Over six gigawatts of coal power has been shut down since the beginning of 2012; one-fifth of coal power generation. Liddell (in NSW) will close at the end of this month; that’s another 1.5 gigawatts at its current three-quarters capacity. And isn’t Eraring, the largest of Australia’s coal power stations, at 2.9 gigawatts, also in NSW, due for early closure in 2025? Not quite. Eraring will almost certainly not close as planned.
Weeks before being ousted, the previous NSW government completely changed its tune and flirted with the idea of buying Eraring and keeping it open beyond 2025. The chastened green Matt Kean, the then minister in charge, on the question of intervening to prevent the closure of Eraring:
We’re not ruling things in or out. The government’s already demonstrated that it will do what is necessary to protect families and businesses at this time.
How to explain such revisionist backsliding? Panic. AEMO warned of potential blackouts. Simple as. Real life interdicts pipe dreams.
New Labor premier Chris Minns can do without blackouts in his first term. Thus, reportedly, talks have opened with Brookfield, the prospective new owner of Eraring. CEO Stewart Upson says that he will work “with the government to make sure that the shutting of Eraring can be done in a responsible way.”
Upson has his own pipe dream. His outfit plans to install 14 gigawatts of wind and (battery) storage at a cost of $20 billion in the next decade. Take that with a pinch of salt. In any event, it would not make up for the closure of Eraring. Eraring operates 24×7 whether it’s windy or not. You’ll notice something about wind and batteries, their capacity is always quoted in gigawatts (GW) not in gigawatt hours (GWh).
Wind delivers about 30 per cent of its plated capacity. Hence, say, 10 GW of wind comes to about 3 GWh, on average. To reiterate, on average. Enough to replace Eraring? Actually, no. When the wind doesn’t blow you get a big fat nothing; and demand doesn’t oblige. Here comes the cavalry in the guise of batteries? No again. The largest battery in Australia, the Big Battery in Victoria, would be left flat in about five minutes tops, if asked to power the State.
Renewable energy is a collection of pipe dreams. Snowy 2.0 is a Malcom Turnbull pipe dream. If it’s ever finished, which is extremely doubtful, it will deliver far less and cost ten times as much as promised. Pipe dreams are not constrained and can boldly go where no man has gone before. To the outer limits, to mix my science-fiction shows.
Take the collapsed Sun Cable project. Beyond ridicule. It envisioned electrifying Singapore. Not just with any old electricity but with “green” electricity, generated by vast arrays of solar panels in outback Northern Territory, supplemented by the most humongous battery the world is ever likely to see, dispatched via the longest undersea cable in the world by far. Fanciful doesn’t nearly describe it. It’s not a matter of cost. It’s akin to landing a man on Jupiter or Saturn. It just ain’t doable.
While private-sector projects must meet financial hurdles, bringing them home is seldom unattainable. The factory can be built. The mine can be developed. The farm can be established. Pie-in-the-sky, heavily subsidised, green schemes are quite different animals. None emerge responsively to market opportunities. Electrification of all transport. Electrification of all homes and businesses. Boundless acreages of wind turbines and solar panels. And, the doozy of them all, rivers of liquified green hydrogen. None are doable. None would get to first base in normal times.
These are not normal times. They are grotesquely abnormal times when artifice supplants reality. When the name of the game is extracting subsidies. And when, without such subsidies, the whole renewable-energy house of cards would collapse.
In 2021, 29 percent of Australia’s electricity came from renewables (predominantly hydro, solar and wind). With nary a nod to reality, Chris Bowen is obsessively pursuing the quixotic aim of having renewables meet 82 per cent of our electricity generation by 2030. In a nutshell, according to Bowen:
Australia must install 22,000 [large] 500-watt solar panels every day for eight years plus 40 [very large] 7MW wind turbines every month – backed by at least 10,000 kilometres of additional transmission lines.
And how exactly will that work on windless nights? It’s academic. It can’t be done no matter how much taxpayer money is thrown at it. Doing each and every year much more than has ever been done before; when it’s getting harder (think skilled manpower, materials, available land, grid architecture) and when objections are ever increasing to the hideous destruction of landscapes? It’s fiction. Only in the movies. For example, the average nameplate capacity of wind turbines built in the U.S. in 2021 was just 3MW, less than half the size of Bowen’s imagined turbines. “That’s not a turbine, THAT’S A TURBINE,” Crocodile (Bowen) Dundee exclaims. Cut!