Emissions Nuclear Renewables

Replacing Hazelwood coal-fired power station – Critique of Environment Victoria report

Guest Post by Peter Lang. Peter is a retired geologist and engineer with 40 years experience on a wide range of energy projects throughout the world, including managing energy R&D and providing policy advice for government and opposition. His experience includes: coal, oil, gas, hydro, geothermal, nuclear power plants, nuclear waste disposal, and a wide range of energy end use management projects.

You can download a printable 16-page PDF version of this post here (updated 1 June 2010). This includes 7 appendices not included in the web-based version below.



Hazelwood Power Station is Australia’s most CO2 emission intensive power station.  Replacing it with cleaner technology could reduce Australia’s CO2 emissions by 12 to 16 Mt/a. The NGO  Environment Victoria recently commissioned a report by Green Energy Markets Pty Ltd to consider options.  But the report has a pro-renewables bias, avoids the best option (gas only), and contains many inconsistencies.

Comparing the ‘renewables and gas’ option against the ‘gas only’ option shows:

Emissions saved per year: 12.2 Mt/a versus 11.8 Mt/a;

Capital cost: $6-$7 billion versus $2 billion;

Cost of electricity: $103/MWh versus $55/MWh;

CO2 avoidance cost: $64/t CO2 avoided versus $22/t CO2 avoided.

The renewables option for replacing Hazelwood is a poor one.  It is high cost and yet yields only small extra emissions savings.

The significance of this analysis for governments is:

  • It highlights the pro-renewables bias endemic in NGO environmental groups.
  • It highlights the irrational decisions that some environmentalist advocates are causing.
  • Federal and Victorian governments should reject the renewables option and implement the ‘gas only’ option.
  • The nuclear option would be even better if it was available.


Hazelwood Power Station is Australia’s most emissions-intensive power station.  The NGO Environment Victoria contracted Green Energy Markets Pty Ltd to consider options for replacing Hazelwood Power Station.  The report “Fast-tracking Victoria’s clean energy future to replace Hazelwood Power Station” [1] was published by Environment Victoria in May 2010.

The project brief was (bold is my emphasis):

… to undertake an assessment into the options and opportunities for replacing the

Hazelwood Power Station by the end of 2012. This report assesses a combination of clean energy technologies to replace the generation capacity provided by Hazelwood in a way that maximise emissions reductions, whilst also maintaining energy security and minimising any increase in electricity bills.

Does it actually meet these criteria? The scenarios it considers are described as follows:

Scenario 1 – Supply side only option: this scenario involves bringing forward 1180 MW of combined cycle gas turbine plant running at 65 per cent capacity factor and 1500 MW of renewable generation (predominantly wind) at 30 per cent capacity factor; and

Scenario 2 – Supply side and demand side option: this scenario involves bringing forward 970 MW of combined cycle gas-fired generation running at 50% capacity factor initially, then declining over time, as well as 1500 MW of renewables. It also incorporates additional residential, commercial and industrial energy efficiency options that replace around 25 per cent of Hazelwood’s annual generation as well as 100 MW of Demand Side Management.

I have reviewed the report and my findings are provided in the following sections.

In short, the report does not meet its stated aims and contains many inconsistencies.  Importantly, the report does not consider the alternative of replacing Hazelwood with just combined cycle gas (dispensing with the renewables component).

I have attempted to resolve the main inconsistencies (to the extent I can without having access to their assumptions and calculations).  I have recalculated the CO2 emissions, CO2 emissions avoided, capital cost, cost of electricity and cost of emissions avoided.  I have added a scenario for the case for combined cycle gas turbine plant only (no renewables).

Lastly, I considered a scenario where nuclear power is available as an established and mature option in Australia.  Although nuclear is not an option on the time scale needed for replacing Hazelwood, it is important to recognise that if we continue to delay in allowing nuclear to be one of the options for replacing coal power stations in Australia in the future, we will be restricted as to how much emissions avoidance is achievable, the cost of emissions avoidance, and the cost pressures that will be applied to natural gas in the future.

Main criticisms

My main criticisms of this report are:

  1. The energy efficiency and demand side management initiatives included in Scenario 2 – ‘Supply side and demand side option’ should not be considered a ‘replacement’ of Hazelwood.  They are applicable to the whole electricity system, to all generators, and should be considered in their own right, not as a way to try to make the replacement of Hazelwood by renewable energy appear better and cheaper than it actually is.  For this reason, I have not considered Scenario 2 any further in this critique.
  2. There are many inconsistencies in the report (see below for more on this).
  3. The report overstates the emissions savings to be gained from a mix of wind power and gas turbines (see below for more on this).
  4. The option that is clearly the best for the immediate replacement of Hazelwood, combined cycle gas turbines alone, was not considered (or if it was, the results are not presented in the report).
  5. The report seems biased towards promoting a pro-renewable energy solution despite the much higher costs and negligible additional emissions savings. This is not an objective, scientific or transparent way to plan energy policy.

Inconsistencies in the report

The report contains many inconsistencies.  The numbers in the Executive Summary, Section 3 and Attachment 3 do not agree.  Numbers in tables do not agree with related text.  For example:

Page 12 states:

Hazelwood’s power contribution to the NEM can therefore be summarised as follows:

• Total generation – 11,770 GWh on a gross basis (effective capacity factor of 84 per cent). This needs to be reduced by the extent of its auxiliary electricity consumption (10 per cent) and its transmission loss factor (3 per cent). This means that 10,240 GWh per annum of generation needs to be replaced.

• Contribution to meeting peak summer demand of 1350 MW on gross basis with 1175 MW after auxiliary power use and transmission losses.

• Emissions intensity 1.37 tonnes/MWh on a gross basis (1.53 on a sent out basis after adjusting for auxiliary power use).

But these figures do not agree with Attachment 3.  Table 1 shows three different figures for the annual generation that must be replaced.

When any of these figures are multiplied by the emissions intensity (1.53 t/MWh) the result does not match the total emissions figure quoted in the Attachment 3, which is.  16,166 kt/a.  Multiplying the highest of these figures by the emissions intensity gives the total emissions as 15,900 kt/a.  I suspect the 16,166 kt/a is the correct figure because it is derived from the 11,770 GWh (gross) generation multiplied by the gross emissions intensity (1.37 t/MWh).  Therefore, I suspect the report has an error in the calculation of the ‘sent out’ energy.  It appears, the report has understated the net energy that needs to be replaced.  I calculate the sent out energy to be 10,566 GWh/a (see Appendix 2).

The peak capacity of the replacement generators is also understated.  The report states 1350 MW (gross) of peak generating capacity is required to replace Hazelwood.  I calculate 1500 MW (gross) is required.  Why the difference?  Figure 3 shows that Hazelwood provides 1600 MW peak power (gross).  However, the report has used the average power output over the summer rather than the peak power output.  Then this figure was reduced by 10% (allowance for the internal energy use) and also by 3% for transmission losses.  However, transmission losses should not be deducted in calculating the ‘sent out’ power.  It seems transmission losses have been deducted in calculating Hazelwood’s net peak capacity, but not included when calculating the gross capacity of renewables and gas generators required to replace Hazelwood.  The transmission losses from the wind farms would be higher than from the coal and gas power stations.  The transmission losses from coal and gas should be similar.  The transmission losses should not be included in the calculation of the capacity.  I calculate, to replace the 1600 MW gross capacity of Hazelwood, we would need 1500MW gross capacity of combined cycle gas turbine if air cooled, or 1462 MW if water cooled.  The report states the replacement capacity required is 1350 MW (gross).  This significantly understates the peak capacity required to replace Hazelwood.  (See Appendix 2 for basis of calculations.)

Emissions Savings overstated

The emissions savings that would be achieved from the proposed combination of wind power and gas turbines is overstated.

  1. Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT) cannot back up for wind power on their own.  A mix of CCGT and Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT) would be required.
  2. Both types will have to operate in a cycling mode and both will run at below their optimum output.  As a consequence, both will produce higher emissions than they would if running at optimum output and if not cycling to follow the changing wind power output. [2], [3], [4]
  3. The gas turbines will spend more time in start up, spinning reserve and cool down, than if they were not backing up for wind power.
  4. The Kent Hawkins calculator provides some guidance on the additional fuel used and emissions involved in shadowing for wind power [3].

Calculations on Emissions Savings

I have recalculated the figures for Scenario 1 using what I believe are more realistic assumptions and inputs.  I have also calculated the figures for the option with CCGT only (with no renewables).  Appendix 1 compares the figures in the original Scenario 1, my revised Scenario 1, and the ‘CCGT only’ scenario.  The following table compares the main results.

In recalculating, I took the gross generation, total annual emissions (16,166 kt/a), the emissions intensity (1.53 t/MWh) as correct.  To calculate the net generation I ignored the 3% transmissions losses and I changed the capacity factor slightly (from 84% to 83.76.  Making these changes gives the Hazelwood net generation as 10,566 GWh/a.  Note the emissions saved are less than stated for the original Scenario 1.

Table 3 compares the two options, wind and gas versus gas only, on the key criteria of capital cost, cost of electricity, emissions avoided and cost of emissions avoided.  The basis of estimates is in Appendixes 3, 4 and 5.


Replacing Hazelwood with wind and gas generators (Scenario 1) is only 3% better than the gas only option for the amount of emissions avoided.  However, the wind and gas option (Scenario 1) is much more costly than the gas only option – see Table 3.  The wind and gas option is 3.7 times the capital cost, 3 times the emissions avoidance cost, and, importantly for most people and industry, the cost of electricity is nearly double that of the gas only option. Thus, their stated criteria of “minimising any increase in electricity bills” is not satisfied.

On this basis it is clear that the wind and gas option should not be considered further.  For currently available replacement technology in Australia, the gas only option is by far the cheaper option, and has only slightly (3%) higher emissions.

Nuclear option

I also considered a ‘Nuclear’ option.  It is informative to consider this option because it demonstrates why we should not continue to delay the decisions to allow nuclear to be an option for new electricity generation capacity in Australia.  Had the Hawke Government not banned nuclear from consideration during the Ecologically Sustainable Development work 20 years ago, we could have five operating nuclear power stations by now, be past the period of FOAK (first of a kind) costs, and have nuclear power providing clean electricity at a competitive cost.  In this case our emissions from electricity generation would be near 20% lower than they are today. The clear message from this is we should not delay the decision to allow nuclear as an option for generating our electricity in the future.

If nuclear was an available option, replacing Hazelwood with nuclear would reduce emissions by 16 Mt/a.  If the cost of electricity from nuclear power was the same as for the new nuclear power plants in Europe [5], the cost of electricity would be about $4/MWh (8%) more than the combined cycle gas plant option now, and much less as gas prices rise in the future. (Gas price is the main factor in the cost of electricity from gas generation, but fuel cost is a very small component of the cost of electricity from nuclear).  Table 4 lists the key results:

1Capital cost and electricity cost from NEEDS [5], p3, converted to A$ and escalated to 2010 $.

Implications for governments

The renewables option for replacing Hazelwood is a poor one.  It is high cost and yet yields only small extra emissions savings.

The report demonstrates an obvious pro-renewables bias in the advice being provided to governments by the environment NGOs.

Such bias is causing irrational decisions that are forcing high cost electricity on Australia.

Federal and Victorian governments should reject the renewables option and implement the gas only option.

Governments should recognise subsidising renewables is irrational and costly.

Australian governments should implement the policy, legislative and regulatory changes necessary to allow nuclear power to be implemented at least cost (consistent with appropriate safety requirements) in the shortest practicable time.


[1]          Green Energy Markets (2010). Fast-tracking Victoria’s clean energy future to replace Hazelwood Power Station. Environment Victoria.

[2]          Lang, P, (2009), Cost and quantity of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by wind generation.

[3]          Hawkins, K, (2010) Wind Integration: Incremental Emissions from Back-Up Generation Cycling (Part V: Calculator Update).

[4]          Lang, P, (2010), Emission cuts realities – electricity generation: Cost and CO2 emissions projections for different electricity generation options to 2050.

[5]          NEEDS (2007) Final report on technical, costs and lifecycle inventories of nuclear power plants.

[6]          ACIL-Tasman (2009), Fuel resource, new entry and generation costs in the NEM.

[7]          Mills, A. et al, (2009), The Cost of Transmission for Wind Energy: A Review of Transmission Planning Studies. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, Environmental Energy Technology Division.

[8]          ABARE, (2009), Electricity generation; Major development projects – October 2009 listing ,

Download a printable 16-page PDF version of this post here. This includes 7 appendices not included in the web-based version above.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

102 replies on “Replacing Hazelwood coal-fired power station – Critique of Environment Victoria report”

I’ll reread this analysis but it seems to confirm my initial reaction that it sounded too good to be true. The omission of open cycle gas power should have been a giveaway.

I’ll repeat my comments from earlier threads
– 500 or so new wind turbines won’t go down well
– brown coal at $6/t and no ETS is a gift from heaven
– Vic will eventually have to get gas from WA or Qld.


Disturbing stuff Peter. Thank you for providing this analysis.

Are you considering approaching either Environment Victoria or Green Energy Markets for specific comment on

– the internal inconsistencies
– the failure to consider the higher emissions intensity of gas plant when shadowing wind
– omission of OCGT from the modelled scenario
– inadequate allowance for transmission infrastructure
– reasons for not considering the gas only option?


While we’re bashing Victoria I thought I’d get the boot in. For nearly two centuries Melbourne has avoided taking water from the Murray Darling Basin. Not now.

Envirocrats must try harder.


Indeed John. On Peter’s figures, and there seems no good reason for demurring on them, CCGT-only would seem to be clearly the best non-nuclear option for clean energy.

Interestingly, if you look at the marginal saving in emissions from revised scenario one relative to Peter’s CCGT-only, and account the marginal capital cost over the tons avoided (328 pa * 40) in 40 years of operation, the cost figure per tonne looks and is absurd — something like $391,000 per tonne (BOTE).


Thank you John, John and Fran for your comments.

John Morgan, good suggestion. I have not had much luck with my previous letters and submissions to the various Federal and state government environment and energy departments. Hopefully, Environment Victoria or Green Energy Markets might respond on the BNC web site.


John Morgan,

Are you considering approaching either Environment Victoria or Green Energy Markets for specific comment on

– the internal inconsistencies
– the failure to consider the higher emissions intensity of gas plant when shadowing wind
– omission of OCGT from the modelled scenario
– inadequate allowance for transmission infrastructure
– reasons for not considering the gas only option?

You comment is a great summary of the key issues with the report

You have a very incisive mind. You cut to the heart of every issue.

As mentioned in the previous post in answer to your question, a response from Environment Victoria or Green Energy Markets on the BNC web site would be ideal. The more this is broadcast the more likely we are to get a response.


Germany has been installing renewable electrical generation capacity regardless of cost; the results have been very bad for the consumer and the taxpayer.

I guess emulating failed policies from other countries is fashionable even in Australia.


It is difficult to assess how long Victoria’s gas reserves would last with a major switch to gas fired generation. Fig 1 from this report shows the Otway, Bass and Gippsland gas basins. Pipelines shows some of South Australia’s gas and all of Tasmania’s coming from these basins. Mercifully they are isolated from the lucrative LNG export market.

Most of these basins were discovered in the 1960s and have been flogged pretty hard since then. The average oil flow that came with the gas now appears about 80% less than the early days. Unlike other states Victoria doesn’t need much gas fired generation as it has absurdly cheap pollute-for-free brown coal. When CCS was all the rage they were going to pump CO2 from coal burning down depleted gas wells. That was another good photo op for Brumby and his mates except they used lab grade CO2, not actually from a coal fired power station.

If single and combined cycle gas plant lasts 30 years I would expect the price of Victorian gas to at least quadruple in that time. They’re not going to build gas fired plant with 800 years of almost free brown coal lying around.


It is my understanding that brown coal is ideal feedstock for gasification at low temperatures. There are some methods that use steam injection to gasify underground as well.


One of “Yes Minister’s” golden rules was “Never commission a report without knowing what it will say.” It seems that this rule was followed in this case. What
needs to happen next is that Peter’s analysis needs more publicity, which will
be tough because commercial mainstream media seems to have a
moderately strong aversion to quoting or mentioning blogs.


A few questions for those who know:

1. Did the cost of wind power in the report allow for the cost of reqired high voltage transmission lines required to connect Victoria’s best wind sources (SW Coast) to Melbourne? My understanding is that, for Melbourne and Adelaide, the primary constraint on many wind sources is inadequate capacity to transmit power back to the capital. This would add to the cost of wind, though woudl have other benefits. A high capacity interconnector from Adelaide to Melbourne via the coast would allow for the development of many wind sites in both states, but might cost $1bn or more for the 1000km link.

2. Did they consider substituting black coal power from NSW (Hunter valley), again assuming a higher capacity transmission line was built? Emissions from the high quality Hunter black coal would still be 20-30% less than from the low quality La Trobe brown coal.

3. Regarding gas, my only conern is whether it realistic to assume that gas from other states will be available? Do they have a surplus?


Just to clarify my above comment I am personally now pro-nuclear power; I was only asking questions on the completeness of the report.


Hi Scott,

Here is the link to the study:

They do not mention the cost of transmission for the wind farms. But I have included it in the critique (see Appendix 3 in the pdf version:

The Environment Victoria study does mention importing more black coal fired power from NSW. However, that would mean NSW has to build more black coal fired power stations. NSW is currently importing more electricity from Victoria that it exports to Victoria. NSW has been falling behind with building electricity generation assets for more over a decade.


I’d like to suggest a study with the following aim:

To determine the actual incremental greenhouse gas emissions released by fossil fuel generators when they are firming wind power. The question to be answered is: Does wind power actually save greenhouse gas emissions or cause more? What is the quantum?

Kent Hawkins calculator suggests wind power produces more emission than would be the case with no wind power.

These studies appear to support the Kent Hawkins Calculator results:

A recent study commissioned by Environment Victoria considers options to replace the Hazelwood coal fired power station, Australia’s most emissions intensive power station. The study promotes wind generation as a major component of the solution. But the study ignores the additional emissions from the fossil fuel back-up for wind generators.

This raises the question: Are our governments’ environment departments pushing Australia in the wrong direction by encouraging us to build renewable energy power stations?

What is the truth? Do wind farms actually save emissions or increase them? By how much?

I suggest Australia is ideally positioned to make a significant contribution to resolving this important question. Here’s why. Australia may have the best data to be able to conduct this study:

1. Australia has the world’s largest electricity grid by areal extent
2. 18 wind farms spread over an area about 1400 km by 800 km
3. a semi-isolated region (south Australia) which is connected to the main grid by just two small capacity interconnectors. This region contains more than half the installed wind generation capacity.
4. A second, totally isolated, network (Western Australia).
5. Generation data at 5 minute intervals for all generators connected to the National grid
6. Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) is a proactive organisation, committed to assisting governments to make good energy policy decisions for Australia’s future. ESAA would be able to provide the fuel use data to such a study if it was in the interests of their members to do so.

This study would be of great value to Australia and the world. It could save Australia tens of billions of dollars by making information available to government so they avoid making bad energy policies.


As I recall Peter, you did that in ““Cost and Quantity of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Avoided by Wind Generation“.”

Your conclusions then were:

1. Wind power does not avoid significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Wind power is a very high cost way to avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Wind power, even with high capacity penetration, can not make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The scholarship in that paper was sound, and I have yet to see it refuted by anyone, anywhere to date.


Thank you DV82XL,

I do think we need better measurement data than we have now because what is obvious to those in the electricity industry is not accepted by the wind power advocates, renewable energy advocates, most Australian Green Party supporters, most ALP supporters, and the environmental NGO’s like Greenpeace, WWF, FoE and our own Australian Conservation Foundation. I really do believe there is a great opportunity for someone to do this study. I think it would be enormously valuable. Ken Hawkins papers make it really clear that this real world measurement data is needed to validate the calculator (better than it has been so far).

In all my posts so far I have been halving the outputs from the calculator. I am doing thsi to be conservative. It is important to note that if the calculator is correct, as evidence so far suggests it is, then the Environment Victoria’s proposal to replace Hazelwood wind and gas power would actually produce more GHG emissions than the gas only option.


I really think we ought to be writing to Energy Victoria to urge them to respond to Peter’s analysis here.

We should draw their attention to the errors Peter has highlighted and remind them that by their own criteria, the configurations they offer fail.

It is very clear that no political party with a reasonable prospect of making policy is going to substantially increase the cost of exploiting Victoria’s ample cheap brown coal resources nor take action that would double the cost of energy on a quarter of Victoria’s grid. Nor can anyone agree now to pay a marginal cost well above the end price for emissions of about the $35 per tonne that is canvassed. Not_going_to_happen. Unless clean energy fits into this budget nobody in power will support it and yet the scenarios offered above are well above that.

We should invite them to project forward and imagine themselves defending this report and it’s basic errors in a politically hostile election-time contest and invite them to consider redrafting to avoid looking silly.

That’s what I will do anyway.

PS: It also occurred to me that Peter may have actually been over generous to Energy Victoria in his analysis. After all, rapid cycling of gas plants is likely to reduce their effective life and increase maintenance costs, and the more wind there is to cover, the more relevant this is. There’s a pun in here somewhere based on windbags, gas and hot air but I can’t be bothered putting it together right now. Perhaps by the time I write my letter …


Jim Holm,
That was a very interesting link that included LFTRs and reminders of what the USA was able to do during World War II. Sadly, the USA is run by lawyers today so engineers and scientists are held in check by means of “Environmental Impact Statements” and all kinds of bureaucratic red tape.



Thank you for this comment. The more letters sent to Environment Victoria on this matter the better, from my perspective. So thank you in advance if you do.

It also occurred to me that Peter may have actually been over generous to Energy Victoria in his analysis. After all, rapid cycling of gas plants is likely to reduce their effective life and increase maintenance costs, and the more wind there is to cover, the more relevant this is.

I agree I am sure there is much more to this story. I’d encourage the people who know much more than I do, to dig into this matter.



Another informative post. I have one or two questions and comments.

1) I was surprised that replacing Hazelwood with CCGT only would cut emissions by as much as 73%. I would have expected something nearer 66% on the crude rule of thumb basis that emissions/mWe tend to be in the ratio of 3:2:1 for brown coal, black coal and gas respectively. However, I expect that you are correct.

2) Was wind’s contribution based on its capacity factor? My understanding from recent comments here is that a lot of wind’s potential capacity is not currently used, in part because grid managers daren’t risk using it at times of anticipated high demand in case it stops blowing. Thus, given that usable capacity tends to be well less than half of real capacity with the percentage dropping as the wind proportion of the the generating mix increases, is it possible that you have been over-generous with respect to wind? I suppose that this is not so because you are providing the grid manager with the option to use all the wind, given the greater flexibility he will have with two types of gas generation as backup and no inflexible coal generation to worry about.

3) You suggest that you have relied partly on Hawkin’s Master-resource in your calculations of extra emissions consequent upon using gas in back-up mode. However, presumably because they seemed too good to be true in terms of making your case, you decided to be conservative and to halve them. This strikes me as illogical. If you are going to cite a non peer reviewed source, you might as well rely on it. What was the scientific basis for halving it (why not cut it by three quarters)? If you are attempting to demonstrate that official or quasi official documents are flawed, you may have to get better evidence. I am not necessarily doubting its validity. It is the credibility that concerns me.

4) You tag nuclear on to the end of the paper, but, IMO, you are doing it no favours. By using conservative figures, it shows up as producing electricity somewhat more expensively than gas (at current gas prices) and also shows that avoidance costs are only a little lower than those of gas. You are also encouraging non discerning readers to jump to the conclusion that coal electricity costs half that of nuclear electricity by failing to highlight that the comparison is not apples to apples. The true comparison should be between new (non CCS) coal versus new nuclear. Thus, if you wish to put in the nuclear figures, you should also have looked at the electricity costs that would accrue were Hazelwood to be re[placed by a new brown coal plant (with and without CCS – though you’d have to guesstimate the former).

5) Your report is essentially a critique of another report. As such, it would be better if it remained as such and left out the nuclear section. I suppose you could add (in words, not numbers) that your conclusions demonstrate that wind is not viable without fossil fuel back up; that , when used with back-up, it doesn’t reduce emissions significantly more that when gas is used alone; that it will be expensive. You could therefore conclude that the only remaining clean options (based on affordability and reliability) are nuclear and CCS coal with the former being technology ready and cheaper.


Douglas Wise,

Thank you for the comments.

1. The larger reduction in this case is because Hazelwood has extraordinarily high emissions intensity, 1.53 t CO2-e/MWh on a ‘sent out’ basis.

2. The report assumed 30% capacity factor for wind. I agree with you. While the wind turbine may be generating annual capacity factors of 30% and higher, the amount that can be accepted by the grid is considerably less, and the proportion of wind energy that must be spilled increases as the penetration of wind increases. I agree that we are probably being generous. I am hoping that this critique is not the end of the matter but the beginning of a more detailed analysis.

3. I am concerned that the calculator may not be fully allowing for the fact some of the gas generators that are backing up for wind can be run as if they were following the normal load. He feels he has this covered and the latest studies seem to confirm this. But, I am still not convinced. I felt halving his outputs was a very conservative approach. Have a look at JavelinaTex’s comments here, especially the comment on 03.03.10 at 9:57. .

4. Yes, I accept your criticism on this. I did think about this point but decided on balance to write it as I did. No one is considering replacing Hazelwood with another coal plant. To propose that would completely devalue what I am saying. Did you read the report?

5. Douglas, I agree there are many other ways I could have presented the critique. Certainly I could have left out the nuclear. But my purpose in all of this is to raise the awareness of nuclear in Australia and to get people to think we need to make the decision to move forward. The way we are going at the moment it feels to me exactly like where we were in 1990. On this basis the decision to move to clean energy could take another 20 years.


For reference, I have addressed the following letter to the Environment Victoria Hazelwood campaign director, ceo, and Board:

Dear Sirs and Madam,

As a resident of NSW I have not been involved with your organization. Nevertheless, as we share the same atmosphere, and since NSW is a net importer of Victorian generated electricity, I applaud your Replace Hazelwood campaign and hope for your early success in replacing Hazelwood with clean energy.

Unfortunately, there are technical problems with the report you are using in your campaign, and its recommendations are unlikely to result in success. The report “Fast-tracking Victoria’s clean energy future to replace Hazelwood Power Station” [1] has recently been critiqued [2], and a number of specific shortcomings have been identified.

Perhaps the single most significant issue with this report is the failure to consider replacing Hazelwood with just combined cycle natural gas generation. This is equivalent to the report’s Scenario 1, but without deploying the wind component. This scenario has been modeled [2], and we can compare the two outcomes:

Emissions saved MtCO¬2pa Capital Cost
CCGT + Wind, Scenario 1 [1] 13.6 unstated
CCGT + Wind, corrected [2] 12.2 $6-7 billion
CCGT only [2] 11.8 $2 billion

A correction to [1] was required as the replacement capacity was underestimated due to the use of average rather than peak summer generation, and incorrect treatment of transmission losses. Details of the errors and their correction are set out in [2].

The report [1] does not estimate the capital cost of the alternative generation, and notes “A detailed assessment of the cost of replacing Hazelwood is beyond the scope of this project ..” (p29) Nevertheless, a plan for replacing Hazelwood cannot credibly be advanced without consideration of this cost. This cost has been estimated in [2].

The conclusion is obvious. We could replace Hazelwood with CCGT for about $2 billion and save about 12 megatonne of CO2 per annum. Or, we could build CCGT and OCGT and spend an additional $4-5 billion to bring wind power into the mix for no additional benefit in emissions reduction.

The reason for this surprising result is mainly that a gas generator, like a car, achieves its best fuel efficiency when generating steady output. When forced to shadow the fluctuations of wind power, the gas generator is like a car in city traffic and its fuel efficiency is poor. In Scenario 1 of [1], the clean generation of the included wind is entirely offset by the greater emissions intensity of the gas plant, and billions of dollars of wind power gives no benefit in emissions reduction. [2] uses an engineering model for gas plant emissions intensity [3] to account for this.

There are other problems with [1] discussed in [2], but the key failure is to avoid comparing emissions and cost for the gas only option with the gas + wind option when the enhanced emissions intensity of the gas plant is correctly accounted for. I do not believe you have been well served by your consultants.

What role then is wind power playing in the Scenario? In other market sectors we would call it greenwashing. We do not stand for greenwashing when used for soap powders or cosmetics. Why should we stand for greenwashing when used in power generation?

For comparison, [2] also considers nuclear power on the assumption of a mature nuclear sector in this country. Nuclear power cuts deeper and cheaper into emissions than either CCGT or CCGT + wind. I appreciate that nuclear power will be anathema to many in your organization. This does not remove the responsibility for giving that option detailed and objective consideration, or for advancing it if analysis indicates it is the best option.

I have reviewed the makeup of your Board as detailed on your website. I do not doubt their capabilities or integrity. However, I do not see representation that covers power system engineering. It is now clear that the overarching environmental issue of our time is energy, and how we get it. Environmental advocacy that is to be effective in its aims necessarily requires sound decision making ability in the area of energy, including engineering infrastructure for generation and transmission. Your Hazelwood campaign is a case in point.

I would therefore urge your organization to seek representation of these skills at Board level, in the form of a director with experience in electricity generation, electricity transmission, and operation of the Australian electricity market.

Any such Board candidate should be able to make decisions free of influence from the coal, gas and nuclear industries. Equally, though perhaps not so obviously, they should also be able to make decisions free of influence from the renewable power industry. As the critique of the Green Energy Markets report illustrates, renewable power is not always the right choice, and nuclear power is not always the wrong choice.

The GEM report is presently under discussion at

Your participation in this discussion would be most welcome.

I fervently hope you achieve a result with your Replace Hazelwood campaign, and I trust you will recognize the positive intent behind this letter. I hope you will consider your options more widely than those in the GEM brief, and that you will seek experienced oversight from your Board on matters of energy infrastructure and power engineering.

Yours sincerely, etc. + refs.



Thanks for your reply. My comments, as you will appreciate, were not made because I had cause to disagree with you. Rather, I was thinking how potentially pro renewable campaigners or agnosics would react.

I have looked at the masterresource link and found all the discussion there very informative. I believe Kent Hawkins’ calculator (described by some as “top down”) is an enormously important starting point in the study of wind utility. However, as Kent himself states: “Finally, remember I do call for comprehensive studies based on real life experience at high wind penetrations, using fine grained time intervals.”

Until such time as one or more peer-reviewable studies of this type have been undertaken, one won’t know whether the conclusions of the calculator will be validated . Kent expects that they will be and I strongly suspect he is correct. To persuade the public and, more importantly, politicians and civil servants responsible for energy poliicy, such validation, derived from real life data, is most certainly required. I hoping for something of this sort eventually to emanate from I would also hope for several opther studies from around the world.


I wonder if just a few stark facts will linger in the public’s mind along the lines of;

1.6 GW mixed gas generators construction cost $0.5 bn. Estimated first year fuel cost $500m. Fuel cost in tenth year $800m. Annual CO2 emissions 8 million tonnes.

1.6 GW 3rd gen nuclear construction cost $10bn
Estimated first year fuel cost $65m. Fuel cost in tenth year $80m. Annual CO2 emissions negligible.

I’ve assumed the gas will run at full capacity at 60% thermal efficiency with gas costing initially $6 per GJ increasing at 5% annually. The nuclear running costs are from WNA. The idea is to convince people that the initially appealing gas option is like getting money from a loan shark, it’s not such a good deal.


John Morgan. Excellent letter. Abd brilliant strategy to send it to the Board. I expect it will be difficult to ignore. But spin is the tactics of the modern world, so I am not holding my breath.


@B. Old: if climatologists had been hired to tenured positions over time because of AGW in the 90s, after Hansen’s AGW Congress testimony of 1988, your smear could hold some sort of noxious fluid, if not water.

But leading enemies – ie. evidence-based scientists – of apparent contrarian and fantasising AGW denialists such as yourself commenced their careers before that time: W Broecker, Hansen himself, S Rahmstorf, G Schmidt, R Alley, M Mann etc. As they had tenure prior, their “meal ticket” is unendangered. It is thus incumbent on you to provide another explanation for their stance other than the pecuniary greed you are imputing.

Further, the mathematical talent among such physicists and mathematicians from the 80s onwards was much sought after by banks, who wanted to turn them into derivatives inventors. So on balance, one would expect that a perceptible number of AGW scientists would have left academe to earn much more in Finance if your insinuation were valid. So why did they not?

As you are apparently a de facto Friend of Fossil, could you not make yourself useful and save a lot of potential petrol by trying to seal Obama’s Blowout? You see, it occurs to me that BP has not yet tried dropping its CEO or AGW contrarians into the hole. Get in there before the N. Atlantic hurricane season starts.


Billy Liar …

You aren’t supposed to post off-topic. Your invitation to dance should be in an open thread like Open Thread 4.

Please observe the rules.


Douglas Wise,

I have thought some more about your points 3 and 5.

3) You suggest that you have relied partly on Hawkin’s Master-resource in your calculations of extra emissions consequent upon using gas in back-up mode. However, presumably because they seemed too good to be true in terms of making your case, you decided to be conservative and to halve them. This strikes me as illogical. If you are going to cite a non peer reviewed source, you might as well rely on it. What was the scientific basis for halving it (why not cut it by three quarters)? If you are attempting to demonstrate that official or quasi official documents are flawed, you may have to get better evidence. I am not necessarily doubting its validity. It is the credibility that concerns me.

Further to my earlier reply , Kent Hawkins’s new post, which provides more empirical evidence in support of the calculator, had not been posted when I wrote the paper. Although more studies are needed to validate the Calculator, I expect it may provide the best estimate currently available of the emissions caused by firming wind. I also need to point out that I simply applied the figures in Kent Hawkins example case, Table 2 here . A more detailed analysis would enter actual NEM data for wind power production, such as capacity factors in high wind and low wind periods, proportion of CCGT and OCGT operating in high wind and low wind periods, and other inputs. I didn’t do any of this. That would be done in a more detailed study than I felt was required for this critique. My purpose was simply to point out that the study had not been done properly. I am hoping the critique will raise awareness of the problems of the greenwash bias in the government departments and the effect such bias is having on policy and ultimately on energy costs. I hope enough people will raise a fuss to cause governments to do such studies objectively and without greenwash bias in future. One of the main reasons electricity prices are rising so fast is because of the irrational, greenwash energy policies we have been implementing for at least two decades. For readers’ interest, if I had not halved the emissions intensities given Kent Hawkins Table ??, the figures in Table 3 of the article above would change to:

;;Revised Scenario 1;CCGT only
Capital cost; $ million; $7,045; $1,913
Electricity cost; $/MWh; $110; $55
Emissions avoided per year; kt CO2/a; 11,703; 11,834
Emissions avoided per MWh; t CO2/MWh; 1.11; 1.12
Avoidance Cost; $/t CO2 avoided; $72; $22

5) Your report is essentially a critique of another report. As such, it would be better if it remained as such and left out the nuclear section. I suppose you could add (in words, not numbers) that your conclusions demonstrate that wind is not viable without fossil fuel back up; that , when used with back-up, it doesn’t reduce emissions significantly more that when gas is used alone; that it will be expensive. You could therefore conclude that the only remaining clean options (based on affordability and reliability) are nuclear and CCS coal with the former being technology ready and cheaper.

My article has a higher aim than just “a critique of another report”. The main aim is to highlight the greenwash bias that is endemic in the governments’ environment departments. Highlighting the anti-nuclear bias is part of this. Having said that, I agree that selecting figures for nuclear costs without providing sufficient background as to why these particular set of figures were selected may weaken the argument. If I was going to use costs for nuclear which figures should I use? Should I use the costs that nuclear could and should be if we removed all disincentives, market distortions, etc? Or should I use, established but high cost European figures, as I did? Or should I use even higher costs for ‘first-of-a-kind’ in a country such as for the newly contracted UAE nuclear power station?


It is becoming clearer by the day that the govt is determined to push the state into the green renewable energy sector regardless of cost to the consumer or the economy of the state.

Why do they put out reports that are biased and misleading? Do they think that no-one will notice? Could it be that there are financial interests between the ‘renewable’ sector, the govt and union industry super funds? Would that be like legalised robbery?


If you assume only 1500MW of wind capacity (500MW average) is going to replace 1300MW average of Hazelwood, you have to have a very high capacity factor for NG power. This would appear to be uneconomic( because of the price of NG) and a poor use of OCGT resources( best for providing <8h of daily peak power).
My suggestion would be to replace 1500MW peak output with 1100MW of OCGT and 3300MW of wind dispersed along the SW coast of VIC and SE coast of SA( along existing 300MW transmission lines that can be easily upgraded), in TAS near existing hydro transmission lines, and southern highlands of NSW and VIC near existing Snowy hydro transmission lines. This would give 1100MW average from wind, so OCGT power would run at 200/1100=18% capacity. We may need less than 1100MW of back-up for wind because of the present need to have back-up for Hazelwood.
The issue would be how much wind would be shed during high wind events occurring at off-peak periods(1-5am) when the remaining coal-fired plants on the aemo grid are operating at lowest output. In TAS the wind output would just replace hydro consumption, leaving more hydro for export during peak times.
This would have to substantially drop CO2 emissions from the 100% OCGT/CCGT scenario.


Niel Howes,

Thank ou for this comment. I would love to see your estimated cost for this alternative. I have difficulty interpreting adjectives like “substantially”. My gut feel is that this is ‘massively’ more expensive. Transmission still has to be upgraded. What level does it need to be upgraded to? Does it need to be upgraded to carry the peak power from every wind farm? If not, what % of the capacity of each wind farm must we design the transmissions sytem to carry? And what effect does the shed wind power have on the capacity factor. We will still need to invest in gas generating capacity to very near the full net capacity of Hazelwood. If we are doing a replacement analysis we need to replace Hazelwood, not draw excessively on the reserve capacity margin of the remainder of the system.

I hope you will post an estimate of the cost here. It would be great if you could post the equivalent figures to those in Table 3 in my article above. Then we both would have a better understanding of what your adjectives mean.


Considering the Environment Victoria report’s recommendation to invest $4-5 billion dollars in wind on top of $2b for gas but with no additional reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, I am reminded of an old slogan from the Franklin Dam campaign circa 1981, directed at the Tasmanian Hydroelectric Commission:

“HEC: Power without purpose”

That seems to be very descriptive of the wind contribution.


Neil Howes,

I have inserted your suggested figures into my spreadsheet. Here are the figures for comparison with Table 3.

;;Revised Scenario 1; CCGT only
Capital cost; $ million; $12,896; $1,913
Electricity cost; $/MWh; $122; $55
Emissions avoided per year; kt CO2/a; 14,735; 11,834
Emissions avoided per MWh; t CO2/MWh; 1.39; 1.12
Avoidance Cost; $/t CO2 avoided; $66; $22

The emissions would be higher than shown here because the OCGT is running at an even lower CF than before. I have not changed the OCGT emission intensity to account for the lower CF.

The conclusion is renewable energy costs much more than the gas only option for little additional in CO2 emission saving

One of the requirements of the study was to provide a solution that could be implemented (completed) by the end of 2012. The Environment Victoria proposed solution could not possibly achieve this goal. But what you’ve suggested is even less achievable in the time frame.


Peter Lalor,
Your appeal to the “ex cathedra” defence quoted some of the most prominent suspects in the CAGW farce.

Bill Old’s question remains unanswered.



Just to clarify things, Environment Victoria is a community organisation (and a relatively small one at that) and is not part of the Victorian Government. The critique of their report seems to assume that it is a Government department.



Peter Lang (31st May, 10.08):

Thanks for your further reply. I would like to explain the background that has led me to question the strategy that you are adopting. First, I should emphasise that I don’t consider that, at present levels of technology, there is any hope for a realistic solution to peak oil and global warming (short of rapid mass human die off) other than nuclear fission. Further, wind is a non scaleable and expensive distraction. Thus, on the apparent facts of the case, you have convinced me. However, the people who matter remain to be convinced. How to do so?

I recently received a response from a senior politician in the UK, responsible for shadowing energy policy, to whom I had made the pro nuclear, anti wind case. He responded by stating that it was an unfortunate fact that many advocates of a particular energy solution tended to try and rubbish alternatives. He went on to state that it was evident that no single approach would work and that we needed to deploy all available technologies. He totally failed to deal with “”the level playing field” point that I had raised and it remains government policy to subsidise renewables but not nuclear.

In other words, my advocacy was a spectacular failure. I suspect that a politician, particularly one approaching an election, will try to be all things to all men. Obviously, therefore, a little bit of everything should garner maximum votes. On reflection,I think that I should have avoided any judgement with respect to wind versus nuclear and, instead, argued solely on the “level playing field” basis. (I appreciate that, in Australia with no nuclear in the energy mix, the situation is different).

I suspect that you will have to demonstrate the futility and huge expense of the wind/solar approach before you get much traction for nuclear. Thus, I see advantage for you in keeping the anti renewable and pro nuclear cases separate. Public disillusion with the former may be the best way to get support for the latter. Thus, the Kent Hawkins’ calculator , validated with real data, may be the optimum way forward.

I discussed the high cost of wind energy with David Mackay a couple of years ago. At that time, he responded by saying that , as far as he was aware, publications intimated that wind and nuclear were equivalent but that solar, wave and tidal were much more expensive. At that stage, he clearly hadn’t thought about the extra emissions and expense created by wind firming or shadowing He went on to become chief scientific advisor at the deparment of energy and climate change. I don’t know whether, in light of refined data, he has altered his view. In his new position, he became somewhat unapproachable and, though I sent him links to your work and that of Kent Hawkins, I received no response. Perhaps, he never received my communication. It seems to me that he is/was (I don’t know whether he has been retained by the present government) precisely the sort of person who would be persuadable by good scientific data, who would be in an excellent position to initiate real time validation studies and who might be able to influence his political masters.


Douglas Wise,

You make a good case and very clearly. I agree with nearly all you say. (I say ‘nearly’ just in case I want to change my mind on something later, however I have nothing in mind at the moment that I disagree with in you latest post).

I agree that we will need everything. However, when this is said, the people listening to that statement have a range of interpretations. Some see renewables as providing nearly all our energy with perhaps a few nuclear stations, but hopefully none. I see a system rather like France has now with energy supplied in 2050 as follows: 80% nuclear, 10% renewables and 10% fossil fuel.

I understand and agree your point about how the politician answered your question. I agree that I should work more on the “level playing field” issue. In my defence on this point, I’d remind you that I tried to get the discussion going on the BNC thread and pushed so hard that everyone was getting sick of it. We just couldn’t get the discussion going on the main subject (except for DV82XL who did provide some substantial contributions to that discussion). We kept getting side tracked into various tangential matters – such as stranded wind farms :) remember? :)

I agree. The level playing field is where the main discussion should be. Please lead the discussion!!

David Mackay would be in a great position to initiate an objective study into the actual emissions from wind farms with emissions from back up generators included. In fact it could be a collaborative or semi competitive effort between Cambridge and Adelaide Uni’s Oz-Energy-Analysis group. I am confident Adelaide Uni would do the better job by far!! :)

I understand that senior people at the head of peak electricity industry/research organisations in both Europe and USA are initiating one or two major studies into just the information needed to validate the Kent Hawkins calculator.

John Morgan would have written all this in about three lines something like:

I agree to:

1. remain focused on the real audience out there
2. we will need all available technologies (cough, choke)
3. focus on what is needed to get a “the level playing field”
4. push to get an unbiased, objective study done to obtain the empirical data to validate/improve the Kent Hawkins calculator.

I can’t agree to shut up about nuclear nor to separate discussion of renewables and nuclear. I believe we are wasting an enormous amount of society’s wealth, and therefore it ability to do other good, on the renewable energy dream.


Peter Lang, I’d trust your critique a bit further if you had a clue about Victoria. There is no such thing as “Energy Victoria”. Environment Victoria is an environmental NGO that has been around for forty years. While influential in limited circles, you clearly don’t have a clue what sort of advice the Victorian Governmetn is commissioning or receiving, and should delete all of those sorts of references..


wilful, point taken, but the broader value of Peter’s analysis here is not about whether it’s correctly targeting an official governmental position vs the proffered advice of an advocacy group or NGO. It’s about the validity of the general advice given by most advocates that coal can/should be replaced by a mix of renewables and inefficiently used natural gas, as opposed to efficiently managed gas. Now I make no bones about the fact that I personally think gas-fired electricity is a very unwise route to be taking, especially for baseload, as I’ve detailed in other posts, and value it in this context only in the role of a stalking horse for opening sensible dialogue on the need for nuclear power deployment if we’re serious out replacing our coal clunkers.


I would like to correct the impression that MasterResource is my site. It belongs to Robert Bradely Jr, the founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research in Washington DC. The site is “owned”, in a sense, by the principals which are listed (with bios), and represent a strong team of experienced energy professionals. One has to be careful with the term “peer review” anyway. It usually means only that an editorial board has approved an article as suitable for publication. You might be interested on critiques I have written on multi-authored and peer reviewed papers, which appear at MasterResource and do not stand up to close scrutiny. Further my publications have been “reviewed” by others, for example by an industry professional whose background includes that of policy advisor to the California Electricity Commission (The titles may not be precise).


wilful: If you have any insight into which reports the Victorian government IS taking seriously, that would be useful. I tend to think it’s the people who
give Ministers the verbal briefings that have the real influence and who knows
what they are reading and thinking? Perhaps even BNC!


Nevertheless an edit of Peter’s piece is in order. The abstract refers to Energy Victoria, and I did initially think I was reading a critique of a State Government commissioned report.


Your analysis you performed using the assumption of 3300MW wind capacity and 1100MW OCGT at 18% capacity seems close to what I would expect; the wind plus OCGT releasing 1,168,000 tCO2 and the 100% CCGT releasing 4,066,000 tCO2( assuming Hazlewood is releasing 15,900,000 tCO2.
In other words the wind plus OCGT releases about 28% of the CO2 emissions. Also will use only 28% of the NG which is likely to be a scare resource and a lot more expensive in the future.
Another way of looking at this the wind plus OCGT option gives us 3.5 times longer to build nuclear power or allows is to replace 3.5 times as much coal fired generation with the same NG supply.

Not sure if OCGT running at 18% capacity will be less efficient than at 50% capacity. Low wind periods seem to be >12 h to several days, the time for high pressure systems to travel 1200km. Short term changes(1-2h) would be accommodated by load shedding or existing pumped hydro. Expanding tumut 3 by 600MW (from 600MW to 1200MW)pumping capacity would be relatively low cost.



Thank you for pointing that out. You are correct. And I’ve made a massive blunder here. My appologies to all for stating that Environment Victoria is a government department. My mistake.

I retract blame on governments for this.

I will edit the article.


re: wilful’s correction, I’ve made a few minor changes to the article to correct the implication of government involvement and to clarify that Environment Victoria is an NGO, not a state government department.


Neil Howes,

You are most interested in the claimed improvement in emissions savings with your proposal. But just look at the cost. What do you think of that? Do you really think we should be advocating renewables at that cost.

Also, as I mentioned, the emissions savings will not be as great as I listed. I am wondering if you have looked at the Kent Hawkins article. For example the ‘Low Wind Period’ refers to a significant proportion of the year such as summer and autumn.

I think we have a significantly different interpretation of wind variability. You seem to be in the Diesendorf camp on this issue. But actual measurements from around the world, including in the NEM are showing good correlation of wind power output over large regions, including across the NEM. Did you see my comments on another thread about the wind farm output across the NEM being zero (and negative) for 16 5-minute periods on 17 and 18 May, and daily capacity factors down to 1%.


The article above has been edited to correct the error pointed out by Wilful. A revised pdf version is posted

My sincere apologies to all for the mistake. Especially my apoligies to John Morgan who wrote an excellent letter to Environment Victoria to further the cause. John, you letter is still excellent. Not wasted.


Peter, no problem, I knew who I was writing to when I wrote the letter and I believe it was pitched appropriately and constructively to that organization.


On timelines I believe nothing will happen by end 2012. Federally we may have an ALP-Greens coalition but that won’t change anything if Tasmania is anything to go by. I expect a gaggle of new wind farm building probably not even the promised ‘offset’ for desal let alone replacing other coal met energy demands.

I understand the Vic govt wants to keep Hazelwood until 2031. I suggest that the price ratio natural gas: brown coal is probably now something like 10:1 for equivalent energy. By 2030 that price disparity could be more like 30:1 due the abundance of brown coal, looming shortages of gas in south eastern Australia and the absence of carbon taxes.

So here’s a potted future history assuming NP remains unacceptable.
2010 -2020 State and Federal govts do nothing about replacing Hazelwood. Token wind build plus new small gas plants. High emissions continue while electricity prices climb.
2020 local gas is now far too expensive for baseload. Global weather is chaotic.
2020 -2030 yelling and screaming then fade out.


Thanks Peter Lang for the great piece on the futility of wind farms both on a cost basis and energy delivery basis.. Energy Victoria or whoever wants to replace Hazelwood with wind is deluding themselves if they think wind can do the job. They can build as many wind towers as they think necessary[ that would be in the thousands] but I can tell them that they would have to leave the coal powered station cranked up and ready and able to provide the base load whenever the wind can’t deliver the power needed and that would be a fair bit of the time. Here in SA I’ve driven past three different wind farms a total of 12 times in the pAST THREE MONTHS AND ON ONLY TWO OF THOSE occasions, were they working. That means there was NO POWER at 10 of those times. It is the height of stupidity to even contemplate wind as a renewable replacement for base load coal power. And that’s true of any place on the earth where they have built the confounded things. Ask the Danes. They’ve stopped building them because they are not cost effective and they do nothing for greenhouse abatement. If we’re going to phase out coal, especially filthy brown coal and still provide baseload power 24/7 as we probably need to then we have one option. And in block capitals three metres high, that is NUCLEAR. get it?. NUCLEAR. When are these lame- brained authorities going to understand that. Most of the rest of the world do but not we in Australia. What the hell is wrong with us?? It seems that we are like the Americans, two of whom I quizzed recently on why the Americans couldn’t see the rightness of a national health scheme that covers the entire population for basic health care. You know what these two Americans said to me? Americans are ignorant and uneducated. On future energy for Australia, the same can be said for Australians. Aaarrrgghhh!!!


Terry Krieg, thats a great comparison: Australians as ignorant and uneducated about nuclear power as Americans are ignorant and uneducated about the need for of “a national health scheme that covers the entire population for basic health care”. By the way, the Canadian health system is far better than ours (IMO) – hopefully I can win a few brownie points from for that acknowledgement. :)


Neil Howes,

Your comment this morning and comments by others have led me to think the comparison between the options is not clear. The difficulty with reading tables when posted in the comments section is part of the problem. So below I have summarised the key data in a different way to facilitate comparison of the scenarios. The scenarios we have considered so far are:

HAZL – Hazelwood brown coal power station (1,600MW)
ORIG – Original Scenario 1. Wind (1,500MW) & CCGT (1,350MW)
REV1 –Scenario 1 Rev 1. Wind (1500MW), CCGT (750MW) & OCGT (750MW), 50% of Kent Hawkins emission intensity penalty
REV2 –Scenario 1 Rev 2. Wind (1,500MW), CCGT (750MW) & OCGT (750MW), 100% of Kent Hawkins emission intensity penalty
CCGT – CCGT only (1,500MW)
NUCL – Nuclear (1,565MW)
HOWE – Neil Howes’s scenario, Wind (3,300MW), OCGT (1,107MW)

Annual Emissions (Mt/a)
HAZL 16.2
ORIG 2.6
REV1 4.0
REV2 4.5
CCGT 4.3
NUCL 0.2

Emissions avoided per year (Mt CO2 avoided/year)
ORIG 13.6
REV1 12.2
REV2 11.7
CCGT 11.8
NUCL 16.0

Emissions avoided per MWh (t CO2 avoided/MWh)
ORIG 1.31
REV1 1.15
REV2 1.11
CCGT 1.12
NUCL 1.51

Capital Cost ($ billion)
REV1 $7.0
REV2 $7.0
CCGT $1.9
NUCL $5.5
HOWE $12.9

Electricity Cost ($/MWh)
HAZL $30*
REV1 $103
REV2 $110
CCGT $55
NUCL $59

CO2 Avoidance Cost ($/t CO2 avoided)
REV1 $64
REV2 $72
CCGT $22
NUCL $19

* = assumed electricity cost from Hazelwood

In pulling this together I’ve realised I haven’t allowed for the wind power that must be spilled from the scenario you suggested yesterday. What would the capacity factor be for 3,300 MW of wind power if the maximum power that can be accepted into the grid is not more than Hazelwood supplied at all points in time. In fact it would be less than this because some power will be provided by CCGT at all times. I need to know what capacity factor to use with the 3,300MW capacity of wind power.

The 1,00MW of OCGT capacity will not be sufficient to replace Hazelwood’s reliable peak power supply. I’d suggest we should increase the OCGT capacity to 1450MW for a fair replacement of Hazelwood, or 100MW less if we want to assume 3% capacity credit for wind capacity.


“The report, the “Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS),” said that even with the cost of transmission being close to $93 billion in 2009 dollars for 22,697 miles of new lines, the price tag is small compared to the overall costs of installing and connecting wind capacity to the national grid.”

So $93,000,000,000 / 22,697 = $4,097,457 per mile!

‘EWITS’ Study news article: ‘Wanted: Transmission for Wind’


Yes Peter Lang, the Canadian health scheme is superior to ours. We imported our scheme from them. Which begs the question, why did Hilary Clinton send a delegation to Australia to check our scheme when she was first lady. She should have sent the delegation over the border to Canada.They would have saved heaps on travel costs. And still, even after Obama has made some improvements, they still can’t get it right for all of the people. It’s shameful that the world’s number one nation cannot look after the health of all of its people. It’s a b——-y disgrace.


If you want to know who the Vic Government listen to for energy policy, well it’s not cut and dried, but the most influential players are, in broad terms:
Dept Treasury and Finance resources and infrastructure branch (couple of climate change denialists in there (though this is not the Vic Govt position or views of Ministers))
Dept Primary Industries Energy Policy branch.

Beyond that you’ll get weak players such as Office of Climate Change, Sustainability Vic and Dept of Sustainability and Environment.

Beyond that you’ll get NGOs, but they are pretty readily ignored except when ALP internal polling suggest they should be listened to.

Environemtn Victoria, along with the ACF, isn’t terribly effectual.


Peter Lang:

In view of my earlier comments about David Mackay, I thought I’d check out his website. Since I last looked, he has posted what he descibes as a consensus energy plan to take the UK forward to 2050. It can be found on by clicking on “Plan C” pdf.

If you have the time, I’d value your opinion. it made me queasy. He starts with the assumption that, by 2050, our per capita use of energy will fall by 46%. The then primary sources of energy are specified in approximately the following ratios: nuclear 1.2; renewables1 (of which wind =50%, rest wave/tide plus biomass plus imported solar).

The intermittency of renewables will not be a problem because they will effectively be shadowed by pumped hydro (current capacity increased), flexible use of heat pumps and batteries in electric vehicles. So says our chief scientific advisor on energy.

Do you have access to any figures that might immediately demonstrate why this consensus lacks sense other than the obvious ones of expense and optimism about efficiency? Arguments relating to emissions reduction aren’t immediately helpful if no emissions are envisaged in the first place.

I’m not sure that Mackay isn’t playing a game that he is inviting people to join. His “consensus” plan lays out the limits to what is theoretically achievable from each energy source but not what is economically optimum. For all I know, he would welcome the demolition of the plan. His deparment is loaded with civil servants, each responsible for promoting separate renewables technologies. The nuclear ones are split between those encouraging new nuclear, those worrying about waste and yet more concerned with proliferation prevention and are probably all at loggerheads. None of the three ministers in charge has any scientific background. I suppose this chaotic shambles exists in other nations.


Douglas Wise,

Here’s a quick initial response:

1. Where is the storage for pumped hydro? Simply work out the area of land (otherwise productive valleys) that would have to be innundated to provide the pumped hydro energy storage capacity.

2. Cost, land area required, constraints on shipping and marine life, volume of materials required, and area of land required for mining for the renewables option.

3. Without considering costs any such proposal is pure pie-in-the-sky. I think it is irresponsible for the Chief Scientist to promote renewables like this. It gives people hope that renewables can provide our energy needs (or a significant part of them, so the people keep demanding their politicians provide more and more subsidies for renewables. That makes the country less competitive and so it sinks into debt (like UK and most of Europe). I do recognise that subsidising renwables is just one small part of the socialist curse that has dragged UK and Europe down over a period of many decades. That is what the population wants from its politicians, and that is what it is getting.

Regarding actual figures, all the figures you would need to discredit DM’s proposition are posted on the BNC web site in lead articles and comments. I haven’t looked at the link you posted yet but will later.


Thanks DV8. Pleased to hear that Hilary C did look at the Canadian health scheme. The entire Congress should have been compelled to go and check it out.



Or, the US could outsource their Health System to Canada :)

Perhaps we could too. :) :)

(Yes, I know this is off topic. I’m going with the trend)


The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I can remember years back when there were cries to institute the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service in the Canadian North.


Douglas Wise and Peter Lang,
He starts with the assumption that, by 2050, our per capita use of energy will fall by 46%
You may be miss-interpreting the conclusion that energy consumption drops from 300GW to 125GW, as a lot of this is the change from FF use( for example to generate electricity or transport) to direct nuclear(70GW) and renewables (50GW) generated electricity that is used more efficiently eg electric cars or heat pumps(40GW) for heating.
Note nuclear accounts for more than 60% of electricity. This seems consistent with David MacKays previous statements


Douglas Wise,

I can’t find the DM article you referred to. Could you please post the link to the article.


Peter Lang:

The direct link seems to be

Mackay is envisaging a 2050 situation with no fossil fuels used except, possibly, for agriculture and air transport. True baseload will be nuclear (70GW) with another 50GW of odds and sods. Mackay is fully cognisant of the space that will be taken up by odds and sods and suggests that readers might like to replace some of them with their preferred options.

Anyway, provided this link works, I’ll let you read the document for yourself before commenting further. Possibly the point I was making earlier was not made clearly. In an Australia with no nuclear, renewable shadowing would have to come from fossil fuels or from within the renewables mix itself. Your argument, therefore, prevails. In countering Mackay’s scenario, the CO2 avoidance cost argument disappears. As your cost of electricity from nuclear is shown as currently somewhat more costly than from gas-shadowed wind, you can’t really score there either. One would need a different arguments that demonstrated wasted space (as you highlighted and Mackay acknowledges); lack of practicality in using intermittent energy in a transport system based on electric vehicles and in a domestic heating/cooling system based on heat pumps; unrealistic optimism about achievable levels of energy savings through efficiency; above all, however, the costs will be the key and particularly those associated with smart grids and the necessity for massive infrastructure changes.


Douglas, I disagree, because you hit a hard lower boundary in emissions reduction with gas-shadowed wind. So Peter’s broader point is that from an emissions reduction perspective, gas-shadowed wind==gas, so why bother with the wind. Under this working assumption, the cost-effective ‘mixed’ scenario, in practice, would be 70 GW nuclear and 50 GW CCGT. However, by far the lower carbon scenario (and the one much less prone to costs associated with rising gas prices) would be the full 120 GW of nuclear.


Neil Howes:

I don’t believe that I was mis-interpreting Mackay’s conclusion. You suggested that I might have been confused and assumed that energy consumption dropped from 300GW to 125GW (58% drop). I don’t think I was – I referred to a 46% drop.

I’m not sure how you get to an over 60% figure for nuclear unless you are referring to home generated only and discounting imported desert solar electricity.

I am dubious about the 40GW of pumped heat (I am reluctant to believe that Mackay has been double counting). If we need 60GW at a CoP of 3, then it would require 20GW of electric and the 40GW could be construed as bonus (efficiency gain). How has that been counted? My 125kWh /day share of energy has already been slashed to 67.8kWh/day. How, therefore, can that pumped heat be included again in my residual allowance? I am confused. Am I being stupid?


Douglas Wise,

It may be a while until I get to read the link you’ve pointed me to. But in the meantime I would like to comment on your statement:

In an Australia with no nuclear, renewable shadowing would have to come from fossil fuels or from within the renewables mix itself. Your argument, therefore, prevails. In countering Mackay’s scenario, the CO2 avoidance cost argument disappears. As your cost of electricity from nuclear is shown as currently somewhat more costly than from gas-shadowed wind, you can’t really score there either.

We need to remember that Hazelwood is not an average power station. It is extremely high CO2 emissions intensity. This effects all the numbers. The “Emission Cuts Realities” paper is the one we need to refer to for the general case for Australia. The Hazelwood paper is specific to the case of replacing Hazelwood.

Also, recall that I used European average costs for nuclear. Nuclear can and should be far less costly than it is in Europe. So I consider my costs for nuclear to be excessively high, and as you know I’ve been arguing for the policies and regulations that are distorting the market against nuclear to be removed.

I disagree with your premise “In an Australia with no nuclear, renewable shadowing would have to come from fossil fuels or from within the renewables mix itself.” The choice is not between nuclear and renewables. It is between nuclear and fossil fuels. It would be prohibitively expensive to build a renewable system for Australia for the reasons of cost and the other reasons outlined in the previous papers.

I don’t understand this statement:

In countering Mackay’s scenario, the CO2 avoidance cost argument disappears.

Why does the CO2 avoidance cost argument disappear? Surely we are considering the least cost way to reduce emissions?

I think the arguments against renewables are:

1. cost of energy
2. Capital expenditure (cash flow)
3. CO2 avoidance cost
4. Sustainability (Renewables required greater mining, processing, emissions of pollutants and surface area – land and sea)


Barry, I’m unclear what you are disagreeing with. It seemed to be a defence of Peter’s case for Australia, but I don’t in any way disagree with or dispute Peter’s case. Yes, go with 120GW nuclear.

I was trying to solicit Peter’s help in teasing out the weaknesses in Mackay’s scenario. I merely noted in passing that , if one wasn’t bothered (as Mackay apparently isn’t) by the integration of intermittent sources into the system (thanks primarily to heat pumps and vehicle batteries), then it isn’t helpful that wind generated electricity seems to work out as cheap or cheaper than nuclear (using Peter’s rather conservative data).


Douglas, no, I was talking about the UK. My point is that if wind+gas yields no effective emissions reduction over gas-only, and gas-only is cheaper, then wind+gas is an irrelevant option. That is the weakness of the scenario, since the whole point of it is to reduce emissions and to stop using fossil fuels.


Douglas, then I don’t understand this statement:

In countering Mackay’s scenario, the CO2 avoidance cost argument disappears. As your cost of electricity from nuclear is shown as currently somewhat more costly than from gas-shadowed wind, you can’t really score there either.

Why are you talking about gas-shadowed wind when referring to Mackay? (I was assuming, without looking, that this was part of his scenario C, given the way you’d phrased the above)


The authors obviously assume that there is a need for de-carbonisation. How wrong they are!
The environmentalists falsely assume that the atmospheric greenhouse effect is real, and consequently CO2 emissions must be capped. The simple truth is that the greenhouse effect only exists in a greenhouse because convective cooling is eliminated, whereas convection is the major process of heat transfer in the earth’s atmosphere.
There is no scientific evidence that proves the supposed relationship between CO2 concentration and air temperature in the earth’s atmosphere. Such a relationship only exists in the minds of those who have reached political consensus regarding acceptance of environmentalist ideology. Scientific experiments prove the lack of effect that CO2 content has on air temperature.
Without the atmospheric greenhouse effect, there is no anthropogenic global warming and, consequently, no need to cap CO2 emissions.


Ray Bee:

It has nothing to do with convection. Global Warming happens because gasses like carbon dioxide and methane transmit energy differently at different frequencies. Additional carbon dioxide in the air now is trapping an additional 288 trillion watts of heat per day compared to the year 1750.


Barry, sorry if I have been misleading. My point was that Peter’s argument is fine for Australia but isn’t directly applicable as a criticism of Mackay because the latter isn’t proposing to shadow wind with fossil fuel.


Hi Douglas — yes, I do seem to recall that from reading SEWTHA. It does mean, clearly, that David Mackay’s preliminary plans are not really plans at all, since they are not ‘grid ready’ and are not properly factoring in variability of supply, demand management, and storage. Good as a first pass for the scale of installations required (though underestimates, for the reasons I just mentioned), but only the first step in a journey of 1000 leagues. Hence the need for an type approach.


Douglas Wise,

I explained above, you should not consider the Hazelwood replacement to be a general replacement. It is specific for replacement of one power station. The general case is explained in Emission Cuts Realities. It provides options with a simple mix of technologies. You can extrapolate to that for a different mix of renewables and energy efficiency measures. Clearly, renewwables are far more expensive than nuclear. Also, by looking at Solar Power Realities and Pumped-hydro …you can see that pumped hydro cannot make any significant contribution in UK without inundating a significant proportion of your country – the otherwise productive and inhabited valleys. Try doing the numbers for land area inundated yourself for actual places in UK where you have 100 to 1000m topographic relieve between two large valleys spaced only a short distance apart. The Pumped hydro thread has examples of how to do the calculation of the area required.


Douglas Wise,

Overall I do think David Mackay’s ‘Plan C’ is fairly reasonable, but make these comments as I go through.

He assumes UK’s average power (i.e. energy consumption) for transport and heat will be cut from 200GW today to 125GW in 2050. The plan does not taking into account any increase in population, not the projected 8 fold increase in GDP (or whatever the GDP projections are)?

In projecting a reduction in overall energy use, has DM allowed for all the unknown new energy demands that will spring up? This is where economists and green activists often differ. Green activists think only of improving efficiency of existing technologies. Economists look at long term trends and notice that energy consumption has increased at a rate over the long term. No one can predict what new technologies will become common in the future and demand more energy. I will give more weight to the economists’ than to the optimists, enthusiasts, and scientists projections of future energy consumption. I’ve been through all this optimistic projections of improving energy efficiency and declining electricity consumption before. We went through it in the early 1990’s with the Ecologically Sustainable Development working groups and ABARE modelling. The economists were correct. I remember the discussions between those promoting renewable energy and efficiency as the great white hope as opposed to those with a real world understanding of the industries and economics. The latter proved correct. The others were in ‘fantasy land’.

In Figure 1.2 I see no allowance for the new, but currently unknown, sources of demand. No mention of desalination. Perhaps UK won’t need it, but we will.

Figure 1.4 states: the pumped storage systems would compensate for the wind variations, I think he hasn’t calculated how much storage would be needed to firm wind power (see the discussion on the ‘Pumped-hydro …’ thread).

1. Efficiency measures. Obviously, we take all the low-hanging fruit. We provide mandatory free building insulation for all old buildings. We install smart meters that engage and inform building users. We switch all building lighting to LEDs, or equally efficient alternatives, by 2050. We promote car clubs, public transport, cycling, and walking. We promote “reduce, reuse, recycle” everywhere they make sense.

Australia has just tried what was supposed to be the lowest of the low hanging fruit, building insulation (our infamous “pink bats” home insulation program). The CO2 avoidance cost of that program is $200/t CO2 avoided. Some low hanging fruit that is!! (Sarcasm alert) We also tried in the 1990’s to do improve the energy efficiency of existing buildings with massive government funding. Little is viable.

We’ve been encouraging people to walk and “hop on their bike” forever. Few take any notice. Public transport: yep we’ve been talking the talk on that for decades too. Dream world stuff.

10. 100GWp will produce 30GW on average. This amount of wind would be roughly a 35-fold increase over 2009 levels.

I cannot see how sufficient storage and transmission capacity can be provided, economically, to make wind power viable.

11. … five new pumped storage facilities would be created – perhaps one in Wales (new build) and four in Scotland (by conversion of existing hydro facilities). Each would be similar in scale to Dinorwig with a peak output of 2GW, and preferably storing a little more energy than Dinorwig, say 40GWh each.

By “storing a little more energy than Dinorwig, say 40GWh each” David Mackay means storing four times as much as Dinorwig. Dinorwig’s storage capacity is about 10GWh. 40 GWh is four times Dinorwig’s capacity and twice the total capacity of all Australia’s pumped-hydro plants. David Mackay envisages five new plants with each one equal to twice Australia’s total capacity. Where? And at what cost? What is the cost of the transmission lines from the power stations to the pumped hydro plants in Wales and Scotland and then to the main demand centres? (Nuclear can be located near the demand centres)

14. Nuclear. New stations are built at a rate of 2.2GW per year, the first
stations coming on line in 2018. By 2050 Britain would have 70GW
of nuclear power – roughly what France has today. This sustained
build rate (2.2GW per year) is similar to the historical build rate in
France (3GW per year).

Now we’ve go to the nub of this Plan. And this exposes just how biased against nuclear and in favour of renewables this plan is. David Mackay is assuming a rate of new build for nuclear over the next 40 years which is less than France achieved three to four decades ago. In fact, just 70% of what was achieved three to four decades ago using superseded, Gen II technology. UK could easily double or quadruple the build rate France achieved in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The cost of nuclear will be far less than renewables. It seems clear to me that the rational approach will be to double or triple the nuclear build rate and subsidise a little renewable energy on the side to keep the hippies happy.

16. Fluctuations of renewables and of demand; smart grids and storage. Both wind power and nuclear power have difficulties tracking demand. (Modern nuclear power stations can be turned down, but they give the best economic return on investment if they are left on all the time.)

That is nonsense. Wind power cannot track demand. Nuclear can. It just has to be designed to do so, as the European EPR is. It is a little more costly for nuclear to be built to track demand, but much less so than what we’d need to go to make intermittent renewables capable of tracking demand. And the limited potential pumped-hydro capacity we have is far more valuable when matched with nuclear than with intermittent renewable energy sources (refer to the discussion on the Pumped Hydro thread for more on this).

Without smart demand management, the expansion of wind and nuclear
will not work.

I understand that statement as applied to wind but do not see why it is true for nuclear. I do agree we need smart grid anyway, especially for battery and heat storage.

There is lots of good stuff in David Mackay’s Plan C. The main thing I do not believe he has correct is the proportion of our energy that will be provided by renewables by 2050. I expect renewables may provide around 10%, nuclear 80% and fossil fuels around 10% by 2050.

An uncosted plan is no plan at all. This is totally uncosted. It is dream world stuff by a scientist. The engineers need to be involved to estimate the cost of Plan C


Douglas Wise,

Let us do a really rough cost estimate of David Mackay’s ‘Plan C’ ( ) and compare this with the cost of nuclear only.

Let us assume that all the renewables are the same cost as on shore wind power. We know that onshore wind power is the lowest cost of all the renewables, so this estimate will be too low, but it is a start.

I’ll use Australian $. I’m going to take wind power as $12,000 per kW average power. Derived as follows:

Actual cost of Australian wind farms: $2,600/kW
Extra grid cost (rule of thumb for preliminary planning): $1,000/kW
Capacity factor: 30%
Cost per average power: $12,000/kW average power

For nuclear and clean coal we’ll assume the settled down cost is $4,000/kW average power

David Mackay’s Plan C Average power contributions (GW average power)

3.2 Clean coal
70 Nuclear
10 Solar in deserts
8 Tide
2.5 Waste
2.5 Solar HW
30 Wind
126 Total

Total cost for 126 GW average power (A$ billion)

$13 Clean coal
$280 Nuclear
$120 Solar in deserts
$96 Tide
$30 Waste
$30 Solar HW
$360 Wind
$929 Total ‘Plan C’

$505 Nuclear only

On the basis of this simple analysis, David Mackay’s ‘Plan C’ is twice the cost of the ‘nuclear only’ option. If more accurate unit costs were used, I expect the cost of the renewables solution would be between 3 and 10 times the cost of the ‘nuclear only’ solution.


David Wise,

My rough cost estimate above does not include these costs:

1. Higher cost of offshore wind and solar thermal from deserts

2. higher costs of the other renewables

3. cost of smart grid and implementing the energy efficiency plans

4. energy storage for renewables (e.g. the pumped hydro)

It is obvious to me that the ‘nuclear only’ option is far less cost than the options that have a large renewables component. Now I am wondering if David Mackay’s argument for forced major improvements in energy efficiency is also irrational. Would it be cheaper to simply provide the power that people want, using nuclear power, rather than force massive energy efficiency improvements? Could we instead simply allow energy efficiency improvements to occur over time as the market dictates For example, when new buildings are constructed they can incorporate the optimum energy efficiency practices current at the time. But we would not make massive retrofitting of existing buildings except where it is economic to do so.


Peter Lang:

I’m in a rush and haven’t, at the moment, got time to study your replies in detail. However, my gut feeling is that you are absolutely correct. In due course, I will make a renewed attempt to make your points directly to David Mackay and, if possible, to one or two energy ministers (there are 4 of them). I may come back to you first if anything further arises from my more detailed thoughts on your replies to date. Very many thanks.


One thing David Mackay’s ‘Plan C’ and the Hazelwood analysis make very clear is that for the past three or four decades the electricity industry has been prevented from making rational decisions by irrational public beliefs and constraints on the industry. We are going to pay now. These analyses show this. The question is: when are we going to become rational?


Wind Energy Update Summary

Here are a few of the primary data findings published in this report…

79% of wind turbines are still under warranty. This is about to change.

O&M costs for wind power are double or triple the figures originally projected, they are particularly high in the U.S. – which is now the world’s largest wind power market.

Europe has a 2% to 5% advantage over the U.S. if resource factors are accounted for.

There’s a -21% change in wind farm return on investment. This underperformance of wind assets is most likely attributable to both differences in power production and O&M costs over original estimates.

$0.027/kWh or €0.019/kWh is the average values of O&M costs obtained from report surveys. This compares to early estimates by one of the world’s dominant turbine suppliers of $0.005/kWh.

A significant amount of R&D is currently going into gearbox reliability. Many gearboxes, designed for a 20-year life, are failing after 6 to 8 years of operation.

Data suggests that O&M challenges for wind turbines peaked in 2007/2008.

At 2 cents/kWh, O&M costs are roughly equal to the federal production tax credit offered in the U.S. as a subsidy to make wind energy competitive.

Leading operators suggest that now is the time to plan for ways to boost ROIs by planning ahead and more accurately forecasting O&M costs. Greater investment in O&M can have positive returns. Read the report to find out how.


Peter Lang:

I’ve been mulling over why David Mackay saw fit to produce his so-called consensus plan for a UK energy solution to add to his previous list of 5 other plans, one of which was his “Plan E” where E stood for economy. One possibilty is that Plan C was produced after he joined the Ministry and the other plans before. For interest, I set out below the comparison (expressed in kWh/person/day) between E and C. I have expressed the comparison in percentage terms such that each totals approximately 100. However, it should be noted that Plan C allows each citizen a mere 67.8 kWh/person/day while Plan E would have provided a princely value of 70. In the column below, the percentage of each technology’s contribution places E first and C second:

Nuclear 62.9 41.3
Wind 5.7 17.7
Pumped heat 17.1 19.2
Wood 7.1 5.9
Waste 1.6 1.6
Tide `1.0 5.5
Biofuels 2.9 0.0
Solar hot water 1.4 1.5
Hydro 0.3 0.3
Desert solar 0.0 5.9
Clean coal 0.0 1.8
Wave 0.0 0.4
PV 0.0 0.4

What can be learned from this comparison? Has Mackay got his tongue in cheek or has his new position forced him to appreciate that there is no correlation between economic and political reality? Nuclear has taken a bit hit in Plan C yet its most obvious replacement , clean coal, is a very minor contributor. The big winners appear to be wind (mainly expensive offshore), tide and, even more bizarrely, imported solar from North Africa.

There is no question in my mind that David Mackay is extremely intelligent and has made a great contribution to the energy debate by demanding that realistic numbers are used in place of words. However, I’m not sure whether his avoidance of economics is deliberate or reflects lack of interest or knowledge. His numbers relate to the theoretically possible from a scientific but not an economic perspective.

Peter, you highlighted one very important statement that was made in the Plan C preamble. Mackay gave the impression that nuclear expansion could not be rolled out any faster than that envisaged in the new Plan. But this represents a 36.3% reduction from the E Plan. What has happened to change Mackay’s thinking since he became a “Ministry Man”? Are there any real constraints other than political? What about lack of labour skills or large steel forging capabilities or too many competing purchasers?


One additional point. Odd that biofuels, present in Plan E have ceased to be needed in Plan C. Could this have anything to do with political correctness?


Douglas Wise,

I suspect ‘political correctness’ is having a big part to play.

I don’t accept the constraints of labour and manufacturing plants given we are talking a period of 40 years. If UK could gear up to fight WWII 70 years ago, surely it could build nuclear plants now if it wanted to. The delay is due to the lack of want.


Douglas Wise and Peter Lang
I think both of you are confusing what David MacKay is saying when 300GW of FF energy is replaced by 126GW of nuclear plus renewable. He is implying some improvements in efficiency( but not anywhere like 56%). The 300GW is the energy content of FF, so each kWh generated from coal requires 3kWh of FF energy, while each kWh generated from wind or nuclear is counted as 1kWh. The consumer is essentially using the same amount of energy(1kWh). In the case of heat pumps one kWh of electricity is used to move about 5 kWh equivalent of low grade heat replacing 5kWh(energy content) of natural gas heat, thus he is saying 10GW of electric heat pumps replaces 50GW of NG( a gain of 40GW). To be absolutely correct MacKay should calculate the thermal energy generated from nuclear( the 70GW would be more like 200-280GW energy) replacing a similar amount of FF energy.

Similarly for electric vehicles using about 0.3kWh/km( are running at about 75% efficiency) while petrol ICE vehicles at 15% efficiency( including refining losses). Thus the exactly same vehicle with EV propulsion derived from nuclear and wind is going to use a lot less energy than ICE propulsion using FF. Now on top of that improved aerodynamics, lower weight etc could give additional efficiency gains.

Any scheme that proposes 41% energy from nuclear and 17% from wind can hardly be called anti-nuclear!
David is using a very conservative estimate of wind potential(2W/m sq ) this is the average of UK at 10m height, but if wind was located on the best 1% of sites at 80m height would expect >20W/m sq so would only require 1500GWh). On top of that we have existing hydro storage of >20,000GWh that the UK does not have.
The existing Tumut3 and Donorwig(both 9GWh) are very small storage sites in comparison.

Replacing Hazelwood
The objectives were sustainably replacing Hazelwood by 2012. The mixed wind plus NG allows the replacement to occur in 2 years and provides provision for phasing out a large portion of NG usage by reducing capacity utilization over time as more wind capacity is built.
We don’t need to replace 1450MW because the existing facility has to have considerable back-up power ( in case it goes off-line). Similarly the first 1400MW nuclear reactor would have to have considerable back-up(OCGT or hydro) until many nuclear reactors are in operation.



I understand what David Mackay is saying about the energy efficiency improvements. I left that aside and focused only on the alternatives to supply the electrical energy (and power when ever demanded) that he lists. I did a really simple calculation of the cost of David Mackay’s Plan C and a nuclear only option (some pumped hydro would reduce the cost of this option). For Plan C, I costed all renewables at the rate of the least cost renewable option – on-shore wind power. So the estimate for the renewables option is a substantial underestimate.

I think you are getting lost in the details of the energy calculations and missing the point. The point is that the ‘nuclear only’ option provides reliable power at about half the cost of Plan C. So I wonder why anyone would advocate renewables.

Your post suggests a few misunderstandings. You imply Australia has 20,000 GWh of pumped-hydro energy storage. No, we have about 20 GWh, not 20,000 GWh.

If you are thinking you can total the storage in all the hydro sites and consider them as pumped hydro storage then that is a complete misunderstanding. We need large storage for hydro to level out the inflows over periods of decades. With the storage we have Snowy Hydro has a capacity factor of about 14%. If we had less storage, the capacity factor would be lower during long dry periods.

Snowy Hydro is very valuable despite the low capacity factor. It provides very high value power because it is available on demand, with very short response time, and large amount of power can be provided almost immediately to compensate for failures in the electricity generation system, or sudden changes of demand.

Our total hydro storage cannot be considered as available to back up for intermittent renewables. Only new pumped hydro, designed and built with variable speed pump turbines, should be considered as storage for wind power. The cost should be attributed to wind power, as should the waste of the valuable asset. The few pumped hydro sites we do have should not be wasted on backing-up for intermittent renewables.


Replacing Hazelwood
The objectives were sustainably replacing Hazelwood by 2012.

That is true. However, it is a totally impossible objective, so let’s recognise that for a start. The objective, and the groups involved, are simply playing politics.

The mixed wind plus NG allows the replacement to occur in 2 years and provides provision for phasing out a large portion of NG usage by reducing capacity utilization over time as more wind capacity is built.

No, that is a nonsense. It cannot be done in two years. It won’t phase out gas usage, it will massively increase it. The gas pipe infrastructure must be increased and the cost per unit gas delivered will be much higher because the gas supply must be able to handle the highest demand but is paid for much less gas on average. There is a lot to understand about this. Here is a small insight into the complexities and the extra costs we are being forced to carry because of our irrational RET policy and other regulations to favour renewables:

Click to access Gas_Markets_DLAP_Snow_6October09.pdf

We don’t need to replace 1450MW because the existing facility has to have considerable back-up power ( in case it goes off-line).

Nonsense. If we want to do a proper comparison of replacing Hazelwood, we need to do the comparison on the basis of actually replacing the power and energy that Hazelwood supplies, not on the basis of trying to do an analysis that hides the cost by getting other generators and the grid to pick up these extra costs.

Similarly the first 1400MW nuclear reactor would have to have considerable back-up(OCGT or hydro) until many nuclear reactors are in operation.

The first nuclear power station does need sufficient capacity margin in the system. But it actually replaces Hazelwood, wind power cannot do that without back-up. You have to think of wind power and its back-up as replacing Hazelwood.

Neil, I am familiar with the line the wind power advocates, such as Mark Diesendorf, Mark Jacobson, and others are running, but I do not agree with it.

This has just been released and summarises the earlier work: . If correct, it means that wind power saves virtually no emissions. It would mean that we have been chasing the wind for 20 years on the basis of an irrational belief that is similar to the 40 years of irrational, anti-nuclear belief.


Whatta gas! All in aid of exacerbating the current CO2 famine. Be warned: the only capital crime in Nature is stupidity.


great peace of mind but i want to know about the percentage of victoria’s electricity is produced in coal fired power stations. oh by the way the best animal of all time is the Tiger they are so adorable and so unique in every way and so playful and that is why i like them.


As a novice, I want to know why geo-thermal didn’t rate a mention in the discussion about baseload. I hope one of the key contributors from last year glances back at this and can elucidate for me.
I learnt a lot from reading the discussion – thanks


I found your post to be very informative and refreshing. I have been looking for this type of information, I always happy to learn new things about power generation methods, I will send the pdf version of the post to my colleges, and refer them to your website.

All the best
Jim Edgar
Thankyou for your kind comment Jim. For recent BNC blog posts we have moved to a new commenting method – The BNC Discussion Forum – although comments on older posts, like this one, are still OK here.
You may like to have a look at the Forum:
because, as well as comments on the latest BNC blog posts, there are other discussion threads started by contributors, which you may find interesting.


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