Bob Brown is no longer among those appreciating the beauty of wind turbines and we’ve all had fun pointing out his apostasy. The half-million birds in the US and 200,000+ bats in Germany which turbines are estimated to mince every year might agree, although those gluing themselves to Brisbane’s roads and elsewhere will probably take longer to absorb the truth about these taxpayer-supported environmental destroyers.
Subsidies to otherwise uncompetitive renewables have caused commercial coal generators to collapse, doubling the cost electricity and savaging its reliability.
Idiocy continues to prevail.
- Shell has advocated getting rid of coal using measures that include a $250 carbon tax (Gillard’s was only $20), that increases the price of electricity fivefold plus several new Greenbanks to subsidise the batteries that wind and solar need to back-up their intrinsically unreliable output. Shell CEO, Ben van Beurden stepped out of his firm’s greenhouse gas intensive corporate jet to advocate the emissions plan.
- And Ursula von Der Leyen – not a modern Boadicea leading a Panzar Army but the new EU President – got elected by backing a plan to get a fifty per cent renewables share in the EU by 2030, something Boris Johnson has also supported.
For Australia wind/solar will be 16 per cent of supply this year. Not only is this driven by subsidies and regulations but it is requiring ever more of them in order to shore up the commercial market they are poisoning.
Hence, we have more subsidies for the pumped storage facilities like Snowy 2 and the proposal to duplicate the Tasmania-mainland transmission line at a cost of $3 billion to allow a continued expansion of renewables. We also have the head of AEMO calling for new transmission to allow an expansion of Victorian windfarms, something that, encouragingly, Angus Taylor is opposing.
Now we have a “negawatts” proposal to set a baseline level of demand for firms and allow them to sell excess needs back to the grid when the price is high. This will be subject to considerable gaming as firms exaggerate how much they might have used in order to increase their payments. One ludicrous forecast was that it would reduce prices by 25 per cent.
A variation has long been in the armoury of the market manager under provisions known as the Reserve Trader. In the first 15 years of the national market, before subsidies started to destroy it, Reserve Trading never actually occurred. It has now become common as wind has created massive market price volatility and dangers of black-outs.
Another non-solution is carbon capture and storage to eliminate emissions from coal generators, championed by David Byers, the CO2CRC Chief Executive. Australian taxpayers under Kevin Rudd bankrolled a $700 million Global Initiative for this. Ten years on there is no commercial plant operating anywhere in the world and, even if the technology proved feasible, it would double the cost of electricity.
To get back to commercial normality, abolition of subsidies is necessary. But this may not be sufficient, since the market is poisoned by zero marginal cost renewables preventing coal operating as it should to provide the bedrock of a low- cost, reliable electricity supply system.
An expanded version of this appears in Quadrant.