Scaling up the Prospect of Tyranny

Scale generally works to reduce unit costs. Think of conventional motor vehicles and consumer goods. It’s not always the case. Sometimes scale adds to unit cost. For example, the square-metre floor-area cost of a skyscraper tends to rise as more floors are added. There is ample reason to think that scale is not the friend of wind and solar energy. In terms of area required, its lack of density means that land must be increasingly sought. Once low-hanging fruit is exhausted, more expensive land must be acquired or land further and further away from populated areas, resulting in increases in transmission costs.

Most materially, as more wind and solar replaces coal, the need for purpose-built firming is required. This cost is latent while coal power is around to fill gaps. As the penetration of wind and solar increases and replaces coal, latent costs become evident.

What is firming? Sounds small beer. It isn’t. Theoretically, unless some redundant hydro is handily available wind and solar power has to be backed 100 percent by reliable power. Natural gas is the obvious choice. Liddell at full capacity supplied 2,000 MWh of power. Kurri Kurri natural gas plant, if built, will supply 660 MWh. Bit of a gap there.

Enough (over-built) redundant wind farms and long transmission lines from where the wind is blowing to where it isn’t will fix it, won’t it? Maybe, unless a wind drought is extensive and, maybe, if sufficient wind farms can ever be built and, maybe, if 13,200 kms of high-voltage transmission lines can be built as envisaged by AEMO. Good luck with all of that. In reality, somehow or other, 100 percent firming, i.e., backup power, will be required to keep the lights on. Two adjacent power systems to replace one reliable and low-cost coal-power system. Doesn’t sound cheap does it? More wind and solar inevitably means higher per kWh costs. Diseconomies of scale prevail.

Talking of diseconomies of scale naturally leads to green hydrogen. Take the Asian Renewable Energy Hub (AREH), northeast of Port Headland, in Western Australia. Having morphed since its start a few years ago, it is now a 26 GW project designed to produce ammonia from green hydrogen for export around the world. Envisaged is 6,500 square kilometres of wind turbines and solar panels, a desalination plant to produce sufficient pure water to support electrolysers on a vast industrial scale, supplemented with an industrial process to convert the hydrogen produced to ammonia, for safer transport. Wow, that sounds doable and affordable, doesn’t it?

Fortescue Future Industries also popped into the news earlier this month with a planned 10 GW green hydrogen “super hub” located in North Queensland. More to follow no doubt, if Australia is to become what AEMO describes as a “hydrogen super power.”  Incidentally, in this event, AEMO increases the required transmission lines from 13,200 kms to 28,000 kms. And thus, one fiction builds on another.

Fictional or not, what is clear is that ‘cheap’ does not describe it. Recently the CEO of Santos compared the cost of blue hydrogen (hydrogen produced form natural gas with carbon capture) with green and suggested it was about a third the cost – and this is long before scale, i.e., when desalination plants and thousands of square kilometres of wind and solar farms and thousands of kilometres of new transmission lines are brought to bear on future costs. Does it seem remotely feasible that the AREH project and others like it will bring costs down? Not to mention, the billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money that are bound to find it their way into the coffers of green-hydrogen barons. By the way, while blue hydrogen might be far cheaper than green, using the natural gas au naturel is much cheaper still. A clue to our future energy impoverishment is in there if our liege lords bothered to notice.

How about electric cars? Scale is not their friend either. They will need increasingly expensive and scarce green power to run. Millions of charging points in homes and thousands on highways. Electricians and power required; apply within. And millions upon millions of batteries dependent on materials that are increasingly costly to mine. Never mind those awful crashes of two-tonne cars and the resulting unputoutable fires. My guess is that EVs will prove to be bridge too far even for the great and good. Petroleum is just too obviously (densely) efficient. Harder to get rid of than is coal. Nevertheless, much damage is on the way before reality clashes with pipedreams.

Where will it end? Nowhere good. I need to segue into the woke corporate world.

Woke is an old word with a new meaning. It has lexiconic company. To wit, micro-aggressions, trigger warnings, safe-spaces, critical race theory, intersectionality, DEI (diversity equity and inclusion), ESG (environment social and governance), LGBTQ+, transphobia, non-binary pronouns, etc. Sorry, I might be behind the eight ball, but a new one only recently came to my attention. Namely, Scope 3 emissions. Call them busybody emissions.

Scope 3 emissions are those not directly under the control of corporate giants but about which they are now deeply, deeply concerned. These are the emissions of their suppliers, their customers and their employees. A report (roadmap) on this matter was issued by the Climate Leaders Coalition (all the major woke Australian companies you can think of) on 22 November.

What do you think of when government and big corporations share the same agenda? An unholy alliance? Indeed, let there be no doubt. Tyranny is in the wings. Not just because of the unholy alliance. Critically, also, because the make-believe plans of governments and corporations to cut emissions to net zero will not work; cannot work. Think of communist regimes. Their plans don’t deliver the goods and, thus, they inevitably resort to force to keep their populations in check.

When energy prices soar and blackouts ensue, as they will, forced rationing will become a fact of everyday life. Teals, and well-to-do others, will live in energy-secure gated communities. Worry not for their coiffured heads.

Smart meters will control the electricity usage of the hoi polloi. The days of cosy warm rooms in winter or cool rooms in summer will end. Traveling will be restricted. Verboten for those breaching public order; like protesting. Corporates, in league with governments, will monitor the energy usage of their suppliers, customers and employees. Penalties and cancellations await the recalcitrant. Apropos, just read in my morning paper (26 November) that ANZ has threatened to reduce exposure to customers “who have not improved [their] carbon-reduction plans.”

Those who doubt that this tumbling into tyranny will happen, don’t understand the knife edge of Western civilisation on which we teeter. Christianity and capitalism brought us our prosperity and freedoms – a very rare condition in the history of mankind. Christianity is under constant attack and is almost undone. Capitalism is a derivative of Christian values and cheap abundant energy. Capitalism can’t be reset as Klaus Schwab and his elite WEF mates maintain. However, it can be replaced with a new version of fascism.  

23 thoughts on “Scaling up the Prospect of Tyranny

  • Michael says:

    Well said, Peter.

  • Biggles says:

    Another good essay Peter, but, like yesterday’s return of the Victorian socialist government, irrelevant in the long run. The Grand Solar Minimum advances slowly but irrevocably. Keep your eye on coming northern hemisphere winters. Increasing poverty and death by starvation awaits us. As Admiral Rickover said back in 1957, ‘A reduction in per-capita energy consumption has always in the past led to a decline in civilisation and a reversion to a more primitive way of life.’

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Hallelujah Peter.
    I don’t even bother going down the gas path and stick to coal. we’ve got hundreds of years supply of it, and counting, and with big thermal high efficiency power stations close ‘ish to the main centres and smaller ones further out the cost of production would be probably, if not certainly, around one sixth to one tenth of wind, and more compared to solar when taken solely on it’s own which is the only way you can take it.
    I throw nuclear into the mix purely on the strength of it’s very, very long term viability and umpteen other uses and to keep up with Jones’es we should have some, but it’s also much more expensive than coal.
    I don’t even bother taking emissions seriously, as they are irrelevant in my eyes and certainly have no measureably effect on the climate. They’re the ultimate placebo, like mask wearing, if talking about them makes you feel better, do so, just don’t kid yourself they control anything.

    • 27hugo27 says:

      PM, you took the words right out of my mouth re the relevance of it all. We are drawn into arguments about carbon, co2, parts per million!! Well Jimmy Crackcorn, i don’t care! Merely being alive for several decades would tell anyone not drinking kool-aid that one ; there is no warming and no problem, and two ; even if there were, there is nothing we can do about it. This is politics all the way, a back door entrance for all those who loathe the West, rent seeking third worlders (the real polluters) and communist/Marxist zealots who have succeeded in brainwashing generations of students. The same ilk who foist covert 19 on a gullible hemisphere to accelerate their agenda and who couldn’t care less about the environment as millions of acres of ruined landscapes via short life and un – recyclable turbines and solar panels can attest. Not to mention the scourge of discarded masks clogging gutters and waterways, useless gestures that they are.

  • ianl says:

    Articles such as this one, as accurate as they are, have been published with increasing numbers for over two decades now. No matter how well written, as this one is, they have become virtue signalling from the opposite side. A new darker age is upon us and it cannot be forestalled. Just out of control.

    “Firming” is a weasel word, by the way. The actual, precise description is BACKUP.

    • gareththomassport says:

      At the same time, there is solace to be found in having one’s own beliefs put into words in an articulate manner. It can be quite isolating to be constantly assaulted by the ridiculous hard left ideology that pervades all aspects of our society. Thank you Peter for your excellent articles.

    • Blair says:

      “…they have become virtue signalling from the opposite side.”
      “Virtue signalling is the expression of a moral viewpoint with the intent of communicating good character”

      • ianl says:

        Unfortunately, impotency is the prime characteristic.

        My own description is “howling at the moon”. Still, as Janis Joplin sang, “If it makes you feel good …”

        The trajectory is completely out of control. Here in Aus, the federal nature of the power structure promotes chaos, with State legislatures and judiciaries running their own agendas, yet simultaneously demanding “National Grid” support.

        Now that Andrews is returned for another four years, the La Trobe lignite generators will be forced off the grid, yet without adequate backup. The lifeline to SA will be gone, even though SA now only consumes as much power as just Liddell of itself generates (and Liddell is slated for complete closure within about 5 months).

  • padraic says:

    I notice that the global warming zealots are ignoring the impact on weather patterns resulting from the volcanic eruption in Tonga. Apparently it was on par with Krakatoa but minus a similar ash cloud intensity because it took place under the sea.

  • IainC says:

    I have looked previously into the only continuous 24/7 supply RE project I know about. The Sun Cable Project was the initial incarnation of AREH. Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes proposed to build a 100+ square km solar array in the Pilbara with vast battery backup (tens of GWh (40-45), a hundred times installed current battery capacity) for 30 billion dollars. This was to supply a 2.2GWh DC feed to Singapore, for 1 million people (20% of Singapore’s electricity needs), at $1500-2000 invoiced cost per person per year (he states a revenue of “2 billion a year”, which is $2000 per person for 1 million people), and a 0.8GWh feed to Darwin (no revenue given).
    The solar array is 2-3x larger than required for 3GWh in order to charge the batteries during the day for 10-14h of steady 3GWh supply at night (10-14h x 3 GWh = 30-42GWh battery requirement).
    Economies of scale are already in play, so how much would it cost to reliably supply the Eastern Seaboard by solar and battery backup – around 22 million people (22x)? That works out to be 22×30 or AUD660bn. Whoops, that’s a lot. If we use the east coast typical daytime need of around 30GW (x10), we would arrive at 10 x 30bn = 300bn – a lot smaller, but note that the batteries, which comprise around 10-15bn of the 30bn (0.3bn per GW battery storage x 45GW needed) would need replacing every 10y, vs coal every 60-80y.
    And look at the per person costs of AUD2000/year, unless there are vast subsidies to the domestic consumer. For a household of 3 people, that’s AUD6000 a year, whereas my current household cost for 3 people is around $1600. Singapore is expensive (I know it well), but not nearly that bad.
    And Labor and the Greens think RE is cheap??? Sunlight sure is free (as our ancestors well knew), but the infrastructure required to usefully harness it sure isn’t. Something doesn’t add up.

  • 27hugo27 says:

    Another fine article, PS, and posts from PM and ianl. You are right, whatever we do or don’t do is irreverent as the fix is in, irrevocable and inescapable. Our leaders both govt and corporate are driving headlong off the cliff. The daily assault on common sense, freedom and financial security is overwhelming. I see it everywhere, yet so many are unaware, or don’t care. Witness Andrew’s reelection or Albo’s TV networks leg humping, and blanket push for the “voice”. What an era where govt, big business, media, education are all on the same page, aligned against the middle and lower class!

  • 27hugo27 says:

    Darn spellchecker, “irrelevant”

  • Alice Thermopolis says:

    Thank you PS.
    Another unsettling post.
    Not a pretty picture at all, less so with the victory in Victoria of the “I believe the science” chap.
    As the oracle of Delphi would have said were she still in business:
    “To punish you, the gods grant your RE wishes.”
    Perhaps I missed it, but the CC “barons” and Minister of CC seem quite happy to make us as dependent on China for our energy infrastructure (wind turbines, solar panels) as the EU was on Russian gas and oil.

    Ambrose Evans-Pritchard yesterday:Kremlin has turned up heat in its high-stakes energy war
    “Vladimir Putin lost his energy war this year. He may still win it next year by exhausting Europe’s will to resist through another gas and power crunch.
    The secondary target of his blitz on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is the EU itself. The damage deprives Europe of crucial electricity imports from Ukrainian plants. Power will have to flow in the opposite direction to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Ukraine.
    The switch in flows is large enough to change a fragile energy balance. It compounds a fresh gas squeeze already in the works. The effect is to shave Europe’s margin of energy security to wafer thin levels and to ratchet up the pain through 2023, pushing industries closer to the wall.
    Putin warned at the St Petersburg Economic Forum this year that European sanctions would have “catastrophic consequences on the global energy market”.
    On this at least, we should take him at his word. He left no doubt that his objective is to drive commodity costs to levels that destabilise democracies and cause a “system-wide decline” of the European economy.
    “This will aggravate the deep-seated problems of European societies. There will be a further growth of inequality, which will split their societies still more. Such a disconnect from reality will inevitably lead to a surge in populism and extremist and radical movements,” he said.

  • rod.stuart says:

    Another absolutely excellent post, Peter.
    It is hard to believe the complete ignorance of physics and chemistry displayed by the hydrogen spruickers.
    The heating value of hydrogen is puny in comparison to that of methane. Even though the ‘blue’ variety is a third the cost of the ‘green’ mirage, it is like peeling a banana only to discard the meat and to eat the peel.
    An I’ve said before, it is all based on a foundation of two enormous furphies. As Biggle points out, the GSM ensures that Big Lie of ‘warming, and the cooling of the last three decades will continue.. And as Peter Marriot points out,.the other HUGE lie is that CO2 has anything to do with it.
    The nuclear option only makes sense as a development alternative. With a few hundred years’ worth of coal, what is the hurry to venture into the more expensive option?

  • call it out says:

    And, at 8.00 am this morning, SA is relying on gas to power 50% of its needs. But also needs to pull in brown coal fired power from Vic. Oh yes, forgot to mention that they now plan to close our gas fired plant early, like we blew up the brown coal plant at Port Augusta. That will mean more brown coal fired power from Vic, or black coal power from NSW when the link gets built. Have we gone mad?

    • Lawriewal says:

      Yes! Stark Raving

    • pgang says:

      We travelled through SA a few weeks ago. The vast acres of industrialised rural land were staggeringly awful. Yet, for all that ugliness, barely a windmill turned for the entire week. Not only is Australia to become a truly ugly place, but it will be uselessly ugly. We will gain nothing from this mass transformation of our landscape.

  • ianl says:

    Should have added this link to a recent conference in Estonia on the impending winter heating/energy issues:


    The “back-of-envelope” cost summary of techno-metal scarcities embedded in this article is based on the Michaux 2021 paper that has been recently noted here and many, many other places. I had expected the green propagandists to ignore Michaux (as usual playing the man, not the ball), but I’d been unaware that he had addressed the UK House of Lords on this issue and been treated in that exact manner.

    [tn = trillion 10^12; qn = quadrillion 10^15]

  • robtmann7 says:

    > Liddell at full capacity supplied 2,000 MWh of power. Kurri Kurri natural gas plant, if built, will supply 660MWh.

    wrong units; the power that can be generated by a power station is in MW (whereas energy is expressed in e.g the familiar unit of domestic consumption, kWh).

    >13,200 kms of high-voltage transmission lines

    correct unit km

    IainC’s excellent note illustrates how far one can get using correct units.

    After these corrections which some will regard as pedantic, on the substantive issue I express shock at the vast scale of ill-conceived ‘investment opportunities’ for purporting to make hydrogen of whatever “color”. Such rorts could not be tried on unless an extreme fear of burning natural gas had already been induced. Methane has many advantages over hydrogen; to bother making the latter from the former, just to get a ‘cleaner’ fuel, is dubious.

    • Peter Smith says:

      Technically correct I suppose robtmann7- but what I was trying to convey was that coal and gas power stations can supply power each and every hour. Often batteries are accorded a megawattage – which they can supply for 10 minutes.

      • pgang says:

        robtmann7 makes a salient point, but you also raise an interesting concept yourself Peter. Perhaps if we were to discuss and compare the MWh net production of our energy units, the scales might fall from the eyes of the nation. I say net, because batteries must be recharged, therefore their net production is zero, along with pumped hydro.
        If a windmill has a nameplate capacity of 2.5 MW, but operates at 20% utilisation, then its annual production is 4,380 MWh. Multiply that by 10 for its lifetime and you get 43,800 MWh. A coal plant with a nameplate 2,000 MW capacity, operating at 80% utilisation, makes 14,016,000 MWh annually. Over a 50 year life, that adds up to 700,800,000 MWh. So you require 16,000 windmills to replace one Liddell. Cheap energy indeed.

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