Doomed Planet

Disaster Obvious, Even Through a Green Haze

Are you still willing to give the time of day to those impassioned to the point of madness by a desperate yearning to save the planet from an imminent and fiery end? Me, not really. Yet inexplicably, dutifully and intrepidly, I found myself perusing the six-page executive summary of AEMO’s “2002 Integrated System Plan,” released on June 30. Though admittedly, I haven’t yet managed to amass the resolve to read or even skim all 104 pages. The flesh is weak.

The plan follows an earlier draft and the consultation which followed. For those not in the know: “This plan is for a true transformation of the NEM [National Electricity Market] from fossil fuels to firmed renewables.” For the avoidance of doubt, the goal is net zero by 2050. Take a deep breath and consider its broad constituent elements. It’s complicated but I reckon I’ve got it mostly right.

The headline is that a “nine-fold increase in utility scale variable renewable energy capacity [read, wind and solar farms by 2050] and a near five-fold increase in distributed solar photovoltaics [read, panels on roofs]” will be required “as homes, vehicle and industrial applications switch to electricity from existing energy sources.”

According to the plan, “renewables generating 83 per cent of NEM energy by 2030-31,” is foundational for planning investment. It was 27 per cent in 2020-21. Apparently today, the NEM delivers just under 180 TWh per year. AEMO predicts that 320 TWh will be required by 2050. Suppose then it’s 200 TWh required by 2030-31. A little arithmetic shows that renewable energy (RE) will need to grow its per-year contribution by about 117 TWh.

Based on European figures, the average turbine provides 6 million kWh in a year (i.e., 6000 MWh or 6 GWh or .006 TWh). This means that the equivalent of almost 20,000 turbines will need building in the next 8 years or so. To give a rough sense of the task, I reckon, based on generating capacity figures, that we now have about 4000 turbines a-whirling, maybe a few more. I found the exact number hard to find. It doesn’t matter. It’s clear that a massive amount of new RE has to be put in place in short order. And, remember, commensurate so-called firming (see below) must also be put in place.

Unrealistic. You got it. Maybe the Teals can help?

By the way, this required massive increase in RE by 2030-31, and then more beyond, doesn’t include the electricity requirements to fulfil the wet dreams of Andrew Forest et al. Namely, the massive production and export of “green hydrogen”. That would be extra, a lot extra.

In the main, wind and solar farms will be built in Renewable Energy Zones (RZEs). These we are told “have the potential to foster a more holistic approach to regional employment, economic opportunity and community participation that may lead to greater local fulfillment of NEM’s supply chain needs.” Welcome to our RZE, locals will say in greeting tourists in the future green nirvana. Meanwhile, I predict local objections gathering pace as the full impact of becoming an unsightly green-electricity, albeit holistic, community drives home. We shall see.

Renewable energy isn’t called variable renewal energy (VRE) by AEMO for nothing. It’s unreliable. It’s intermittent. It needs backing up by what is called euphemistically firming. Thus, according to the plan, treble the current firming capacity will be required, “including utility scale batteries, hydro storage, gas fired generation, and smart behind-the-meter ‘virtual power plants’ [read feed-in power from surplus home generation and from unwanted battery storage in electric cars].”

However, according to AEMO, coal now provides over half of the existing firming capacity. So, sans coal, firming capacity has to increase by more than six times. And, to boot, this pollution-free paradise ahead allows no backsliding. We are told that the polluting effect of natural gas in the firming menu will need to be offset elsewhere or, eventually, be replaced with green hydrogen and/or biogas. The plot gets ever thicker.

I assume the required amount of firming has been modelled. I don’t trust models. Neither should you. Whichever way it’s obfuscated, VRE requires 100 percent firming. When power is primarily and solely dependent on VRE, another power system must be maintained on standby of equal capacity; ready always to provide dispatchable power in case of need. This is not a matter of engineering. It is a matter of simple logic. Unsurprisingly, logic isn’t the strong suit of the climate cult.

We will need two power systems, side by side, to do the job that one used to do effectively and cheaply. Seems like madness? Can’t be. Among others, Prince Charles, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, John Kerry, Anthony Albanese, Matt Kean, most corporations and unions, and a majority of Australian voters are onboard.

Connectivity and electricity go together. This is appreciated in the plan, which calls for “more than 10,000 km of new transmission to connect geographically and technologically diverse, low-cost generation and firming.” To make things more challenging it will be necessary to “adapt complex networks and markets for two-way electricity flow.” Incidentally, this is all to be done “efficiently” at “low cost and low regrets for consumers.” Why this assurance to quieten concerns, you might ask? Surely, government projects are always delivered on time, on budget.

We are told that “when successful, the transformation of the NEM will deliver low-cost renewable electricity with reliability and security, and help meet climate targets, and contribute significantly to regional jobs and economic growth.” I got tied up with the qualification “when successful.” Indeed, if and when.

In your mind, connect up and graph the various components of the new promised electricity system. Have far-flung wind farms, onshore and offshore, and solar farms connected to the grid. Have firming stations comprised variably of commercial super batteries, natural gas, green hydrogen, biogas, pumped hydro; have two-way connectivity between homes, electric car batteries and the grid. Include the import of essential equipment, components, spare-parts and materials from China and elsewhere. Include the heavy-duty transmission of electricity to electrolysis plants; desalination plants to produce the water required for electrolysis, and the conversion of hydrogen to ammonia for safe transport to gas generators. Don’t forget provisions for industries to be forced to so-called load shed; i.e., to curtail their power usage when things get tight on cloudy windless days. Note the need to stand ready to advise householders to ration their power usage by shutting off appliances and postponing dishwashing till late at night.

Now think of a single coal-power station, needing no adornments nor add-ons, delivering sufficient and reliable cheap power 24×7. Can’t say we haven’t been warned. The plan lays out the full complex unworkable mess in front of us; guaranteeing expensive uncompetitive power and blackouts. It’s no consolation that it won’t work. Fanatics are in charge. It will be pursued until the damage is irreversible this side of current generations.

 

16 comments
  • Ian MacDougall

    That is ‘awaiting approval’ by some resident in-house fossil-carbon shill.
    “Now think of a single coal-power station, needing no adornments nor add-ons, delivering sufficient and reliable cheap power 24×7. Can’t say we haven’t been warned. The plan lays out the full complex unworkable mess in front of us; guaranteeing expensive uncompetitive power and blackouts. It’s no consolation that it won’t work. Fanatics are in charge. It will be pursued until the damage is irreversible this side of current generations.”
    The ‘irreversible damage’ lies in the fact that once the fossil carbon is burnt in the furnaces, it is a very slow process to get it back out of the atmosphere. And the proponents of coal-burning are obliged to play down its effect on the planet, mostly manifested in sea-level rise of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/yr (CSIRO) and wilder weather.
    Electricity generation is best achieved through expansion of renewables. Otherwise, we face an increasingly stormy planet, which will mostly affect the grandchildren of this profligate generation. The coal is best kept for road tar and as feedstock for the myriad-use plastics (eg battery casings) industries. (Think of all the plastics in the construction of a car, not to mention its synthetic rubber tyres.)
    But the present owners of privatised coal will be able to relax at some balmy tropical paradise in Greenland or Patagonia, far from the bedlam as the rest of the world is flooded out or cooked alive.
    Can’t say you haven’t been warned.

  • Ceres

    Cudos to you Peter for wading through all that gobbledygook modelling, wishful thinking and denial of reality.
    Hans Christian Anderson would be proud of the Fairy Tales all those at the AEMO have authored. Irreversible damage indeed.

  • Peter Marriott

    Thanks Peter. Never ever in modern times has there been a case of such total waste of money, totally misdirected away from genuinely free market, productive work and investment, where a genuine profit motive relies on individuals to work out for themselves where their money would give them the most profitable return. This is destructive central planning that even the Soviets and Mao’s China couldn’t come up with…or maybe they could ?
    The only way anyone would waste their money trying it would be if the government gives them free money to do it, and where does the government get that free money from, as it slowly but surely destroys the few real productive industries we have left I ask myself…… like the QLD gov ramping up the royalties multiple times on our big export coal industries and pretending they’ve found a big new source of free money, taken away from small, stock market investors & their rightfully expected return, until this golden egg laying goose also dies…..slowly.
    Also I read a comment in an English quarterly that wind turbines produce their rated output at 30mph ( 48kph ) and it reduces in cube terms i.e. 15mph is 1/2 cubed = .5 x .5 x.5 = 1/8th output which should knock a hole in all their calcs….along with all the other holes no doubt. But of course when you centrally plan things, based on projections out to 2050 this can all be solved quickly on paper, with a stroke of the pen and a few more mythical calcs. along with mythical investors to boot no doubt. Amazing.

  • rod.stuart

    Not to mention that these VRE devices have a life expectancy of fifteen to twenty years, in comparison to a well maintained fossil fuelled plant of from fifty to seventy-five years. Nor the dilemma of disposal of fiberglass windmill blades and toxic solar panels, nweither of which are welcome in landfills.

  • Tony Tea

    Are there any electrical engineers at AEMO?

  • RB

    @Tony Tea.
    Only those whose proboscis is inundated by the depth of the trough.

  • Citizen Kane

    @Ian MacDougall aka BIG LITHIUM has changed his tune a bit like a weather vane. A couple of years ago it was we we were all going to die from drought and burning to death now its ‘increasingly stormy weather’ . Does that include increased snow fall and colder winters like the one we are currently in Ian? I guess if you just change the rhetoric of your doomsday message to meet the weather conditions of the day then you have all bases covered. The good ol’ shotgun approach – when you don’t have the faintest idea what your theory actually means, just include all possible options – its a fools paradise. Of course energy production is less than half the CO2 emissions in Australia – the bulk of the rest coming from livestock farmers such as Ian – nothing like a bit of rank hypocrisy from the doomsday cult.

    P.S.If you really cared about facts you would know that the Surface Mass Balance of the Greenland ice sheet is currently above the multi-decade mean for this time of year. You would also recognise that satellite measurements of every square inch of the lower atmosphere show an increase of just 0.06 degrees celsius over the multi -decade mean with trend lines falling since 2016. And if you want to understand why there is increased rainfall in Australia recently you might want to investigate the combination of the recent La Nina and the effects of the Hunga Tonga’s monstrous stratospheric (Cloud Nucleating) eruption. You may even find an historical precedent from the Mt Tambora eruption in 1815. But why let facts get in the way of the doomsday cult and the BIG LITHIUM shrills!

  • Stephen Due

    It’s hilarious, really. The only reason for promoting renewable energy is fear of ‘global warming’, which allegedly is caused by rising atmospheric CO2 (known to the media as ‘carbon’). Apart from the fact that there is no credible evidence of man-made ‘global warming’, one thing is absolutely certain: nothing done in Australia can possibly have any measurable effect global atmospheric CO2.
    Evidently the comfortably-off Leftist elites are more than willing to impoverish the average Australia in order to save us from this imaginary threat. One might have thought they’d done enough damage with their ludicrous faux-pandemic ‘science’ and their magical medieval interventions. But no, they’re steaming ahead with the next part of their ridiculous program to drag us all back into the Dark Ages. You have to laugh. Or cry.

  • RB

    It’s worse than that Stephen Due, they are willing to impoverish the average Australian for the moral vanity of claiming to have done something.
    It’s pathetic.

  • ianl

    @Citizen Kane

    It’s ok, the Dutch Govt has sorted out how to deal with the trollster.

    The deliberate destruction of living standards is now plainly in sight.

  • brandee

    Peter most QOL readers, unlike AEMO, share your view that [the coming] Disaster [is] Obvious.
    Too bad that our FIFO PM doesn’t wise up during his excursions abroad. Imagine the insight he could have gained in France by asking to inspect one of their many nuclear power plants in pretty farming areas. How he could have been impressed by hearing of Ukraine’s reliance on much nuclear power. Germany also could have advised him not to despise coal fired power.
    For most people travel broadens the mind but reliable energy insights seem not to rest easy on Albanese.

  • pgang

    I suspect that firming requirement is an exponential curve as you move towards 100% reliability.

  • pgang

    brandee, too bad that the LNP thought the same way for nine years, and still do.

  • pgang

    Thanks for the warning Ian. Is it really you? Normally you are more erudite and less shrill and propaganda-intensive. I’m a little disappointed.

  • Doubting Thomas

    My latest reject from the Oz’s comments:

    Facts haven’t changed significantly in living memory. The sea hasn’t risen and actual observed temperatures have risen barely a fraction of modelled predictions. All that has changed has been the self-interested political response to a well-orchestrated campaign by vested interests whipping up hysteria akin to the infamous South Sea Bubble. It’s high time the media started to challenge the incredible irresponsibility of the politicians.

  • Lawrie Ayres

    A quick calculation for battery storage for a cloudy windless day is 7500 of the SA type costing about $750 billion. Chris Bowen says that is much cheaper than a couple of nukes at $4000 each. When the minister cannot do simple Maths we know the future is grim. Hopefully it will be so grim the Albanese government will be cast out.

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