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October 20th 2017 print

Ron Pike

Unplug the Privatised Power Market

The wan initiatives Turnbull & Co attempted have painted as solutions to our domestic energy crisis are a chimera. Nor will any measures be effective until power producers and green-schemers are brought to heel, which neither of our chief political parties is ever likely to do

blackoutWatching our floundering PM and his fawning energy minister trying to convince a sceptical electorate that they have the answers to our power problems was sickening — a mix of hype and hope devoid of truth or practical plans.

With no plan whatsoever, Turnbull boldly claimed that this announcement would make sure we meet our emission targets and achieve reliability of supply while simultaneously providing investor certainty to the power industry. Prices would come down as a result, he promised — declining as a result of nothing more than our PM’s hype. Lacking even a nodding familiarity with modesty, he even claimed to have a better-than-fair inkling by how much they would come down!

The facts are that over recent years we have been cursed by very bad decision-making on one hand and lack of forward policy planning on the other. This is has left state and federal governments checkmated as far as power and water policy is concerned. Crippling shortages of the electricity that is the vital input for all of modern life are now inevitable, and those shortages and associated high cost will cripple our productive capacity and humble the economy. While Mr Turnbull’s greatest demonstrated skill so far has been a schemer’s talent for repaying a leader’s loyalty with the point of a knife, even someone so imbued with his own magnificence must know that his “reforms’ of the past week can never correct the bad, mad green policies he promoted so assiduously, as per the video below.

In wailing about the increased cost of power distribution, many reasons are suggested, except the most relevant and costly. The only way the states could sell the “poles and wires” for an exorbent price was to guarantee would-be purchasers a very high return on their investments. Guess who is paying for this generosity by our governments to entities not operating in the national interest?

Until we take back control of power production and transmission and make them entities owned in perpetuity by the people, we will never have the energy security that allows our producers to compete with the rest of the world. Moreover, unless and until that happens, no government will dare to cross the entrenched interests pocketing their green subsidies and revelling in their dominance. Proof, you say? Just look at this week’s wan initiatives and their minimal impact on AGL

Why are our governments checkmated? Two words: policy paralysis.

While our governments have been spending money on non-income earning infrastructure to buy votes in our cities; the income producing infrastructure we need to keep pace with our growing population (among the fastest in the world) has been neglected for at least 30 years.

It does not matter what hair-brained schemes Turnbull and Frydenberg come up with now, the reality of their policy paralysis and lack of vision will be insufficient power to keep the lights; insufficient, too, to protect our ability to grow and process our own food.

The final move to checkmate will be when as a result of over reliance on the Snowy Scheme to supply the increasing peak loads, the scheme runs out of water. This will be about 2 years into the next dry period.

No water, no peak power, no new reliable power production.

Bad luck, Australia, you once had so much promise. Now, though, it’s almost game over.

Comments [27]

  1. Ian MacDougall says:

    The final move to checkmate will be when as a result of over reliance on the Snowy Scheme to supply the increasing peak loads, the scheme runs out of water. This will be about 2 years into the next dry period.

    Is that so?
    Australia’s rooves are steadily being covered over with solar panels. For the power so produced there is storage in batteries and as pumped hydro in the Snowy and elsewhere. Rainwater coming down the Snowy, Eucumbene etc rivers either goes over the spillways or through the power stations. Better through the power stations if possible.
    The subtext of this rant is an argument for coal, even though author Ron Pike is clearly reluctant to say so. It is not in the interest of those with a proprietorial stake in the coal deposits to do anything other than get them out of the ground and up the power station smokestacks as quickly as possible. Yet it is in the national interest that they be conserved as long as possible, with the dumbest use of them being as powerhouse fuel when other means of power generation can be used. Coal is IMHO much better kept in reserve for uses such as in road tar and as feedstock for the chemical industry.

    • en passant says:

      MacBot,
      Well said!

      Naturally your home and business are entirely off the grid and do not Evaaa use diesel, petrol or non-renewable sourced electricity. It is the base price you are willing to pay to save the Mekong Delta from seal level rise at a startling 3mm/year. Good on you.

      Still, that is only the base price as you must know that you also have to compensate for breathing, your methane-belching cattle and that trip you took to Alaska (presumptuous of me I know, but I have assumed it was not in a canoe or sailboat).

      Of course, I know that you would only evaaaa use stone tools (and wooden ones) one your farm (which only has native grass?) as smelting metals is no doubt offensive to you as you are only too well aware of the horrendous effect smelters have on the atmosphere.

      Keep your reply short as I do not want you to wear yourself out on the pedal generator … Anything else would be hypocritical.

      Batteries? have you evaaa checked on what they are made of and how they are made – not to mention their limited life and impossibility of non-toxic disposal. My Council in Oz boasted of having spent $5M replacing all street light bulbs with low-life (light?) Mercury ones! What an advance for the demented supporters of ‘new post-modern “science”‘?

      You are beyond mockery, but I’ll indulge myself as you need friends like us. Anyway, I am flying out on Tuesday.

  2. Geoff Sherrington says:

    Ron,
    The best approach is to let privatisation proceed in full. There are numerous examples of private enterprise performing better than government enterprise in almost every financial sector.
    The present problem arises mainly from the fettering of private enterprise. That is, there are many bureaucratic and policy constraints on free enterprise in the energy sector. Private enterprise can not demonstrate its values under these restrictions. The biggest impediment is the multi-pronged favouritism of renewable energy, whereby electricity providers must sell renewable energy first. This stems from the RET, the Renewable Energy Target, a hopeless device responding to Australian stupidity in agreeing to the Paris accord.
    Indeed, essentially all of Australia’s electricity problems stem from Paris. In the USA, President Trump saw this long ago and has acted decisively. The logic of his actions is equally applicable to Australia.
    The recommended remedy is simple. Withdraw Australia from its Paris commitments, which were in any case favoured only by a small minority of Australians – but then, we the people were not asked.

  3. ianl says:

    http://anero.id/energy/

    This puts the lie to the renewabubble myth – the contribution of sunbeams to national base load is not distinguishable from 0; hydro and spasmodic wind combined rarely exceed 20%.; hydrocarbons and coal supply a regular and reliable 80%. It is this nexus the trollster relishes destroying … such childish malice. Why is there such reluctance to examine this AEMO data ?

    Coal-fired power stations do not have “smokestacks”; cooling towers emit water vapour which is dishonestly photographed to appear as black particulate smoke (a particular favourite of malicious propagandists). Methane (also colloquially known as natural gas) and to a lesser extent ethane, propane, butane and higher hydrocarbons are used as industrial feedstock. Coal is not economic for these purposes although the known coal *resources* in Aus on current domestic and export demand rates have a probable lifetime of some 350 years over a range of qualities and prices. There are currently over 1600 HELE plants under construction or planned with financing worldwide. What is it the trollster knows that all these countries don’t, one wonders ?

    Batteries ? Useful for national base load in GWh ? Oh dear … Even including domestic city high rise demand, domestic consumption is about 11% of total base load – almost 90% of demand is commercial/industrial. And advances in lithium technology peaked about 4-5 years ago; fast-charge EV’s require 3-phase power outlets, else about a 9 hour recharge wait half-way between (say) Sydney and Melbourne, which is guaranteed to raise living standards.

    Pumped hydro ? First the holding dams need to be built to ensure sufficient head – good luck with those EIS’s. Then there can be no droughts.

    As Donald Horne sardonically said: the lucky country. Well, no longer. Arm-waving suffices for knowledgeable debate; successive foo-was-here policies are regarded by the rest of the developed world as an interesting set of experiments, sure to supply useful data at some point or other.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      ianl:
      Always risky to announce ‘game over’ in science and engineering.

      Australia has the capacity to store up to 1,000 times more renewable energy than it could ever conceivably need, according to an analysis by researchers at the Australian National University (ANU).
      Investment in renewables will see an increased need for hydro storage, researchers say
      Study found at least 22,000 suitable locations for pumped hydro sites
      Researchers say Australia could transition to 100pc renewable energy in 20 years if just a few of those sites were built
      ANU engineering professor Andrew Blakers has conducted a study looking into pumped hydro sites and has concluded that there are at least 22,000 suitable locations nationwide.
      Professor Blakers said if storage was built at just a tiny fraction of those places, Australia could transition to 100 per cent renewable power within two decades.

      WARNING: From the (choke! caaargh! splutter! hawk! spit!*) ABC. PROCEED WITH CAUTION!!!
      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-21/pumped-hydro-renewable-energy-sites-australia-anu-research/8966530

      • Peter Sandery says:

        I wonder who pays Professor Blakers’ salary and stipend, Ian – not the taxpayers surely! ANU has been complicit in the AGW conspiracy for years as have other members of academe relying largely on taxpyer funded subsdies for their livlelihood

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          Any taxpayer-funded scientist or academic who does not support the Ostrich School of Climatology should be immediately sacked!!
          Immmmmediately!!!
          I am sure you will not find a single ostrich who disagrees.

      • en passant says:

        MacBot Troll,
        Again I say great stuff! Invest in this plan, put everything you have into it. In fact this plan sounds so good that it will need no taxpayer subsidies.

        Pumped hydro is a fake engineering farce dreamed up as a distraction to fool the public. Oh, I suppose that Blakers will form a company to show us he is not making it up – sort of like the Flim-Flan man did with simple ‘hot-rock technology …

        Put your money in or make chicken sounds.

      • Jody says:

        The trouble always is, Ian, that these ‘experts’ have no understanding at all of how a business works, how economies of scale, efficiencies, dividends, investment, profit and loss, staff, wages and the perennial balancing act required to keep business viable, competitive and strong are central to business. They write their reports and make their deductions in a vacuum of security, knowing that everything they own will NEVER be on the line as it is daily for every business owner – big or small.

        Until these kinds of organizations and reports reflect the widespread business practices and experiences of the employees of this nation they should not really be taken as any more than a theoretical construct/starting point.

      • Bwana Neusi says:

        Only a mere 22,000 suitable locations for pumped hydro sites. If you are into hyperbole at least keep it within the realms of reality.

  4. Ian MacDougall says:

    ianl:
    ALSO:
    Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazelwood_Power_Station for use of the term ‘smokestack’.

  5. Keith Kennelly says:

    But Ian didn’t you rabbit on for years that rising sea levels are absolute proof of Global warming?

    And now that there is a sustained fall, according to NASA satellite data, of falling sea levels, why are you not now spruiking global cooling?
    If the data changes you can always revert.

    Don’t worry about dignity or integrity …you don’t have any.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Keith,
      You appear to believe that a downturn on an upwardly trending sawtooth graph somehow negates all of modern climatology, and the AGW hypothesis, as endorsed and supported by about 198 major scientific organisations worldwide, including the CSIRO, the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But nothing is ever final in science, and there is a chance however slight that they are wrong and you and the rest of the Ostrich School are right.
      While you are waiting for that glorious day to arrive, I suggest that you don’t rest on your laurels, but keep reading up on climatology and the physics, chemistry and other disciplines that underpin it.
      If you find that hard, never hesitate to ask your teacher or your school’s librarian for help.

      • Keith Kennelly says:

        No Ian it has been you who has told us umpteen times that the ultimate truth and evidence of global warming is rising sea levels. That was your final truth and the settled science.

        You’ve hung your entire belief on this fact as the other claims have been debunked.

        It was you who hung your belief in the decelerating upward trend of rising sea levels and now the are reversing you are dodging and weaving like a rabbit in the headlights.

        Your fundamental evidences supports the opposite of your faith based belief.

        Hahahahaha

        I thought you’d gone?

        • Ian MacDougall says:

          I repeat: you appear to believe that a downturn on an upwardly trending sawtooth graph somehow negates all of modern climatology, and the AGW hypothesis, as endorsed and supported by about 198 major scientific organisations worldwide, including the CSIRO, the Royal Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
          It will take a bit more than a single downward tick on the end of the established rising pattern to convince me (and I suspect them) otherwise. But believe it or not, I would welcome that news if established as true.
          https://350.org/

  6. Jon R says:

    Pumped hydro is a slight variation on the old perpetual motion machine. You pump the water, using power from somewhere else. Then drop it to generate power which you can use to pump the water back up again. It works as log as the efficiency of the system is 100% or better otherwise you need more power to pump than you get back.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Wrong.
      See if you can figure out why.

      • en passant says:

        MacBot,
        Yet another winning investment for you. Put you money in and not just your hot (CO2) air.

      • Jon R says:

        Ian, a challenge explain why I am wrong! The experiment starts with the upper dam full, you drop the water onto the turbines and generate power which you then use to pump the water back up. It will eventually reach a point were the power input is more than the power output. If you are implying the Snowy will fill the upper dam, then who is the numpty? With a need to divert water to allow the Snowy to flow, I don’t think there is much surplus to exploit.

    • Jody says:

      Sounds like my own ticker!! I hope it keeps pumpin’.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      I think you misunderstand what is proposed. Pumped hydro (the in-place facility for which is called the Snowy Scheme) is hooked into the grid and is the logical way to go to store electricity from grid-connected generators in large quantities. So it can be used to store the increasing amounts of power coming from wind generators and suburban rooftop solar as well as from hydro and coal: generate by day and use by day or night.

  7. Jody says:

    I always take what people DO as what they really believe rather than what they SAY, or say they do. And I wonder why Sydney City council has approved the development of a high-rise casino on Barrangaroo which will effectively be on the water’s edge of Sydney Harbour. If sea-level rises were an irrefutable fact that development would NEVER have been approved. Same with the neighbour of Turnbull in Darling Point who has hived off the bottom part of his land, reaching down to the foreshore of the harbour, for subdivision. Look at what they DO, NOT WHAT THEY SAY.

    • Ian MacDougall says:

      Jody:

      If sea-level rises were an irrefutable fact that development would NEVER have been approved.

      A number of possibilities there: a majority on the council might be short-term thinkers; or members of the Ostrich School – much the same; or be so interested in the slice of the proceeds from the Casino likely to come their way that they lose sight of everything else (my choice, having had a bit to do with one Sydney council); or not give a damn… whatever.
      If the polar icecaps go thanks to the coal-burners prevailing over everyone else, it won’t just be Barrangaroo that will be in trouble: every port city in the world will get turned into a Venice, and THE major problem in Sydney will be the high risk of speedboat collisions on the canals, and maybe prangs of the trendy gondolas.
      But on present course that will be a problem for the grandchildren of the present generation in Sydney.
      Your Newcastle (lovely town) could possibly be dug up like a bit of lawn turf and set back on top of a huge floating barge, so that it could rise and fall with the level of the Hunter: possibly to be crewed by the descendants of the present waterfront generation, including those of Turnbull and his immediate neighbours.

  8. Matt says:

    RUN THE NUMBERS!!!!!
    Much of the debate and ideas around this subject flies in the face of basic facts and arithmetic. Shallow-thinking dangerous fools abound. Suggestions of pumped storage and rooftop solar are classic examples. Try working out how much space for solar panels is needed to power an aluminium smelter for example and what sort of a battery would be needed to keep it running on a still night. And yes, when we run the snowy dams dry just like they did in Tasmania, then what?
    PRIVATISING MONOPOLIES DOES NOT ENHANCE COMPETITION
    Privatising an essential service was always a bad idea. Not that it should be government run like a public service department but rather that it should be government owned so that monopoly profits go back into public coffers for everyone’s benefit, as it is in Queensland. Like capital city airports, all privatisation does is transfer profits from public to private hands and interests from broad public interest to narrow vested interest. Competition has powerful positive value but only up to a point. Privatising monopolies does not create competition. The shenanigans of self-interest in the power industry have been going on for decades at the public’s expense. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. What also doesn’t get talked about so much are the anomalies and the unpredictability that a freewheeling but inherently closed (I can’t buy electricity from India for example) electricity market with captive consumers creates. None of this existed before the NEM and they aren’t essential factors. If the concept of the NEM was such a great idea and public interest was going to be well served by profit-seeking private interests then the nation wouldn’t be facing an electricity crisis.
    Ron largely gets it right. Where I disagree is with the assumption of an ever-growing population as an immutable given. It doesn’t have to be this way. Halt population growth, focus on growing GDP per capita and a lot of problems simply evaporate.

  9. Keith Kennelly says:

    Still Ian the Denier when it comes to the real 3 year data from NASA. A downward trend of 3 years on a rising but decelerating graph of 25 years is significant, and it can’t be manulipated.

    And yet you accepted the fake hockey stick grap … didn’t you.

    This inverted HS graph is actual data … you can believe ian.

    I’ll ev n conduct your baptism in to the true faith of global cooling.

    Hahahahaha you are such a joke.