August 24th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Biological and transgender worldviews are mutually exclusive

CANBERRA OBSERVED Can you have too much of a renewables thing?

FREEDOM OF SPEECH Professor Augusto Zimmermann addresses NCC WA on freedoms

NSW ABORTION BILL Clear and present danger to women's health

RURAL AFFAIRS Land-clearing laws render productive land useless and worthless

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Why an indigenous referendum is misconceived

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY The post-liberal way: Make good use of the time in the wilderness

ASIAN AFFAIRS Hong Kong defies its obtrusive overlord

SPECIAL FILM REVIEW Danger Close: Australia's fiercest battle of the Vietnam War

HUMOUR Rage against the baked bean

MUSIC Riff wrap: The thing that makes it go 'pop'

CLASSIC CINEMA Dr Strangelove: Helpless fear turned to laughter

BOOK REVIEW The epic awfulness of Mao and his 'isms'

BOOK REVIEW From slave to son of the Church




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Can you have too much of a renewables thing?

by NW Contributor

News Weekly, August 24, 2019

Despite the vast majority of media reports to the contrary, Australia is now leading the world in building renewable energy, according to the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

In fact, we are dangerously close to having too much renewable energy.

The problem, though (and it is a big problem), is that there is now so much solar and wind power in place or under construction, that the grid will not be able to handle the new Earth-friendly but intermittent power sources.

These startling facts both belie the current media narrative about the Federal Government “doing nothing” on climate change but also point to the fact that renewable energy can, at least at present, go only so far in satisfying the nation’s energy needs.

Incredibly, according to a recent report by The Australian’s Alan Kohler, the national renewable target of 23 per cent by 2020 has already been met, with AEMO chief officer Alex Wonhas declaring Australia’s adaption toward renewables “nothing short of a revolution”.

But while households have taken to installing solar panels on their roofs with a passion, and while wind farm operators have taken advantage of government subsidies to plant thousands of wind turbines all over the country, there are going to be serious gaps that will lead to major blackouts ironically because these forms of power cannot (currently) do the grunt work that coal and hydro can do to sustain the system.

The impending closure of the AGL’s Liddell coal-fired power station in four years will add to this energy uncertainty. AGL wants out of coal and is warning that it wants to close Liddell, but has recently agreed to delay the proposed closure until April 2023.

In the meantime, Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor wants to avoid a repeat of the premature closure of the Hazelwood power plant in Victoria in 2017. Mr Taylor has declared that he does not want any more early closures of coal or gas-fired power plants, which will push up power prices and threaten the reliability of the electricity grid.

“One of the Morrison Government’s top energy priorities is to avoid premature closure of our coal and gas-fired power stations, and to keep them in the market running flat out,” Mr Taylor told The Australian recently.

Liddell has been part of NSW’s base-load power supply for almost 40 years, but in recent years it has become expensive to keep functioning.

AGL plans to replace the Liddell coal-fired power station with a mix of gas, renewables and battery storage. It estimates that it would cost an extra $950 million to extend Liddell’s life for another five years.

AGL chief executive Brett Redman has said that, beyond adjustments made to the closure date of Liddell – to get it through the summer of 2022-23 – and the Torrens A gas plant in South Australia, the ultimate future for the NSW coal-fired power plant was the same.

“Nothing’s changed in the sense that it’s not economic to run Liddell past that point, past the summer of 2022-23,” he said in an interview after the company’s annual results.

“So, while if you spend enough money on anything you can do anything, from an economic point of view, that’s a 50-year-old plant that really is coming to the end of its days.”

The Federal Government may look to other options to keep Liddell running.

South Australians already had a taste of the problem in September, 2016, when it was plunged into darkness when its renewable energy policy led to the closure of most of the state’s dispatchable generation, leaving it overly reliant on the Victorian interconnector, which failed.

According to journalist Chris Kenny: “We now know the statewide blackout would not have occurred if more gas and coal-fired power had stayed in place, the state hadn’t been left so reliant on the interconnector, and if the wind farms had not shut down instantly in reaction to disruption. The reliance on wind then hampered efforts to restart the grid.”

Battery technology that is required to store renewable energy is still a long way from being viable.

Maybe, once severe blackouts become more commonplace, reality will finally sink in for policymakers and industry, who want to “embrace” renewable energy and ban anything that uses fossil fuels.

In fact, everyone loves renewable energy. It is electorally and, in a practical sense, a popular development. And for a country like Australia, solar energy makes a lot of sense.

But it makes no sense, if renewable energy makes the system unstable and unreliable.

Instability and unreliability are probably inevitable, given the reluctance to go anywhere near coal generation. But, in the absence of any other alternative, like nuclear, that is what the country is facing.

All you need to know about
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