Archive for the ‘Energy use’ Category

Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan

October 1, 2022

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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Power Gaps = Blackouts

September 2, 2022

On Wednesday the Australian Electricity Market Operator (AEMO) gave a warning that should not have come as a surprise to anyone with half a brain, but it made the headlines, including at the ABC:

AEMO warns of power ‘gaps’ in Australia’s biggest grid within three years as coal exodus gathers pace

Planned coal fired power station closures and increasing demand will lead to shortages from 2025 in NSW, Victoria in 2028, Queensland in 2029, and South Australia early next decade.  Of course this is seen as a wake-up call that we need more renewables, more storage, and more transmission lines.  Sceptics will say “We told you so”.

In fact, readers may remember my post from 18 June titled “The Gap”, with this figure.

I have crunched the numbers for daily electricity consumption in the eastern states for the 12 months from 1 September 2021 to 31 August 2022.  Here’s that gap again, in GigaWatthours.

(The wobbles in the Total show the weekend drops and the Christmas- New Year “silly season”, the summer and winter demand peaks, and the spring and autumn “Goldilocks” periods.)

The gap is currently at the very least 307 Gigawatthours.  The average over 365 days is 418 GWhr- and we are supposed to be converting most of our transport to electric (or hydrogen!) in the next few years. 

Hydro produced a maximum of 99 GWhr.  Snowy 2.0 will only produce another 48 GWhr, and you can forget about batteries- minuscule.

Good luck with filling that gap.

How did fossil fuels compare with renewables over the past year?   The next figure shows the percentage of total consumption supplied by coal, gas, and wind plus solar.

Coal had a short period where supply dropped to 52.3%, but averaged 59.9% over the year, rising to 68.9% on Wednesday this week.  The plotted trendline shows a decrease of 0.9% over the year. 

Renewables decreased by a whopping 6.24%- so much for the renewable transition!

Gas filled the gap, with an increase of 6%.

Just so that you are clear that the crisis we narrowly avoided early this winter was NOT caused by unreliable coal fired stations, here is a plot of renewable supply expressed as daily deviation from the 12 month average- anomalies if you like:

Wind and solar were producing much below expected- and erratically- from mid-March to mid-July.

Finally, the next figure shows seven day averages of the major energy suppliers and the total, overlaid with price per MegaWatt.

The high prices coincide with gas and hydro increasing generation when renewables were unable to meet their average supply- let alone the increase in demand.

Mind the gap.

(Source: OpenNEM)

Cheap, Reliable, and Renewable: July 2022

August 2, 2022

Some more plots from the National Electricity Market (NEM) for the month of July to illustrate the problems we continue to face. Figures 1 and 2 are updates of similar figures from June, but Figures 3 and 4 are new and hopefully show the problem even more clearly.

Figure 1: July consumption: all sources (Gigawatts)

Note the dip in consumption every weekend is even more marked than in June.

Figure 2 shows the relative contribution of all major sources, (but including battery, if you can see it).

Figure 2: July consumption as a percentage of total: all sources

Coal usage increased mid month to provide over 60% of all electricity.  The contrast with all other sources is obvious.

For the next plot I calculated anomalies from the monthly means of all energy sources. I have calculated totals for Renewables (Wind and Solar) and for Coal, Gas, and Hydro- the main sources we rely on to keep our electricity system stable. To allow for days when total consumption was up or down, I subtracted Total energy anomalies from Coal, Gas, and Hydro.

Figure 3: July consumption anomalies: renewables and non-renewables

Figure 4 shows how Non-renewables are controlled by Renewables:

Figure 4: Coal, Gas, and Hydro as a Function of Renewables

Wind and solar can sell to the market as much energy as they produce, so on days (and hours) when they can supply more, coal, gas, and hydro must cut back. However, at those times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind is not as strong, the shortfall has to be made up by non-renewables- and with gas in short supply, that means higher costs.

The average daily price in July was $376.73.

(P.S.- Hydro is normally included as a renewable, but really it isn’t. In drought years, there’s not enough water to power the turbines, and in wet years- like 2022- water release through the turbines causes downstream flooding, so needs to be curtailed.)

The Cost of Electricity

July 7, 2022

What drives changes in the wholesale price of electricity in the National Electricity Market (NEM)?  Here are some plots that may help understand the problem.

Figure 1 shows electricity generation and wholesale price for the 12 months to 3 July.

Figure 1: Total generation and price

The price had nearly doubled from August 2021 with no great increase in demand, but began to rise more and more sharply since the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.  Figure 2 shows the percentage contribution to total generation of various sources since then.  I have included batteries for entertainment value.

Figure 2: Percentage contribution to total generation since the start of the Ukraine war.

On 12 June the AEMO intervened in the market and set a cap on prices.  Prices were claimed to have risen because of the shortage of gas and coal and the failure of coal generating sets.  Certainly coal’s contribution had fallen from around 60% of total generation to the low 50s over the three week period leading up to the intervention. 

In this post I analyse how the price of electricity varied with changes in the energy mix during the period of rapid rise.

As both price and generation was changing, it is necessary to remove the trend in price to get an accurate analysis.  Figure 3 shows the price of electricity from the day after the Ukraine invasion to the day after the AEMO price cap, fitted with a 2nd order polynomial trend line. 

Figure 3: NEM wholesale price

Figure 4 shows the detrended price timeseries.

Figure 4: NEM wholesale price detrended

This shows that the price was becoming more volatile.

Now I look at the contribution of each main generation source in relation to the average wholesale price of all electricity (detrended).  In each, the line at zero represents the actual trend.

Figure 5:  Price and percentage contribution of solar generation

As solar generation increased by one percent, the price decreased by $1.63 per Megawatt.  That would be excellent news if the sun shone 24 hours a day.

Figure 6:  Price and percentage contribution of wind generation

Again we see the cost decreasing with more renewable generation- $4.23 less for each extra percent of total generation.  However, the plot also shows the converse- when there is little wind the cost is much greater.

Figure 7:  Price and percentage contribution of hydro generation

Great faith has been placed in the necessity of having pumped hydro as a store of renewable energy, but Figure 7 shows that the cost increases by $7.77 for each extra percentage point of total need that hydro back up provides- well above trend. 

Figure 8:  Price and percentage contribution of gas generation

Gas is in short supply and very expensive, so the cost of providing each additional percentage point of the total generation is $11.08. 

Figure 9:  Price and percentage contribution of coal generation

Here’s something the renewables industry and the ABC won’t tell you.  The wholesale price of electricity actually decreases as the proportion of coal generation increases.  As well, price volatility decreases.  Above 62% the average price across the network is relatively stable, varying by +/- $100 per Megawatt.  Below 62% the price becomes more and more volatile.

As more and more renewables come on line, coal usage will drop, to apparently near universal acclaim.  Figure 10 shows how wind pushes out coal:

Figure 10: Percentage contribution of wind and coal

But there was no new additional wind capacity during this period.

And Figure 9 above shows cost and price volatility will increase as reliability decreases.

How should we keep prices down, and maintain reliability?

Coal is your friend.

Cheap, Reliable, and Renewable

July 4, 2022

(or How Not To Run An Electricity Grid)

Here are some plots from the National Electricity Market (NEM) for the month of June which may illustrate the problems we will continue to face.

Figure 1: June consumption: all sources (Gigawatts)

Note the dip in consumption every weekend.

Figure 2 shows the relative contribution of all major sources, (but including battery, if you can see it).

Figure 2: June consumption as a percentage of total: all sources

You may note that coal stepped up mid-June to produce 60% of all electricity.  The contrast with all other sources is obvious.

The next plots show June monthly average, maximum, and minimum for all major sources.

Figure 3: June consumption Average, Maximum, Minimum

Note that while coal ranged from about 300 to 350 GW, wind ranged from almost half coal’s minimum to very little.

Figure 4: June consumption Average, Maximum, Minimum as percentages

Coal stands out for its consistency.  And with all the rooftop solar and solar farm expansion, solar cannot produce 10% of our power needs.

The next figures compare coal with renewables to show the daily fluctuation, that is, how much the electricity generated (and consumed) each day compares with the one before.

Figure 5: Percentage daily change in electricity consumption: coal and total

The close match between coal and total consumption is obvious.  Coal’s daily percentage changes (above that of the total) on the 2nd, 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 21st, and 30th June correspond to the fall in renewable generation – especially wind- on those dates, as Figure 6 shows for coal and wind.

Figure 6: Daily change in coal and wind consumption (Gigawatts)

The contrast is even starker when expressed as a percentage:

Figure 7: Daily percentage change in coal, wind, and solar consumption

Coal can change on a day to day basis by 20 to 30 percent.  Wind can decrease by 76 percent or increase by 326 percent from one day to the next.  What a way to run an electricity grid!

One thing you can say about renewables: they can be relied on to be unreliable.

Blowin’ in the Wind

June 22, 2022

The energy crisis seems to be ongoing- the new normal apparently.  Is it the fault of old, rundown coal fired power stations with breakdowns?  Is it the fault of greedy, profit hungry energy suppliers gaming the system?  Is it the fault of the Ukraine war pushing up coal and gas prices?  Is it the fault of the previous coalition government for not having the correct climate policy, resulting in not enough investment in renewables?  Or all of the above?

Nope.

Breakdowns last week in under-funded power stations didn’t help, nor a shortage of high priced coal and gas.  And you can’t blame companies wanting to keep their income above their costs. 

But no amount of climate ambition, and no possible amount of renewable capacity, could have averted the problems we’ve had last week and are likely to continue to have.

Figure 1 shows our electricity consumption for the two weeks from 3rd to 17th June. 

Figure 1:  All NEM electricity consumption 3- 17 June

Coal is the heavy lifter.

Figure 2 shows the main energy sources as a percentage of the total usage.

Figure 2:  All sources as a percentage of NEM electricity consumption 3- 17 June

Note again it is coal followed by daylight- and I don’t mean solar!  Note also that coal’s relative contribution increased despite breakdowns and supply difficulties.

The next plot shows the percentage contribution of fossil fuels and all non-fossil sources- batteries, hydro, wind and solar.  I’ve also included the negative contribution of pumped hydro, when dams are refilled using excess electricity- except on 13th and 14th when it was too expensive.

Figure 3:  Fossil and non-fossil generation as a percentage of consumption

Renewable energy advocates like averages- they hide a multitude of sins.  Here are the averages of all sources for each 30 minutes of the day for the last two weeks:

Figure 4:  Average 30 minute NEM electricity consumption 3- 17 June

Coal varies between 12,000 and 16,000 MW per half hour as it responds to the twice daily peaks in demand, and the daily peak in solar output.  Solar is useless for meeting baseload around 4:00 a.m., or either of the daily peaks.  Wind averages a touch over 4,000 MW all day so is also no help with extra demand.  Battery discharge at peak times can barely be seen.  Gas and hydro vary at similar rates to meet demand when needed, though gas output remains higher throughout the night.

How reliable was wind generation, which averaged over 4,000 MW per half hour?  Here is a plot of actual wind generation at 30 minute intervals from 3 June to 17 June:

Figure 5:  Actual wind generation 3- 17 June for each half hour

“Fickle” is not an adequate description.

Of course renewables can provide 18,000 MW at maximum capacity- but at the wrong time of the day.  When the need was greatest, they could provide only 6,880 MW- and 90% of that was hydro.

Our entire electricity generation, including fossil generation, depends on the reliability or otherwise of renewable generation.

Our energy crisis last week was not caused by breakdowns, fossil fuel prices, greedy power companies, coalition governments, or lack of investment in renewables.

It was caused by a lack of wind.

Figure 6:  Actual wind generation 3- 17 June

We are hostages to the weather.  Bob Dylan was right.  The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

(Source: OpenNEM)

The Gap

June 18, 2022

Here is a simple plot to demonstrate the challenge facing our new government, and all future governments, if they want to transition to a zero carbon economy.

This is the gap between all non-fossil fuel generated electricity- solar, wind, and hydro- and total consumption in eastern Australia over the past two weeks (3rd to 17th of June) for every 30 minutes of the day.

That gap- 12,000 to 16,000 MW for base load and 16,000 to 30,000 MW for peak load- is now filled by gas and coal.  Snowy 2.0 will only provide an extra 2,000 MW of storage.

That’s just for electricity- don’t forget electric vehicles and hydrogen!

(Source: OpenNEM)

The Real Cost of Renewables

June 13, 2022

Electricity prices are increasing, we know.  Here is a plot of electricity prices across the eastern states in the National Electricity Market.

Fig. 1:  NEM Prices 2009-2022

There is a shortage of available coal and gas generation, resulting in record prices.

Fig. 2:  NEM Coal & Gas Prices 2009-2022

Of course wind and solar are much cheaper:

Fig. 3:  NEM Wind & Solar Prices 2009-2022

See?  Renewables are cheaper.

Not so fast.

Figure 4 shows electricity consumption for the eastern states last week (Friday 3 June to Friday 10 June).

Fig. 4:  NEM Total Consumption 3 June – 10 June

Note the daily cycle between baseload and peak load.  Figure 5 is a plot of consumption for each 30 minutes of the day:

Fig. 5:  NEM Total Consumption by Time of Day

The baseload- the minimum amount of electricity to meet the needs of streetlights, hospitals, smelters, and households- occurs every day between about 3.30 a.m. and 5.00 a.m., and last week was from 20,600 to 22,300 MW.

Peak load rose to 35,386 MW.

Figure 6 shows how wind and solar performed last week:

Fig. 6:  NEM Wind & Solar Consumption 3 June – 10 June

The bleeding obvious is that while solar provided more than 10,000 MW for 30 minutes on Saturday 4 June, it produced absolutely zero every night.  Wind never reached 7,000 MW.

That’s the reason we need storage.  If we can store the excess from solar, we could use it to supplement wind when needed.  Much money has been invested in large scale batteries.  However, batteries provided a maximum output of 324 MW last week- pathetic really.

We do have hydro-electricity, mainly in Tasmania and the Snowy Mountains.  Figure 7 shows how hydro contributed last week:

Fig. 7:  NEM Hydro Consumption 3 June – 10 June

Hydro helped twice a day at peak times, and also provided a substantial supply in daylight hours- over 2,000 MW on 8 June.  The previous week- at 6 p.m. on Thursday 2 June- wind could manage only 3% of the NEM load, and hydro provided 19.33%, or 5,382 MW.  Last Thursday 9 June at 6 p.m. hydro provided 5,519 MW.

That’s why we need more storage.  Forget batteries- the only realistic storage is pumped hydro, where excess off-peak electricity is used to pump water to storage dams.  Wivenhoe Dam in Queensland has been doing this for 40 years.

So the politicians dreamed up Snowy 2.0.  This scheme, whose timeline for completion has blown out to the end of 2026 according to Chris Bowen (Weekend Australian June 11-12), will cost 4.5 billion dollars to build, plus another $1.5 billion to $2 billion for extra transmission lines.

 “Snowy 2.0 will provide an additional 2,000 megawatts of dispatchable, on-demand generating capacity and approximately 350,000 megawatt hours of large-scale storage to the National Electricity Market. To provide context, this is enough energy storage to power three million homes over the course of a week.”

That’s a cost of $3.25 million per MW.

That’s the “good” news.  Now for the interesting news.

As we saw above, baseload last week was 20,000 to 22,000 MW- and winter has only just started.  If fossil fuels are removed eventually, baseload at 4 a.m. must be met by some combination of wind and hydro as there is no sun at that time of day. 

The current hydro capacity is 9,285 MW.  Snowy 2.0 will provide an extra 2,000 MW.

The current installed capacity of wind generation is 9,202 MW- and that is going full bore day and night, with optimum wind conditions and no stops for maintenance.  32% of capacity is the average reached.

The total installed capacity of wind, current hydro, and Snowy 2.0 is 20,487 MW.  That is still short of baseload with winter to come, and peak load last week was 35,386 MW.  That doesn’t allow for population increase or economic growth either.  Where will the extra 15,000 MW of wind powered and pumped hydro electricity come from?  It’s an impossible dream.

But wait, there’s more.

Here’s the bad news:  Hydro electricity is the most expensive electricity in Australia- more expensive than either coal or gas.  In May 2022 it reached $315.91 per MW.

Because it is rapidly despatchable it is sold at times of very high demand, so the operators get top dollar.  Much more than coal or gas.

Figure 8 shows the average price of hydro for each month to May 2022.

Fig. 8:  NEM Hydro Prices 2009-2022

The real cost of renewables will include the cost of storage and emergency supply.

Don’t hold your breath hoping for electricity prices to come down.

The Challenge Ahead For Renewables: Part 3

January 16, 2022

In Part 1 I showed how the low Capacity Factors of wind and solar mean enormous wastage of resources and money has been incurred over the past 20 years. 

In part 2, I showed the impact of the policies of the major parties, with the costs of replacing fossil fuels in electricity generation, and the enormous cost of using renewables for all our energy use.

However, Net Zero is the goal of the whole developed world, not just Australia.  There are many, and not just the Greens, who say that replacing fossil fuel for all energy is not enough.  We must also ban all exports of coal and gas.

We produce far more energy than we consume- mainly coal (cue wailing and gnashing of teeth).  Most is exported.

According to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (2021) total energy production (for domestic consumption plus exports of coal and gas) in 2019-2020 was 20,055 PetaJoules. 

Figure 1:  Australian energy production 2019-2020

All renewables and hydroelectricity amounted to a little over 2% of energy produced in Australia.

Figure 2:  Relative share of energy production

Therefore if we are to maintain our role as an energy exporter (of electricity or hydrogen), and thus our standard of living, then just to keep up with our 2019-2020 production, renewables will have to produce 48 times current production- an EXTRA 19,636 PJ. 

Figure 3: All renewables compared with energy consumption and production

Can this be achieved?

19,636 PJ is 5.45 billion MegaWattHours, which will need 622,227 MW generation (at 100% capacity).

If the extra generation is to come from solar (wind would require far too much land- over 6% of Australia’s land area), we will need an extra 4.149 million MW- 290 times 2020 solar capacity.

Therefore the cost would be at least

$7.47 TRILLION (if all solar).

And that figure doesn’t include storage, extra infrastructure like transmission lines and substations, charging points for vehicles, building hydrogen plants, and losses involved in electrolysis of water, conversion to ammonia and back again, and conversion of hydrogen to motive power.  Neither does it include the costs of decommissioning and replacement, safe burial of non-recyclable solar panels, turbine blades, and used batteries, nor the human costs of child labour in Congolese mines supplying cobalt for batteries.

(Australia’s nominal GDP will be around $2.1 trillion in 2022.)

Figure 4 shows the comparison between Australian GDP and the cost of solar generation needed.

Figure 4:  Cost of extra solar generation needed for Net Zero compared with the whole of the economy

So can it really be achieved?

In the minds of some, yes.

The report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) containing the Draft 2022 Integrated System Plan (ISP) makes interesting (and scary) reading.  The favoured scenario is called “Step Change” which involves a rapid transformation of the Australian energy industry (rather than “Slow Change” or “Progressive Change”), which relates more to my analysis in Part 2.

However the scenario called “Hydrogen Superpower” received 17% of stakeholder panellists’ votes in November 2021 and must be considered a possible political goal.

Here is a summary of the Step Change and Hydrogen Superpower scenarios:

• Step Change – Rapid consumer-led transformation of the energy sector and co-ordinated economy-wide action. Step Change moves much faster initially to fulfilling Australia’s net zero policy commitments that would further help to limit global temperature rise to below 2° compared to pre-industrial levels. Rather than building momentum as Progressive Change does, Step Change sees a consistently fast-paced transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy in the NEM. On top of the Progressive Change assumptions, there is also a step change in global policy commitments, supported by rapidly falling costs of energy production, including consumer devices. Increased digitalisation helps both demand management and grid flexibility, and energy efficiency is as important as electrification. By 2050, most consumers rely on electricity for heating and transport, and the global manufacture of internal-combustion vehicles has all but ceased. Some domestic hydrogen production supports the transport sector and as a blended pipeline gas, with some industrial applications after 2040.

• Hydrogen Superpower – strong global action and significant technological breakthroughs. While the two previous scenarios assume the same doubling of demand for electricity to support industry decarbonisation, Hydrogen Superpower nearly quadruples NEM energy consumption to support a hydrogen export industry. The technology transforms transport and domestic manufacturing, and renewable energy exports become a significant Australian export, retaining Australia’s place as a global energy resource. As well, households with gas connections progressively switch to a hydrogen-gas blend, before appliance upgrades achieve 100% hydrogen use.

Household gas switching to 100% hydrogen? What could possibly go wrong?

Here are the AEMO projections:

“The ISP forecasts the need for ~122 GW of additional VRE by 2050 in Step Change, to meet demand as coal-fired generation withdraws (see Section 5.1). This means maintaining the current record rate of VRE development every year for the decade to treble the existing 15 GW of VRE by 2030 – and then double that capacity by 2040, and again by 2050.”  (VRE= Variable Renewable Energy)

 “In Hydrogen Superpower, the scale of development can only be described as monumental. To enable Australia to become a renewable energy superpower as assumed in this scenario, the NEM would need approximately 256 GW of wind and approximately 300 GW of solar – 37 times its current capacity of VRE. This would expand the total generation capacity of the NEM 10-fold (rather than over three-fold for the more likely Step Change and Progressive Change scenarios). Australia has long been in the top five of energy exporting nations. It is now in the very fortunate position of being able to remain an energy superpower, if it chooses, but in entirely new forms of energy. “ (p.36)

Figure 5:  Projections of different renewable needs from the draft report

And capacity factors have not been considered!

And here are the “future technology and innovation” ideas for reducing emissions:

Figure 6: How to achieve emissions reductions

I’m glad I won’t be around to see this play out.

The Challenge Ahead For Renewables: Part 2

January 13, 2022

In Part 1 I showed how the low Capacity Factors of wind and solar mean enormous amounts of wastage of resources and money have been incurred over the past 20 years. 

I also said that the wastage can only get worse.  Here’s how.

In Part 1, I only looked at historical electricity generation.  What of the future according to the major political parties? (The Greens don’t count because they can’t count.)

The major parties are committed to Net Zero emissions by 2050, which will require massive changes to our energy use.

I use data from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2021, the National Energy Market website, and the report of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (2021).

To replace 2020 fossil fuel electricity with renewable electricity will require an extra 200.6 TeraWattHours:

Figure 1:  Total Electricity Generation

That’s an extra 22,884 MegaWatts of renewable capacity at 100% capacity factor.  Remember, wind’s capacity factor is about 32%, and solar is about 15%.  At $1.8 million per MW, that will cost somewhere between 129 and 275 billion dollars. 

That is of course entirely achievable.  Costly, but achievable.

However, electricity makes up only a small part of Australia’s total energy use.  Transport alone uses much more.  That is why there is a push for more electric vehicles: the ALP wants 89% of new car sales to be electric vehicles by 2030.

Australia’s 2020 energy consumption was 5,568.59 PetaJoules, a decrease of 5.25% on 2019.  One PetaJoule is the equivalent of 0.278 TeraWattHours, or 277,778 MegaWattHours, which is the power generated by 31.7 MW over one year.

Figure 2:  Total Energy Consumption in Australia

Renewables of all sorts accounted for just 8% of energy consumed in Australia in 2020.  Include hydro and that rises to 10.4%.  Figure 2 shows the amount for each.

Figure 3:  Energy Consumption by Type

Note the complete absence of nuclear energy.

If Australia is to be completely fossil fuel free (with no increase on 2020 consumption, which was reduced because of Covid), renewables will have to produce an extra 4,990.9 PetaJoules.  Our consumption will look like this:

Figure 4:  Energy Consumption without Fossil Fuels

4,990.9 PJ is 1.387 billion MegaWattHours, which will need 158,152 MW generation (at 100% capacity)- only 27.8 times 2020 generation.

If this is to be supplied by wind alone, we will need an additional 494,225 MW of installed capacity in wind farms- 52 times 2020 wind capacity- at 24 Hectares per MW.  An extra 118,600 square kilometres of suitable land for wind farms will be difficult to find.

Solar at 2-3 Hectares per MW would probably be a better proposition.  If the extra generation is to come from solar, we will need an extra 1,054,357 MW- 60 times 2020 solar capacity.

Therefore the cost of meeting our current energy consumption- transport, domestic, commercial, and industrial- with no allowance for growth, and ignoring the cost of converting our entire domestic, commercial, industrial, mining, and air transport capacity to some form of electric vehicles, would be between:-

$ 889.6 BILLION  (if all wind)

and

$1.898 TRILLION (if all solar).

(Australia’s nominal GDP will be around $2.1 trillion in 2022.)

That’s up to $73,700 for every man, woman, and child in Australia.

Figure 5 shows the comparison between Australian GDP and the cost of solar generation needed.

Figure 5:  Cost of extra solar generation compared with the whole of the economy

How much of that investment would be in wasted capacity? Between 68% and 85%-from $605 Billion to $1.613 Trillion.

Moreover, the life of a wind turbine is 20 to 25 years, and 25 years for solar panels, so we can look forward to more expense in decommissioning and replacement in the future.

(By the way- do you think that “future technology and innovation” will be any cheaper?)

That’s just what would be the result of the major parties’ commitment to Net Zero.

But wait- there’s more. Stand by for Part 3.