Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan

Last Wednesday Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk released her $62 billion Energy and Jobs Plan

I can feel an election coming on.  This is pure political spin, pie in the sky stuff, that can’t and won’t work, designed to woo the city voters.  If I’m wrong and she’s serious, Queensland is in for big trouble.

However, part of it I can agree with.

It will involve building 1,500 km of 500 KVA transmission lines to strengthen the grid between north and south Queensland.  That I do applaud.

More from the statement:

The super grid will support 22 gigawatts of new wind and solar power, from between 2,000 and 3,000 more wind turbines and 36 million solar panels.

There will be another $2.5 billion to top up the $2 billion Queensland Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs Fund.  That’s now $4.5 billion.

The government will finance 3 new wind farms, a new battery at Swanbank power station, and

A new hydrogen-ready gas peaking power station at Kogan Creek.

This project will provide power initially from gas blended with hydrogen with the future ability to use 100 per cent renewable hydrogen.

This will provide 3GW by 2035.

Pure hydrogen?  What can possibly go wrong?

Pumped Hydro:

However, the big ticket item is pumped hydro – $17 billion.  This will involve enlarging and redesigning Borumba Dam near Gympie to supply 2GW of electricity.  The major one is the Pioneer-Burdekin pumped hydro scheme.

Why am I concerned about this?

A sudden change of heart:

A government that is reluctant to build dams for agriculture (Rookwood Weir took years for approval) can suddenly build dams purely for renewable energy.

Poor record in dam building:

Let’s hope these dams are better designed and built than Paradise Dam, where 58% of the storage had to be released to lower the water height to a safe level. 

Effect on Community, Agriculture, and Environment:

The Pioneer-Burdekin project will involve two dams on the western side of the Clarke Range and a dam at Netherdale at the top of the Pioneer Valley.

Quoting from the Brisbane Times,   

A map of the site shows the lower reservoir — from which water would be pumped into higher dams to be released back down when energy is needed — would inundate a community of about 100 people, including cattle and cane farms, at the locality of Netherdale.

Figure 1:  Official map

I used to live close to Netherdale.  It is a beautiful part of the world, in most picturesque surroundings, in a high rainfall area.

Figure 2: Looking down the valley from Eungella

Figure 3:  Aerial image from Google Maps

To appease the greens and environmentalists,  no national park land will be affected- just farms, houses, and people.

In an indication that the Netherdale plan may not be politically viable, the government has announced that alternative sites are being considered “in the event the project is unable to proceed”.

Flooding Danger:

This proposal is not just dumb, it is dangerous.  This is a high rainfall area.  Nearby Dalrymple Heights has no BOM data since January 2010, but had 1264mm in December 1990, 1246 mm in January 1991, and 1520mm in February 1991.  That’s 161 inches in 3 months.  In February 1958 there was 1737mm and in March 1955 there was 1804mm.  In a wet season with a cyclone knocking out wind and solar farms, and cloud reducing rooftop solar over most of eastern Queensland, all these three reservoirs will be overflowing and the Pioneer River will be in flood.  Any attempt to release enough water to “keep the lights on” will cause much greater flooding.  But that’s OK- it will be caused by climate change.

The Premier claims that this plan is proof the government is returning taxes to the regions, but the pumped hydro plan will do nothing for agriculture, water supply, or flood mitigation.  It’s purely for a renewable dream that can’t and won’t work.  Here’s why.

Limited Size:

The Pioneer-Burdekin hydro project will supposedly produce 5 Gigawatts (GW) for 24 hours, or 120 Gigawatt hours (GWhr).

The Borumba Dam will produce 2 GW, or 48 GWhr.

The next plots use data from OpenNEM.

Figure 4:  Total Qld Electricity Use to 29 September

In the week to 7.30 a.m. on 29 September, Queensland’s baseload electricity usage (generation less exports) was a touch over 5 GW, the lowest being 5.036 GW at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday 25th September.  That wasn’t to “keep the lights on”.  That was to run hospitals, electric trains, street lights, traffic lights, cold stores, mines, aluminium smelters- and all before sunrise or a normal working day.  Baseload power is the minimum amount of electricity that has to be maintained for 24 hours a day every day- that is at least 120 GWhr.  Pioneer-Burdekin could do that for just one day.

Figure 5: Electricity Usage for the Year to 27 September.

In the past year, Queensland’s average daily usage was 165.2 GWhr.  (That rose to more than 180 GWhr for most of summer).  Just 31 GWhr on average was produced by solar and wind generation, with up to 39.6 GWhr of solar on one day last summer, but only 4 GWhr on July 4 .

Our grand hydro “batteries” would last for just over 24 hours, at today’s usage. 

Inefficiency:

How efficient would the pumped hydro scheme be?  From the Premier’s own Statement:

Each megawatt of pumped hydro energy storage unlocks investment in another three megawatts of wind and solar generation.
That’s because more renewable energy is needed to pump water up hill during the day storing renewable power for when it’s needed.
Supporting around 21 gigawatts of renewables – or more than 150 new wind and solar farms.

There it is: to store 1 GW of existing renewable energy we need an additional 3 GW of wind (at about 33% efficiency) and solar (at 15 to 20% efficiency).

Transport and Industry Needs:

Further, we’re supposed to be transitioning to electric vehicles.  According to Budget Direct’s Fuel Consumption Survey & Statistics 2022 in 2021 Queensland used 3,343 billion litres of petrol (excluding diesel).  At roughly 9 KWhr equivalent per litre, if only 10% of cars are electric in 2035, another 310 566.5 GWhr of electricity per year would be needed. Include diesel and the figure is 1,020 GWhr. (I’m not confident about my calculation- but this will need a huge amount of electricity.)

And Queensland is meant to be supplying hydrogen for industry as well, so the demand will be much, much greater.

Conclusion:

I am pleased with the proposal to improve Queensland’s electricity grid.  However, the rest of the plan- especially the pumped hydro- is nonsense.

Hello, Anastasia- Queensland voters aren’t so gullible.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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2 Responses to “Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan”

  1. Lint Robb Says:

    Yet another great essay Ken. These genius minds continually and/or conveniently forget to mention that about 1,500 petajoules of base load battery capacity would be required to make this proposal work, the total worldwide projected production capacity for electric vehicles for 2032 is about 25 petajoules. Elon will have to deliver a gigafactory
    for the exclusive use of the lady who still can’t pronounce her surname correctly.

  2. John in Oz Says:

    Each megawatt of pumped hydro energy storage unlocks investment in another three megawatts of wind and solar generation.

    Amazing how politicians are able to use words such as ‘unlock’ when they really mean ‘requires’.

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