Doomed Planet

Energy Vandalism and Impossible Dreams

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!


19 thoughts on “Energy Vandalism and Impossible Dreams

  • rod.stuart says:

    Anton Lange (Tony from Oz) has been monitoring windmill performance in Australia for about five years.
    His data can be reviewed on PA Pundints International.[]
    Tony’s data concurs with Peter’s assessment of a 30% capacitey factor.
    It also reveals that the many many billions of dollars that have been expended on these massive white elephants results in only about 12% of the power delivered to the national grid.
    This should be a tremendous embarassment to those who think renewables are a good idea.
    Pursuing this as an “energy strategy” is downright insanity. It is entirely constructed on a foundation of lies and deception.

    • pgang says:

      As Peter alludes, capacity estimates for intermittent suppliers are a different measure compared with that for a permanent supplier. That 30 percent you quote is actually the availability. I don’t know what the availability is for a permanent, bit I’m guessing it’s in the 90’s. The capacity of Liddell is currently about 45 per pent, but it is available all day. It so happens that when a windmill is available it is utilised, to hide its uselessness. Not so with a permanent supply. It’s a clever ruse.

  • ianl says:

    To date, after 30+ years of increasing propaganda and insanely increasing costs for undispatchable power, the sum of achievements is a small increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations and vastly increased tariffs for unreliable grid power. KPI’s for Bowen, anyone ?

    Actually, the concept of KPI is probably too hard for him to grasp. So, “nookulla”, anyone ?

  • STD says:

    Tomato, anyone!

  • Tony Tea says:

    The zealotry for solar & wind is reminiscent of the AFL’s desire to install teams on the Gold Coast and Western Sydney. No matter how many millions of dollars they throw into the bottomless pit of expansion, they keep saying it’ll be worth it. They will never convince me the money spent on expansion will ever be recouped. Just like renewables shills will never convince me wind, solar & battery will pay its way.

    • JAE says:

      Tony, the AFL has many faults but it is not stupid like our climate zealots described in the article. The additional of the two teams you mentioned allowed one extra game to be televised each week. The recurring revenue from this is $50m per year. Not sure what it cost to establish the two new teams but it seems like a pretty good investment to me. Certainly a far better return than renewables provide.

  • Daffy says:

    It always shows that a moron (or perhaps ABC reporter) is talking when “We’re not ruling things in or out” is uttered. It’s nonsense talk. The normal idiomatic presumption is that everything is being considered, and we are NOT ruling any of them out. Anyway, how does one ‘rule something IN’? The wokery can’t even get idioms right!
    If you are considering a range of options, on the other hand, you can, of course, go all Sir Humphrey and say ‘we are considering a range of options. This implies that some things *have been* ‘ruled out’, but no selection of an option has occurred, but may be at the opportune moment, in the fullness of time, when the conditions are right.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    The real gold with the proposed Sun Cable project was that as Singapore hit peak demand in the early evening, with all those lights coming on, the sun had already set over central Australia. Only a RE zealot could conjure such genius and a similarly brain-dead acolyte actually buy into it.

  • Lewis P Buckingham says:

    The great experiment, on our turf.
    One wonders how to run a business with intermittent power.
    Remember the Wran days with the brown outs and blackouts because of insufficient maintenance of the coal fired generator fleet.
    The modern business needs dispatchable power input 24/7 otherwise everything goes off line, the cloud database server is lost to the NBN and portable devices or sim need battery and are not usually networked.
    To keep things partially alive we will need back up generation of power to support lighting and IT.
    In home, heating will be a premium will be a premium to keep the family safe.
    I note the Greens now want to ban gas and slow combustion efficient wood heating.
    However these may be the only way a household may be able to cook, heat and survive where the electricity fails on a dark cold windless night.
    There was a breathless announcement that Germany has just closed its last nuclear power plant because of safety concerns. Yes SBS.
    What they declined to tell us is that Energiwende, the turnaround to renewables has had a backlash.
    Next door, Macron is going to install 12 new nuclear reactors to produce electricity and will share their baseload power with Germany.
    At the moment Germany is busily stockpiling gas.
    The hot electrical thermometer scandal at the BOM is beginning to unravel, despite their attempt to deplatform the questioner, by charging him usurious amounts of money to provide data that should be in the public domain.
    Perhaps we are not warming all that fast anyway.
    The BRIKS certainly don’t seem to mind.
    We in Australia need leadership on all this.
    Is there an adult in the room?

    • Michael says:

      Here is H.G Wells explaining in 1901 why the stream engine rather than windmills became preferred for pumping water from mines:

      “Wind was extremely inconvenient for the purpose of pumping, because in these latitudes it is inconstant: it was costly, too, because at any time the labourers might be obliged to sit at the pit’s mouth for weeks together whistling for a gale.”

      H.G. Wells, in “Anticipations of the Reactions of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought”, 1901.

  • PeterPetrum says:

    “Perhaps we are not warming all that fast anyway”

    According to the satellite records Australia (and I assume, the S Hemisphere) has not warmed at all over the last 11 years.

  • Ceres says:

    Always great to read your “reality check” contributions Peter.
    Labor and to a lesser extent Libs just pile on the BS in regard to ruinables. I remember DanAndrews spruiking about the demolition of Hazelwood how ” the average residential power bill would rise by about 4 per cent in 2017, or $44 a year — the equivalent of 85 cents a week.”. Yeah that worked out well didnt it? These nutters will be “mugged by reality” very soon but residents will be the ones to really suffer from their fairy tales both with blackouts and horrible bills.

  • maxpart27 says:

    Nuclear power
    If Albanese is happy to have sailors living for months beside nuclear reactors it is about time that he built a couple of dozen around Australia to provide the rest of the country with electricity.

  • Rafe Champion says:

    That is a very well researched article and clearly written as well, as we have come to expect from Peter Smith. Still, I like to think that the definitive statement on these issues can be found in a series of articles in The Spectator. The centrepiece is the iron triangle of power supply, That is 1 the need for continuous input to the grid, 2 the interruption of wind power by wind droughts, and 3 the lack of storage at the scale required to bridge the gaps. Therefore wind won’t work. QED.

    When the next coal power station closes, every wind drought will threaten the power supply and prolonged wind droughts will be potentially catastrophic.

    Wind droughts have been recognized in Australia for a long time but defective advice (neglecting the droughts) resulted in the worst policy blunder in our history. This is connecting subsidised and mandated intermittent wind and solar power to the grid.

  • Searcher says:

    “You’ll notice something about wind and batteries, their capacity is always quoted in gigawatts (GW) not in gigawatt hours (GWh).”

    The time average of a quantity has the same units as the quantity itself. If a power source has a 30% uptime and a full-power capacity plated rating of 10GW, then its time average performance will be 30% of 10GW = 3GW. The problem is that, over a particular definite 24 hour day, it might run at 10GW straight for 7 hours and 12 minutes, and at 0GW straight for the other 16 hours and 48 minutes. (That could also be described in terms of GWh as 24 × 30% of 10GWh per 24 hours = 72GWh per 24 hours = 3GW; but why?)

  • Rafe Champion says:

    The Energy Realists of Australia have recommended that journalists who report the capacity of “big” batteries in MW rather than MWhr should be promptly escorted from the building with their personal effects thrown into the street after them.

    Check out the basic information pack compiled by the Energy Realists

    And the briefing notes they circulated to 800+ politicians and many journalists between 2020 and 2022.


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