August 26th 2017


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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED Crikey, is nobody a true dinks Aussie these days?

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Hundreds of doctors call on AMA to withdraw defective statement on same-sex marriage

EUTHANASIA What disability advocates say about assisted suicide by Daniel Giles

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Triggs' one important contribution to rights by Greg Walsh

ENERGY High prices 'destroying the economy': Glencore

ENERGY Renewable energy barely even a fair weather friend

ECONOMICS The world it is a-changin': globalisation in crisis

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Gay Liberals' push out of step with LGBTI realities

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS South Africa is losing its rainbow nation credentials

MUSIC A moral scale: Does 'good' music make us better?

CINEMA War for the Planet of the Apes: Best-laid plans of apes and men

BOOK REVIEW Risk nothing; gain nothing

BOOK REVIEW The most infamous crime in history

MARRIAGE The issue, Bill, is transgender marriage

POETRY

LETTERS

MORAL EDIFICATION A cartoon

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE The media, champions for free speech and rights (for the media), demonstrate predictable inability to contain bias on postal vote

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ENERGY
Renewable energy barely even a fair weather friend


by Chris McCormack

News Weekly, August 26, 2017

The media hysteria blaming everything from bushfires to refugee crises on anthro­pogenic climate change continues unabashed. One result of the hysteria has been massive subsidies to renewable energy. Yet renewables remain only a tiny proportion of global energy generation.

The BP Statistical Review of World Energy, June 2017, studied world energy consumption and revealed that renewable energy (wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and waste) comprised only 3.1 per cent of global energy consumption while in Australia it accounted for 3.91 per cent of national energy consumption. Hydropower, while a renewable energy, is not favoured among green ideologues because of the need to build dams in order to generate electricity. The Greens also condemn nuclear energy and it does not attract the same levels of government support. The remaining 96.09 per cent of the country’s energy was derived from hydro, (2.9 per cent), oil (34.64 per cent), gas (26.81 per cent) and coal (31.74 per cent).

Wind and solar energy, which have grown largely due to Australian government subsidies totalling $3 billion in the 2015–16 financial year, have contributed little to overall energy generation. The inherent intermittency of these, reliant on the sun to be shining or wind to be blowing, means that their capacity to provide large-scale power generation is limited and they cannot provide synchronous or base-load power.

By contrast, energy sector specialists GHD and Solstice Development Services revealed in July that a new ultra-supercritical 1000-megawatt coal-fired power plant could be built for $2.2 billion, which, while costing less than one years’ renewable energy subsidies, could provide the cheapest form of energy (around 44 per cent of the cost of solar) and bring some reliability back into the system after the closure of the 1600 MW Hazelwood power station in Victoria.

Lining up the batteries

In relation to the “next big thing” supposedly to fix runaway electricity costs and unreliability issues in South Australia, the much hyped “largest lithium-ion battery in the world”, which is to be connected to the Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia, will be able to power 1/15th of South Australia’s energy needs at full power for one hour and 20 minutes before going flat. The estimated cost for the battery is $60 to $120 million. As a result of pursuing a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2025 and shutting down coal and gas power plants, South Australia now has the highest retail electricity prices in the world.

The misinformation regarding the uptake or efficacy of renewables around the globe abounds. Reneweconomy.com.au in 2013 said: “The 100 per cent [renewables] by 2040 scenario is probably not that much different in scope to current trends. Australia was sitting at around 10 per cent renewables in 2010, and will probably end up with at least 25 per cent by 2020, given current trends on rooftop solar and the fixed 41,000 gigawatt/hour target for large-scale renewables.”

The “BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2011” showed that Australian renewable energy consumption (excluding 2.88 per cent of hydro) in 2010 was 1.27 per cent, a far cry from the claimed 10 per cent.

Globally, the “everyone else is doing it” argument is frequently recycled. Last month, the Huffington Post had this to say: “The effort to revive the fossil fuel industry in the United States is not helpful and we may lose our technological advantage in the renewable energy innovation race. But China, Japan, India and Europe are more than ready to fill in for us if we falter. Japan has no fossil fuels and is desperate to wean itself from nuclear in an energy politics dominated by the Fukushima disaster. Renewable energy will replace fossil fuels because they will be less expensive, as reliable, and as convenient as fossil fuels.”

Rise of high-efficiency, low-emissions coal

The truth is a little different. Japan is building 45 new high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) coal-fired power stations after trialling wind and solar in the wake of closing 54 nuclear power stations after the Fukushima meltdown. Japan found that renewable energy increased power prices by over 20 per cent. Between September 2013 and August 2014, electricity rates averaged 28.1 per cent higher than in the period immediately following the Fukushima disaster (April 2011 to March 2012), costing an average Japanese company an extra $107,000 annually.

Japan plans to take its share of coal-powered electricity generation from 24 per cent in 2010 to more than 33 per cent in 2040. Apart from the new coal-fired power stations, the government now wants to restart 32 of the 54 nuclear reactors that have been closed, in fact, between 2015 and 2016 nuclear energy consumption increased more than 309 per cent, while renewables (wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and waste) grew 27.1 per cent, though from a base of scarcely 3.32 per cent of total energy consumption.

In China, the proportion of renewable energy (wind, geothermal, solar, biomass and waste) consumed increased from 2.14 per cent in 2015 to 2.82 per cent of total energy consumption in 2016. In the same period natural gas energy consumption grew to 6.2 per cent of total energy consumption (TEC), oil energy consumption remained static at 18.69 per cent of TEC, hydro rose to 8.62 per cent of TEC and nuclear power increased to 1.58 per cent of TEC.

Coal-powered energy consumption accounted for 62 per cent of China’s TEC. The increases in gas, hydro, and nuclear power may explain the 2.87 per cent decline in coal-powered energy consumption between 2015 and 2016. However, China’s adoption of advanced ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants, apparently planning to build one coal-fired power plant each week until 2020, may explain the lower consumption of coal as the new plants require up to 30 per cent less coal to achieve the same energy output as the older plants being retired.

A report in The Australian in Aprilexplained how Chinese engineer and inventor Feng Weizhong, saw China’s plan to lower emissions and coal use yet maintain 55 per cent of China’s power generation through coal as being possible through “clean coal”, or the use of high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power stations.

In India, renewable energy consumption (excluding hydro and nuclear) increased marginally from 1.85 per cent of TEC in 2015 to 2.28 per cent of TEC in 2016. During this time, oil, coal and gas energy consumption rose from 92.48 per cent of TEC to 92.51 per cent of TEC.

In Europe and Eurasia overall, between 2015 and 2016, renewable energy consumption (excluding hydro and nuclear) rose from 4.97 per cent of TEC to 5.02 per cent (that is, a 1 per cent increase). Oil, gas, nuclear and hydro energy consumption increased an average of 0.97 per cent while coal fell as a proportion of TEC by 4.89 per cent. France increased its renewable energy consumed from 3.3 per cent of TEC to 3.48 per cent of TEC. And in Germany the proportion of renewable energy consumed decreased from 11.99 per cent of TEC to 11.75 per cent of TEC.

So, the claim that Japan, China, India and Europe are leading the way with the uptake of renewable energy holds no water.

While renewable energy subsidies globally in 2014 totalled $142 billion versus the $621 billion given to fossil fuels, according to a 2013 article in Forbes, when one takes into account the amount of subsidy per unit of energy produced, the subsidies in the United States to renewables are 25 times greater than those granted to fossil fuels.

Worstall makes the point that fossil-fuel subsidies tend to be directed towards the energy consumers, lowering consumer costs, rather than, in the case of renewables subsidies, being directed toward the producers of renewable energy. He writes: “The renewables subsidies … are expressly designed to go to the producers. Indeed, given the way that most of the green-energy subsidies are constructed, the producers are subsidised by directly over-charging the consumers.”

The much-touted “certainty in the market” that the Finkel Review claims will result from introducing a clean energy target (CET), with the effect of lowering prices, is a red herring. If the Federal Government mandates a higher proportion of energy generation from intermittent renewables such as wind and solar via a CET, the only certainty will be higher prices and more unreliability in the system.

Without burgeoning renewable energy subsidies ultimately paid for by consumers, it is arguable that few of the wind and solar farms proliferating recently would have been economically viable. The result of which has been to introduce unreliability – such as has occurred in South Australia – into electricity grids and exponentially increase power prices for industry, business and households, threatening manufacturing and jobs. At the same time, renewable energy in the form of wind and solar have produced a nominal amount of useable energy consumed both here and abroad.




























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