July 27th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Fixing Australia: Can we trust the Morrison Government?

ENERGY Yallourn early closure more than a mere challenge, Mr Premier

CANBERRA OBSERVED Can Labor learn a lesson or is it unredeemable?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS High power prices lead to more deaths of elderly

GENDER POLITICS Catholic Ed's document strong on doctrine, weak on protocols

ENERGY Renewables do push up power price: Chicago economists

OBITUARY The eminence of Dr Joe Santamaria

HISTORY OF SCIENCE Faith and reason and Father Stanley Jaki, Part 6: Medieval Christendom sparks a revolution

ENVIRONMENT As many Pacific islands are rising as are sinking

ASIAN AFFAIRS Uyghurs lose in ethnic power play

POETRY AND HISTORY The epic of the White Horse

HUMOUR On patrol with Father Bruce

MUSIC Joao Gilberto: Carrier of melodies

CINEMA Crawl: Toothful entertainment

BOOK REVIEW America's postwar boom and its end

BOOK REVIEW The story of the drafting of a great document

BOOK REVIEW The facts behind an undying distortion



FOREIGN AFFAIRS Boris Johnson and the EU: Crash through or just crash

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Yallourn early closure more than a mere challenge, Mr Premier

by Chris McCormack

News Weekly, July 27, 2019

Premier Daniel Andrews’ climate wars continue to wreak havoc on Victorians, denying residents reliable and affordable power.

In what could prove to be another hit to Victorians’ hip-pockets, Energy Australia, which owns Yallourn power station in the Latrobe Valley, has warned its workers that it may shut down within six years, long before its scheduled 2032 closure. If that happens, power prices will surge, as will blackouts. Yallourn provides 22 per cent of Victoria’s power needs and 8 per cent of Australia’s needs.

The electricity generator said a number of policy factors could force it to shut early. One is the Victorian ALP Government’s 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030; and, two, if the Government adopts the recommendations by a panel led by former ALP climate-change minister Greg Combet for a 60 per cent cut to carbon-dioxide emissions by 2030, it could make operating Yallourn uneconomical. There is no reason why those conditions would not hasten the demise of Victoria’s other remaining coal-fired power plants.

The Government is currently considering the report. Premier Andrews said if the plant closed early it “would be challenging” but insisted that the Government’s relentless pursuit of adding new renewable energy would suffice. This is delusional.

Renewable energy in the form of wind and solar is dependent on weather conditions and cannot provide uninterrupted or “base-load” power. No amount of added renewable energy, even with the much lauded “battery backup”, can satisfy the vast, uninterrupted energy demands of industry, business and households.

An Industry Super Australia report (“Modernising Energy Sectors: A Guide to Long-Run Investment Decisions”) has found that backing up a nationwide renewable energy system for a mere 1½ days would require the building of a hundred Snowy Hydro 2.0 schemes at a cost of $700 billion or Tesla batteries at a cost of $6.5 trillion.

The report said: “The key takeout is that intermittent technologies may not provide the best means of delivering all primary energy. It is also doubtful whether they are the best means of providing all electricity at current levels of demand” (p52).

The report recommends some level of nuclear energy, not because nuclear is cheaper than coal, but because it would help achieve carbon-neutrality by 2050. The report estimates that the cost per 1,000 megawatts of nameplate capacity for nuclear power would be between $2.6 and $10 billion. This compares with $2.2 billion for a 1,000 MW high-efficiency, low-emissions (HELE) coal-fired power plant, according to energy specialist GHD and Solstice Development Services.

The Industry Super paper does point out that 15 gigawatts of new firm capacity (base-load power) will be needed by 2037. That is equivalent to around 10 new Yallourn-sized power stations.

In the 2017-18 financial year, brown coal accounted for 75 per cent of Victoria’s electricity generation, while wind generated 8.8 per cent and solar 3 per cent. There are three brown-coal power stations remaining in Victoria with a nameplate (theoretical) generating capacity of 4,730 MW. There are 23 operating wind farms in Victoria with a nameplate capacity of 1,737 MW: that is, theoretically producing 37 per cent of the generating capacity of the three coal power stations. However, the actual electricity generated equates to around 11 per cent of that of the three coal power plants. Another 33 wind farms are planned, under construction or approved in Victoria.

This demonstrates the sheer inefficiency of constructing dozens of remote and disparate, small-capacity generators producing intermittent power where the large costs of connecting to the power grid, in addition to higher wholesale prices and “green energy” charges, are borne by consumers.

Economist Judith Sloan wrote in The Australian (September 2, 2018) that the cost of “firming” or backing up solar generation added $40 per megawatt/hour (MWh) to the $53-$57/MWh price received by Victorian renewable energy generators in recent reverse auctions. While, for wind, a “firming” cost could not even be estimated because of wind’s huge variability.

Factoring in the “firming” cost explains why the wholesale price of electricity in Victoria has risen from averaging $30.35 MWh in 2015 to $109.81 MWh in 2019, as the Andrews’ ALP Government has directed massive taxpayer subsidies to renewable energy projects. Moreover, its 300 per cent tax hike on coal hastened Hazelwood power station’s demise. And yet, we are constantly bombarded with the fabrication that a renewable energy future will bring down power prices.

What will it take for the Andrews Government to abandon its ideological opposition to coal-fired power stations and heed the call for affordable power, the absence of which is already resulting in people dying from hypothermia because they cannot afford to heat their homes? My guess is that even an electoral wipeout would not moderate their renewables-obsessed religious fervour.

And yet, the ALP claims to be the party of empathy, attuned to the needs of the disadvantaged. Give me a break! These socialist-green caused deaths are real, as opposed to the imaginary ones resulting from mythical “anthropogenic climate-change”.

Premier Andrews indicated that Energy Australia would be required to give five years notice before shutting down Yallourn.

Activist group Environment Victoria (EV), which claims to have had a hand in Hazelwood’s closure, welcomed news the plant could close early. EV campaign manager Nicholas Aberle insisted other coal plants “will need to close much sooner than currently anticipated”. He asserted that the Combet-led report didn’t go far enough, calling for an 80 per cent cut to emissions by 2030. Clearly, their fool’s paradise exceeds that, even, of the ALP.

Fixing the energy crisis begins with building new coal-fired power stations. Meanwhile, government policy should encourage prolonging the life of existing coal-power plants, which remain the cheapest form of reliable power.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm