love your work, men.

  9. egg_

    Counters Bananaby’s ‘windchimes’ and solar farms in New England/North West NSW?

  10. Dr Faustus

    The new departure comes days after the “expertariate” (including the head of ACiL Tasman) had proclaimed that no new coal plant would ever get off the ground in Australia.

    In defence of ACiL Tasman, Paul Hyslop made the very sensible point that: “The idea of making such a long-term investment in a policy environment which can shift quickly would be very unattractive to the big participants.”

    This is a fundamental problem caused directly by all Australian governments over the past 20 years trying to apply poorly considered political solutions to a highly complex, unintended-consequences-rich industry they simply don’t understand.

  11. H B Bear

    863 is a very convincing number no matter where you put the decimal point and I congratulate the factoid-manufacturers who came up with it. Love your work, men.

    LOL

  12. Sankar Bhattacharya

    Good to see common sense prevailing at the government level. Building ultra-supercritical coal-fired units (IEA label this under a generic name HELE) in Australia makes sense. These are reliable, commercially available, and operate around the world with high availability and have an excellent load-following capability. These will work well with our black coals, albeit will need air cooled condenser in some parts of the country. Application with brown coal will depend on successful demonstration of a commercial-scale brown coal dryer. We have only Kogan creek as the only supercritical unit built around 2007. There are a number of old subcritical units in the country which are ripe for retirement.

  13. Bon

    If Malcolm really wanted to fix the unholy mess that’s been created by the RET, Howard’s ill advised Mouse that Roared, and the umpteen other green taxes and subsidy schemes that have fostered the green energy rent seeking schemes Aussie mums and Dads and business are now saddled with, he would be doing all in his power to unwind Australia’s two decades of madness. The fact is Malcolm’s current Road to Damascus moment is not born of any sudden recognition that for all those years we have been destroying the economy for nothing on the strength of the greatest Ponzi scheme the west has ever experienced but more on a the stark reality that his own political survival is now at risk.

  14. egg_

    Bananaby’s ‘windchimes’ and solar farms in New England/North West NSW?

    Cucked by Whinger.

  15. egg_

    This is a fundamental problem caused directly by all Australian governments over the past 20 years trying to apply poorly considered political solutions to a highly complex, unintended-consequences-rich industry they simply don’t understand.

    The costs of maintaining unused DESAL plants around the country should be taken out of State MPs pensions.

  16. Sorry Alan, but you have been duped. This has nothing to do with providing cheap, reliable energy, and everything to do with building a very expensive white elephant which will require perpetual taxpayer subsidy, thereby “proving” the advantages of renewables over fossil fuel.

    The problem is not, and never has been, the efficiency of existing base load, coal fired power stations. The problem is the legislated requirement placed on distributors to buy renewable energy first, whenever it is available. That makes running a base load steam power station at a profit, an economic impossibility.

    Making such a new power station profitable, requires changing the legislation. Conversely, changing the legislation negates the need for the new power station. Ergo, the whole exercise is a sham, designed to demonstrate the “superiority” of wind and solar power.

  17. Dr Faustus

    The costs of maintaining unused DESAL plants around the country should be taken out of State MPs pensions.

    There is a solar-heated furnace in Hell waiting for politicians who think they can combine politics with science and technology.

  18. Bruce of Newcastle

    It sounds like the sheer disaster of renewable energy is just starting to sink into the consciousness of the less educated members of the Liberal caucus (including Mr Turnbull).

    All that’s done is perched them on a painfully sharp fence, since you can only either be a believer or an unbeliever in this equation. So I don’t hold out much hope. The antibodies will be out in such force against any coal plant proposal that the wets will skedaddle well before the going gets too warm.

    The arc of the future is inevitably an ALP government who does like Dan the Man and so roots the electricity sector that we get blackout after blackout. Only then will some Lib grow a set of balls big enough to jettison the renewbulls scam.

  19. CaameronH

    We already have some super critical plants in Queensland. The latest coal plants, Callide C, Kogan Creek and Millmeran, use this technology. This has been the new standard for coal fired plants for the past couple of decades and if the government had not been interfering and frightened off power companies we would have more of them instead a billions of dollars of useless windmills and solar panel.

  20. egg_

    It sounds like the sheer disaster of renewable energy is just starting to sink into the consciousness of the less educated members of the Liberal caucus (including Mr Turnbull).

    The Green economic disaster that is Spain was not a warning bell to Australian politicians?
    Vested interests and p1ssweak third-rate retail career politicians, more likely.

  21. King Koala

    Bananaby’s ‘windchimes’ and solar farms in New England/North West NSW?

    Ruining some of the best scenery in NSW with these white elephants ought to get the bastard shot. Build these eyesores in Wentworth. Trumbull’s hot air would ensure they never stop turning.

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