‘Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan’ – Critique
Download the printable PDF here
Edit: Here are some media-suitable ‘sound bytes’ from the critique, prepared by Martin. Obviously, please read the whole critique below to understand the context:
- They assume we will be using less than half the energy by 2020 than we do today without any damage to the economy. This flies in the face of 200 years of history.
- They have seriously underestimated the cost and timescale required to implement the plan.
- For $8 a week extra on your electricity bill, you will give up all domestic plane travel, all your bus trips and you must all take half your journeys by electrified trains.
- They even suggest that all you two car families cut back to just one electric car.
- You better stock up on candles because you can certainly expect more blackouts and brownouts.
- Addressing these drawbacks could add over $50 a week to your power bill not the $8 promised by BZE. That’s over $2,600 per year for the average household.
This document provides a critique of the ‘Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan’  (referred to as the Plan in this document) prepared by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE). We looked at the total electricity demand required, the total electricity generating capacity needed to meet that demand and the total capital cost of installing that generating capacity. We did not review the suitability of the technologies proposed. We briefly considered the timeline for installing the capacity by 2020 but have not critiqued this part of the Plan in detail.
In reviewing the total energy demand, we referred to the assumptions made in the Plan and compared them to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) report on Australian energy projections to 2029-30 . The key Plan assumptions we questioned were the use of 2008 energy data as the benchmark for 2020, the transfer of close to half the current road transport to electrified rail and transfer of all domestic air travel and shipping to rail which could have a devastating impact on the economy. In the Plan, total energy demand was reduced by 63% below ABARE’s assessment. We recalculated the energy demand for 2020 without these particular assumptions. Our recalculation increased electricity demand by 38% above the demand proposed in the Plan.
We next turned our minds to the amount of generator capacity needed to meet our recalculated electricity demand. We assumed that the existing electricity network customers would require the same level of network reliability as now. At best the solar thermal plants would have the same reliability and availability of the existing coal fleet so the network operators would at least require a similar proportion of reserve margin capacity as in the existing networks. We kept the same proportion of wind energy as in the Plan (40%) and recalculated the total capacity needed to maintain the reserve margin. The total installed capacity needed increased by 65% above the proposed capacity in the Plan.
The Plan misleadingly states that it relies only on existing, proven, commercially available and costed technologies. The proposed products to be used in the Plan fail these tests. So to assess the total capital cost of installing the generating capacity needed, we reviewed some current costs for both wind farms and solar thermal plants. We also reviewed ABARE’s expectation on future cost reductions. We considered that current costs were the most likely to apply to early installed plants and that ABARE’s future cost reductions were more likely to apply than the reductions used in the Plan. Applying these costs to the increased installed capacity increased the total capital cost almost 5 fold and increases the wholesale cost of electricity by at least five times and probably 10 times. This will have a significant impact on consumer electricity prices.
We consider the Plan’s Implementation Timeline as unrealistic. We doubt any solar thermal plants, of the size and availability proposed in the plan, will be on line before 2020. We expect only demonstration plants will be built until there is confidence that they can become economically viable. Also, it is common for such long term projections to have high failure rates.