Much Pain for Net Zero Gain

It is this simple: skyrocketing world electricity prices stem from renewables policies. Notwithstanding the avalanche of propaganda we are seeing throughout the country, no wind or solar gets built anywhere in the world without subsidies paid by taxpayers and customers.  In Australia’s case these costs are $10 billion a year in grants and network spending. 

The genesis of the current malaise has been closures of generating plants which have been demonised by the politically correct. In Europe this is mainly involves coal.  Those countries that have been particularly severely hit by the present crisis are the UK and Spain, both of which have closed 80 per cent of their coal capacity – and Germany, which has closed about one third of its coal.  Germany also suffers from having closed down most of its nuclear power plant.  Japan also followed this policy.

Those countries which have fared well include Korea, where they have been building both coal and nuclear, and the US and Canada, which have gone through energy transformations based on gas from the same fracking process that has been falsely stigmatised in Australia and the UK.  The US, however, is now becoming a clone of Europe, with the Biden administration blocking gas and oil developments while doubling up on renewables subsidies.

Around the world we also have seen other contributory factors which have brought on the current crisis, some involved supply constraints especially from Russia. Importantly, there was also a wind drought in Europe – a common occurrence that always leaves wind-dependent systems vulnerable. This coincided with high gas prices, so stocks were run down and prices of gas escalated.

In the UK this was further aggravated by disruption of the nuclear electricity from France. UK and German forward electricity prices are now 2-3 times Australia’s, and because UK prices are inflexible a number of electricity retailers have gone belly up. Germany is importing a great deal of electricity, as well as turning coal back on, and praying that it will receive extra supplies of Russian gas by Christmas. All this has meant a bonanza for Australian gas and coal exports. Ironically, these were interred by the Business Council of Australia report a couple of days ago. (The BCA’s full report can be downloaded here.)

The agitprop financed by woke alarmists and vested interests seen in the media is seeking to accelerate Australia’s to phase out coal. In an indication that actually running a specific business requires more applied intelligence than making broad and illogical generalisations  about the sector’s future, the Business Council actually claims we can flourish by reducing the present 75 per cent coal-and-gas share of electricity supply to 15 per cent by 2030 and virtually zero shortly thereafter. Kerry Schott, the departing chair of the Energy Security Board, one of the nation’s four regulatory authorities, is making similar remarks.

Joining the chorus is Malcolm Turnbull’s former top bureaucrat, Martin Parkinson, who says, with a straight face no less, that “We can very rapidly decarbonise the electricity market at zero cost to 70 per cent, and at mild cost to 90 per cent.”

Chalked up to replace Australia’s coal and gas are renewables with their proven record of high cost and low reliability.  Due to subsidies these already comprise a lost fifth of supply. Energy Minister Angus Taylor, aware of the political dynamite from a transparent carbon tax, seeks to placate the greenhouse gods with subsidies for extracting hydrogen from water. At least this has the benefit of novelty, as Jonathan Swift reserved the notion of harvesting sunbeams from cucumbers some time ago.  Hydrogen will no doubt continue to be promoted as the latest green miracle — there are billions of dollars in grants and subsidies to be snaffled, as the ABC reports:

Premier Dominic Perrottet says a hydrogen strategy unveiled by the NSW government that aims to help the state hit net zero emissions by 2050 is “world-leading”.

The strategy provides up to $3 billion in incentives for green hydrogen production, including tax exemptions, and includes plans for a “hydrogen refuelling highway” between Melbourne and Brisbane.

The truth is that hydrogen cannot be transported through the gas pipeline network and, as even the US Department of Energy acknowledges, there are a host of other technical obstacles and imponderables. If history is any guide, hydrogen is now being blessed with the same unquestioning optimism formerly bestowed on “carbon capture and storage” which, after 15 years of trials, is yet to see commercial relevance anywhere in the world.

The government is offering blandishments to the Nationals in the form of hand-outs for the bush. By all accounts all but a handful of Coalition MPs, led by Matt Canavan, have been seduced by such reprehensible deals.

The zero emission agenda will eventually collapse because the non-OECD world will not accept it. In the meantime, if Scott Morrison goes to Glasgow and signs up, great economic harm will follow.  

Alan Moran wrote the chapter “Current trends and perspectives in Australia” in Local Energy Markets edited by Tiago Pinto et al and recently published by Elsevier


9 thoughts on “Much Pain for Net Zero Gain

  • J. Vernau says:

    The fuss about hydrogen is not because it is a fuel but because it can be produced by the electrolysis of water, stored and transported, and then turned back into energy. That is to say that, like ‘pumped hydro’ it can provide (expensive) storage for the intermittent power produced by wind and solar generators. There is also the possibility of export, by ship, to Asian energy markets.
    I note that no mention was made of the alleged ‘jobs bonanza’ that headlong transformation to renewable energy is touted to bring. If we were to go back to using renewable firewood for all our energy needs their would indeed be many new jobs created—perhaps as much as half the current workforce might be involved. What a great improvement that would be. Especially if half the ABC staff became woodcutters.

  • Michael says:

    The enthusiasm for hydrogen may be for ideological/political reasons rather than for engineering/economic ones. It is put forward as the solution to the economic devastation that will follow for Australia and for some regions in particular if we no longer use or export coal and natural gas. So it’s promoted to mollify concerns about job losses in the Hunter and in Central QLD and in the Latrobe Valley.

  • phicul19 says:

    Wood is the most efficient form of all heating in that it warms you multiple times-cutting it, carting it, storing it, splitting it and sitting in front of the fire.

  • DUBBY says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more phicul19. We love our wood fire. We would add to your litany of benefits – cooking on it – and there are many more. Our woodshed built 18 years ago is still going strong; built of wood!

  • ianl says:

    Electrolysing water for oxygen and hydrogen is quite obviously not newly discovered technology, although it is a little younger than windmills.

    Generating, storing and transporting hydrogen on a scale sufficient to maintain current civilised living standards will require metallurgical and logistical advances as yet unknown and undreamed of. Oodles of OPM as well.

    But to scientifically ignorant politicians and bureaucrats, magic and technology are interchangeable. Both the BCA and the various Mining Associations, while knowing better, have clambered onboard the subsidy trains while screeching: “MAGIC, MAGIC !!”.

    As noted over 30 years ago, the destruction in living standards is quite deliberate. For green activists, it is a feature. Why other people are attracted to it may not be rational, but this blood rush to the head is a perennial hysteria in human history. In short, we are an insane species.

  • pgang says:

    There is the usual prediction getting around our brilliant media that global demand for coal will dry up after November’s mass religious sacrifice to the god of Crony and his angel, Gaia. Always gives me a chuckle. Journalist = Propagandist.
    That ‘great economic harm’ that Alan mentions has already eventuated, and more will follow.

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Thank you, AM.
    As you say, it’s that simple.
    Separating hydrogen from water is, of course, easy.
    Separating the hyperbole from hydrogen not so easy, as ianl explains above.
    As they say, money talks. Dr Forrest has a lot of it.
    I heard it once: it said GOODBYE. Goodbye to sanity too.

    An ex-PM now works for Dr Forrest’s new green energy company. As Chair, I think.
    Wheeling/dealing and wedging/sledging the current PM on CC policy? Surely not.
    And now NSW is to become the “hydrogen capital of the world” by that magical date, 2050.
    I hope it gets something more than PIE in the SKY for its 80 billion dollars.
    Expect it will suffer the same fate as the submarine fiasco, another rather expensive folly.

    Reminds me of that line from Shakespeare: “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” (Macbeth)
    But who am I to look into the seeds of time and tell you which grain will grow and which will not?
    “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble,
    By the twitching of my thumbs
    Something wicked this way comes…..”
    COP26, Net Zero. Mass delusion and the madness of crowds…..

  • STD says:

    Climate change and global warming are a quinella and trifecta all rolled into one media, corporate and political junket.

  • Biggles says:

    It seems that President Xi isn’t going to COP 26. I don’t blame him. It would be, even for such a dour man, an impossibility to avoid laughing as he watches the western nations tearing themselves to shreds over a non-problem. The Chinese are clever people. They know that the man-made global-warming ‘crisis’ is a scam. Xi has bigger fish to fry. He has millions of hungry mouths to feed. The higher latitudes in China will become unproductive agriculturally as the Earth’s temperature falls through the Grand Solar Minimum. Why do you think China is making inroads into the agricultural belt of Africa? It is not because it wants to be charitable to the natives.

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