Not long ago Australia had almost 30GW of coal-fired power capacity reliably delivering some of the cheapest electricity in the world.
We are now reduced to 22GW of coal power and last night at the peak of demand it was delivering at 90% capacity to provide 70% of demand. The sun was down and the 7.7GW of installed wind capacity was providing 740MW (2.6% of demand). That was up from 0.6% of demand earlier in the day, but who cares?
PLAN A would have replaced the lost capacity with a couple of super-duper new coal fired power stations for a cost of (say) ten billion and we would still have cheap and reliable power.
PLAN B cost many tens of billions of dollars to double or triple power prices and cause serious problems with the stability of the grid.
But it gets better.
PLAN C. This morning at Weetbix time we read under the headline Clean energy ‘could create million jobs that the Beyond Zero Emissions think tank, backed by Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes, the James Kirby Foundation and the Lenko Foundation, has a plan to build 90 gigawatts of solar and wind energy to boost the economy and reduce emissions. Ten new transmission lines connecting renewable energy projects in regions like the Pilbarra and Northern Territory could create thousands of new jobs.
The story notes that there are already 160GW of renewable projects in the pipeline.
Say we end up with 250GW of installed RE. Leave out the 100GW of solar that provides nothing after sunset – what do we get from 150GW of wind? The demand in the SE Australian (NEM) grid ranges from a tick or two under 20GW in the night to 36GW in the late afternoon and evening of heatwaves.
At 10% of capacity that shrinks the 150GW of wind to 15GW. For several days of this month the supply went below that level, oftentimes down to 2 or 3%. Have a look at the weather patterns – the high pressure cells causing “low to no” wind that Paul Miskelly pointed out a decade ago, and Tony from Oz is bringing to notice at present.
Grid-scale RE is dead in the water although it will be kept on life support for some time by taxpayer subsidies (plus the inflated power prices) and RE mandates.
But no amount of political influence or public money will make the sun shine at night or make the wind blow when a high pressure cell settles over SE Australia.
Give some credit for ingenuity.
The report notes that Australia is ideally placed to develop both wind and solar projects.
Its recommendations include the acceleration of new energy transmission and storage projects to unleash an abundance of cheap energy, implementing a national housing retrofit program targeted at eliminating bills for 2.5 million low-income households, building 150,000 zero-energy social housing dwellings, and building electrified transport infrastructure such as electric bus fleets with localised and regional manufacturing.
It notes that “land restoration to help fragile ecosystems recover from the devastation of the bushfires” would help revegetate 27 million hectares by 2025.
This would be just 6.5 per cent of existing farmland and create 40,000 new jobs.