Remember the choke point. How sustainable is renewable energy?

This is a draft of a chapter in the work in progress to explain why Wind and Solar power cannot replace coal and gas to provide reliable power until massive amounts of wind and solar power can be stored to use when the sun is not shining and the wind is low.

The key point is to take account of the choke point in the supply of wind and solar power. That is the lowest point, the worst case scenario. We have to plan for the worst case otherwise sooner or later large parts of the grid will go down, even whole states. How many times a year can we afford that?

It is potentially catastrophic to invest public money in windmills and solar farms before mass storage is available. The German Trifecta of Failure and the South Australian experience have demonstrated that.

The results of premature investment in intermittent or unreliable energy.

Power becomes more expensive.

The supply becomes less stable and less reliable.

The coal-fired power stations are driven out of business by subsidised renewable energy with favoured access to the grid.

This is happening in Australia and the situation will get a lot worse unless there is an effective plan to save the coal-fired power stations before any more are closed.

Two major misconceptions. One is the claim that RE has been getting cheaper and is now cheaper than coal-fired power. This can be addressed another time, the point is that the problem of the choke point applies regardless of the cost of RE.

The other misconception is that batteries and pumped hydro will solve the storage problem. This can be answered briefly.

The $60M battery attached to the ….windfarm in SA will supply power for 20 minutes after the wind stops. It would power the SA grid for 3 or 4 minutes. Calculate the cost of batteries to support the SA grid for a few hours or a whole day.

A wall of household batteries costing 10 or 12K will keep the lights on overnight, plus the fridge, charge your phone and boil the jug but don’t do any washing or run the air conditioning, or charge the two Teslas in the garage. They might set the house on fire as well! And how long do they last?

Don’t expect a miracle from pumped hydro. The way things are going several coal stations will be closed by the time Snowy2.0 is completed, even on the current timetable. That could take x GW out of the system and how much is Snowy 2.0 going to deliver? Remember that almost a third of the power that is generated by the wind and solar farms is lost in the pumping. How sustainable is that kind of waste? The preliminary estimate of the cost for Snowy 2.0 would deliver two modern coal-fired plants and you can guarantee that the cost will blow out by many billions of dollars and the time for completion will blow out as well.

How soon can be dispense with power from coal?

The short answer is that there is no quick way to eliminate coal-fired power. Audrey Zibelman, CEO of the AEMO the Australian Energy Market Operator, conceded that coal will be in the mix for some time but where is the plan to save the coal stations?

She has claimed repeatedly that we can win the Power Trifecta by getting cheaper power and more reliability with more renewable energy in the mix. This is a remarkable claim in view of the German Trifecta of Failure.

The daily cycle of electricity use and the sources of supply in South Eastern Australia.

This is the picture for the 24 hours up to 8pm Friday 16th. This is easier to read although of course it keeps changing. Still it shows 24 hours so you can get the picture however much the details change.

Key features.

1.The providers. Black and brown coal are the foundation of the supply. Brown runs at a steady level while Black rises and falls following the demand on the system. Natural gas and water (hydro) go up and down fairly rapidly as required. The supply from wind is highly variable and on this particular day it ranged from 60% down to 27% of plated capacity at the evening peak. Solar power of course comes and goes between day and night.

2.The daily cycle. There are peaks in the morning and the evening for breakfast and dinner. The evening peak is higher because in winter the heaters are on and in summer the air conditioning is likely to be turned up. The winter peak usually approaches 30GW.

3.The contribution of sun and wind at the peaks. Solar makes some contribution in the morning but none at the evening peak in winter.

The capacity problem. Managed and unmanaged load shedding

The AEMO issued a warning that a lot of capacity in the system has been lost in recent years. Some 6 or 8GW has gone in the last few years and Liddell is scheduled to close in 2022 or maybe 2023.

When the system lacks the capacity to provide the power that consumers want to use there is managed and unmanaged load shedding. First the system operator (the AEMO) contacts high volume users and instructs them to reduce their consumption. At the next state the operator blacks out selected suburbs or districts. If the managed load shedding is too little or too late the whole system or some substantial area blacks out – the whole of South Australia went for three days in 2016.

The fragility of the system is not well known. It would be better understood if the public could find out how much of the first stage of load shedding happens. There is a cost because the users are compensated and the price is paid by increasing the cost of power to users at large.

The Choke Point guarantees that Solar and Wind cannot replace coal-fired power.

The following figures address the situation at the winter peak of demand that is about 30GW after 6pm when the sun is off duty.
Supporters of RE might claim that the 6 GW of wind power that are currently being built or proposed in addition to the 6 GW existing will cover the loss of coal-fired power. Those figures come from this source and I thought that much more is impending, of course the situation changes so fast that figures are out of date by the time they are published.

Anyway, consider the amount of Wind required to replace the current supply of 18 or 19GW from coal. The other main providers are Water with capacity in the order of 5 or 6 GW and various forms of gas that add up to about 6GW and nobody is suggesting that the should go.

Now consider how much installed wind power is required to generate 18GW at the lowest point of wind supply – around 2% or 3% of plated capacity. Think of the analogy with drowning. When you are under water for five or ten minutes it does not help that for all the previous years of your life you breathed air with 20.95% of oxygen.

Even at 5% of plated capacity, a common enough reading, 18 x 20 = 360GW.

That is a scary figure compared with even the most inflated estimates of proposed Wind projects.

How much can Hydro and Gas ramp up when the wind dies?

Where is the fault in this line of argument?

Are they counting on nuclear power?

UPDATE. More figures to indicate the shortfall of wind. These are the percentage of the total load provided by wind at the evening peak over the last few days. To be fair we are not expecting wind to reach 100% because Water and various forms of gas are good for about a third of the 30GW demand. So just consider the gap between these figures and (say) 60%.

6, 2.4, 3, 2.5, 2.5, 4, 4, 5, 1, 5, 7.5, 5, 15, 16, 4, 10, 1.3, 6, 9, 7.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe | 44 Comments

If they can bring on a recession to sink Donald Trump they will

Let me start with this sage piece of advice from Henry in the previous post:

No sensible purpose is served by the facile criticism of the administration that increasingly pervades the Australian media, and the equally facile ­questioning of the alliance that ­invariably accompanies it. For these issues are deadly serious; unless they are treated seriously, the consequences will be deadly too.

And then there’s this from Instapundit to bear in mind.

ADHERING TO LENIN’S “THE WORSE, THE BETTER” DICTUM: Recession Warnings Music to the Ears of Democrats. 

66Posted at 2:13 pm by Stephen Green

And today from the front page of The Australian: Global recession warnings as sharemarkets sink.

Which follows on this from The Economist: Markets in an Age of Anxiety, which begins:

Financial markets are often accused of complacency. However, the mood just now is not complacency but anxiety. And it is deepening by the day. In Germany interest rates are negative all the way from overnight deposits to 30-year bonds. In Switzerland negative yields extend right up to 50-year bonds. In America, meanwhile, interest rates on ten-year bonds are lower than on three-month bills—a harbinger of recession. Angst is evident elsewhere, too. The safe-haven dollar is up against many other currencies. Gold is at a six-year high. Copper prices, a proxy for industrial health, are down sharply. Despite Iran’s seizure of oil tankers in the Gulf, oil prices have sunk to below $60 a barrel. Plenty of people fear that these strange signals portend a global recession. Yet a recession is so far a fear, not a reality. The true problem is that firms and markets are struggling to get to grips with uncertainty. And that is the result of the trade war between America and China.

Artificially low interest rates are as sure a way to cause an economy to stall as I can think of. That along with vast oceans of unproductive public spending.

JUST FOUND THIS TO ADD TO THE ABOVE: Drive-By Media Hell-Bent on Talking Us Into a Recession. It’s from Rush Limbaugh.

MEANWHILE: Starts about 15 minutes in.

Posted in Economics on the left | 60 Comments

Trump is living up to a long U.S. tradition

Today in The Australian

With the turmoil in Hong Kong, and now the apparent explosion of a Russian nuclear propulsion ­device, focusing attention on the threats Australia faces, there is a growing chorus of voices casting doubt on the stability and predictability of American foreign policy — and hence on the wisdom of continuing to rely so heavily on the alliance.

Posted in Uncategorized | 123 Comments

Federation Fail and Constitutional Reform

Imagine if you will that the final report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was presented to the Australian Banks and financial services industry rather than the government, and it was then left up to the industry and industry players to design and implement the recommendations.  Would it not present a problem, a conflict of interest, to task those whose behaviour was adversely highlighted to decide which recommendations to implement and how.

If it is a conflict to ask the banks to write the rules around their governance, incentives and behaviours, why is it not an equivalent problem to permit our political representatives to do the same thing when the misbehaviour is theirs?

There have been repeated failures in parliamentary remuneration, expenses, decision making, culture and governance, yet it is left to the parliament and parliamentarians to police and regulate themselves.  Self-regulation some might call it.  Parliamentarians are quick to jump when it comes to regulating the conduct of businesses and citizens.  Sadly not so quick when it comes to regulating their conduct.

How many times have questionable uses and abuses of Parliamentary entitlements been responded to with “it is within the rules”, this notwithstanding the parliamentarians writing the rules?  How many times have retired minsters and senior public servants moved quickly into roles where they have prior direct and confidential knowledge.  Perhaps there is some superior morality and judgement within the parliamentary and bureaucratic class that protects them from normal human failures and biases.  Perhaps not.

Unlike parliaments regulating business, to change the rules around culture and remuneration of parliamentarians not only requires the consent of parliamentarians, but it also requires their active co-operation and participation to write laws that may adversely impact them.  And at the Commonwealth level, to change the constitution to limit the powers of government first requires an act of parliament to put a resolution to the people.

It may be difficult to get the necessary majority of votes in a majority of states to change the constitution via referendum, but it would likely be much, much harder to get the parliament to pass the necessary legislation to constrain itself – its conduct, its powers, its remuneration, its perquisites.

It is all well and good for parliamentarian to claim that their ultimate accountability is through elections, but it seems that there is a unity ticket on preventing changes to parliamentary culture, remuneration and governance.  And given the size and scope of Australian Government, anywhere between 35 and 45 percent of GDP depending on how it is counted, poorly behaving government has much greater impact  than a poorly behaving financial sector.  From bad decisions taken to decisions delayed or not taken at all.  From laws influenced by rent seeking insiders to laws that should have never been passed in the first place.  From eroded confidence in democratic institutions to unconstrained regulatory expansions.

Given now is the season of the Royal Commission, banks, pink batts, aged care and the disabled, perhaps a Royal Commission into the design and operation of government is worth considering; including consideration of the third rail of Australian politics, Commonwealth-State-Relations.  And rather than the recommendations of such a Royal Commission into Government design and conduct being presented to Government, how about they be automatically put to a referendum, thus bypassing the vested interest buffet.

One such reform to be considered would be a significant expansion in the number of members of the lower house and a significant reduction in the number of senators.

A little known fact about the US Constitution is that the draft US bill of rights put to the US congress (after the ratification of the US Constitution) actually had 12 proposed amendments; and the original intended first amendment was not related to freedom of speech and religion and the original second intended amendment was not related to the right to bear arms.

Had they been ratified, the first amendment to the US constitution was about diluting the power of the congress and the second amendment was about the management of the remuneration of parliamentarians.

The unratified first amendment to the constitution was:

After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

Were this amendment in place today, the US Congress would have 6,000 members not the current 435.  Were such a provision in place in Australia, the House of Representatives would have 500 members rather than the current 151.

The additional members would allow for greater diversity of opinion and talent and importantly could dilute the power of vested interests and political parties.

In Australia, such a reform could be easily accommodated and financed by eliminating the cabal of staff that members and back benchers have (including chiefs of staff, media minders, electorate officers, drivers).  Efficiencies could also be achieved by mandating video parliaments.  Hey.  Was not one of the cases for the NBN to allow medical and education services to be provided via the internet.  Well, let parliament operate the same way with constituents sitting with members in their constituencies while debates and votes take place.

Citizen initiated referenda.  Recall elections.  Balanced budget amendments.  Commonwealth-State relations.  Election by sortition.  Citizen juries.  The list of tools available to improve government and to return power from the governors to the governed is endless. But unfortunately requires the prior consent of the governors.

Ultimately if referendum questions are poor, then the people will be left to decide without the need for the prior review and veto of vested interest political parties.

Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Comments

New offshore wind threatens to double British power prices

Lets increase the supply of cheap renewable energy! What could go wrong?

Item 7 on the list.

A recently released report by Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University provides a stark warning of the implications for energy costs of this headlong flight from fossil fuels to renewables.

In it he explains that a number of large wind farms have contracts to supply power at extraordinarily low prices, ‘but the cost and performance data suggest that they will be unable to cover their costs’. From his detailed analysis of the latest wind farm data he calculates that we face a doubling of the electricity prices to finance the bail-out they’ll need.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe | 16 Comments

C.L. : Two Wongs don’t make a white at their ABC

An excited ABC Online’s lead story this morning …
Australian Liberal MP Gladys Liu’s links to secretive United Front Chinese influence arm.

Ties linking new Federal Liberal MP Gladys Liu to a secretive international influence arm of the Chinese Government have been uncovered by the ABC.

Ms Liu, who made history after becoming the first Chinese-Australian woman to gain a seat in the Lower House, was appointed honorary chairman of a Hong Kong-based organisation [World Trade United Foundation] that experts say is affiliated with China’s efforts to exert influence on foreign governments and expatriate Chinese …

China experts say WTUF is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front, which seeks to further the Party’s interests through a variety of organisations.

A large number of WTUF’s office-holders and honorary chairmen hold positions in government bodies and party organs that play a lead role in directing United Front’s activities.

Chinese observers have told the ABC this is a sure sign the foundation is approved by Beijing and the party, and a signature of many organisations involved in China’s United Front activities.

There has been growing concern in Australia about some organisations seen to be linked to United Front.

United Front is Beijing’s over-arching strategy to enhance its reputation and power by wielding influence on Chinese citizens as well as expatriates in countries such as Australia. At its highest level, it is backed by President Xi Jinping himself.

A week ago on the 7.30 Report, Laura Tingle conducted a predictably sycophantic interview with Paul Keating wherein he condemned US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s suggestion that intermediate-range missiles could be placed in Australia as a US countermeasure to China’s sinister naval expansion in the Pacific. In May, Keating demanded Australia’s spy chiefs be sacked for disloyalty to China. Of course, Tingle forgot to inform her viewers that Keating is now an adviser to the China Development Bank – which means he works for Beijing.

See The secretive Chinese leviathan that bankrolls the world.

It’s the China Development Bank, a giant, non-transparent institution, wholly owned by the Chinese government, and weighty enough to have a profound influence on global geopolitics and business. This is the lender that bankrolls China’s foreign policy initiatives.

One way of bankrolling a foreign policy initiative would be to pay a former prime minister to agitate for the neutering of a country’s allies, the destabilisation of its bilateral relationships and the liquidation of its security officials. But apparently this has not been “uncovered by the ABC.”

Posted in Guest Post | 50 Comments

Libertarian narratives from the Australian Taxpayers Alliance

A cornucopia of videos from the Australian Taxpayers Alliance.

Video of presentations from Friedman Conferences and links to other suites of videos on every other thing you can think of.

Posted in Rafe | 6 Comments

Dueling narratives – a confrontation of alarmists

On one hand Andy Pitman the primary climate modeler in the nation trashes the claim that droughts are linked to climate change.

“…as far as the climate scientists know there is no link between climate change and drought.”

“…there is no reason a priori why climate change should made the landscape more arid.“

On the other hand.

Prof Mark Howden, IPCC vice chair* and the director of the ANU Climate Change Institute, said Australia was already feeling the impacts of climate change, especially in summer, with recent repeated heatwaves.

“Climate change is already impacting our land systems, our agriculture, forests and biodiversity,” he said. “Those impacts will increase significantly in the future.”

Dr Pitman still has some way to go to achieve credibity.

Pitman follows this with: “this may not be what you read in newspapers…” No, Sir. And the 64 billion dollar question (which isn’t asked) is – why not? And what are you doing about that?

Does Andy Pitman keep trying to tell journalists the full and accurate story and they won’t print it? (Well, we know what that’s like.) Given his roles as Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, and as a Lead Author for the IPCC, does it bother him when he sees his specialty misreported over and over again? Since the taxpayer funds him, isn’t there an obligation to correct the record?; to flick an email to the ABC journalists who keep saying climate change is linked to drought, or drop a five minute phone call to Peter Hannam of the Sydney Morning Herald who is still getting it wrong? He may even want to call his own researcher at the centre where he is a director. Andrew King advised Hannam on that last link which is filled with “human fingerprints” of “drought” and emerging “greenhouse signals”. The article even says — completely incorrectly –“Australia is among the regions of the world where the drying trend is clearest”.

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe | 16 Comments

An idiotic idea so bizarrely stupid it defies sense

From this morning’s Oz a story I have just gotten round to now:

The Reserve Bank governor is calling for 3 per cent wages growth across the public sector, apparently to help the rest of us. Ratcheting up public sector pay would damage the economy far more than help it, undermini­ng economic growth, productivity, increasing inequality and further eroding respect for government.

Adam Creighton calls it “a bad idea”, but that is only because he is polite. It is actually an idiotic idea that is so bizarrely stupid that it demands that he explain how it could possibly provide any positive assistance to the economy whatsoever.

How does someone with so little understanding of how an economy works get to make such decisions? But you have to get to the last line of the story to find out why he wants the least productive people in the economy to absorb even more of our productive capabilities:

The Reserve Bank wants higher­ wage growth to boost inflation, which has hovered below its 2-3 per cent target for almost five years. Meeting an arbitrary inflation target is hardly justification to damage the economy and increase inequality further.

He wants the most securely employed people in the country, with the lowest contribution to output, to receive large increases in wages so that the inflation rate can rise even further. It really is infuriating.

Posted in Economics and economy | 76 Comments

Another rope-seller to the hangman

An article in the Fairfax papers today asks how we proceed to make sure that regions don’t suffer too much as a result of the inevitable triumph of renewables and the consequent demise of coal.  The article represents the views of the Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA), which is funded a hundred or so firms including the usual virtue signallers: BHP, Rio, Qantas, AGL, IKEA, Shell and so on as well as charity agitators like World Vision and Care.

For Australia the article sees closures in the coal areas as inevitable as a result of technology and low carbon policies’ “disruption” (see how the social engineers hijack the contemporary version of Schumpeterian language to describe a process that has nothing to do with entrepreneurial developments).

GCNA’s answer is to follow the German blueprint and not the American one. The latter in the Appalachians, we are told, subsidised coal but its inevitable closure left an economic wilderness as its legacy.  Germany in the Ruhr

‘ramped up its community and social infrastructure efforts. It built modern infrastructure, tertiary institutes, cultural and leisure industries. It played to the region’s logistical strengths, building up packaging and transport industries’ and, of course, ‘developed environmental jobs and eco-tourism’.

The article claims the $266 million package given for the Hazelwood closure is not nearly enough and wants to see coordination and far more spending.

Anyone following trade policy over the past 30 years will be aware, unlike the article’s author, of the colossal subsidies that Germany gave to shore up its increasingly uncompetitive coal mines. And the history of government promotion of particular areas is decidedly mixed – especially in Australia where the millions of dollars pumped into the Multifunctionpolis all got buried in a swamp near Adelaide.

Nowadays eco-tourism is the key to resurrecting any area being killed by government agriculture, mining and energy policies.  The Victorian Government and its economic advisers even see it as the salvation of gold mining, on which they are attempting a pre-emptive strike by closing off land to economic and those recreational activities they deem as too intrusive.  Invariably, eco-tourism’s promoters have some Roussauian agenda of returning us all to the idyllic noble savage.

But what of GCNA itself?

It offers 10 principles that its funders must accept. Like the British Labour Party constitution of yesterday, the first few of these are about being kind to children, old people and puppies. In the Labour Party’s case then came Clause Four, “the nationalisation of all the means of production and distribution”.  For GCNA then comes the Precautionary Principal for the environment followed by other such carbon emissions and efficiency supressing commitments.

GCNA is yet another Sorosian mechanism that would transform the current economy to the green planned version and elevate the social elites to their rightful position in control of the commanding heights.  Its funding is dominated by the stakeholder relations and social responsibility business representatives who now control the agitational resources of major firms.  Their support offers good immediate PR but promotes the fundamentally anti-business, pro-government interventionist philosophy that is undermining the forces of competition and property rights on which modern economic growth has been founded.

Posted in Uncategorized | 21 Comments