‘Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan’ – Critique

‘Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan’ – Critique

Download the printable PDF here

[An addendum on wind farm and solar construction rates, by Dave Burraston]


Edit: Here are some media-suitable ‘sound bytes’ from the critique, prepared by Martin. Obviously, please read the whole critique below to understand the context:

  • They assume we will be using less than half the energy by 2020 than we do today without any damage to the economy. This flies in the face of 200 years of history.
  • They have seriously underestimated the cost and timescale required to implement the plan.
  • For $8 a week extra on your electricity bill, you will give up all domestic plane travel, all your bus trips and you must all take half your journeys by electrified trains.
  • They even suggest that all you two car families cut back to just one electric car.
  • You better stock up on candles because you can certainly expect more blackouts and brownouts.
  • Addressing these drawbacks could add over $50 a week to your power bill not the $8 promised by BZE. That’s over $2,600 per year for the average household.

By Martin Nicholson and Peter Lang, August 2010

1. Summary

This document provides a critique of the ‘Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan’ [1] (referred to as the Plan in this document) prepared by Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE). We looked at the total electricity demand required, the total electricity generating capacity needed to meet that demand and the total capital cost of installing that generating capacity. We did not review the suitability of the technologies proposed.  We briefly considered the timeline for installing the capacity by 2020 but have not critiqued this part of the Plan in detail.

In reviewing the total energy demand, we referred to the assumptions made in the Plan and compared them to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) report on Australian energy projections to 2029-30 [2]. The key Plan assumptions we questioned were the use of 2008 energy data as the benchmark for 2020, the transfer of close to half the current road transport to electrified rail and transfer of all domestic air travel and shipping to rail which could have a devastating impact on the economy. In the Plan, total energy demand was reduced by 63% below ABARE’s assessment. We recalculated the energy demand for 2020 without these particular assumptions. Our recalculation increased electricity demand by 38% above the demand proposed in the Plan.

We next turned our minds to the amount of generator capacity needed to meet our recalculated electricity demand. We assumed that the existing electricity network customers would require the same level of network reliability as now. At best the solar thermal plants would have the same reliability and availability of the existing coal fleet so the network operators would at least require a similar proportion of reserve margin capacity as in the existing networks. We kept the same proportion of wind energy as in the Plan (40%) and recalculated the total capacity needed to maintain the reserve margin. The total installed capacity needed increased by 65% above the proposed capacity in the Plan.

The Plan misleadingly states that it relies only on existing, proven, commercially available and costed technologies. The proposed products to be used in the Plan fail these tests. So to assess the total capital cost of installing the generating capacity needed, we reviewed some current costs for both wind farms and solar thermal plants. We also reviewed ABARE’s expectation on future cost reductions. We considered that current costs were the most likely to apply to early installed plants and  that ABARE’s future cost reductions were more likely to apply than the reductions used in the Plan. Applying these costs to the increased installed capacity increased the total capital cost almost 5 fold and increases the wholesale cost of electricity by at least five times and probably 10 times. This will have a significant impact on consumer electricity prices.

We consider the Plan’s Implementation Timeline as unrealistic.  We doubt any solar thermal plants, of the size and availability proposed in the plan, will be on line before 2020.  We expect only demonstration plants will be built until there is confidence that they can become economically viable. Also, it is common for such long term projections to have high failure rates.

2. 2020 Electricity Demand

BZE make a number of assumptions in assessing the electricity demand used to calculate the generating capacity needed by 2020. In summary these are:

  1. 2008 is used as the benchmark year for the analysis. BZE defend this by saying “ZCA2020 intends to decouple energy use from GDP growth. Energy use per capita is used as a reference, taking into account medium-range population growth.”.
  2. Various industrial energy demands in 2020 are reduced including gas used in the export of LNG, energy used in coal mining, parasitic electricity losses, off-grid electricity and coal for smelting.
  3. Nearly all transport is electrified and a substantial proportion of the travel kms are moved from road to electrified rail including 50% of urban passenger and truck kms and all bus kms. All domestic air and shipping is also moved to electric rail.
  4. All fossil fuels energy, both domestic and industrial, is replaced with electricity.
  5. Demand is reduced through energy efficiency and the use of onsite solar energy.

The net effect of these assumptions is to reduce the 2020 total energy by 58% below the 2008 benchmark and 63% below the ABARE estimate for 2020. The total electricity required in 2020 to service demand and achieve these reductions is 325 TWh. This is the equivalent of an average generating capacity of 37 GW over the year.

All of these assumptions are challenging and some are probably unrealistic or politically unacceptable. To address these concerns, we have adjusted the assumptions and recalculated the energy estimates shown in Table A1.3 of the Plan.

The revised assumptions are as follows:

  1. Comparing Australia’s energy use per capita with Northern Europe ignores the significant differences in population density and climate between the two regions. To address this, we have used ABARE’s forecast for 2020 as the benchmark year for our analysis. The ABARE forecast assumes energy efficiency improvement of 0.5 per cent a year in non energy-intensive end use sectors and 0.2 per cent a year in energy intensive industries.
  2. The export of LNG will continue. Much of the world may not wish to, or be able to, emulate this plan and the demand for gas as an energy source will continue for several decades. The other demand reductions shown in BZE assumption 2 above are included.
  3. A substantial modal shift in transport to rail is unlikely to be politically acceptable, particularly domestic aviation and bus travel. Domestic aviation and shipping will continue to use fossil fuels or bio-equivalents. In our analysis, nearly all road transport is electrified but without a reduction in distance travelled. Though this transport electrification is unlikely to be achieved by 2020, it is a realistic long term goal so has been included in the revised calculations. ABARE energy data are for final energy consumption so a tank/battery to wheel efficiency comparison should be made. This is considered to be a 3:1 energy reduction [3] not 5:1 as identified in the Plan.
  4. All fossil fuels energy is replaced with electricity as per the Plan.
  5. Demand is reduced through energy efficiency and the use of onsite solar energy as per the Plan but discounted by the energy efficiency already included in the ABARE data identified in 1 above.

These assumptions and recalculations are based on information provided in Appendix 1 of the Plan. Each SET column shown in Table 1 below are defined in Appendix 1. Recalculations are based on data provided in Appendix 1. ABARE provided data for 2008 and 2030 only so 2020 is our estimate based on the ABARE figures.

The net effect of these revised assumptions is shown in Table 1 which is a rework of Table A1.3 in Appendix 1 of the Plan. The total electricity required in 2020 to service the revised demand and achieve the energy reductions is 449 TWh or 38% more than the ZCA2020 Plan estimate of 325 TWh.

3. Total Capacity Needed

A number of assumptions have been made by BZE in assessing the generating capacity needed to supply the electricity demand in 2020. These can be summaries as follows:

  1. The Plan relies on 50 GW of wind and 42.5 GW of concentrating solar thermal (CST) alone to meet 98% of the projected electricity demand of 325 TWh/yr. In addition, the combination of hydro and biomass generation as backup at the CST sites is expected to meet the remaining 2% of total demand, covering the few occasions where periods of low wind and extended low sun coincide.
  2. In the Plan system design the extra generating capacity needed to meet peak demand is reduced relative to current requirements. The electrification of heating, along with an active load management system, is assumed to defer heating and cooling load to smooth out peaks in demand resulting in a significant reduction in the overall installed capacity required to meet peak demand.
  3. In the Plan, negawatts are achieved through energy efficiency programs which lower both overall energy demand and peak electricity demand as well as by time-shifting loads using active load management. Negawatts can be conceptually understood as real decreases in necessary installed generating capacity, due to real reductions in overall peak electricity demand.
  4. The current annual energy demand in the Plan is considered to be 213 TWh which can be converted to an average power figure of 24 GW. BZE assumes that the current installed capacity to meet maximum demand is 45 GW. The difference (21 GW) is then considered power for meeting the demand for intermediate and peak loads only. The peak load in 2020 is assumed to be equal to the average of 37 GW plus the 21 GW for intermediate and peak loads. This is then reduced by a 3 GW allowance for ‘Negawatt’ to give an overall maximum demand of 55 GW.
  5. In the worst case scenario modelled in the Plan of low wind and low sun, there is a minimum of 55 GW of reliable capacity. This is based on a projected 15%, or 7.5 GW, of wind power always being available and the 42.5 GW of solar thermal turbine capacity also always being available with up to 15 GW of this turbine capacity backed up by biomass heaters. The 5 GW of existing hydro capacity is also always available.

The key issues in these assumptions are that the maximum (peak) demand is 55GW and that the proposed installed capacity can deliver a minimum of 55GW at any time. We will deal with each of these issues separately.

3.1. Recalculation of peak demand

The ZCA2020 Plan proposes a single National Grid comprising the existing NEM, SWIS and NWIS grids. The current installed capacity and loads in the three regions are shown in Table 2. An accurate assessment of peak demand – not average demand – is critical for assessing the total installed capacity needed.

Reliability in each network is maintained by additional available capacity over and above the expected peak demand. This is to cover for planned or unexpected loss of generating capacity either through planned maintenance or unplanned breakdown. This additional capacity is often referred to as the ‘reserve margin’.

The current reserve margin in each network is approximately 33% higher than the actual peak load. Note also that the actual total installed capacity is 53 GW and average power is 26 GW across the three networks. These are both higher than suggested by BZE in assumption 4 above.

The anticipated electricity demand in 2020 from Table 1 is 449 TWh. Assuming no change in current peak demand we can expect the pro rata peak in 2020 would be 78.7 GW (39.7 x 449/227). If we apply the 3 GW negawatt reduction discussed in assumption 4, peak demand will become 75.7 GW as shown in Table 3.

3.2. Recalculation of required capacity to reliably meet demand

The Plan insists that the combination of wind power and solar thermal with storage can deliver continuous supply (baseload). The only way to accurately assess this and the capacity required to meed the performance demands on the network is to do a full loss of load probability (LOLP) analysis. This does not appear to have been done in the ZCA2020 Plan, or at least it was not discussed as such in the report.

It is also beyond the scope of this critique to perform an LOLP analysis. A reasonable proxy is to apply the reserve margin requirements currently in the network. To maintain reliability, all three network regions have a reserve margin of 33% above the anticipated peak demand.

The size of the reserve margin is, among other things, related to the reliability of the generators in the network. In the current networks the predominant generators are conventional fossil fuel plants supplying over 90% of the energy.

In the Plan, the predominant plants are solar thermal with biomass backup supplying just under 60% of the energy. The Plan states that “The solar thermal power towers specified in the Plan will be able to operate at 70-75% annual capacity factor, similar to conventional fossil fuel plants.” The remainder of the energy mostly comes from wind powered generators. It would therefore seem likely that the network operators would continue, at a minimum, to require a 33% reserve margin to maintain the current levels of network reliability. The reserve margin may well be higher given the proportion of wind power and the use of relatively new solar thermal/biomass hybrid plants.

Table 3 shows the anticipated peak demand and total capacity needed to meet the 2020 demand calculated in section 2.

3.3. Estimate of the required wind and solar capacity

As close as possible we have kept the percentage of energy coming from wind and solar the same as in the Plan. This means that roughly 40% of the energy will come from wind and 60% will come from solar thermal plants with sufficient biomass capacity and sufficient fuel supply system to back-up for when there is insufficient energy in storage.

40% of the 449 TWh demand required by 2020 shown in section 2 will require 68 GW of wind. This is 36% higher than the 50 GW of wind used in the Plan.

The Plan assumed that 15% of wind power would always be available (assumption 5 above). This is the capacity credit allocated when assessing network reliability. Dispatchable generators like fossil fuel plants typically have a capacity credit of 99%. [4]

For the purpose of this estimate, we have assumed that the solar plants will have sufficient biomass capacity and reliability to be given a capacity credit of 99%. This may require a higher availability of biomass at the solar sites than has been included in the Plan. Without an LOLP we are not able to make that assessment.

Table 4 shows the amount of wind and solar needed to satisfy the network requirement for a total capacity of 101 GW calculated in 3.2 and shown in Table 3. The solar supply and biomass backup will need to be more than doubled from the present 42.5 GW to 87 GW.

4. Capital Costs

The Plan makes an estimate of the capital costs for the generators and the transmission lines. The Plan states that it “relies only on existing, proven, commercially available and costed technologies”. This is misleading. Although it is true that wind and solar thermal generators have been used commercially for a number of years, the particular products and product size suggested in the Plan are not yet available and caution is needed when estimating future costs for these products. Further, the Plan also assumes that baseload solar thermal is available today when the International Energy Agency does not expecting competitive baseload CSP before 2025. [5]

In this analysis we have compared the costs proposed in the Plan with known costs for solar and wind plants, together with ABARE’s suggested likely cost reductions over time.

4.1. Wind costs

According to ABARE [6, 7], current costs for wind farms in Australia are around $2.9 million/MW. In 2009 the costs were $2.3 million/MW – see Table 5.

The following assumptions have been made by BZE in estimating the cost of wind farms:

  1. The Plan involves a large scale roll out of wind turbines, that will require a ramp up in production rate, which will help to reduce wind farm capital costs and bring Australian costs into line with the world (European) markets.
  2. The 2010 forecast capital cost of onshore wind is approximately €1,200/kW (2006 prices) or $2,200/kW (current prices). By 2015 the European capital cost of onshore wind is estimated to be around €900/kW (2006 prices) (or $1,650 in current prices).
  3. It is expected that Australian wind turbine costs in 2011 will reduce to the current European costs of $2.2 million/MW. For the first 5 years of the Plan, the capital costs of wind turbines are expected to transition from the current European costs to the forecast 2015 European amount — $1.65 million/MW.
  4. In the final five years the capital costs are expected to drop to approximately $1.25 million/MW in Australia.

Wind turbines are not new technology and this would not normally suggest such significant falls in future costs. The 7.5 MW Enercon E126 turbine proposed is significantly larger than any currently installed on-shore commercial turbine and is still being developed. No firm costs for such a turbine are yet available. It seems very optimistic to suggest that the cost of these turbines will almost halve over the next decade. That projection is not supported by ABARE, which forecasts2 a reduction in the cost of wind power of 21% from 2015 to 2030. This is a simple average reduction of 1.5% per year.

Given the current cost of turbines in Australia ($2.9 million/MW) and accepting some economy of scale both in turbine size and volume purchased it might seem more prudent to assume the cost will fall from the current cost of $2.9 million/MW to $2.5 million/MW over the decade in line with ABARE’s forecast.

4.2. Solar costs

The solar plant proposed by the ZCA2020 Plan is a solar thermal tower with 17 hours molten salt energy storage. The proposed 220 MW plant is 13 times larger than any existing solar tower system. As with the wind proposal, no firm costs for such a large sized plant are yet available.

We have prepared an analysis of two solar thermal tower projects of varying sizes and using molten salt with varying energy storage sizes. These are plants where the capital cost could be identified and shown in Table 6. All costs are converted to 2010 A$.

Part of the variation in cost per MW is related to the hours of storage. The size of the solar field has to be increased to support more hours of storage as does the size of the storage tanks. According to the Plan (p140), 80% of the cost of a solar tower system using molten salt storage comes from the solar field and the storage system.  Scaling up the storage will increase the cost per MW. These costs have been adjusted in Table 6 to 17 hours storage as proposed in the Plan.

The Plan (p61) has applied the following pricing which falls as more solar plants are installed:

  1. The first 1,000 MW is priced at a similar price to SolarReserve’s Tonopah project at $10.5 million/MW.
  2. The next 1,600 MW is priced slightly cheaper at $9.0 million/MW.
  3. The next 2,400 MW is priced at Sargent & Lundy’ conservative mid-term estimate for the Solar 100 module which is $6.5 million/MW.
  4. The next 3,700 MW is priced at Sargent & Lundy Solar 200 module price of $5.3 million/MW.
  5. The remaining 33,800 MW is priced at $115 billion or $3.4 million/MW.

The Tonopah project is treated as a First-Of-A-Kind (FOAK) plant. Unfortunately the Tonopah plant has only 10 hours of storage [8] not 17 hours as required by the Plan. Grossing up the $10.5 million/MW from 10 hours to 17 hours based on the additional materials needed makes the cost $16.4 million/MW. For comparison, the Gemasolar plant shown in Table 6 has a scaled up cost of $25.7 million/MW.

ABARE2 forecasts a reduction in the cost of solar thermal with storage of 34% from 2015 to 2030. This is a simple average reduction of 2% per year. It might seem more prudent to assume the price will fall in line with ABARE’s assessment which will lower the price from $16.4 million/MW to $13.7 million/MW over the decade.

4.3. Assessment of generator capital costs based on revised capacity

In 3.3 we estimated the needed capacity to meet reliability standards in the electricity networks. From Table 4 the wind capacity needed was 68 GW and solar thermal plant capacity was 87 GW.

In this section we take the construction timelines suggested in the Plan (p57, p67) and gross them up to meet the capacity figures above. We then apply the prices calculated in 4.1 and 4.2 to calculate the revised total capital cost.

Table 7 and Table 8 apply a construction schedule as close as possible to the schedules provided in Table 3.7 and Table 3.14 of the Plan. The price each year is assumed to fall uniformly over the 10 years. We recognise this is not what would happen in practice but the end result would not vary greatly.

The Plan’s projected capital cost of wind = $72 billion.

The Plan’s projected capital cost of CST = $175 billion.

Because the required capacity for wind is 36% higher in this analysis than in the Plan and the capacity for solar is 105% higher, there is significant increase in capital cost over the Plan. This is particularly so for the solar component as the average cost per MW over the 10 years has increased from the BZE assessment of $4.1 million to $14.6 million. This a 3.6 times increase in average capital cost.

4.4. Assessment of the revised total investment cost

As the total installed capacity has increased then both the transmission system and biomass supply will also need to be increased. For the purpose of this assessment, the biomass is assumed to increase pro rata with the increase in solar thermal capacity. The transmission is assumed to increase pro rata with the total installed capacity. The actual increases could only be properly assessed with a full LOLP analysis.

The Plan assumes that the biomass fuel will be transported from the biomass pelletising plants, which are located in the wheat growing areas, to the solar thermal power plants by electrified railway lines.  It seems the Plan does not include the cost of these.  We have made an allowance of $54 billion for the capital cost of the electrified rail system for the biomass fuel handling logistics.  This assumes 300km average rail line distance per solar power site, for 12 sites at $15 million/km of electrified rail line.  This is included in our revised total investment cost shown in Table 9.

4.5. Uncertainty in the capital cost estimates

Capital costs for this Plan are highly uncertain.  None of the proposed generator types has ever been built.  Previous estimates for wind power and solar power have often proved to be gross underestimates. Our estimates include projections of cost reductions due to learning rates as does the Plan.  However, there is evidence that real costs have been increasing for decades so the learning rate reductions have to be considered uncertain.

The Plan calls for electrified rail lines to run from the pelleting plants in the wheat growing areas to the solar power stations but the capital cost for lines was not included.  We have included an estimate for this as discussed in 4.4.

There is uncertainty on the downside due to potential technological break-throughs which might make the learning curve rates forecast by various sources: Sargent and Lundy, NEEDS, DOE, IEA and ABARE achievable.  BZE projects a cost reduction of some 50% for solar and wind over the decade.  We will consider this to be the downside uncertainty.

There are several uncertainties on the upside:

  1. 1. A qualified estimator will state that the uncertainty on the upper end is as high as 100% for a conceptual estimate involving a particular design using mature technology for a particular site. The Plan and our estimates are for a concept that does not involve mature technology, without specific site surveys and without a system design for a totally redesigned electricity system.
  2. Previous estimates for solar thermal plants over the past two decades have often underestimated the cost of the actual plants.  For example, the estimated cost of Solar Tres / Gemasolar increased by 260% between 2005 and 2009 (when construction began).
  3. 3. A loss of load probability (LOLP) study would be essential to accurately estimate the generating capacity and transmission network requirements before this Plan was executed.
  4. The wind power contribution to reliability is based on an assumed firm capacity of 15%.  Many consider this highly optimistic.  Should the LOLP study suggest a significantly lower firm wind capacity, then much more solar thermal and biomass capacity would be required, increasing the total capital cost.
  5. Some consider that almost none of our hydro resource could be used in the way assumed in the Plan to back up for low sun and low wind periods.  If this proved to be the case then more solar and biomass capacity would be required.
  6. 6. All existing CST pilot plants have been built in areas that are relatively close to the necessary infrastructure such as road, water, gas mains and a work force.  This will not be the case for most of the 12 sites proposed for Australia.

In Table 9 , we have used a downside uncertainty of 50% and an upside uncertainty of 260% for solar plants and 200% for the other components.

5. Electricity Costs

The wholesale electricity cost, the price paid to the generator, makes up between 30% to 50% of retail electricity prices so any significant increase in the wholesale cost will impact consumer electricity prices. The Plan claims that wholesale prices will rise from the present $55/MWh to $120/MWh after  2020 (p122).

Table 10 shows estimates for the cost of electricity from solar thermal plants and wind farms for different years. It is clear that the Plan estimate for solar is significantly less than the other estimates. This would suggest a significantly lower capital cost for solar in the Plan than anticipated by these other assessments. The Plan does not offer an electricity cost for wind farms.

Based on the ABARE electricity cost estimates shown in Table 10. for solar thermal and wind, if the ratio of energy generated is 60% solar and 40% wind then the wholesale electricity price would need to be, at a minimum, $270/MWh by 2020 to cover the cost of generation.

However this is not a total system cost.  The wholesale cost of electricity would be about $500/MWh based on the capital cost of $1,709 billion, the supply of 443 TWh/a, a lifetime of 30 years and real interest rate of 10% pa.

If the capital cost is at the low end of the range, $885 billion, the electricity cost would be about $270/MWh.  If the capital cost is at the high end of the range, the electricity cost would be about $1200/MWh.

The $500/MWh cost is over 4 times the cost proposed in the Plan and nearly 10 times the current cost of electricity.  The low end of the estimate, $270/MWh, is more than twice the estimate proposed by the Plan and 5 times the current cost of electricity.  The high end of the range is over 10 times the cost proposed in the Plan and over 20 times the current cost of electricity.

6. Implementation Timeline

The Plan is not economically viable; therefore it will not be built to the timeline envisaged in the plan. As an example of how unrealistic the timeline is, the Plan assumes 1000 MW of CST will be under construction in 2011.   This is clearly impossible.  The first plant with 100MW peak capacity and just 10 hours of storage won’t be on-line in the USA until 2013 at the earliest.  It could be years before Australia can begin building plants with 17 hours of storage.

Trying to schedule the proposed build is making a category error. It is unlikely that any project manager would touch it. The project is simply not scoped.

We expect only demonstration plants will be built until there is confidence that they can become economically viable.  We doubt any solar thermal plants, of the size and availability proposed in the plan, will be on line before 2020. .

7. Conclusions

We have reviewed the “Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan” by Beyond Zero Emissions.  We have evaluated and revised the assumptions and cost estimates. We conclude:

  • The ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan has significantly underestimated the cost and timescale required to implement such a plan.
  • Our revised cost estimate is nearly five times higher than the estimate in the Plan: $1,709 billion compared to $370 billion.  The cost estimates are highly uncertain with a range of $855 billion to $4,191 billion for our estimate.
  • The wholesale electricity costs would increase nearly 10 times above current costs to $500/MWh, not the $120/MWh claimed in the Plan.
  • The total electricity demand in 2020 is expected to be 44% higher than proposed: 449 TWh compared to the 325 TWh presented in the Plan.
  • The Plan has inadequate reserve capacity margin to ensure network reliability remains at current levels. The total installed capacity needs to be increased by 65% above the proposed capacity in the Plan to 160 GW compared to the 97 GW used in the Plan.
  • The Plan’s implementation timeline is unrealistic.  We doubt any solar thermal plants, of the size and availability proposed in the plan, will be on line before 2020.  We expect only demonstration plants will be built until there is confidence that they can be economically viable.
  • The Plan relies on many unsupported assumptions, which we believe are invalid; two of the most important are:
    1. A quote in the Executive Summary “The Plan relies only on existing, proven, commercially available and costed technologies.”
    2. Solar thermal power stations with the performance characteristics and availability of baseload power stations exist now or will in the near future.

8. References

[1] Australian Sustainable Energy – Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan


[2] ABARE Australian energy projections to 2029-30


[3] European Commission – Mobility and Transport


[4] Doherty et al – Establishing the Role That Wind Generation May Have in Future Generation Portfolios IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER SYSTEMS, VOL. 21, NO. 3, AUGUST 2006

[5] IEA – Technology Roadmap Concentrating Solar Power


[6] ABARE’s list of major electricity generation projects – April 2009


[7] ABARE’s list of major electricity generation projects – April 2010




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  1. Thanks for this informative critique.
    So the “plan” is a crock.That was obvious at a superficial level from just skimming through it as it raised all my sceptical hackles.
    However,I’m sure that those in the renewable energy commmunity who are off with the pixies will quote it right ,left and centre.


  2. This critique is a sterling effort having been put together in a fraction of the time the original report must have taken. It might also serve as a template for critiques of similar plans given by Al Gore and in Scientific American. The level headed tone enhances its credibility. I wonder if some of the leading figures who have endorsed ZCA or plan to attend presentations may now wish to distance themselves.

    Since ZCA lacks realism the practical effect must be brought home, namely that wishful thinking on renewable energy only prolongs dependence on coal and gas. This is timely since in the next fortnight one political party will claim that we could quickly switch to all-renewables if we really wanted to. No we couldn’t.


  3. Thank you for this work. It can serve as a jumping off point for further critiques of many such plans, which are regularly announced with breathless excitement and accomplish nothing beyond promotion of muddy and unrealistic thinking about energy and climate.

    Meanwhile carbon concentrations continue their upward climb and the viable cornerstone solution, nuclear, languishes in many of the nations and economies most suited to take manage it well and advance its potential.

    I hope this critique is published as widely as possible and distributed to as many thoughtful people as possible. I would suggest press visits and a presentation that highlights the key points, contrasting statements in the plan against known facts.


  4. Thank you for your comments. Please send it viral.

    Forward to all you can, especially media today!

    Forward with the Conclusions or the Summary (circulated by email by Barry last night).

    Highlight the effect the plan would have on electricity prices; for example:

    The ZCA2020 Plan would lead to a near 10 fold increase in wholesale electricity prices.

    The current average wholesale price is 5.5c/kWh. The plan would raise this to 50c/kWh. This estimate is uncertain with range 27c/kWh to 120c/kWh.

    (All prices are quoted in constant 2010 $)


  5. This seems to be a very thorough critique of the ZCA2020 plan.
    I think there is one major error, in using peak demand of existing electricity and scaling to 2020 projected demand.

    The 51GW av demand is increased by assuming much higher use of electricity for transport, based on no reduction in VMT. While this is a reasonable assumption, the consequences are going to be much more overnight charging and higher off-peak demand and consequently a much flatter peak demand.
    Thus scaling peak demand at 75GW is too high.

    A second error would be scaling reserve capacity to 25% above peak. Part of the high present reserve capacity is due to limited grid transmission links for example SA to VIC, Bass-Link, poor links from NSW to QLD. A larger unified grid is going to require a much lower reserve capacity.
    A very inexpensive option to to retain 8GW of NG capacity as part of the reserve. If we are still exporting LNG, it seems reasonable to have a small amount of NG use for emergency situations one or two days per year. With a large part of demand for vehicle charging and space and hot water heating activities can can be shut down for minutes or hours this gives a lot more flexibility in managing grid failures, generator failure and exceptional demand spikes than is the case in 2010.


  6. I see the illuminati at the Sydney Town Hall meeting tonight include both pro and anti nuclear figures. The known anti is Sen. Ludlam while Bob Carr is pro. The combined heat and power bloke Allan Jones will be there who presumably won’t ‘buy’ gas free heat and power. Not sure about Turnbull. Then it’s on to pushbikes to watch Dick Smith on population ABC One at 8.30.


  7. Peter Lang,
    Costs are based on the revised assumptions of peak demand and reserve capacity. If these assumptions are wrong, costings will be wrong.
    The BNC critique is assuming about double the CSP capacity, many to provide 25GW of peak demand and 25GW of reserve capacity. If neither are required, or there are much less expensive options the costs are being inflated by 100% as CSP is the major cost.
    If the BNC critique gets this wrong it detracts from many of the other valid criticisms of the ZCA2020 plan.


  8. Re publicity. I will be writing an op-ed piece to go out early next week and Barry has agreed to put out a press release on Monday. He is travelling before then.

    Is anyone going to the Sydney launch tonight? If so maybe a question from the floor referencing the BNC Critique might be in order.


  9. Neil, we did make it clear in the critique that a loss of load probability analysis was essential. No one can be certain how much reserve margin will be required. Clearly the way the reserve was calculated in the ZCA2020 Plan was wrong as we explained.

    In the absence of an LOLP analysis we took the view that the existing network operators will demand a 33% margin above the peak as they do today. Yes we can argue what that peak might be and how much it will be flattened with load shifting and night time vehicle charging but we will only really know the answer to that as these things are implemented.

    I think allowing 3 GW of negawatts (4% of peak) is not unreasonable. Load shifting is probably not going to do better than that.


  10. Fabulous review!
    Well done, Martin and Peter.

    Whether or not one thinks CO2 is a dastardly gas, Wind and Solar obviously are poor solutions to cutting CO2 emissions. This review shows just how many daisies there are in the ever-green paddock of “renewable” lotus land.


  11. Graham, Thank you.

    This would be a great place and time to repost the very well presented posts you put on the previous ZCA thread. By putting those articles here, together, and early in the thread, people will be able to find them in future.

    Your posts are a really good contribution to the discussion of the ZCA2020 Plan and cover important matters we were not able to cover given our time constraints.


  12. Martin Nicholson,
    Isn’t a big part of the increase in demand from 26GW to 51GW due to heat pumps( hot water and space heating) and EV charging? Ev charging 15M vehicles would account for 120-180GWh/day, most of this off-peak, thats a lot of load shift certainly more than 3GW of peak.
    If you are making assumptions about increasing demand by 25GW surely its important to include the probable changed energy use profile of this demand. We know >14M vehicles are parked from 8pm to 6am. This is excluding any V2G which is still an unknown put has great potential for short term load shifting.


  13. Victorian gas space heating

    Page 21:

    A concentrated effort to flatten the Victorian winter gas usage peak would yield major gains in flattening the Australian energy demand profile over the year. The flattening would be achieved primarily by thermal insulation of Victorian commercial buildings and households. This can reduce heating loads by a factor of 2-4. A program of replacing gas furnace heating with heat pumps would further reduce space heating energy demand by a factor of 4, given an 80% efficiency for gas furnaces and 320% seasonal average efficiency for heat pumps. It is therefore reasonable to assume that given widespread implementation of heat pump and building efficiency improvement in Victoria, “winter peak”, space heating requirements could be reduced by around a factor of 10.

    The concept of shifting Victorian gas heating to electric heat pump may have a greenhouse advantage in the context of low emission generation, such as renewables or nuclear, but most greenhouse reduction strategies to date have focused on maintaining Victorian gas heating in preference to electric heat pump. While peak demand for electricity supply is a major challenge, natural gas supply only needs to meet demand on a day by day basis, rather than a second by second basis. Natural gas pipelines provide both a short term storage facility and transmission medium. The main pipeline from Longford to Dandenong is 750mm diameter and 174 km long. The linepack is a measure of the quantity of gas in the pipeline, and typically varies by 50% according to the daily difference between the regular supply, and demand which peaks around breakfast and dinner during winter.

    In Victoria, there are approximately 780,000 gas ducted heating systems with an average 20 kW furnace consuming an average 58 GJ/annum, and 650,000 non-ducted gas heaters with an average 10 kW furnace consuming an average 29 GJ/annum. If there was a wholesale change-over to electric heat pumps, assuming a COP which is 3 times better than a gas furnace, would translate to 780,000 units at 6.7 kW(e) and 650,000 units at 3.3 kW(e). If all units were running at the same time, the total load would be 7.3 GW, which would likely lead to brown-outs based on current supply constraints. In practice, not all units would be on, and under normal circumstances, the units would be cycling. However, unlike commercial HVAC systems which are designed professionally and costed accordingly, domestic systems are sized according to budget and often aggressive quoted, and usually struggle in extreme conditions, so the assumption of cycling can lead to unpredicted outcomes. Peak demand is related to nameplate power and not “average” power, where extreme climatic conditions can result in the compressor running 100% of the time. Although the MEPS scheme for air conditioners is generally a step forward, budgetry constraints prevent a comprehensive audit process, leading to ongoing non-compliance with minimum standards

    The report failed to observe that most heat pumps cut-out or perform poorly below around 5 degrees due to evaporator freezing and some utilize an electric element to provide back-up. In cool climates, such as North America, ground source heat pumps have been utilized for a number of years to overcome this problem, but costs are typically an additional $5,000 to $10,000 on top of the basic system cost. In the event of a wholesale conversion to heat pumps, there is likely to be significant problems with peak demand during the handful of near-freezing conditions that Melbourne experiences some years. It is also likely that a large number of households would need conversion to 3 phase power to provide the required power. Also note for reference that many Victorian households will typically consume twice as much gas as electricity, therefore probably doubling household electricity consumption with a switch from gas heating to electric. Of interest is that there is a substantial Australian manufacturing content in gas furnaces, but negligible manufacturing of domestic heat pumps.

    The blase assumptions of reducing demand through insulation requires heroic assumptions regarding the existing stock of homes. Regrettably, we carry the legacy of poor efficiency standards with most homes generally rated from 0 to 2 stars. To bring a pre-90’s home to something remotely like current BCA 6 star building standards (http://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/resources/documents/report_on_on_ground_assessment_pilot_study.pdf) would require ceiling insulation (mostly already done now but $1,600 otherwise), wall insulation (blown in fibretex at $3,000 to $5,000), double glazing ($5,000 to $10,000), under floor insulation ($1,000 to $2,000), roof sarking ($1,000), sealing and draught prevention ($1,000 to $2,000). If we conservatively allowed $10,000 per home for 1 million homes comes out at $10 B. Some classes of homes, such as the post-war pre-fab concrete homes built for returned servicemen, will remain inefficient for the life of the home. Note that new homes make up an additional around 2% to 3% per annum of total homes so the legacy of existing stock is long lived. The report doesn’t appear to make recommendations as to who should pay for this. Despite a number of energy efficiency measures, some of which have significant scope for expansion, a combination of increasing house size, “comfort creep”, expanding population and Jevon’s Paradox suggest that space heating consumption will continue growing for the foreseeable future.

    Of interest is that the Victorian VEET energy efficiency scheme already provides a rebate for the upgrade of a high efficiency gas furnace or the retrofit of new high efficiency ductwork, and the Victorian Government recently doubled the energy efficiency target.


    In summary, given a conversion of generation to low emission sources, a long term strategy to space heating through electric heat pump may be sensible, but a prudent approach would be to put the low emission (renewables or nuclear) generation in place first with a planned conversion over years. Interestingly, there was a consumer led conversion from oil heating to gas heating in Melbourne in response to high oil prices in the 1970’s, leading to a 88% decline in oil consumption for domestic heating from 1977 to 1982. The issue of peak electrical demand would remain regardless, and in this sense, natural gas is a far better option. As a general principle, solar and winter are not good matches, particular in a context where solar has not reached viability in a summer context yet. The premature advocacy of the replacement of reliable, effective and relatively greenhouse friendly space heating with electric heat pumps is misguided and naive, and likely to lead to perverse outcomes.


  14. Victorian evaporative and refrigerated cooling

    The adoption of reverse cycle heat pumps for winter would lead to increased penetration of refrigerated air conditioning during summer in preference to evaporative cooling, which has traditionally been widely used in Victoria. The Business Council for Sustainable Energy (2003) estimated that each additional 1 kW of load due to air conditioners costs an additional $3,300 in network and generation investment, translating to $10,000+ for an average home.

    Click to access sub134.pdf

    The encouragement of refrigerated cooling for Victorians is perverse in the context of the challenge of meeting the cost of network upgrades as well as the difficulty in meeting demand from non-schedulable generation assets.


  15. Smart grids

    The ZCA plan aims to reduce total energy demand and variability, using a smart grid to smooth electricity demand. Although specific parameters are not provided, the program appears to rely on demand management as a key plank in the program. For example:

    page 20

    The energy demand profile will be further smoothed using smart-grids in combination with an electric vehicle fleet and demand-negating, small scale PV.

    page 22

    Under the ZCA2020 Plan, improved insulation and the use of ‘smart meters’ assists in levelling short term spikes in electricity demand.

    page 93

    The ZCA2020 Plan combats this variation in demand both through system design and active load management, using Smart Grid technologies.

    There is substantial activity both in Australia and worldwide on researching and developing “smart grid” components. The future of smart grids is arousing a significant amount of interest and research funding, and offers some exciting possibilities, particular with remote appliance control and electric vehicle recharging. For example, the Federal Government has the “Smart Cities Smart Grid” program


    and there are a number of initiatives including, for example, the development of Australian Standard AS4755.3.1 for smart meter interfaces.

    Click to access 09%20BRWG%20Workshop%2007%20-%20NSMP%20and%20the%20AS4755%20Appliance%20Interface%20version%203%20-%2016-17%20Sep%202009.pdf

    However, smart grids are in an early stage of development, and while there may be some rewarding payoffs at some stage, future outcomes remain uncertain. The inertia inherent in energy systems, the existing stock of consumer appliances and large penetration of air conditioners, and the usual development cycle mean that smart grid technology is inevitably a long term venture. The report appears to accept the most optimistic potential outcomes of smart metering as an article of faith, and appears to assume fast-track implementation, although no detail is provided.

    One of the main planks of the report appears to be the ability to readily implement air conditioner demand management strategies, through smart metering, with, presumably, differential pricing. There is no a priori reason to believe that socially palatable differential pricing is going to drive substantial reductions in air conditioner demand on the hottest days. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that even householders that use their cooling systems sparingly will nonetheless use them on the few 40 degree plus days.

    In a submission to the Australian Energy Regulator, Origin Energy notes:

    There is little evidence in the Australia context of significant reductions in energy consumption resulting from the move to interval meters. It is uncertain whether the meters will lead to a sustained reduction in consumption and, if so, over what period.

    Click to access item.phtml

    Contrary to the ZCA report, the (now suspended) Victorian smart meter rollout does not expect the meters to provide demand management in the early stages, but rather, the meters will assist customers to get real-time information, and allow retailers to implement differential pricing. For example a recent Essential Services Commission report notes:

    Customer bills are most impacted by the costs associated with growing network peak demands and generation, which suggests that it would be beneficial for customers to see and be charged directly for these distribution and generation costs.

    Click to access DDPDraftDecisionSmartMetersRegulatoryReview20100721.pdf

    In summary, the report assumes a best-case, fast-track scenario for smart grids despite the available evidence suggesting a marginal role for the foreseeable future.


  16. Natural gas conversions

    The ZCA report states:

    page 71

    Heating loads currently delivered by natural gas and other fossil fuels can be delivered by renewable electricity, while solar thermal co-generation can provide both electricity and direct heat, saving on costs significantly.”

    For each gas application there is an available electrical substitute. Electrical heating methods have advantages over other forms of chemical combustion in regards to: precise control over the temperature, rapid provision of heat energy, and ability to achieve temperatures not achievable through combustion.

    The ZCA report aims to convert all fuels to electric, however it neglects to discuss the implications for peak electrical demand and other issues including the significant cost advantage of gas over electricity in Victoria, and the costs in proposed conversions. Taking the case of Victoria due to its widespread availability of reticulated natural gas and significant winter heating demand, the hourly peak demand is 82 TJ/hour, which equates to 23 GW continuous over one hour. Peak demand occurs during the cooler months of June through September, and Melbourne makes up typically 70% of this demand.

    Click to access 0400-0003.pdf

    Click to access 0400-0012.pdf

    The instantaneous demand will be higher than the hourly peak, but the AEMO report does not provide finer resolution because natural gas pipelines act as a short-term buffer. For comparison the Victorian peak summer electricity demand is 10.6 GW and winter peak demand is 8 GW, suggesting that there is not a significant headroom to enlarge winter electrical demand.

    As discussed in an earlier post (https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/08/12/zca2020-critique/#comment-90272), the portion of the demand that is converted to electric heat pump for space and water heating will incur an energy saving of typically 60 to 70% due to the higher COP of heat pumps versus gas furnaces. Around 7% of annual consumption is due to gas power generation, with 4% of peak demand attributed to gas power generation. Industrial processes that are converted to electric would be expected to derive an estimated 20% energy reduction due to the higher end-use efficiency of resistance and induction heating versus gas combustion. Industrial processes are not generally suitable for conversion to heat pumps due to the higher temperatures required, although in some limited cases, high-temperature heat pumps may be suitable, in for example, some boiler applications.

    Depending on specific user tariffs, consumers will typically pay between 3 and 4 times more per unit of energy for electricity compared to gas. In applications, such as heat pumps, which derive a significantly higher end-use efficiency, the additional costs are largely offset, and may even work out slightly more cost effective if the highest efficiency heat pumps are utilized. On the other hand, conversions with lower efficiency gains, such as a switch to resistance heating will incur both energy, and peak usage cost increases. The report makes the valid point that co-generation offers opportunities for reduced energy use, but strangely, seems to exclude its use with natural gas, which is where its obvious strength lies, favouring its use with solar applications.

    Many small enterprises that currently use natural gas combustion processes may also incur the installation cost of a local transformer to supply the additional load. The report does not address a myriad of other issues such as the widespread use of natural gas boilers in large HVAC applications, and the non-trivial task of replacing these in high-rise buildings.

    The ZCA report appears to have addressed aggregate, average, energy consumption with a number of assumed efficiency savings, without consideration of peak loads and the practical consequences of shifting natural gas loads to electric. The mind can only boggle at the over-build required for solar-based generation infrastructure trying to supply a dramatically higher demand in winter, and it is left to others to consider doing the calculation.

    Businesses, both small, and large, are unlikely to look favourably on needing to retrofit or change-over natural gas processes with electric, incur potential additional costs for the installation of a local transformer, and pay 3 to 4 times more for energy costs, assuming that the network is capable of reliably supplying the power. The ZCA report seems at odds with mainstream opinion regarding Australia’s substantial indigenous natural gas resource, which is seen as a significant asset in the context of an (eventual) carbon price. As discussed in an earlier post, it may be sensible to implement policies encouraging the conversion from natural gas to electric given the availability of low emission generation in the long term, however it is clear that current natural gas loads, and dramatically higher costs, preclude a sensible discussion about conversion in the short to medium term.


  17. The future of electric Cars

    Electric cars have held allure since before Thomas Edison promoted the electric car in the early part of the twentieth century, utilizing the nickel-iron battery, competing with steam powered and internal combustion engines. The conjunction of climate change, predictions of peak oil, and improving battery technology has spurred renewed interest in electric vehicles, and the ZCA plan takes this interest to its (assumed) logical conclusion stating:

    page 13

    Under the Plan, oil and LPG production ceases and the inefficient internal combustion engine is replaced with a combination of electrified heavy and light rail, electric vehicles, and some range-extending biofueled hybrid- electric vehicles.

    and achieving this through:

    page 17

    The plan proposes a large scale upgrade of public transport services, supplemented with a smaller-than- current private vehicle fleet, consisting of electric, battery swap and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Where plug-in hybrid vehicles exist in the fleet, the plan proposes that they use green biofuels instead of petrol or diesel fuel. However, the plan recommends a focus on development and rollout of zero-emission electric vehicles, rather than that of low emission fossil-fuel-powered vehicles. Additional energy savings can be accessed by reducing average distances travelled through better urban planning and localised access to services. A renewed emphasis on cycling infrastructure will encourage the use of bicycles in urban areas.

    The modal shift from private passenger vehicles to shared electric rail vehicles has the capacity to reduce the private car fleet by around 50%. The average car will travel 8000km p.a. instead of the 15,000km travelled today. ZCA2020 aims for Australia to have six million pure electric, plug-in hybrid electric and battery swap electric vehicles by 2020.

    The introduction of 6 million new vehicles in 10 years may seem a challenge, but Australians currently purchases around 1 million new vehicles every year. Demand for new vehicles is therefore strong enough to drive the introduction of appropriately-priced zero emission vehicles. The Australian fleet currently numbers some 12 million private vehicles. The Plan does not attempt to replace all 12 million vehicles, as it anticipates vast improvements to public transport, higher fuel prices, and hence reduced demand for private vehicles.

    It is difficult to comprehensively critique the EV proposal because of a complete absence of detail. It is not clear whether the proposal is included in the plan as a serious proposition, or a thought experiment in what could be technically possible if Australians were to theoretically install a benevolent dictator or wise king. There is a fundamental tension between, on the one hand, considering the proposal as a legitimate starting point for a discussion about future possibilities, and on the other hand, the serious implementation of the plan, given the assumed reduction in oil consumption (page 13).

    Possibly the most authoritative commentary on the future of EV’s is laid out in the International Energy Agency’s, Technology Roadmap: Electric and Plug-in Electric Vehicles (2009). The road-map suggests the possibility of global sales of

    0.7 million PHEV and 0.5 million EV in 2015 and;
    4.7 million PHEV and 2.5 million EV in 2020


    This is an ambitious but plausible scenario that assumes strong policies and clear policy frameworks, including provision of adequate infrastructure and incentives.

    and further noting

    This scenario achieves 50 000 units of production per model for both EVs and PHEVs by 2015, and 100 000 by 2020. This rate of increase in production will be extremely challenging over the short time frame considered (about ten years).

    Click to access EV_PHEV_Roadmap.pdf

    But, the ZCA plan states:

    page 17

    At the beginning of World War II, Holden was transformed from a struggling automotive manufacturer to a producer of high volumes of cars, aircraft, field guns and marine engines. Increased production to 900,000 vehicles per annum across the three existent auto plants is certainly achievable in the twenty-first century, and would allow the production of six million plug-in electric vehicles by 2020.

    It is hard to reconcile these competing claims, particular given that Australia represents 2% of the global car market, and further, the ZCA plan does not make recommendations as to what type of regulation or legislative process would be used to implement the industry and transport policy. A myriad of questions are not addressed such as; what do the other 37 makes of cars, selling more than 200 models in Australia do, who will decide which models to produce, how will the political ramifications of denying consumers the right to purchase cheaper petrol or diesel cars of their choice be handled, what should happen to the existing fleet of cars, how will retraining of the motor mechanic workforce be handled, will compensation be provided?

    Assuming that the EV proposal is plausible, the ZCA plan assumes a dramatic ramp-up in public transport, resulting in a 75% reduction in total passenger vehicle kilometres. Infrastructure Australia produced a recent report detailing which public transport projects it considered high-priority, noting

    Australia relies heavily on the productivity of its cities for national prosperity. The majority of our population and businesses are located in urban areas, and our cities are hubs of economic activity that link Australia to the global economy. The rapid growth and development in these hubs has imposed challenges relating to patterns of growth, water supply, urban congestion, patterns of advantage and disadvantage, climate change and adaptation, and pressures on public finance. Australia’s transport systems are especially struggling in the face of these challenges with public transport growing rapidly in recent years and reaching capacity limits in most major cities.

    Click to access National_Infrastructure_Priorities.pdf

    To address the most the most immediate, Infrastructure Australia produced a list of 11 public transport projects, totalling $38B. The implementation of these projects would allow, broadly, Australia to maintain business-as-usual in the context of increased economic activity and population increase. It is difficult to estimate the cost of building public transport infrastructure, combined with improved town planning, that would allow a 75% reduction in total vehicle kilometres, and the absence of detail in the ZCA plan does allow allow a critique of the proposal. Indeed, such a dramatic reduction in the context of increasing vehicle usage seems implausible at face value and no evidence is provided to support the contention that such a dramatic shift has ever been achieved in a prosperous, functional, democracy at any time.

    In summary, a considered debate might well conclude that carbon pricing, corporate average fuel economy standards, research and development funding, industry tax concessions, among other incentives, might assist Australia’s transition from oil dependence, and indeed, Australian policy development has lagged global developments. However the ZCA proposals appear to have emerged more as a thought bubble than a realistic appraisal of achievable outcomes, and perversely, retards genuine debate in making that transition a reality.


  18. I am used to the lunatics like Lisa Jackson in charge of the EPA in the USA. Somehow I thought that Australians were too down to earth to put up with such nonsense. Now I am beginning to wonder whether the rot has spread all the way to the antipodes.

    Apparently you good folks have a government organization called ABARE that writes reports containing statements like this:
    “The key Plan assumptions we questioned were the use of 2008 energy data as the benchmark for 2020, the transfer of close to half the current road transport to electrified rail and transfer of all domestic air travel and shipping to rail…….”

    The only way to achieve the scenario described is for the government to take direct control of transportation across the nation. That implies nationalizing those industries. Can any sane person seriously advocate such a policy? This kind of thing has been tried all around the world with disastrous results. Why would something that has never worked anywhere else be a success in Australia?


  19. Peter,you, and now Martin, provide a much need voice of quantitative reason in the ongoing renewable at any cost crusade. Whether your analysis is 70 percent or some other percentage correct, its real importance is that it shows the unworldliness of the ZCA2020 plan.

    It is time we started calling wind for what it is, renewable, but no saver of GHG and therefore to be dismissed instead of being dressed up with OCGTs or much less credible and even more wasteful “solutions.
    Perhaps then we can move on to a totally realistic analysis of real options, very limited as they are. The Renewables Crusade still, after nearly a decade of wandering in the technical wilderness, needs to be based on a very clear definition of the problem; always the classic start to any search for a solution.

    Wind is clearly renewable. that is as long a s the sun shines, but we have no technology to turn it into GHG savings. It really is, to be kind, a faux renewable and a huge waste of public and private assets.


  20. Galopingcamel, we can’t blame ABARE for that statement. That is from the authors of the report, a group that calls themselves “Beyond Zero Emissions”. ABARE is an a authoritative source of information on Australian resources and energy matters, although even they sometimes bend to the politics of the times, such as the 2010 update of the Projections of Energy Demand and supply to 2029-30. They dropped the BAU projections and replaced it with a projection that includes the mandated Renewable Energy Targets. That makes it impossible to get base figures for what would be the case without the political intervention. I believe this was a serious mistake by ABARE and clearly driven by election year politics and ideology of the government. When we reach the stage of having our base statistical projections manipulated, we are in trouble.


  21. That review shows that the plan works and the comments show that it can still be improved.
    Maybe it would require (forced) investments from energy producers. Just make sure there is no excessive profit for some years until the plan is on rails.
    There is also a lot of work to be done in building an renovation standards.
    There should be a change to ground heatpumps and water-water heatpumps.
    Distributed heat in communitys that is more predictable and can be planned with reserve so that no pump has to run 100%.
    If you give free loans for heat pumps you can make conditions (smart grid, load balancing, excess capacity).
    Another part to work on is the wind/solar industry.
    Also there shoud be no problem with 60c kWh. In some parts of Europe the price is higher.
    Its not free but it is a goo plan.


  22. When they get serious, they can do it!

    The point with electricity is that most of us will just charge from home. The average trip is what, 30km to work? 40? The Better Place mass-produced EV’s are expected to have a range of about $150km (and that’s NOT your top-of-the-line luxury EV that already has a range of 300 MILES).

    Most of us will just charge overnight at home, and not need the street-parking charging points. EV’s already HAVE an infrastructure. Peak oil hits soon. Electricity is estimated to cost half the price of oil on a / km basis. I’d gladly pay $1000 to get a charge box attached to our car-port. There’s 90% of my driving looked after right there!

    And about 50 to 70% of our driving can be powered from the spare off-peak capacity.

    But wait there’s more! Employers will quickly install charge points for their employees. Shops may attract customers by adding charge points. EV plug-ins will become the new priority parking, down near the Disabled spots. (As has been the pattern in Israel as Better Place is deployed).

    So yes, London is disappointing. But as a species we only tend to act when we have to. Just wait till after peak oil.


  23. @Stephan

    I think you are making things up. Domestic electricity at lower use rate (ie the higher rate) in France is 0.138 euro per KWh. All the EU prices are here: http://www.energy.eu/#industrial I don’t see anything that looks like AUD 0.60 per kWh.

    It should be obvious by now how politically difficult it is to get any serious action to mitigate climate change. If the price is too high, then it is not going to happen. That’s the way it is whether we like it or not.


  24. Martin Nicholson is a writer at online opinion. I’m sure he could offer a corrective.

    If you don’t believe the ZCA study, do the modelling yourself.

    Sounds like a good idea Peter – have you thought of doing this?


  25. Somebody on thepunch mentioned the Cloncurry 10MW CSP power station with graphite storage that got lots of publicity a couple of years ago. Things have gone very quiet now. Has it been abandoned and if so why?


  26. eclipsenow,
    For once I agree with you. An affordable electric commuter car is something that many people would buy, especially as the operating cost would be much lower than your average automobile.

    Such a vehicle was test marketed by General Motors in California over 20 years ago. Many people liked its performance even though the range was limited. Sony made a movie about it called “Who killed the electric car?”

    General Motors is now launching the complex and expensive Chevrolet “Volt”. Certainly not the commuter car that many of us are looking for.

    Peter Lang,
    I am relieved to hear that ABARE is not going the same way as the EPA!


  27. The problem is you technical boffins have a very difficult message to communicate. Dick Smith did a great job of illustrating the risks of a “big Australia” last night because there are such concrete examples of where it can go wrong. EG: Visiting nice little old ladies living in their homes with 5 and 6 story monster apartments going up around them, public transport crowding, dying soils, dying rivers, etc.

    But the nuclear V renewable message is so much harder to communicate the REAL and concrete issues involved in it because those issues are not as demonstrable in real life.

    It’s all tables and charts. As a lay-reader the closest thing I’ve seen to a concrete example is the French V Denmark poster idea by Marion.

    So I’m wondering if anyone has any mates in movie production? We need a DVD to hand to a “Dick Smith” sponsor for nuclear power activism… someone rich with some time on their hands. Any suggestions on a DVD or on a sponsor? We need it.


  28. Wright was interviewed on ABC Midday Report and gave the impression that the launch went well. The host quizzed $37bn X 10 years as unrealistic without querying if even that was way too low. It would seem that the ZCA ‘thought experiment’ could now be laid to rest. However I suspect politicians will henceforth use it as a copout.

    Whenever clean energy comes up they will say the ZCA plan is there but the people don’t have the will to implement it. Bollocks. It’s the politicians job to help solve the big problems like the low carbon transition. If they believe in fantasies they are not fit for office.


  29. @J Newlands, re: ZCA:

    Mark Aarons in his “The Monthly” (Melb.) video interview just now as ex-NSW-ALP-insider seems to agree with and add to you by saying the following:

    Federal politics in AU is driven by what will play to the focus groups of voters in ca. 20 marginal swing seats. What plays is perceived by the party functionaries as “hip-pocket, what’s in it for me, I’m alright, Jack”. Like you, Aarons deplores this slavish following, rather than leading, of voters.

    Question: how to get from here to there? That is, it seems that only noticeably cheaper power from nuclear than coal straight away will appeal to those focus groups, at least as perceived by the party campaign planners.


  30. Gallopingcamel,

    I’m not so sure that Gen IV nuclear is available right now at commercial prices. I would be happy to see real starts on 1 Gen III+ nuclear power unit annually – say 800MW/year.

    Unfortunately, Australia closed its door to nuclear generation a couple of decades back and went so far as to pass federal laws preventing even costed proposals from being considered. This happened when coal fired power stations were being added to the grids at an average of at least 3%pa.

    Short of a revolution in public opinion and action by the politicians, those who would like to consider nuclear options don’t even get a seat at the table.


  31. John Bennets,

    You are dead right. Even if there is a seat at the table – the 150 people citizens assembly proposed by the government – the representatives will be seleted to ensure the majority backs the government’s policies. What a farse!

    Peter Lalor

    You are correct on one point. We need real leader ship from our governments for the long term good of the country.

    Unfortunately, you and I are diametrically opposed on what we believe is the long term good of the country and the world, and even further apart on the best way to achieve what is best.


  32. @Palmer and Bennetts:

    I see that you are implying that the Gorton govt. of 1969 was interested only in civilian nuclear power. Thus is history suppressed on BNC for current purposes. Have you never seen film of, or do you remember, Baxter/Titterton?

    The much-reviled Diesendorf is not the only one in AU to have drawn attention (eg during his Adelaide debate with Brooks and Blees) to lines 1 and 2 of the ABC “Rear Vision” link that Palmer has set as a URL.

    So it would seem incumbent on you for the sake of your PR to highlight the ostensible lack of any link, historically or technically, between A-weapons and civilian NPPS.


  33. Thanks and kudos to Peter and Martin for the critique.

    It remains clear that, contrary to its presentation, the ZCA Plan is aspirational. It is useful to have this expounded on in some detail, but unfortunate that some may take this as a lay down misere against renewables.

    I want to add to what Neil Howes has already said in relation to keeping some (and maybe quite a few) gas turbines in the mix. Calculations on getting supply to meet demand in an electricity system can be exquisitely sensitive to what happens at the extremes, and what happens temporally. I recognise that the LOLP comments are a sort of caveat in this regard. There may be, and probably are, substantive sensitivities to (i) the degree of renewable penetration (50%, 75%, 90%, 95%, 99%, 100%); (ii) the sophistication of the system and market in being flexible with demand. The natural match between solar output and aircon use may also have a major impact on the calculations. Maybe it is for me to do the work I propose, but one way or another I look forward to seeing these sensitivities examined.

    Remember also that it’s about The Story – it usually is. I reckon that many are taking the ‘Climate Change’ story too literally, in much the same way that some do with the Old Testament / Torah (and I mean no disrespect to these important texts). Renewables are another sort of story, which can lead to another brand of zealotry – one that is rightly criticised on BNC.

    IF one believes that it is necessary for Australia to *totally* remove coal and gas from the generation mix in the next decade or two, then on this basis it is probably correct that Nuclear is the dominant viable option. But the presumptions here are global: who really thinks it wise to promote the rollout of many thousands of Nuclear Power plants into all parts of the world? Many say NO; some say Yes, and quite a few (including myself) judge this as a premature / last-worst option.

    Please let us not be distracted by extreme plans underpinned by extreme assumptions and presumptions.

    I say we have both time and a responsibility to make significant efforts in developing and integrating renewables into the energy mix; these discussions aid that development. I very much hope that, collectively, we can take this discussion forward and look more carefully at the extent to which Australia can develop renewables; both for our own energy needs, and to contribute to the development of these technologies for global deployment.


  34. Oh man… if only I wasn’t in a career change…

    Sounds great Ms Perps! I’m wondering who should contact?

    With today’s technology people can get good HD home video cameras, shoot a few takes of various scenes, send mail them to the willing editor, and the editor/writer can co-ordinate the rest from their! Professional productions like Dick Smith’s last night of course have footage of him walking all across the country, but we don’t need that.

    Barry as a talking head in one seat, other experts as talking heads in other settings all break up the monotony.

    Cool music, a few graphs of the points we are making, and a story that creatively works through the history of renewables and nuclear and compares and contrasts them could do the job.

    The DVD is already half written with the Q&A post here. Footage of a few of the scientists Barry’s met in the USA might not hurt either.

    But the ultimate goal is a cheaply produced activist DVD that we can download and burn to DVD and hand out ourselves, much like the Chris Martenson peak oil DVD project. (This is about 3 hours of lectures… he calls it the “Crash course!”)


  35. Just musing:
    This price of CSP at ~15 million dollars per Mega Watt translates directly to $15 / Watt. Straight PV solar is now only a few dollars per Watt, although I must immediately note that PV has a capacity factor of ~25% and no storage capacity. None-the-less, peak demand associated with aircons is directly matched with PV supply. Maybe PV isn’t as economically stupid as I have thus far thought, given the way in which the price has dropped. Anyone with information on what the floor is for PV pricing?


  36. Francis PV-AC is too expensive for 7 million homes and who knows how many offices, factories and shopping malls. If a typical ‘inverter’ air source heat pump draws 2500w then PV at $6/w will cost $15,000 per house plus the cost of the AC installation. Admittedly many of those rooftops could be feeding the grid while the owners are out. If I recall Graham Palmer said centralised grid generation and transmission to cover AC needs cost $1,300 per household. Shame it has to be coal or gas fired.

    Then you have the problem of the hot night when humidity retains the heat of the day. If I recall the week when outer Melbourne got to 48C one evening it was still 35C at midnight. Without even more costly energy storage solar electric AC won’t help at night. I expect southern Tasmania to routinely hit 40C each summer which was almost unheard of in the 20th century. With an ageing population heat waves become a public health issue. Whatever the answer is I don’t think PV is it.


  37. Fancis,

    Your posts give me the impression you are advocating RE no matter what the cost just because you believe it is good. That worries me.

    The cost is the key issue in the end. Nuclear would cost about 1/5 to 1/10 as much as RE to do the job. And any mix of technologies that includes RE (wind solar and the other fringe technologies) is going to be higher cost than nuclear (even cheaper with a little pumped hydro storage, but of the type that is suitable for matching with baseload power supply, not that advocated by Neil Howes).

    You make many statements that are not valid. For example, “PV gives 25% capacity factor”. It does not. And solar is perfectly matched to peak demand. No it is not. These statements are just false. Solar can play a small role in helping with peak demand, but is is a very high cost solution.

    If we don’t consider cost, then the arguments are irrelevant in the long run. No amount of wishful thinking can make these 100+ year old technologies (wind and solar thermal power) suddenly become economic.

    We are wasting our resources chasing the renewables dream. We’re wasting our wealth and wasting time. On that latter point, if the arguments you present, had not been presented with such passion and effect for the past 40+ years, and entrenched in laws some 20 years ago, we’d have much lower emissions than we do now, and be well on the way to the zero CO2 emissions stationary energy society.

    By the way, I have no problem with rolling out nuclear across the world. Small units like the hyperion would be ideal if the cost was competitive. I believe the best we can do for humanity is to provide low cost, clean reliable electricity supply. Renewables fail on all three of those requirements.

    Also note that nuclear is about the safest of all the electricity generation technologies that are capable of meeting the requirements we place on our electricity supply system. Nuclear is about 10 to 100 times safer than coal. By opposing nuclear (in reality you are whether or not you state it that blatantly), you an dothers who make these arguments are in effect prolonging the time until we, and the world, can have cleaner, safer electricity.


  38. Francis,

    You say:

    This price of CSP at ~15 million dollars per Mega Watt translates directly to $15 / Watt. Straight PV solar is now only a few dollars per Watt,

    Very interesting topic. I’d be very interested to hear what you believe would be the cost of solar thermal electricity with 17 h storage?

    Once you’ve checked that out, then tell me what it would cost for solar thermal with adequate storage to get through 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 30, 90 days of the worst winter conditions that could ever occur.

    If you want to use biomass backup as ZCA does, then lets have a proper cost for the logistic system to collect the wheat storks from the wheat fields and get it to the solar power stations (without using any fossil fuels).

    Regarding having gas back up generators. Of course that is what would be done with any solar plant. All the other plants being proposed around the world are solar/gas hybrids. If we simply want to back up with gas, then we’d need a massive build of gas generation. Add that cost to the cost of the ZCA plan. If we want to replace the biomass heaters at the solar power stations (the ZCA plan proposes that pelletised wheat storks will heat the molten salt energy storage when the sun isn’t shining), with gas heaters, then there is a high cost to get run high capacity gas lines to the twelve proposed sites for the solar power stations.

    Francis, think cost!!!


  39. Peter, just some quick points in response:
    1. As you may know I do not think it useful to speculate on individual motivations; worry away if you must, but please be careful about what you imply.
    2. I worry when I see the words “not valid”, especially when followed by misrepresentations of what I actually said.
    I’m leaving it at that, for now at least, as I do not think my comments have been taken in the spirit I intended.
    3. I’m at a loss to understand what you have read into my solar comment.
    As it happens it’s 1am where I am now, so maybe I’ll be able to make more sense of this another time.


  40. Francis,

    You say:

    Straight PV solar is now only a few dollars per Watt.

    No, it isn’t.

    The Windora solar PV station at Windora in central Queensland provides an insight into the real cost of current state of the art PV.

    The reality is, this state-of-the-art solar PV station costs $34.6/kW and that is for a part time power supply that is backed up by fossil fuel generators. That is the reality of where we are at.

    Here are the figures:

    Commissioned date Oct-09
    Capacity (nominal) (MW) 0.13
    Energy (MWh/a) 360
    Capacity Factor 32%
    hybrid % ?
    Capital cost (M) $4.5
    Capital Cost ($ million) $4.5
    Cost per kW $34,615
    Cost per average kWy/y $109,500


  41. Fancis, sorry if any offence was taken. None meant. I am simply using your comments as a good opportunity to explain what I think needs to be explained for many readers, not all of whom are posting comments here but are still gaining information from the discussions.


  42. Peter Lalor, you said

    “I see that you are implying that the Gorton govt. of 1969 was interested only in civilian nuclear power ..”

    Why did you make this up? How could you possibly have created this idea in your mind from my post?

    I posted the link for interest – the first half of the program was devoted to weapons!


  43. Mistake:

    “The reality is, this state-of-the-art solar PV station costs $34.6/kW and that is for a part time power supply that is backed up by fossil fuel generators.”

    The figure should have read $34.6/W or $34,600/kW


  44. That $6/w for residential PV I quoted is after rebates. What I fear now is that gas boosting of solar thermal will be treated as ‘honorary renewable’. First gas boilers on the CST site then later standalone gas generators in other locations that appear to serve the CST unit. There is a precedent for such doublespeak since heat pump water heaters became eligible for solar rebates even if they live in a dark cupboard.

    Heaven help us if gas indirectly receives RECs or feed-in tariffs (Greens policy) because it is deemed renewable by association. Note in another ‘2020’ report the transport gurus think both gas and electrification must address Australia’s growing oil import dependence. Automotive Australia 2020


  45. Francis, You say:

    It remains clear that, contrary to its presentation, the ZCA Plan is aspirational

    “Aspirational” is not the word I would choose to describe the ZCA plan. Words that come to my mind a re:

    I say misleading because of the many false and misleading statements throughout, e.g.

    1. the plan is based only on commercially available, costed technologies

    2. baseload solar power exists now

    3. Discount rate used in analyses of 1.4%

    4. risk rate for a very safe investment (no one would invest in this scheme; it is extremely high risk)

    5. All domestic ship and air transport would be converted to electric rail (in ten years!!!). Just think bout what that would mean in terms of electric rail lines being run all over the country to every town where there is an airport or airfield. The rail lines at $15 million per kilometre. None of that cost is included in the plan.

    6. all bus travel would be moved to electric trains (in 10 years!!)

    7. half the road transport and road freight would be moved to electric vehicles and electric trains ( in 10 years!!!!)

    And to think that people swallow this sort of complete and utter nonsense. Francis, please find a more appropriate word than “aspirational” to describe the ZCA report.


  46. @ Peter Lalor, on 13 August 2010 at 22.05:

    Said: “@Palmer and Bennetts: I see that you are implying that the Gorton govt. of 1969 was interested only in civilian nuclear power. Thus is history suppressed on BNC for current purposes… highlight the ostensible lack of any link, historically or technically, between A-weapons and civilian NPPS.”

    Peter may believe that there is always a direct link between nuclear generation and nuclear weapons proliferation. I do not. The reasons have been well explored by Barry on this site, as well as elsewhere by many others.

    Peter, rather than sit by making personal attacks based on things which I have NOT said, please read “Why Vs Why – Nuclear Power”, Pantera Press, 2010, by B Brooks and Ian Lowe. This small, cheap book states quite clearly the two opposing cases and presents basic discussions of each others’ points of view. After reading this book, we could perhaps resume this discussion, but based on a set of commonly held facts and easily understood principles.

    I have no interest in re-living, for no other reason than because that is where you choose to start, the years 1955 to 1980 of my life. In 2010 the options available to us are urgent and the consequences of failure dire. I certainly was anti-nuclear till a few years back. Now is the time for all of us who were anti-nuclear in 1980 to clear our heads and to determine the least worst solution to our grandchildren’s problems.


  47. the least worst solution to our grandchildren’s problems.

    This may be the way ahead for some. I don’t love nuclear power. I kind of think it is a ‘necessary evil’. I love POWER, civilisation, energy, and all the good things they give us. Having studied the energy collapse scenarios for 6 years and freaking out about the potential risks ahead, it is the simple fact that we just don’t have any other choice that has won me over.


  48. Neil Howes,

    You said:

    Peter Lang,
    Costs are based on the revised assumptions of peak demand and reserve capacity. If these assumptions are wrong, costings will be wrong.

    The statement is partly true. The revised cost estimate is also partly based on the revised unit cost ($/kW) of the generators.

    Martin answered your comment up thread. But I’d like at add another point. There has been a history on BNC of attempting to raise a relatively a small issue, make an issue of it and then exaggerate that to say ” the costs are being inflated by 100%” as you said in your comment. This demonstrates an inability to see the order of magnitude of the components. Some peak shaving, probably more than is possible in 10 years, is already included in the revised estimates. The amount of peak shaving due to late night chargjng of electric vehicles and improved network is simply not going to give the enormous benefits you are arguing – not in 10 years. Graham Palmer has coverd this in one of his posts.

    I would urge you to consider just how significant is the error you feel you have identified when you put it in perspetive. How significant is it given that the revised estimate is at least 5 times higer than the cost of the nuclear alternative to the ZCA plan. I hope you will actually consider this, provide your revised assumptions and the costs rather than more arm waving like

    If neither are required, or there are much less expensive options the costs are being inflated by 100%

    I should also repeat that the ZCA assumptions about what can be achieved as far as moving transport from fossil fuels to electricity are totally unrealistc. I’d suggest your point about the peak demand and reserve capacity margin are wishful thinking rather than a rational assessment of what is possible to achieve in 10 years.


  49. PV and air conditioning

    The combination of solar and air conditioning has been researched a number of times in Australia, including a study conducted by Muriel Watt from UNSW with support from Origin Energy

    Click to access value%20of%20PV%20in%20summer%20peaks.pdf

    It turns out, not surprisingly, that solar output tracks peak demand from air conditioning reasonably well during the middle of the day. The problem occurs during the afternoon and early evening when the residential peak remains but solar output drops to zero. The installation of west facing panels, in preference to the usual north facing, improves afternoon output, but will substantantially reduce aggregate annual output. The other obvious problem is cloud cover or rain on an otherwise hot day. Watt notes that the correspondence of high solar output during the middle of the day may offer opportunities to improve the value of PV by supplementing peaking plant during periods of high wholesale price. Certainly, the opportunity for householders to access high wholesale prices would be an advantage for PV, but the feed-in tariffs have essentially superceded the opportunity to access high spot prices, giving consumers artificially high prices all year round. Watt notes that PV on commercial premises provides a better match for commercial air conditioning than residential.

    In another report, ESTA Utilities noted in a study on demand side management trials in South Australia:

    This trial highlighted the benefits to be obtained from PVs for feeding electricity into the grid from an alternate and renewable energy source. However it also highlighted that, as expected, this energy is not available to meet residential peak demand as the peak PV output is not coincident with the residential peak demand.

    The conclusion to be drawn therefore, is that PVs are of little use as a mechanism for reducing peak load. This is a reasonable proposition, however smart grid technology and the evolution of legacy networks into smart grids holds the potential of changing this.


    In summary, although rooftop solar offers a partial solution some of the time, it does not reduce the requirement for network or generation upgrades, and “poles and wires” remains the preferred robust solution to maintaining a reliable network.


  50. no worries Peter, I can appreciate the frustration, although my frustration is located elsewhere.
    The principle point I wanted to make is that critiquing the costs of a 100% renewables transformation in a decade does not usefully address the question of what achieving 50% (say) renewables in two decades might look like. Thus far at least, I’ve got no problem with burning some more gas. I can understand if you, or others, do not see this as a question that you are inclined to engage with, but if it can be treated as something akin to gentlemanly sport (in good humour, some give and take), then maybe we can set some boundaries for an OzEA analysis of this sort.

    As initial thoughts, such an analysis needs to: (i) be considered principally as an exploration with costings developed over several iterations (rather than as some sort of bullseye blood-sport), (ii) be predominantly empirical in the temporal analysis of both supply and demand (i.e. no blunt capacity credit calculations), and (iii) be mildly generous in the demand-flexibility stakes (i.e. tentatively accepting of plausible mechanisms for establishing a rational electricity market in a renewables context). I’m not big on electric cars. And I’m not looking to fudge over the variability problem; I want to face it square and establish what solutions, costs and compromises are involved in handling it.
    This is what I want to be doing in any case, and I’d be pleased to discuss the framework a little here if others are interested.

    Finally, while keeping an eye on BNC, I have only read a small part of the blog. Is there a post, or a small number of posts, that give an overall plan (with costs) for a Nuclear rollout in Oz?


  51. Is there a post, or a small number of posts, that give an overall plan (with costs) for a Nuclear rollout in Oz?

    Good question Francis. Peter Lang did a ramp-to-replace-coal calculation in the Emissions Cuts Realities paper. It calculates the costs and the CO2 savings over time assuming present black coal is decommissioned at 1 GW/yr and brown coal at 0.4 GW/yr, while nuclear, and various other technologies, are ramped up to fill the gap to projected demand.

    This is not an overall ‘plan’ though. I think one reason is that for renewable technologies the big question is one of capability – can renewables service our power requirements, can they work? The case has not been made that they can work at any price, and attempting to make this case is really the point of the ZCA2020 exercise.

    Whereas, there is no such question with nuclear power. We know it can work because I can point to France as an existence proof, with a nuclear-hydro grid, and a slip of fossil fuel that probably hasn’t been retired yet solely due to gallic equanimity. And we know how much it cost, and the cost of electricity it produces.

    Unlike renewable power, we don’t need to cover the credibility gap of storage, of intermittency, of demand reduction and management and of heroic transmission system upgrades. A nuclear rollout plan is not much more complicated than ‘choose your desired coal plant retirement schedule, and build new nuclear and current contract rates to replace coal and meet new demand’. Its not very exciting, or technically very interesting.

    But I think this would be an excellent project to pursue. Not in the aggregate economic approach Peter used, but at the level of the discrete generating units, ie a shutdown schedule for named coal and gas power plants.

    The key question for renewables is capability, and the various plans try to address this question. The key question for nuclear (in Australia) is social and political acceptance, and a simple rollout plan does not address this or demonstrate anything we don’t know already. Thats why I think there aren’t any similar nuclear rollout plans.


  52. Francis,

    You said:

    The principle point I wanted to make is that critiquing the costs of a 100% renewables transformation in a decade does not usefully address the question of what achieving 50% (say) renewables in two decades might look like.

    We’ve alread done this here: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/09/emission-cuts-realities/

    The conclusion here and in all rational analyses comes out the same, no matter how it is done. Renewables (wind, solar and the other fringe ideas) are very expensive and any mix that includes them in any proportion will be more costly than nuclear.

    This is the vision we should be striving for in two decades:

    This is the lowest cost claan electricity we can get. I agree, at the same time, we must and we will improve efficiency, improve demand side management and improve end use management (smart grid) as part of all this. But we must do so at a rate that is economically viable.

    You ask:

    Finally, while keeping an eye on BNC, I have only read a small part of the blog. Is there a post, or a small number of posts, that give an overall plan (with costs) for a Nuclear rollout in Oz?

    The link posted above considers six options for transitioning all our electricity generation to zero carbon technologies. It compares the six options on the basis of:

    Total Capital cost
    Capital expenditure per year
    CO2 emissions per year
    CO2 emissions avoided per year
    Cost per tonne of CO2 avoided
    Electricity cost for the replacement technologies

    The six options compared are:

    1. Business as Usual (using the ABARE projections to 2030 and extended to 2050)

    For all other options we decommission coal powered stationsat the rate of 1 GW/year black coal and 0.5GW/year brown coal). The five replacement options are:

    2. Combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT) only

    3. Nuclear and CCGT

    4. Wind, CCGT and OCGT

    5. Solar thermal and CCGT

    6. Wind, Solar Thermal and CCGT


  53. Francis,

    I posted my reply above before I read John Morgan’s much better response. He also knows the ‘Emissions Cut Realities’ paper better than I do. He is correct that the assumed rate of decommissioning brown coal is 0.4GW/year.

    I also left out the link to this excellent site that shows what fuel is generating France’s electricity and shows how much CO2 is being emitted now.
    Scroll your mouse left and right over the stacked area chart and notice the changes in the pie chart below. Notice how much electricity is being generated by fossil fuels. Notice how much is being generated by wind and solar. This is the real world, Francis. This is where we are at after 30 odd years of people before you trying to make wind and solar power a viable technology for supplying our electricity.


  54. David Benson,

    Thank you for that (new?) NEI link to the small reactors. http://www.nei.org/keyissues/newnuclearplants/newreactordesigns/
    I notice the claimed cost of the Hyperion is only $4/W ($100 million for 25 MW). Wow! If that is even close to correct there would be nothing to stop these or the PRISM being installed in small towns all over the developing world (with an interconnecting transmission grid of course).

    That is how we could really bring low cost, clean, reliable electricity to the developing world and bypass the fossil fuel stage that these countries will inevitably go through if they cannot get access to cheap clean electricity.

    It is so clear to me, why can’t everyone see it?

    Francis and Neil Howes,

    I hope you may respond to this question. I am genuinely interested to hear why you persue and advocate the renewables dream. I can understand why people who haven’t crunched the numbers are ‘RE believers’ and call people like me “RE Deniers”, but I don’t understand why people who have crunched the numbers are still RE advocates.


  55. Has anyone done a plan for a complete replacement of all fossil fuels with nuclear power, especially nuclear?

    When peak oil hits, all bets are off in terms of which way governments might respond in the panic. It would be great to have a nuclear plan geared towards solving peak oil!

    How would that work? 97% of Australia’s freight is by truck. (Source: “Australia Pumping Empty”). When one considers the fact that oil is the means by which we construct nuclear power plants, we can see the sheer urgency of having a plan that addresses oil vulnerability in the agriculture, transport, and construction industries. We need time to build out the next generation of energy systems.

    The Guardian is even saying that peak oil is the ‘villain’ that western governments need to get started.



  56. David B. Benson, on 14 August 2010 at 10.37:
    That was a very interesting link you supplied. One of the topics discussed was how the licensing process that regulated the first 104 NPPs in the USA has been improved.

    Then I asked myself why so few NPPs are scheduled in the USA over the next 10 years. I suspect the biggest problem is the new “streamlined” licensing process, Take a look at:

    Apparently, “streamlined” means a 10 year process even if nothing goes wrong!


  57. John Bennetts, on 13 August 2010 at 19.21 Said:
    “I’m not so sure that Gen IV nuclear is available right now at commercial prices. I would be happy to see real starts on 1 Gen III+ nuclear power unit annually – say 800MW/year.”

    There are plenty of great BWRs designs that have been proven in the field. These present low technology risk choices for Australia.

    In my more fanciful moments it occurs to me that even a country with limited resources (e.g. Australia) is capable of developing small Gen IV reactors on its own. A very large country with a low average population density needs small, cheap NPPs so as to reduce the need for extensive high voltage distribution networks.

    Personally I distrust NPPs that have flammable materials inside the core of the reactor. The graphite in the RBMK is what spread the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster over a large area. IFRs may be Gen IV but they use sodium that reacts violently with both air and water. Fortunately, there are alternative designs such as LFTRs that operate at one atmosphere pressure while using no flammable materials at all.

    When my feet are back on the ground I realize how hard it will be to get even one NPP commissioned in Australia. If there ever are cheap factory built LFTRs they will probably be developed in India or China.


  58. Peter Lang,
    I am genuinely interested to hear why you persue and advocate the renewables dream. I can understand why people who haven’t crunched the numbers are ‘RE believers’ and call people like me “RE Deniers”, but I don’t understand why people who have crunched the numbers are still RE advocates.
    Firstly renewables are not a dream, Australia is currently generating about 1.5GW av hydro and 0.6GWav from wind. The other viable low carbon sources of electricity, nuclear, solar and geothermal are generating zero or a very small amount of power at present.
    Secondly I am in favour of Australia building nuclear as fast as possible but dont realistically see even 1GW of nuclear completed before 2020, and it would be a stretch to have >5GW by 2030. Thus to reduce or eliminate almost all coal-fired power we need to expand the present wind power, start on solar, nuclear and geothermal but accept that they are not going to contribute before 2020.
    What can wind power contribute in next 10 and 20 years? With suitable transmission upgrades to high wind sites on EP(SA) SW coast (TAS) and SWcoast (WA) we should be able to build an additional 20GW capacity( >35%capacity factor) by 2020 to generate a total of 7GWav(22GW capacity), and >14GW av( 42Gw capacity) by 2030. If solar nuclear and geothermal together generate 7GW by 2030 this would totally replace all coal-fired power. Additional potential demand would have to come from either using more NG or greater reduced demand or a combination of both. We would still be producing CO2 but it would be much less than at present even if NG fired power is increased.
    Beyond 2030 all options from going >80% nuclear to >80% renewable would still be open. If instead we decide now that only one option is going to be viable(CCS, nuclear, wind , geothermalor solar,) we are not going to be able to phase out coal-fired power by 2030 and we may find the chose option is the most expensive.
    If oil availability is severly limited by 2030, we are going to need to transition most cars and light trucks to electric or PHEV. You are probably correct that VMT will not significantly reduce becasue of the problems of switching to mass transit. This is going to mean an additional 20% increase in demand for electricity but mainly at off-peak periods.


  59. Camel,
    how is Australia’s resource for LFTR’s? Do they burn waste? Not sure about thorium, and don’t have time to read pages and pages… what’s the message in a nutshell?

    EG: How bad is the waste, can it be burned like in IFR’s, etc.


  60. Neil,

    I have difficulty with what you say and believe.

    First, why do you refer to hydro as part of your solution?. There is no more economically viable hydro available. And as we’ve discussed many times the little hydro we have already is needed for stabilising the grid (providing power and frequency balancing) even when we have responsive fossil fuel generators. You cannot assume the hydro we have is available to be used for firming wind. Forget that idea, it won’t happen.

    Second, you seem to believe that wind power would be reliable if we had a large enough grid. There is no evidence to support that belief. In the absence of such evidence we should assume the firm power from wind is near zero.

    The fact that wind is generating 0.6GW average is irrelevant. We don’t have energy storage and we have plenty of evidence that wind often generates zero power over the whole of the NEM. Wind is a massively expensive, highly subsidised, toy that is being built purely because of irrational policies driven by belief in the population. The belief is being driven by the sort of arguments you and other RE believers continually propagate.

    You seem to ignore the fact that wind power avoids next to no CO2 emissions when emissions from the back-up generators are included. So why are we spending so much money on subsidising wind power for effectively no CO2 savings?

    The cost of the grid you want is huge, and for little benefit. So why advocate it?

    You say:

    What can wind power contribute in next 10 and 20 years? With suitable transmission upgrades to high wind sites on EP(SA) SW coast (TAS) and SWcoast (WA) we should be able to build an additional 20GW capacity( >35%capacity factor) by 2020 to generate a total of 7GWav(22GW capacity), and >14GW av( 42Gw capacity) by 2030.

    I ask “So What”. What is the use of 14GW average power if it is sometimes zero or near zero and we don’t have energy storage? (and please don’t repat the hydro nonsense again)

    Regarding what could be done with hydro, if we adopt the same assumptions as the ZCA report, we could have 1000MW of nuclear under construction next year! And have all our electricity provided by nuclear by 2020!

    Although this is ridiculous, we could certainly cut CO2 emissions much faster by focusing on nuclear than we will by wasting our time and resources rolling out wind and solar.

    Importantly, as long as you and other RE believers keep pushing RE as a major part of the solution, as you do, you give the impression to the public that we do not need nuclear. The little aside statements you make to say we need nuclear too don’t count, because in effect you keep pushing renewables, not nuclear. This is very damaging and is delaying progress. We had the same words being said by some back in the 1990’s. We haven’t moved forward. We are still blocking nuclear and you are doing nothing to overturn that. In fact you are doing the opposite.

    By the way, I find it annoying when you mislead by implied misquote. Including hydro in your renewables totals is misleading. We do not have more hydro sites. Its share of electricity generation is steadily decreasing and is now less than 5%. What we are talking about is wind and solar trying to provide a large share of our electricity generation capacity. It is impossible. Any that we build are very costly. They avoid next to no CO2 emissions and any they do avoid are at very high cost.

    The cost of wind power that can meet our needs (i.e. including the back up generators) is about three times the cost of nuclear:

    And saves no CO2 emissions: http://www.masterresource.org/2010/06/subsidizing-co2-emissions/


  61. Congratulations to Martin and Peter on a solid critique.

    one typo … page 14, $15 billion/km of electified rail looks like it should
    be $1.5 million.

    Regarding Bob Brown and others. The interesting thing about this
    critique is you actually have to read it to find out that a bunch of
    “small” changes to assumptions can make a huge difference in
    the bottom line. There isn’t one killer assumption that destroys
    the BZE report, it is a collection of little things (some may disagree
    about what constitutes “little” :)).

    One confusion I had, reflecting my lack of background in the
    technicalities is the precise meaning of “17 hours storage”.
    Does this mean that each solar plant can
    store the equivalent of 17 hours at peak output? If so, then as you
    add more reserve margin, you may not need to scale the 17 hours
    up. The demand won’t increase just because you add more reserve.
    So the number that seems to be important is how many hours of
    expected demand can be supplied by the system at night (ie zero sun) without
    a breeze. Maybe this number is harder to calculate, but it seems
    to be crucial.


  62. Geoff Russel,

    You are correct about the typo error of $15 billion/km. In fact it is out by three orders of nmagnitude, not ther one odrder you so kindly suggested. But it is a typo in the text, not an error in the calcualtions. the figure should read $15 million/km and is based on the BZE figure from here and several other sources:

    Beyond Zero Emissions (2009): Fly by rail – zero emissions transport capital to capital


  63. Geoff Russel,

    You asked:

    One confusion I had, reflecting my lack of background in the technicalities is the precise meaning of “17 hours storage”. Does this mean that each solar plant can store the equivalent of 17 hours at peak output? If so, then as you add more reserve margin, you may not need to scale the 17 hours up. The demand won’t increase just because you add more reserve. So the number that seems to be important is how many hours of expected demand can be supplied by the system at night (i.e. zero sun) without a breeze. Maybe this number is harder to calculate, but it seems to be crucial.

    Yes, 17 hours storage means 17 hours of generation from storage at full power.

    You say/ask “The demand won’t increase just because you add more reserve.”

    I think you may be misunderstanding what the reserve capacity margin is. It is the extra capacity we need above peak demand to allow for the fact that not all our capacity will be available when called on. Some power stations are not available and some will or may go off line at the time of peak demand due to unscheduled interruptions. The operators require 33% reserve capacity margin in our systems, as they are now, to cover for these potential problems. As we point out, the correct amount of reserve capacity margin could only be calculated with a proper loss of load probability analysis (LOLP).

    In my opinion a much higher reserve capacity margin would be required with a system that relied on new, immature technologies like wind power, solar power and a supply of wheat storks from the wheat growing areas for the times when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining!

    Seventeen hours storage is not enough to ensure even one day of full power, as admitted in the Plan. We can run for days at a time with overcast weather. The ZCA plan assumes we can run on wheat storks during that time! And the wheat storks will be transported from near the wheat fields to the power stations by electric train. I am being a bit sarcastic, but you get the gist of how ridiculous their plan is.

    The calculation of reserve capacity margin in our critique is not dependent on the hours of storage. It depends only on the calculated peak demand and the 33% reserve capacity margin.

    Our critique generously assumed that the solar power stations (with wheat storks back-up) would have the same reliability and availability as our coal and gas fired power stations, no matter what the weather conditions. A very generous assumption!


  64. Martin and Peter,

    Congratulations on an informative post.


    It seems to me to that you do little to enhance your cause by failing to appreciate that not everyone shares your absolutist point of view. Although I, personally, come very close to being in full agreement with you, it must be evident that, at present, most Australians apparently don’t.

    As an example, you ask Francis to explain why it is possible for someone “who has crunched the numbers” to continue to pursue “the renewables dream”. The inference is either that you genuinely wish to have your views challenged and possibly altered or that you are trying to pick a fight. As far as I am aware, Francis is not pursuing any sort of dream. He is leading an open science research project, a project that is fully endorsed by Barry, which seeks to discover in an objective fashion what, if any, level of wind penetration makes economic sense. It is clear that, given your views, your answer would be none and that of Neil Howes might approach 40%. Don’t you think that it might be more politic to allow Francis to get on with his job? If what you believe is correct, Francis’ result will be closer to your figure than Neil’s and will be more likely to be taken notice of because of his perceived lack of bias.

    However, the absurdity of a renewables only solution probably does need a full frontal assault, not least because it tips the playing field against nuclear power, misleads the public and its attempted implementation will prove extremely costly to taxpayers.

    Finally, given your penchant for sarcasm, perhaps you could appreciate the following; Unless you have a unique species of avifauna in Australia that has useful Phoenix-like tendencies which render it useful as a source of biofuel, I must suppose that the storks to which you refer are, in fact, wheat stalks, generally known as straw.


  65. Barry:

    Could you or, alternatively, a guest contributor produce posts on the following issues?

    1) The different ratios of total costs to overnight costs of different generating technologies and the influences of plant size and discount rates.

    2) The adverse impacts of energy market liberalisation on nuclear deployment prospects and the optimum ways of addressing them.

    I understand, in a very hazy sort of manner, that over half the LCOE derived from nuclear power is due to financial charges which are influenced by build time and discount rates. Charles Barton has been suggesting that building costs of smaller nuclear plants (say 100MW) do not suffer from lack of scale on a $/w basis relative to those of their big brothers and, further, that they should be capable of more rapid deployment ( which should reduce finance costs and risk premium). Are there persuasive contrary arguments in favour of larger plants other than the fact that there are currently few licensed designs of the smaller versions?

    Congratulations on your science communication award.


  66. France’s electricity generation yesterday

    3% = export (constant throughout the day)
    0% = coal (all day)
    1%-2% = gas (all day)
    1% = wind (all day)
    2%-12% = hydro
    82% – 92% = nuclear
    600 – 1000 t/h CO2 emissions from all France’s electricity generation

    It works!
    It has been working for 30 years.
    It is cheap.
    It is clean.
    It is safe.
    What else do we want?



  67. Combining biomass boilers with CST would present similar problems to converting coal stations to nuclear since what should be a clean operation will be contaminated with grime. Dust and soot will settle on mirrors. Huge sheds will be needed to keep the straw dry. The straw boiler would need to be close to the molten salt heat exchanger. It may need to be kept permanently hot to enable quick power up. The ash will be discarded nearby when it really should go back on the fields in the high rainfall areas. I would like to see one real world example of a CST plant combined with a straw boiler even allowing for delivery of straw in non-electric trucks.


  68. what I find remarkable is the reliance on wheat stalks as backup power. They intend to produce 15GW of power from wheat. That’s more power than all the coal power stations of NSW combined.

    Currently the sugar mills Condong and Broadwater burn the waste from sugar cane (bagasse) grown in the northern rivers and produce a mere 60MW on a good day. How they intend to get 15GW from wheat escapes me.


  69. Regarding wheat stubble/stover/stalks/residue. Here’s a quote from
    one of the world’s foremost soil scientists, Rattan Lal from a letter to
    Science last year (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/reprint/326/5958/1344-b.pdf)

    “The agrarian stagnation and perpetual food deficit in sub-Saharan Africa is attributed to severe soil degradation (1, 2), caused by extractive farming practices that involve continuous removal of crop residues for use as traditional biofuels and cattle feed. This has created a negative nutrient budget.”

    Australian farmers are similarly running down soil by removing
    crop residues which they regard as untidy waste … which is part of
    why the biggest expense on almost all Australian grain farms is
    fertiliser … which small scale African farms can’t afford.


  70. @ John and Geoff,
    and so why oh why farmers don’t gather all the crop residues and biochar them totally baffles me. That, combined with ‘crop and cow’ rotation and other methods of recharging the soil, could radically increase carbon retention in the soils AND reduce the amount of high-embodied energy fertiliser applied to the soil. It also reduces fertiliser run-off into rivers, and dead zones in the ocean. It also reduces much more powerful nitrous oxide emissions.

    It’s win – win – win – win – win, and why we aren’t doing it now beats me.


  71. @ Peter Lang,

    What else do we want?

    I’ll tell you what I want, freedom from OIL! I know this is a critique of the BZE Stationary energy plan, but didn’t they write it to also cover transport energy?


  72. @ Janama,
    What? They’re trying to generate ELECTRICITY from wheat stalks!?

    In a world running short of liquid fuels that just seems MENTAL to me. Every part of the economy should be switched to electric transport ASAP, and yet there will still be a huge demand for liquid fuels in sectors with heavy machinery, such as construction, mining, agriculture, etc.

    So ALL sources of energy that can easily be prioritised for liquid fuels should do so. Agriwaste = biochar for the soils, carbon sequestration for the planet, and syngas/liquid fuels for the harvesters and rural community, NOT electricity when we can so easily get all the electricity we want from nukes!


  73. Settle down, Janama, it will not happen.

    This flight of fancy is based on assumptions that all the agriwaste will be carried by non-existent electric trains to non-existent power stations and fed through non-existent switchyards to non-existent HV transmission lines throughout the country.

    There’s no chance that this will ever happen in the world which you and I live on.


  74. OOPS!

    I meant for eclipsenow to settle, not Janama.

    This report will do much harm in the short term, but it may eventually help people to see the futility of the proposed solutions and thus, by a process of eliminating that which cannot work, arrive at workable solutions to Australia’s energy needs.


  75. Peter Lang
    I ask “So What”. What is the use of 14GW average power if it is sometimes zero or near zero and we don’t have energy storage? (and please don’t repat the hydro nonsense again)
    You have provided a scenario where wind would account for 30% of power and NG most of the rest. I would agree that it would be necessary to back up almost all wind average output(14Gw).
    What I dont agree on is:
    (1)your assumptions that wind could only be 30% ( capacity limited to100% of av demand) because dispersed wind farms will almost never generate at 100% of installed capacity, probably more like 60% of capacity. Secondly there are large wind resources that can support >37% capacity factor (>30GW on EP alone). Thus without storage and just NG back-up could have wind accounting for 63% av (capacity 166% of demand).
    (2) you have demonstrated that building 2.5 to 8.5GW of pumped storage in Snowy mountains is feasible and could allow 500- 1500GWh storage depending upon which existing reservoirs are linked with 1-3 tunnels and reversible turbines. Dont repeat that nonsense that “wind power cannot be used to power pumped hydro”, it wouldn’t, wind would feed into the grid as it does at present and the grid would drive variable output pumping turbines.
    With 6GW of pumping capacity an additional 10GW of wind capacity could be used, and with 8.5GW of additional hydro capacity NG back could be reduced by 8GW or 8GW of existing coal-fired power retired and mothballed.
    If demand was 30GW av this would mean, 21GW av wind(57GW capacity), with 22GW of NG (7.5GW av)being used at 34% capacity factor. Present 5GW hydro could be used to stabilize demand at 22% capacity factor. Additional wind capacity in TAS up to 2GW would need no storage beyond the existing hydro dams that are presently being used as base-load power and would not require any NG back-up so probably 20GW of NG back-up would be adequate.
    Importantly, as long as you and other RE believers keep pushing RE as a major part of the solution, as you do, you give the impression to the public that we do not need nuclear.
    Other nuclear countries such as China, Canada, US and France are also building renewable energy, and have plans to expand nuclear. I very much doubt that renewable energy in the 1990’s prevented Australia developing nuclear, blame cheap coal -fired power. This, and CCS dreams are still a major obstacle for preventing a start to nuclear. Perhaps in 20-30 years solar will be cheaper than nuclear and you can then validly make this claim.


  76. Neil,

    I have read and reread your point 1 several times and I don’t understand it. Could you lay it out so my simple brain can understand what you are saying.

    With point 2, it is totally wrong as I have explained a dozen times.


  77. eclipsenow,
    As with IFRs, the LFTR can “burn” higher Actinides so it has the potential to reduce the inventory of materials that would otherwise be destined for geologic storage. Its primary fuel is Thorium which is more abundant than Uranium. Without reprocessing, Uranium reactors generally “burn” less than 1% of the Uranium contained in each fuel rod, whereas all of the Thorium fuel is eventually consumed in an LFTR

    Unlike earlier generation NPPs, on site reprocessing is simple so there is no need for large centralized facilities like La Hague for PUREX and related processing.

    There are technical difficulties with LFTRs that DV8 mentioned before he went on walk about. For example, materials that can handle molten fluoride salts at high temperatures , in the presence of high neutron fluxes are hard to come by. Is this a potential “show stopper”? I wish I knew the answer to that question.

    I have posted the following entertaining link featuring Joe Bonometti before, so apologies to folks who have already seen it:


  78. eclipsenow: If you leave the stubble in place and plant through it, then its
    carbon will be eventually incorporated into the soil at a rate dependent on
    temperature, humidity and the like. If you gather it all up … this takes
    energy … make it into biochar and take it back to where you got it from (preferably
    close by), then you may get somewhat more carbon, but at a complexity
    and possibly an energy cost.


  79. Geoff,
    the Eprida groups say every 10 tons of biomass put into a biochar cooker makes 3 tons diesel and 1 ton biochar.

    They have mobile biochar units that can save on collecting the biomass from the farm to some centralised plan. I’m not sure if this costs various efficiencies though. See point 8 here for photo’s of the mobile cookers.


    Half the fuel is lost in the next biochar burn, so maybe it might even make sense to run the biochar cooker off our plentiful nuclear power. This could double fuel output.

    Anyway, with ratios like 10 tons biomass to / 3 tons fuel returned, surely there might even be an argument for transporting crunched up compressed biomass to a centralised plant for that kind of fuel return. Road-trains can carry a few hundred tons of biomass to the biochar cooker & mini refinery, and then fuel can make it back into the rural community as needed.

    Regional studies and / or the marketplace can optimise this.


  80. Geoff Russel,

    What do you believe would be the unit cost for electricrified rail lines, running around our inland areas (including all infrastructure and rolling stock)?

    Please give me some suitable references. We also looked at other sources, such as the Melbourne to Brisbane line (not electrified and mostly using existing rali lines) and the Port Kembla line freight line to the coal mines near Appin also not electrified) but thought the BZE reference would be on the low side, despiite being VFT. So if you or anyone else can give me good authoritative figures for cost of electrified railways to run from the wheat fields to the power stations, that would be great.


  81. Peter, John et al – I’ll get back with some specific responses later – at the moment I’m on network rations (in France and Italy as it happens).

    Just quickly, I strongly contend that language like “RE believers” is unhelpful. If it helps, perhaps you can view me as akin to a barrister who has taken on a case; within the confines of good conduct I will pursue that case with vigour. In reality there is very little that I “believe”. Perhaps it is also helpful to recount these words of Popper: “the growth of knowledge depends entirely upon disagreement”.

    I’ve only started crunching the numbers – still getting my head around a pile of issues, and sometimes this process is positively vertiginous. I’m still reading and digesting the brief if you like. As previously this is an empirical exercise rather than a blunt statistical one.


  82. Francis,

    Since you are in France, could I suggest you take the opportunity to visiit an NPP. Its an opportunity too good to miss, and very few in Australia have had such an experiecne. It will broaden your understanding.


  83. Just quickly, I strongly contend that language like “RE believers” is unhelpful.

    I agree. Base reality is non-partisan. What is, is. We become partisans by investing ourselves in something over and above that base. Threatening the personal construct takes the debate away from the simple facts into much murkier waters. Best to stick with objective reality in pressing the case.


  84. gallopingcamel, The materials problems of LFTRs are by no means a show stopper. While the preferred containment material is a relatively expensive Nickel alloy, with a few compromises, the use of far less expensive materials is possible, For example, by dropping core temperature by 100 C degrees, you can substitute steel. This compromise still means that the LFTR will operate at 100 C degrees hotter than an IFR, so it will potentially have greater thermal efficiency.


  85. Peter Lang

    The arguments you present are valid and straight to the point. You are absolutely right that renewable energy dream is just a fantasy heading for a failure. Your analysis completely confirm my belief I hold for a long time. I highly appreciate your effort to present the argument and put the real numbers on the table.

    Using biomass to fire solar thermal power plants at the time sun does not shine is one of the worst ideas one could come up with.
    Removing large amount of biomass from the fields will lead to soil depletion, hence it will eventually affect food production. Besides, I would like to see how the proponents want to collect all that biomass and transport it to power plants without burning fossil fuels. The electric rail infrastructure running on carbon free electricity does not exist (except France) and it will not exist anytime soon because the financial resources will be squandered on unworkable solutions. Anyone who build any power plant using biomass as fuel is well aware of the immense infrastructure needed to handle dispersed solid fuel like biomass. I build two small power plants, one solid wood waste fired (1MW) and one landfill gas fired(1.2MW) so I am well aware of solid fuel handling and ash disposal problems even for a small power plant.

    It is this previous experience that made me firm believer in nuclear power. France is a typical example that has everything the environmentalists talk about, low carbon emission, clean environment electric rail system and inexpensive electricity. France achieved all of this with nuclear power while those trying to go via renewable energy have accomplished nothing so far except more fossil fueled electric generation.
    In short, if there is any better power source than nuclear I want to know about it.


  86. peter lang:

    how did you find that amazing french site that details power use during the day?

    what an informative site! fun too. fun enough I might skip a meal playing around on it.

    I realize this makes my life sound less than optimal, but everyone should check that (the site, not my life) out.

    today, middle of summer, nukes are providing from 83 to 91 percent of French electricity demand, not to mention the exported power.


  87. John Morgan and Francis,

    Just quickly, I strongly contend that language like “RE believers” is unhelpful.

    The example and precedent has been thoroughly established all over BNC for example the term “Deniers” is all over the site. There is a heel of a lot of cleaning up to do if you are going to stop peole for using short hand like “anti-nuclear” “pro nuclear” “anti-renewables”, “pro-renewables”, “RE-believers” etc. I will continue to use such short hand to replace a long sentence to explain what I mean in politically correct language.


  88. The Greens leader, Bob Brown, Senator Milne, other Greens senators, many members and senators of the Labor party and some in the Liberal party have demonstrated they are not competent to handle their responsibilities.

    These politicians and many senior academics provided enthusiastic endorsements for the “Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan” which advocates Australia could and should replace all fossil fuel use with solar power and wind energy by 2020.

    However, apart from the report being grossly misleading in many ways, it appears the authors may have intentionally misrepresented their credentials for the job. I have received two email in the last two days and I quote them below.

    What’s really odd about this report is the difficulty of establishing the credentials of the authors. Try to understand the capabilities within ZCA and you’ll see what I mean. Many of the ‘team’ use only their first names. What’s going on? Presumably there are some lead authors from Melbourne Uni but I can’t figure out who they are.

    The other email said:

    This is not a serious research project. You will see the author list on page viii of the report. Apparently the “researchers” are all PhD students or young recently graduated engineers, some of them participating outside their areas of expertise. There is nothing wrong with that of course. People are entitled to develop their own ideas so long as they are honest about how they present themselves. This report is not honest however. For example on page viii the listed researchers include:

    • “Derek Bolton … Oxford Univeristy” yet there is no one in the Oxford directory with this name;
    • “James Bramwell … ANU” yet there is no one in the ANU directory with this name;
    • “Kevin Casey … formerly Ericsson” yet apparently not affiliated with this company any longer;
    • “Dominic Eales … Swiss Federal Institute of Technology” yet there is no one in their directory with this name, though there is someone with a LinkedIn profile with this name who claims to be a “Wind Data Analysis Engineer” with the “Alternative Technology Association” in Melbourne;
    • “Rob Campbell … RMIT” yet there is no one at RMIT with this name, though there is someone with a LinkedIn profile with this name who claims to be a “solar subject matter expert” at Jemena and who was previously a “home sustainability assessor at ecoMaster”.

    I think you get the picture. Incidentally, Matthew Wright, the Executive Director of “Beyond Zero Emissions” and one of the lead authors on this plan was previously a technical sales engineer at HP and a climate campaign educator at the non-profit “Climate Positive”. This is a report by non-experts, and it shows in stark terms what it is possible to imagine if only you are prepared to come to a massive problem like this without any experience and with the boldness to make those assumptions that wiser and more expert individuals might have shied away from.


  89. I think you get the picture. Incidentally, Matthew Wright, the Executive Director of “Beyond Zero Emissions” and one of the lead authors on this plan was previously a technical sales engineer at HP

    Oh dear! I suppose that would be the best possible background for the sales proposal of the Plan.

    Having worked in computing for more than a few years both as a senior developer and senior tech support and mostly for vendors ranging from large multinational to startups, I must say that I find it hard to believe that in any other area of economic activity there is more crap sprouted than in sales of computer systems and services.

    Perhaps a long stint in the implementation side of the business would have tempered a tendency to overly optimistic projections.

    Yes, I’m being a little facetious, but there is a element of truth too.


  90. Peter L., I agree it is strange that many of those who endorsed the ZCA plan apparently do not exist – at least not in the position they were ascribed. However, I would strongly urge you to resist the notion to attack the ‘expertise’ of Matt Wright. This wanders dangerously down the path of attacking the man, not the ball, much as has happened to me in the past. It is fine to put more faith, a priori, in authoritative bodies such as ABARE or the IEA, but that is quite a different matter to dismissing someone’s arguments just because you don’t judge them ‘appropriate’ to comment. That would rule out commentary from most people on almost every topic — high undemocratic and quite unfair if they are arguing something that is logical and supported. It is best to simply stick to attacking the veracity of his theories, using evidence-based analysis. You are doing this exceptionally well, and I suggest you stick to this line of questioning.


  91. Peter Lang – “fraudulent
    deep green religion
    gullible (like Uni of Melbourne and the academics for endorsing it).

    I say fraudulent because of the many false and misleading statements throughout, eg”

    Are you here accusing the University of Melbourne of academic fraud? If so this is a very serious charge and if repeated in a public forum would I think result in considerable embarrassment. I would suggest that you do indeed modify your language or back up your fraud claim with data and/or modelling other than the hand waving you are engaging in here.

    As other people have pointed out the BZE plan is an aspirational plan. I am absolutely sure that it contains questionable assumptions that you rightly contest however you must be prepared to back up your attacks with modelling and data that show these assumptions to be false. If you cannot do a LOLP analysis why not ask someone who can? Did you ask the BZE authors whether this important piece of the puzzle was done or not?

    I question the biomass generation part of the BZE plan as this does not seem to me to very practical when simple gas backup would be far cheaper and easier and would eliminate the incredible $54 billion you have added in to account for the rail network. Also as Neil has pointed out mothballed NG plants that can be brought online in under a day would very cheaply cover even the stretch operational reserves that you demand. The smart grid is a reality and we in Australia are far behind and getting further behind. This active and smart demand management could reduce the requirement for the large operational reserves as noted in the Western Wind and Solar study done by the NREL.

    In short the BZE plan at least gives an indication of what can be done in Australia with renewable energy. I am sure that as Francis has noted this is an extreme RE plan and as such is unlikely to be completely practical. Neil has rightly pointed out that even the most optimistic nuclear person could not see more than 1GW of nuclear in Australia by 2020 which I agree with. In that time many gigawatts of wind and solar could be built with only the growth rates that have been sustained for the last 5 years all around the world, including countries with large installed bases of nuclear power. Are you suggesting that we do nothing for 10 years waiting for nuclear power? My more moderate suggestion is to go ahead with as much wind and solar as we possibly can fostering green industries. We can indeed build a nuclear reactor as this seems inevitable given the level of entrenched fossil fuel people who cannot imagine power coming from anything other than a baseload plant. In 2020 when/if the NP plant is operating we can do a cost accounting then and see whether going forward to 2030 whether our money would be better spent on NP or RE solution. As at least some of the proposed solar thermal plants would be operating then so we could meaningfully compare the relative cost/benefits.

    I think a hybrid plan going forward would be far more productive than either an extreme nuclear or an extreme renewable solution. I will be interested in your nuclear plan for Australia. I hope you include the same cost projections ie: a 260% upside cost for your nuclear power plants.

    However as far as I can see from the tenor of your posts you seem to think that renewables are a waste of money that would be better spent on nuclear. I think that this is unfortunate as I am pretty sure the best interests of Australia lie in a more moderate attitude rather than encouraging polarisation in the way you and others at BNC do.

    I am prepared to accept at least one nuclear power plant, are you ready to accept a reasonable build out of renewables and smart grid upgrades? Remember the grid upgrades and increased interconnection network will lower the operational reserve requirement for a nuclear build out just as much as a renewable one.


  92. So much fascinating stuff in those electrical load figures from France and the UK.

    One of the things that struck me was how much electricity the UK buys from France; close to 2 GW during recent months. Compare that to <150 MW from wind power more often than not .

    I was in the UK a year ago and was struck by the number of windmills and yet the power they deliver is pitiful. The country is too small and crowded for wind power to be scaled up by a factor of 50 which is what it would take to retire their fossil fuel plants.


  93. Stephen Gloor,

    I advocate the least cost approach to generating electricity (with externalities included). I have explained why on this thread and expanded on the lead article in the comments.

    I advocate progressively tightening the emissions limits on electricity generation. I do not support a price on carbon until we have removed the impediments to a level playing field for electricity generation. That must come first in my opinion.

    You asked:

    I will be interested in your nuclear plan for Australia.

    I refer you to this:
    This makes it clear why I advocate we focus on nuclear and why I am convinced we are wasting money and time chasing the RE dream.

    You said:

    In short the BZE plan at least gives an indication of what can be done in Australia with renewable energy.

    No, it definitely does not. The plan is a complete sham. It is based on non existant technology. Read the critique above.

    You say:

    In that time many gigawatts of wind and solar could be built …

    So what. This refers to capacity. This does not provide power on demand. The RE technologies do not exist to replace fossil fuel power stations.

    You said:

    I think that this is unfortunate as I am pretty sure the best interests of Australia lie in a more moderate attitude rather than encouraging polarisation in the way you and others at BNC do.

    Coming from you, that is an example of extreme hypocracy.


  94. Gallopingcamel,

    You said:

    The country is too small and crowded for wind power to be scaled up by a factor of 50 which is what it would take to retire their fossil fuel plants.

    No amount of wind power can retire any fossil fuel plants because the wind sometimes doesn’t blow at all!!


  95. Peter Lang – “Coming from you, that is an example of extreme hypocracy.”

    Thank you Peter for your considered and reasonable reply. I think we can see quite well how extreme your views are. Mine are somewhat more moderate however I am more advocating now limits to growth before considering energy supply whatever that will turn out to be.

    I see you dodged the fraud thing – are you retracting these statements?


  96. @Ender,

    Yes, I could meet you half way on industrial-scale renewables. For instance, the seemingly inevitable rollout of desalination plants seems an ideal match for renewables, and should be entirely supported by them, as the desal process shouldn’t care about intermittency issues. Indeed, I’d make it illegal for desal plants to draw a joule of energy from the grid. Burning fossil fuels to get drinking water is criminally insane.


  97. Mark I think you would need a battery bank to do reverse osmosis desalination using intermittent power. RO needs sustained water pressure (27 bar I think) plus backflushing and pumping to water mains. Hence the notion of grid supplied power ‘offset’ by renewable such as Sydney’s Kurnell desal and Bungendore NSW wind farm. However Peter Lang and others would argue there is little if any point to this in terms of emissions reduction.

    Just to be sure the wind farm should be directly connected to the desal and both off the grid. A wild guess is that battery smoothed windpower might add 4 kwh X 10c = 40c on top of $2.50-$3.00 or so per kL of RO desalinated water. The 10c is mainly depreciation on the batteries. I call on the next PM to make it compulsory.


  98. Peter Lang – “I see you dodging the economics issue, as always.”

    Not dodging at all. As Neil pointed out your selection of 25% over peak as reserve done with CSP plants unrealistically inflates your costing. He pointed out much lower cost options which you ignored. I pointed out 54 billion in savings from your costings as gas can replace biomass. He also pointed out, which you also ignored, that pumped hydro can be some of the reserve capacity. If you ignore reasonable objections and suggestions then it shows you do not want a reasonable critique, just one that shows renewables are crap and nuclear is good.

    Certainly the BZE is too low cost and unrealistic in implementation timeline however your estimate is way way too high. This reflects your extreme views just as the BZE’s extreme views on renewables probably makes their estimate too low.

    I don’t think a true costing can be done until we have a working solar thermal plant with storage built in Australia. Under current policies, or complete lack of them, from either Liberal or Labor this seems to be just as unlikely as a nuclear power plant. So we may never know what the true costings are.


  99. Peter, Stephen’s sounding quite calm and reasonable at the moment. Rather than firing off a howler, why not answer his objections? Nuclear will still win in the reliability and cost stakes, but it’s better to be credible than ruled out as merely factional.


  100. @Stephen Gloor (Ender)

    I don’t think a true costing can be done until we have a working solar thermal plant with storage built in Australia. Under current policies, or complete lack of them, from either Liberal or Labor this seems to be just as unlikely as a nuclear power plant. So we may never know what the true costings are.

    Very true. It’s impossible to conceive of any national policy commitment to a grid based on renewables until that happens. This is the real task for renewables advocates – get one of these things built. It’s got to be of a decent size, not a toy.


  101. “3.Nearly all transport is electrified and a substantial proportion of the travel kms are moved from road to electrified rail including 50% of urban passenger and truck kms and all bus kms. All domestic air and shipping is also moved to electric rail.”

    I actually share Peter’s objection to this assumption. I see far to many people that their beloved Commodore would only be prised from their cold dead fingers for this to have much chance of succeeding.

    Electric cars in Australia and perhaps much of the world will be for many years a fringe solution for enthusiasts like myself who will be getting one as soon as it arrives in the showroom. They will be also be the ideal second car as long as our society remains affluent and this thing is still commonplace.

    I am not a fan of Fuel Cell vehicles powered by hydrogen as I consider them very wasteful compared to a Battery Electric Car however the user experience of the FCV is so similar to that of a IC car that this I think will be the acceptable solution despite the greater inefficiency. Certainly they have the backing of the major car corporations. Plug in hybrids (PHEV) may fly for a while however the FCV is a PHEV with a fuel cell rather than an IC engine. The step from PHEV to FCV is a small one.

    The consequence of this is that there will be a lot of hydrogen flowing around which is good news for solar thermal. Instead of being locked to fossil fuels the increased demand for hydrogen will hopefully make solar hydrogen viable that can be a renewable backup fuel for CSP. For you nuclear people, high temperature nuclear can do the same thing so there is something in this for all of us.

    Air travel is another thing. I don’t think that there is any chance of biofuels powering anything but the military and really expensive air travel. Peak Oil will drive up fares until no-one can afford to travel anymore so the collapse in air travel perhaps is spot on. If we have no alternatives in place such as electric trains then interstate travel could grind to a trickle. In this BZE I think is saying that we have to replace air travel, not because they do not like it, but because the oil that runs it will not be available at current prices and consequently air travel will stop or drastically contract.


  102. Slightly off topic, but very relevant to issues of national energy policy and very encouraging:

    Construction of Chinese ‘Nuclear City’ to start

    “The Nuclear City is expected to have four main areas of work: development of the nuclear power equipment manufacturing industry; nuclear training and education; applied nuclear science industries (medical, agricultural, radiation detection and tracing); and promotion of the nuclear industry.”


  103. quokka – “Very true. It’s impossible to conceive of any national policy commitment to a grid based on renewables until that happens”

    And also its impossible to conceive of any national policy commitment to a grid based on nuclear until an operating nuclear power plant is in Australia.

    Wind is a different matter as we have plenty of wind farms so we can go full steam ahead on this. We will not get to 30% which most studies show can be accomodated on a normal grid with only minor changes for a few years yet.

    We also can go full ahead with energy efficiency gains as these are usually revenue positive as companies save money in just about all cases.

    We also need a carbon tax to fund the energy efficiency gains. At least the BZE report has got us talking about alternatives. It is unfortunate that this blog favours nuclear as the alternative however at least it is something and who knows Peter might be right in the end and nuclear is the answer – I certainly can’t say that it isn’t.

    The point is that we need to start cutting our energy demand to similar levels as Europe. I do not share Peter’s concerns here. ABARE are notoriously conservative and largely in the grip of the fossil-fuel brigade and usually minimise the gains that energy efficiency can make.

    ““Australia has very large scope for reducing emissions through energy efficiency,” said Jonathan Jutsen, executive director of Energetics, the major consultant to large businesses on energy and climate change.
    “The Australian economy is only about 10% efficient – this means that 90% of the energy in the fuel we dig up is lost in the supply chain and end uses,” said Mr Jutsen.”


  104. And also its impossible to conceive of any national policy commitment to a grid based on nuclear until an operating nuclear power plant is in Australia.

    Not true. Nuclear power would not require a radically new type of grid, at least not while we were phasing out the coal contribution to supply. The one we have now would do fine.


  105. Certainly the BZE is too low cost and unrealistic in implementation timeline however your estimate is way way too high.

    If you think our estimate is way too high, please explain why you think so. Give us your actual revised assumptions and calculations. One at a time would be best. Not just hand waving and saying “you are wrong”. I’ve been through that too many times with you on previous threads to be bothered going through that nonsense again. But I am happy to deal with the exact assumptions and your exact revised recalculations.

    This reflects your extreme views just as the BZE’s extreme views on renewables

    I’d say the opposite. I’d say my views are formed by 40+ years dealing with all types of energy including managing a substantial number of renewable, energy-end-use and efficiency-improvement programs. On the other hand, I have the impression that you are simply a renewable energy zealot now trying to disguise your extreme views.

    I don’t think a true costing can be done until we have a working solar thermal plant with storage built in Australia.

    True. And we wont have solar thermal that can generate baseload electricity until around 2025 to 2030 according to DOE, EIA, IEA or 2020 at the earliest according to the NEEDS solar thermal advocacy report. By which time we could have 10 or 20 GW of nuclear if we wanted to. Or, if we use the same ridiculous assumptions as the ZCA2020 Plan we could replace all our fossil fuel generation with nuclear by 2020.

    Under current policies, or complete lack of them, from either Liberal or Labor this seems to be just as unlikely as a nuclear power plant. So we may never know what the true costings are.

    I agree. However, policy can change quickly. Hopefully, no government would be so irrational as to waste much more money on solar power stations. Hopefully, they will become more rational, as the Europeans are, and cut back on the subsidies and other favourable treatment for wind power. And hopefully they will become sufficiently rational that they lead the population with:

    Friends, Australians and Countrymen,

    If we want to cut GHG emissions,
    If we want clean electricity,
    We can have it at high cost or low cost!
    Which do you want?

    Options are:
    Very high cost with renewables
    High cost with nuclear under an US, EU type regulatory regime
    Or low cost nuclear
    if we adopt a low cost regulatory regime and remove all impediments that are tilted against nuclear energy.

    Stephen, if you genuinely want to cut CO2 emissions, the only way it will happen fast is if we can do it at low cost. So it is up to the anti-nuclear agitators like yourself to, hole your nose, see the future, admit you were wrong and change sides.

    Become an enthusiastic advocate of low-cost nuclear energy for Australia.


  106. EclipseNow,

    I saw your post after I’d posted mine. There is history with Stephen Gloor. Let’s just see if he actually wants to put up genuine questions or alterative assumptions and calculations of revised costs. Based on past history I do not expect he will.


  107. Stephen Gloor,

    I do not share Peter’s concerns here. ABARE are notoriously conservative and largely in the grip of the fossil-fuel brigade and usually minimise the gains that energy efficiency can make.

    I presume you mean that ABARE’s projections have a history of overestimating demand growth and underestimating energy efficency improvements? Can you demonstrate that?

    Their job its to provide the best projections they can for decision making.

    You comments is veruy interesting because the same thing has been repeated continually by the wishful thinkers. They were saying the same sorts of things, as you are sayin now, but back in the early 1990s. ABARE proved correct, the wishful thinkers were wrong.

    I’d trust ABARE’s forecasts over the extremist energy conservationists and RE activists any day.

    Stephen, you may be interested in the posts by Graham Palmer up thread.


  108. I’ll rephrase this bit:

    Options are:
    Very high cost electricity with renewables and carbon tax or ETS
    High cost electricity with nuclear under an US, EU type regulatory regime and carbon tax or ETS
    Or low cost electricity with nuclear
    if we adopt a low cost regulatory regime and remove all impediments that are tilted against nuclear energy.


  109. Peter: I’ll do some digging into rail costs, but its not clear why the
    any extra biomass rail infrastructure has to be electrified … if you can run
    a backup generator on biomass, then why not run the train on it? Plenty of
    steam rail buffs would work on the project for nothing :)!. I reread the BZE section on this and it clearly needs far more work … but they don’t pretend that
    all the details are nutted out. One thing I agree with Ender about is that this
    plan is aspirational … not a complete engineering plan. Another iteration
    of planning would look at actual worst case scenario planning and
    model the details … and that would still be a few iterations short of
    a real plan. Real plans take real resources and time.
    It’s clear (and very disappointing) from Bob Brown’s response, that he and
    many others don’t understand the kind of detailed planning that goes into
    large engineering projects … they seem to think the BZE report is
    more than a basic first ideas/goals document.


  110. Geoff Russel,

    When a preliminary analyses shows that one alternative (eg the ZCA plan) is twice the cost of another (nuclear) (which the ZCA2020 costs estimates are), then you should put most of your effort into developing refining the lower cost option, not the higher cost option.

    When you realise that the higher cost plan is actually five times more costly than the lower cost option, you should shelve aby further work on the higher cost option altogether.

    However, Neil Howes and Stephen Gloor want to keep exploring the higher cost option and are not in the slightest interested in developing the lower cost option.

    That demonstrates, they are not interested in real solutions, only in pushing their beliefs in renewable enegy


  111. Sorry EclipseNow,

    I have a very high regard for ABARE. I reckon they do as well as can be done on resource and energy projections, given the uncertainties. They provide us with the equivalent of the ABS. We rely on their projections. That is not to say they are completely immune to political interferences, as has been demonstrated during the term of this government – eg the latest projections of energy supply and demand to 2030 is the first time in 20+ years these projections have been bent to support the government’s politicies, as opposed to providing totally impartial projections.

    If you want projections to suit an ideology you go elsewhere. Greenpeace and the like provide plenty of such ‘honest broker’ projections to support their ideological beliefs.

    I don’t know what you mean about the ‘misinformation aboiut peak oil’. What is your source that you feel is more authoritative than ABARE?


  112. Stephen Gloor,

    A reality check on energy efficiency:

    Vaclav Smil, 2005, Energy at the Crossroads, page 335

    Indeed, the entire history of Western modernization can be seen as a quest for higher efficiencies as generations of engineers have spent their professional lives wringing additional returns from their contraptions and as entire nations, guided by that famously invisible hand, have been relentlessly following the path of reduced waste and higher productivity. But the outcome is indisputable: global energy consumption is far higher than the rate of population growth and the need to satisfy not just basic existential needs but also a modicum of comfort and affluence.

    Boeing and Pratt & Whitney have been tirelessly working on improving aircraft fuel efficiency without government mandates or carbon taxes for decades. The result: we now have more aircraft flying more people further, consuming more Jet A/A1 than ever. The Australian Building Codes Board has been ratcheting up energy efficiency standards for new buildings over the last decade. The result: we have a growing population living in larger homes, with less occupants per dwelling, enjoying greater thermal comfort, and larger flat screen televisions. We can, and should, do more to reduce the energy intensity of our lives, but to believe that we can, or will, make a sudden, sharp and sustained deviation from long term historical trends is delusional.


  113. Frank Kandrnal

    Thank you for that informative comment. It is valuable to have contributions from people who have actually built and operated these biomass plants. I hope you will post more and tell us more.


  114. Eclipsenow,


    Did you answer my question? Show me who has provided consistently better projections on the matters ABARE has to project.

    It’s all very well to lolok back and say you got it wrong, but who has consistenlty forecast better?


  115. Peter Lang – “They were saying the same sorts of things, as you are sayin now, but back in the early 1990s. ABARE proved correct, the wishful thinkers were wrong.”

    ABARE has had some wins however on some subjects they have been and continue to be completely wrong. However I did not say ABARE was wrong, only conservative. The link I posted seems to indicate that 20% is entirely possible by 2020.

    “If you think our estimate is way too high, please explain why you think so”

    I have Peter. You have set expensive solar thermal generators as reserve when this would not be done in practice. As Neil and I have said the reserve margin would be maintained by a combination of cheap OCGT and hydro.

    Click to access 0249-0002.pdf

    Very interesting document this. The 33% above peak seems to be an artifact of what generation we have rather than any calculations on your part. I suggest we both have a read of how MRLs are set and perhaps we can have a more meaningful discussion then.


  116. Stephen Gloor,

    Do you intentionally ignore what you don’t like?

    You said: “As Neil and I have said the reserve margin would be maintained by a combination of cheap OCGT and hydro.”

    There is no gas allowed in the ZCA2020 Plan assumptions. Do you understand that?

    Hydro cannot be used for what Neil Howes advocates. You won’t understand that unless you read back over the dozen odd times I’ve explained it, and there is no point me doing it again because you will both ignore it.

    Stephen. I realise what your game is. It is nothing but RE advocacy no matter what the cost.


  117. Stephen Gloor,

    ABARE may seem conservative to you because you don’t like their forecasts. They may seem not conservative to others. I believe they are neither optimistic nor pessimistic but do the best they can. If you can demonstrate that their projections have been consistently low or high on key energy forecasts over a sustained period, then please show the evidence. If they had, they would have taken it into account, and improved their models, something they are doing all the time to improve their forecasting capability.

    I expect your comments say more about your beliefs than their competence.


  118. @ Peter Lang,
    independent oil geologists have forecast the price of oil better than ABARE. I don’t know that much about their track record on other resources, and hope they are not as ridiculous as was their case for oil.

    But when the ABARE head admits on 4 Corners that his oil pricing projections didn’t include looking at how much oil was in the ground, then that’s a big fail. Price = supply and demand. They ‘only’ forgot to measure the supply side. Ooops.


  119. I don’t know that much about their track record on other resources, and hope they are not as ridiculous as was their case for oil.

    Terrible… I forgot a noun! I meant…

    I don’t know that much about ABARE’s track record on other resources, and hope they are not as ridiculous as was their case for oil.


  120. Sorry Eclpsenow, I really don’t buy this sort of selective quoting, which only tells part of the story. Ive seen too much of it. I could tell you lots of stories, but it would need to be over a beer not on line. If you want to demonstrate you are correct, then you need to show me, preferably on a single chart:

    1. ABARE’s projection of parameters over 10 or 20 years
    2. The projections by one or more other experts of the same parameters over the same period
    3. the actual measurements over that period

    Examples of parameters to compare might be: electricity demand from 1990 to 2010, or oil production and consumption for example over that period. Another might be electricity generation from wind and solar energy! Compare the RE advocates projections with ABARE’s projections.

    I don’t think prices are a good thing to compare. No one predicted the GFC or the inflation in the 1970’s for example.


  121. Peter Lang – “There is no gas allowed in the ZCA2020 Plan assumptions. Do you understand that?”

    Yes Peter I understand this very well. However as i have stated before I do not think the biomass works very well in the plan when natural gas transitioning to renewable hydrogen does a much better job. Can you understand that?

    “Hydro cannot be used for what Neil Howes advocates. ”
    And as Neil, with almost superhuman patience, has explained where you are dead and completely wrong on this. This of course you will not admit because apparently you are always correct.

    Anyway we are now at the stage of trading insults so I can getting out before this happens. Nice talking to you Peter and lets hope BZE and Melbourne Uni does not take issue with the fraud allegation.


  122. No one predicted the GFC

    Really? I thought the best man at my wedding did.


    And here’s the graph you were after.

    Based on its record, however, ABARE continues to be one of the most seriously flawed institutions within the entire Public Service. Further evidence of this emerged during the week in Estimates hearings.

    ABARE regularly forecasts the world price of oil. Tricky stuff, admittedly, and anyone who could forecast it accurately in recent years wouldn’t be working for ABARE but making billions on the stockmarket. But the extent to which ABARE has refused to accept the ongoing increase in the oil price is truly remarkable.

    Here’s the comparison of the actual oil price – not even including the most recent spike — and ABARE’s predictions since 2004:

    Addressing ABARE’s serious flaws | Crikey.

    Nor has ABARE learnt from its consistent errors. In March this year, it predicted that West Texas crude would be US$86 a barrel this year, and US$82 next year.

    Yesterday – for the handful of people who aren’t aware — it was nearly $130.

    And then of course the GFC destroyed oil demand, and the price crashes back to $80.

    But not $30, $40, $50, or $60, which is where ABARE has previously predicted it would be at by now.

    Oh, and the last 2008 prediction for 2010? Are you telling me ABARE foresaw the GFC? Naaah. By sheer statistical probability (or luck), they got one right.

    Hooray! It’s good to know that when it comes to government agencies forecasting the future of our most important resource, we’re in safe hands!


  123. Stephen Gloor,

    Yes Peter I understand this very well. However as i have stated before I do not think the biomass works very well in the plan when natural gas transitioning to renewable hydrogen does a much better job. Can you understand that?

    The Critique was done on the basis that the revised estimates were for the assumption nof fossil fuels. If we want to change that basic assumptions, we’d have to agree the new assumptions before we start. There are many I would change, but you simply want to pick one that suits you and argue about it.


  124. Stephen Gloor,

    You are wasting your time trying to pick one or two items and argue about them. The capacity required and the reserve margin can only be determined by a loss of load probability analysis (LOLP). Until then I believe the assumptions are way on the low side not the high side. The reason I say that is we assumed the solar thermal plants with biomass back-up, located out on the edge of the desert, would have the same reliability as our current fleet of mature fossil fuel generators. This is plainly ridiculous. How could a new technology, that has never been built, relies on the sun and on pelletised wheat being collected and delivered from hundreds of kilometres away, and dependent on the season, possibly have the same availability and reliability as a fossil fuel plant. If you can’t see the problem with this, I can’t see, and admit, the point in discussing it with you.

    Similarly we assumed that the new long transmission lines from the edge of the desert to the cities would have the same reliability as the short transmissions lines from our fossil fuel generators.

    There is no evidence that the wind power will have 15% firm power.

    And we allowed the 5 GW of hydro as part of the back up and this will not be available for firming the renewable energy (I’ve explained why elsewhere, repeatedly).

    So all in all, I’d expect a LOLP would show that the system has no chance of providing the required reliability even if you had a 100% reserve margin.

    So there really is notpoint in nit picking about some selected detail in the middle of this. What is needed is an LOLP.


  125. Peter Lang – ” So it is up to the anti-nuclear agitators like yourself to, hole your nose, see the future, admit you were wrong and change sides.
    Become an enthusiastic advocate of low-cost nuclear energy for Australia.”

    BTW just in case you were wondering my answer to the above question is neatly answered in the following link (not obscene or offensive just slightly funny)



  126. Peter Lang

    If interested, you can see the biogas fired power plant we built in Texas on this web site.
    This power plant was very financially efficient. At the time I was involved it produced and sold power to Texas utility for 4 cents/kwh with good profit. It was because we used practically all recycled equipment and it was operating on landfill gas. The website has a good description of the project.

    The other power plant we build you can see on this website.
    This was a combination of wood waste incineration and municipal waste incineration. The gathered wood was mostly from construction demolition.
    The ash residue was hauled by truck to a landfill 300 miles away because there is no landfill in any closer distance. The truck was burning about 110 gallons of diesel fuel on round trip. The cost of ash disposal was US$60.00 per short ton.
    Even with the tipping fees of $59.00 per ton, the plant was uneconomical due to large labor force needed to handle solid fuel and small scale operation. The plant was shut down and dismantled by it’s owners.

    By the way, my web site is not active for more than 5 years, hence the email and phone # is no longer valid. My present contact information is: kandrnal@gmail.com.

    Presently, I am involved in biodiesel and glycerin purification project. I worked all my life around energy projects and other green energy projects and I know that alternate energy is a losing battle. The alternate energy contribution to society is only a drop in the bucket after 40 years of trying.
    I my opinion, the only economical use of biomass for energy is in combined cycle where waste heat can be utilized as process heat as is done in sugar mills and other applications. Usually the biomass comes as waste and is used on site. Once the transport of biomass is involved the cost goes through the roof and operation is hardly ever successful.


  127. I think the best use for non-food biomass is to rot where it falls and hopefully build soil carbon. Recall that the bagasse burning mills said they needed RECs to be viable, at the time equivalent to 5c per kwhe. I note even a paper mill this neck of the woods uses coal as a supplementary heat source despite devouring thousands of logs a day. With biomass we can’t seem to avoid the need for oil to run trucks and harvesting machinery. Even then coal is needed either indirectly via the grid or directly for process heat. Both coal and oil accumulated over millions of years, not realtime like biomass. Coal and oil also contain less water in combination than cellulose and give much better net energy when converted to other forms.

    Right now my eyes are stinging from a mouldering fireplace so I have to admit firewood is neither efficient nor clean, just cheap if transport costs are minimal. I’d guess it’s a cold still morning where many ZCA enthusiasts live. I challenge them to not use gas heating or the coal fired grid. Solar panels won’t do it. Imagine millions of homes trying to power up on such mornings from stored solar or feeble realtime wind power. That power must come from a reliable source.


  128. @ Peter Lang
    the Federal Senate basically spanked ABARE on the public record for not factoring in peak oil. That’s “The Dog ate my homework!” material, OK? From the horses mouth himself.

    If you have another graphic proving ABARE’s wonderful track record of oil predictions over the last decade, I’d gladly consider it, but until you come up with such “fairies at the bottom of the garden” material, I’m not going to bother providing any more. The buffoons at the head of ABARE got it WRONG OK? They didn’t bother to count the oil in the ground, and that’s a fact on the record, and so while they might/might not be doing a good enough job in other resources, when it comes to oil they fell for Big Oil’s culture of misinformation.

    If you don’t accept the peak oil data, you’ve got a real shock coming your way in about 5 to 10 years.


  129. @ John,
    the biomass rotting where it falls is pointless. I’ve read that most of that carbon will decompose and evaporate away within 6 months, whereas terra pretta in the Amazon is over 6000 years old!

    Seriously, the soil Phd’s are excited about biochar. What do you have against it? The thing is energy positive: it creates more fuel than is used in the process.

    And as I said above, they now have mobile units that can be dragged out to regional townships or even large enough farms to process the biomass on-site.

    It’s FERTILISER and FOOD and FUEL and CARBON SEQUESTRATION, all in the one package. The technology is right, but they’re just tinkering with commercialisation issues.


  130. Peter Lang
    Seems like I missed out on a lot of internet action yesterday
    However, Neil Howes and Stephen Gloor want to keep exploring the higher cost option and are not in the slightest interested in developing the lower cost option.
    This is a real miss-representation of what I have been saying. The critique of the ZCA2020 plan pointed out many flaws in the plan, but also some of the critique assumptions appear to be wrong, will follow up on the energy required for electrification of transport.

    Hydro cannot be used for what Neil Howes advocates
    All I can add is that wind power now is being used during some off-peak periods to feed into NEM grid and the grid is being used to supply non-variable pumped hydro. I presume you are really disputing that wind output when it is supplying >50% of grid power cannot be stabilized by 15GW of hydro spinning reserve, so can never be used by variable output pumped hydro turbines.
    The variation in 5min output of just the 18 wind farms in SE Australia would indicate 5min to 1h variations are fairly small. Peter how much spinning reserve do you think would be required per GW of wind power??


  131. Peter Lang
    I have read and reread your point 1 several times and I don’t understand it. Could you lay it out so my simple brain can understand what you are saying.
    Your scenario of wind energy with NG fired OCGT back-up clams that CO2 emissions would be only marginally better than 100% CCGT.
    This is based on assumptions(1) wind capacity factor of 30%; the recent study of EP wind resources showed that >30GW of wind could be built with 37-40% capacity factor. Other regions of Australia also have good capacity potential but these are several hundred km from existing grid connections so poorer sites have been developed, although Infigen reports an average for its Australian farms of 36% capacity factor(500MW total).

    assumption(2) is that wind capacity cannot be more than average( or min?) demand without storage. While it would be a problem if a nation wide wind output was zero, it is never going to be 100% of capacity and rarely about 60% capacity. This is because high wind events are smaller in geographic area( low pressure fronts) than low wind events( high pressure systems) and are of short duration so a small amount of wind curtailment is possible with very small overall losses. Even the small area of the NEM wind farms would only loose about 1% of yearly output if curtailed >70% capacity( the losses are small because only the additional 5-10% of output is lost and the number of hours per year is low).
    Wind power added to regions such as TAS dont need any storage because hydro is being used as base-load, so output up to local demand would save existing hydro use and hydro capacity exceeds peak demand.
    Every additional GW of pumped storage(pumping) capacity is going to allow another 1.7GW of wind capacity to be added above average demand and reduce NG back-up required by the additional generating capacity, assuming that this wind output can be stabilized by the grid.
    If wind accounts for >70% of average power and NG OCGT <30%, GHG emissions are going to be 0.3x 0.7g/kWh= 0.21g/kWh with wind versus 1.0×0.5=0.5g/kWh with CCGT.
    It is not clear if all NG back-up would need to be OCGT, but a mixture of OCGT and CCGT( not sure what was used in the 30% wind/70% NG scenario).
    With more pumped storage or some solar CSP with molten salt storage NG use would be much smaller than 30%, so low that not really an issue except for ZCA purists.


  132. And don’t forget the following technology which we should all watch with interest.


    5. Wind-balloon storage

    A new contender against nuclear?

    Wind energy – storing the power

    There are two big problems with wind turbines. One is cost. The other is the variable nature of wind. It doesn’t always blow when there is demand for power. So storage of generated power is vital if wind power is to become widespread. Seamus Garvey has been working on these problems and is speaking to Annette Langbehn.

    via Wind energy – storing the power – Science Show – 17 July 2010.

    The basic outline:

    * A new approach for wind: these wind turbines will float far off the coast and not be visible from land.
    * They will compress air, not generate electricity.
    * The compressed air is stored in large rubber balloons deep under water, about the size of your house.
    * These balloons use the pressure of deeper sea water to maximise the pressure that the air is stored at, making the rubber materials cheaper than trying to store all that air in steel strong enough to take compressed air on land.
    * With good wind, the turbines blow the compressed air straight into generating electricity. When the wind is low, the balloons take over supplying the compressed air to move the turbines.
    * It’s cheaper than any storage so far: Batteries are at about $500 thousand per mWh, Pumped hydro is about $80 thousand per mWh of storage, but these compressed balloons are only about $1 thousand per mWh!
    * Claims that the whole UK could run on wind without Brits even seeing the turbines because they are all so far off-shore!

    My comments:

    * It’s a long way from being commercialised. The first balloon is only 1.8 meters across, the quarter scale balloon is later this year, and a full scale balloon will be tested next year in 2011.
    * Seamus admits that wind will have to store about a day of power: but even he admits that the winter wind can die down for about 3 days straight.
    * But where does this leave our nuclear campaign?
    * As I always answer: we have to start deploying reliable base-load clean energy now, not in 10 or 15 years when the kinks and quirks of some new technology might have been ironed out.
    * In GenIII nuclear plants we have a demonstrated technology that can keep the lights on and our electric cars running as peak oil and global warming hit. These will generate waste to fuel the soon to be released GenIV reactors that we know work, but are yet to be fully deployed at a commercial scale.
    * Are people really so frightened of safe, clean, cheap nuclear power that they’d have us gamble with catastrophic climate change? Do they really want us to delay solving climate change on the whimsy and rumour that the many expensive problems with unreliable renewables will one day be fixed? Do they really think reality will just bend to their whims and wishes? They’re kidding themselves if they are.
    * FINALLY, if this new compressed air wind turbine does prove more reliable and cheaper than nuclear power, no one will be happier than myself! We can save our uranium for a moon or Mars base.
    * I would be glad to announce that renewable energy could finally do the job!
    * But until I read a broad scientific consensus that a new individual renewable generator could reliably provide ample cheap base-load power, I’m not budging. I’m no longer convinced that we can rely on a grid where ‘a bit of wind at one time and a bit of solar at another will do the job’. We need power that we can rely on whatever the time of day or night, whatever the weather, and whatever the season. Today’s renewables just cannot do that!


  133. Martin Nicholson and Peter Lang
    RE; the issue of electrical energy required to replace FF.
    The DCC gives diesel rail(2%) dom shipping(3%) dom av(8%) buses(2%) or 15% total. The rest is med and heavy trucks(18%) and cars and light trucks(67%).
    For cars and light trucks( 1130PJ of the 1707 PJ/year) we can calculate expected consumption based on the Toyota RAV4 ICE version getting 10L/100km(24mpgUS) and the EV version using heavy lead-acid? batteries( 25kWh/100km). For comparison the Chevy Volt with smaller Lithium batteries and better streamlining to give max range on EV uses 8kWh/64km or 12kWh/100km.
    Ignoring the considerable energy to refine 10L of petrol, we have 350MJ/l of energy used by the average ICE vehicle compared to 45-90MJ to power an EV the same 100kms. This is 1/4 to 1/8 th energy use, or 220PJ if we use the mid value(67MJ/100km or 1/5.2) . Allowing 1/3 as much energy for replacing half of the diesel used by buses and larger trucks(340PJ present consumption; replacing 170PJ) would require 57PJ of electricity, for a total of 277PJ. The electricity use would probably be less than this because just converting heavy trucks and buses to hybrid power would probably give additional savings.
    This(277PJ) is considerably less than the 470PJ in your assumptions.


  134. Peter Lang,
    As you point out, sometimes the wind does not blow. One only has to look at the last winter in the UK to see the extreme variability of this “resource”.

    However, what makes you think the Brits would not enjoy a “Brown Out” from time to time? During the 1972 miner’s strike my factory operated on a 3 day week. I remember enjoying those 4 day weekends. The darndest thing happened; the factory produced slightly more during the 3 day weeks than it had during average 5 day weeks.


  135. Neil Howes,
    While I am on your side, I think you forgot to factor in the thermodynamic efficiency of the generating plant when you quoted 45-90 MJ for 100 km in an EV.

    What assumptions did you make about the efficiency of electric generation and distribution for the power used by the EV?


  136. Hi Neil,
    I love hearing about trucks running on EV but how realistic is this? Don’t we have to convert our trucks onto trains, and won’t that require a lot of capital? (Which I’m all for by the way, but just trying to get a final cost of dealing with peak oil AND climate change).


  137. Ha ha David….
    Weird timing! My wife just said she felt like a meat pie when your email came in.

    But… to be intellectually honest… we have to watch all these technologies. They’ve been trying to prove ‘deep’ HDR geothermal energy for years, but even BZE didn’t include that in their ZCA plan.

    But $1000 / mWh storage? Wouldn’t that be pretty darn amazing? Wouldn’t that mean baseload wind? At that price couldn’t they store a day or 2 or 3 of energy?

    I’m with you in that I want action NOW. But it’s going to take years to turn Australia around on nukes… and energy technology seems to be galloping along.


  138. EclipseNow, your point about the need to maintain intellectual honesty is a good one. But people go on about nuclear reactors being a potential terrorism target…how vulnerable would these underwater balloons be to a bunch of terrorist pricks?


  139. Neil Howes:
    Hydro does not have “spinning reserve”. If it spins forward, then it is generating. If it is driven in reverse, then it is pumping back uphill. If it is stationary, then it is “reserve”. If it is busted, then it is not available. Thankfully, availability figures for hydro, especially in Australia, are so close to 100% that for normal purposes, if water is available then the installed capacity of nhydro is also available – at the price of water.

    Reliability of hydro is thus a function of storgae levels and input flows rather than of the engineering.


  140. @ Neil Howes, on 18 August 2010 at 9.16:
    “The variation in 5min output of just the 18 wind farms in SE Australia would indicate 5min to 1h variations are fairly small.”

    Neil, the 5-minute variation is not the issue with wind power. Firstly, look at a weather map of SE Australia. More often than not, the weather in the whole region is dominated by a single High or Low. When, for example, a large High covers the region, wind velocities may be low to nil. This is even more true in the still of pre-dawn and early morning, right when the morning peak is occurring.

    Thus, it is not reasonable to bank on wind power deleivering in some average way – it simply fluctuates day by day throughout the whole range, with many days being a complete disappointment.

    Re your discussion of how much backup would be required to support the variability of 15 GW of wind power, I suggest that we need to start very close to 15GW for a bad day and perhaps half that for extended periods. So, switchable loads (perhaps aluminium smelters and desal plants) combined with CCGT and OCGT must equal 15GW.

    Note, however, that aluminium smelters can only reduce load by about half continuously, or be completely shut down for no more than an hour. Throughout Australia, I guess that there are about 2GW of aluminium smelters, so at best 1 GW continuous can be harvested from this source.

    Desal plants I know nothing of, but I expect that another couple of GW might just be available.

    That leaves 12GW of gas fired… the type of power station that the study denies has a place in their plan for our future. You have proposed that “cheap GT power” be retained for this purpose. One problem… Australian GT installations are neither cheap nor anywhere close to 12GW. GT’s will amount to only a further couple of GW, leaving 10GW unavailable.

    The situation boils down to base load capability, not instantaneous or nameplate ratings – reliability, cost and availability are essential components of any stable grid, intelligent or otherwise.

    It seems to me that 1 1000MW nuclear power station per year for 10 years will do the trick in all regards.

    Who knows? Perhaps the best places to locate them are already available in the form of large baseload coal fired power stations with generating plant in place, waiting for steam.

    Instead of coal fired boilers, why not retire some of the middle aged units and install nuclear power steam generators? The cooling systems are already in place in the form of cooling towers, lakes and water supplies. Transmission systems are already in place. Even the workforces are in place.

    I suggest that all greenfield nuclear power stations be required to have dry cooling systems to reduce their reliance on water supplies. However, where water supplies already exist, why not make use of them?

    My ideal 10 plants would then be perhaps 5 x 1000MW greenfield, dry cooled and 5 x 1000MW replacement of existing stations, water cooled. Many of the greenfield stations could be sited within the grounds of existing power stations to make use of the existing transmission infrastructure and site services, thus keeping costs to a minimum. Of course, as we become more experienced, the remaining coal fired stations could be demolished (eg the oldest of the Victorian stations and some of Qld, SA and NSW), thus releasing a further 15 or so sites for nuclear.

    * Minimal land usage issues. Once a power station – still a power station.
    * Minimal water supply issues.
    * No social disruption, because all workers would find replacement jobs in a cleaner, safer, environment, without needing to move home.
    * Minimum cost development of flexible, baseload power, able to follow the scheduled loads.
    * Minimal technological risk – all technologies are mature and costable. This does not carry the risks of untested and immature R&D type alternative power sources.
    * Can coexist happily with developing solar thermal, PV, wind, tidal and other less reliable technologies, providing niches and opportunities for them to operate within their most economical manner as these technologies develop and improve, as we all hope that they will.
    * This is the quickest of the available options to reduce Australia’s greenhouse footprint to somewhere close to that of France. We don’t want to have to plan 26 new coal fired stations like Germany or to share their relatively massive per capita C02 footprint as compared with France.


  141. I don’t care for the concept of coal-to-nuclear even it makes sense economically. I think NPP siting must have the right psychology with predisposing factors like
    1) the locals are grateful
    2) bleak coastline
    3) clean and tidy appearance
    4) big power users nearby.
    For example co-locating with a desal even if it doesn’t use waste heat might mollify some feelings of guilt. Since the public believes all NPPs can go into sudden meltdown perhaps they shouldn’t be near kiddies wading pools or where retirees walk their dogs.

    Even though the grid is a pooled energy source I think the public sees aluminium smelters close to coal stations so they assume they are hot wired. If would be better not to force a NPP on a hostile population if others would appreciate it. For example Wonthaggi Vic was once a coal town now it teems with NIMBYs I gather. To my thinking a greenfield site that meets all criteria is Ceduna SA, the initial customers being a 200-300 ML/d desal and Olympic Dam mine. True major new transmission would be needed.


  142. @John Newlands:

    John, I agree with your sentiment regarding unwilling local communities. However, consider the locality I am familiar with, the NSW Upper Hunter, which has two power stations totalling 4700MW. One is now almost 40 years old. The other is closer to 15. A third, of a further 2MW, has been proposed and has planning approval for either NG or coal fuels.

    The nearest local township is Muswellbrook, about 15km away as the bird flies.

    The only nearby industries are primarily cattle and coal.

    The majority of the coal used in these stations is brought to site by train from a hundred km away, because a previous government, in its wisdom, sold the coal leases to private industry rather than retain it as a strategic resource. Nice work!

    But I digress…

    There is no indication locally that either supports or hinders a nuclear option. These sites offer prime examples of what can be achieved, over time, if the will exists. Wonthaggi may well have greater issues facing it than the Hunter Valley.


  143. Correction: 2GW, not 2MW. Dry cooled.

    As to whether the public consider the aluminium smelters to be hard-wired to the power stations, that is a new one to me. We are discussing facts and engineering possibilities here, not plausible musings about public opinion.


  144. John Bennetts
    You seem to have made a big effort to discuss spinning reserve, but seem to have missed the point about stabilizing wind power. Peter Lang is claiming wind power cannot be used to power pumped hydro because pumped hydro needs hours of steady power. Besides the fact that newer pumped hydro can use variable pumping, the question is really can wind power output be stabilized by the grid. This requires spinning reserve( for short term frequency stabilization) which can be provided by hydro turbines even if no water is flowing, and longer term ( hours to days ) by back-up NG fired OCGT and CCGT.
    So if close to 100% of demand was being provided by wind power, the minute by minute variation would have to be stabilized by spinning reserve of hydro, and varying hydro output or pumping demand and demand management. Heat pump hot water and EV charging are two obvious areas where short term(minutes) demand management will have no noticeable effect on outcomes, where charging or heating water would be over a 16-24h period. For every million vehicles or heat pump hot water systems can have 2-4GW of variable demand.
    Firstly, look at a weather map of SE Australia. More often than not, the weather in the whole region is dominated by a single High or Low I accept that SE Australia can have prolonged low wind periods, the issue is what about all of Australia? and how fast are the changes from full output to zero output? If changes are over a period of many hours or days NG fired CCGT can respond.
    It seems to me that 1 1000MW nuclear power station per year for 10 years will do the trick in all regards.
    Excellent idea, but will take 10 years from the decision to start building the first reactor to have tenders, site locations, environmental assessments etc and finally construction for the first reactor to come on line and a very brave government to commit to a massive investment of 10 reactors before the first one comes on line and hopefully on budget. Who is going to finance these reactors? Wind power is being financed by private investors, would these investors be prepared to lock up capital for 10 years, when they can re-pay wind investments in 15years? I am not saying it cannot be done, but these are some of the problems to be considered.


  145. JB I caught Bob Brown’s Press Club address. He thinks the big parties have blundered favouring coal and CSG over farmland. He suggests that hundreds of thousands of hectares will eventually be tied up in coal seam gas wells. He gave the sad example of the little town of Acland (?) as a sacrificial pawn in the development of new open cut mines. It parallels mountaintop removal in Virginia USA. A saving grace for the globe is that Australia may be one of the few countries with coal to spare as the rest of the world runs out.


  146. Eclipsenow,
    I love hearing about trucks running on EV but how realistic is this? Don’t we have to convert our trucks onto trains, and won’t that require a lot of capital?
    Many mining trucks, drag lines etc run on electricity. I was suggesting all cars and light trucks would be mainly EV, but long haul trucks hybrids with some storage component available from re-charging at truck stops during rest breaks that are law at present. Some truck transport could be immediately converted to rail, but never 100% and it would take a long time, even converting med and long haul trucks to hybrid diesel/EV will take much longer than cars and light trucks, but this has to happen what ever we use to generate electricity.


  147. eclipsenow,

    I can’t be bothered getting my calculator out, but to store a day’s worth of wind energy from a single turbine, say 5 to 10 MWh, operating at mild pressures would probably require a balloon the size of the Titanic – correct me if I’m wrong – but I think the originator of the idea needs to take a tablet and have an afternoon lie-down.


  148. @Neil Howes:
    I accept your comments as being fair from your perspective. We who contribute must, first, stay true to ourselves.

    Yes, wind power overall would ramp up and down fairly slowly, enabling other units to carry the load provided that they exist. This becomes the crux of the matter: Wind power essentially needs to be almost fully backed up by other sources, either existing or yet to be constructed. To the already very high cost of wind power must be added the capital and maintenance costs of the backup. The generating costs will look after themselves in the marketplace, at a price.

    What the public will not accept is blackouts and brownouts due to there being inadequate available power generating capacity, whether due to wind or solar or tidal or wave or any other intermittent generating plant being unavailable at 7am or 6pm when meals are being prepared.

    Reliability and availability are at least as important as the nameplate ratings of individual components of the energy mix.

    As to the connection of all of Australia via 100% transmission lines: Pull the other leg. Even the existing distribution systems contain more capital than the generation portions. To build a national grid which is capable of carrying everything from anywhere to anywhere else is simply beyond my comprehension. It will take tens of thousands of kilometres of 500kV transmission lines and dozens of high capacity switchyards, complete with megabuck transformers and control systems… for what? The transmission system produces nothing at all, it only moves volts around. Anything close to full interconnectedness would have to exceed $50B, probably more than $100B. I’d like a slice of that.

    As to nuclear power stations not being able to have a construction start within 10 years, this is yet to be demonstrated to be true.

    I am very familiar with the construction of several large power stations. The lead-in tims for a 2MW station, once land acquisition is sorted and planning approval is obtained, is about 2 years. This is the time needed to prepare those drawings needed for site preparation, initial works and finalisation of design and procurement of long lead-time items. Bayswater Power Station (2.6 GW) took from 1980 to 1986 to construct, give or take a few months. Thus, on a single site, I expect the construction and commissioning time required for a smaller nuclear plant of 2 x 1GW units to take about 7 years.

    Timeline after project approval:
    2 years site spreparation.
    6 years to commission first unit;
    1 year to commission 2nd unit.

    Daisy-chain 5 such projects and one unit could be commissioned each calendar year from Year 8, for as long as is needed.

    By 2020, we could and should have our first couple of Type III+ units of 1GW operating in parallel with the best that other non-carbon technologies can offer… hopefully at least a further 500MW pa. If this nation needs (say) 50GW carbon-free, it can be achieved at a reasonable cost before 2040, maybe 2035.

    To do this we need the vision of the Snowy Mountains Project and the the voters’ support. So, where are the politicians with the fortitude of Australia’s in 1946 when the Snowy Scheme kicked off, or 1950, when the Electricity Commission of NSW was created to get on top of post-war blackouts? Have we become so risk-averse and divided as a nation that we cannot act together towards a national goal?


  149. To do this we need the vision of the Snowy Mountains Project and the the voters’ support. So, where are the politicians with the fortitude of Australia’s in 1946 when the Snowy Scheme kicked off, or 1950, when the Electricity Commission of NSW was created to get on top of post-war blackouts? Have we become so risk-averse and divided as a nation that we cannot act together towards a national goal?

    Now that’s the sort of thing pro-nuke advocacy needs to be all about. Change the public perception so this sort of vision replaces the fear-driven antinuke response Australian politics has as its current default position on matters nuclear.


  150. @ Neil,

    So you mean light trucks inside Sydney would be EV, and inter-city freight would be hybrid?

    Now, IF renewables are ever going to be significant, forget the hydro backup, as it is 80 times more expensive than these balloon thingy’s. If the balloon compressed air storage is for real and costs are even remotely on target, then they could be a game changer for all manner of energy storage needs. We won’t have a clue until full scale models are next year.


  151. Someone has stated that large mining vehicles are electric.

    To remove confusion, most of the largest machines in Australian transport are indeed electrically driven. The electricity comes from diesel generators on board. For example, locomotives, mining trucks, mining loaders, etc.

    The only common exceptions are the draglines, which are fed via trailing high voltage power supplies.

    Do not confuse diesel-electric with electric vehicles. These are two very different animals.


  152. I’d say mine trucks like thiswith a 300t payload and 2.6 MW motor are beyond present pure battery technology. Perhaps they could use natural gas in the internal combustion engine if the tanks were protected. Not only mine vehicles but ANFO explosive uses natural gas (Ammonium Nitrate) and petroleum (Fuel Oil) inputs. What happens to the hard rock mining industry when oil and gas are prohibitively expensive?


  153. John Bennetts

    I just dropped in for a quick look at BNC. Your post is a valuable comment. It’s clearly from a highly experienced engineer who has gained a lifetime of engineering judgement.

    I commend readers to give weight to posts like this rather than to the posts by the computer jocks and passionate RE advoicates. The latter are based on belief, not sound engineering judgement and experience.


  154. Neil Howes and Stephen Gloor,

    I haven’t had time to read your posts today, but from yesterday it seems you still believe that our hydro resources could be diverted/reassigned to be used to firm wind and solar power, as assumed by the ZCA report.

    I have explained many times why this is not possible, but it seems you have both ignored the substance of what I’ve attempted to explain.

    To attempt to resolve this ongoing issue on BNC, can I suggest you offer an article to Barry explaing your position. Then we can debate it. To be of interest to me it would need to explain:

    1. the cost of the wind and hydro system for providing power of the same availability and quality as baseload power stations;

    2. the capital cost per kW of the system, the cost of average power ($/kWy/y);

    3. the levelisedf cost of electricity;

    4. how it would be financed (see the 1st Reviewer’s comments on the pumed hydro article to understand what I mean – point 8 here https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/04/05/pumped-hydro-system-cost/ );

    5. What is the impact of your proposal on the existing hydro system – e.g., storage capacity reserved for storing wind and solar energy and therefor not available to store for long term hydro generation, extra storage required in upper or lower reservoirs, etc. You, as the advocates, need to work out the consequences, not leave it to us to point them out to you;

    6. All the consequences of being dependent on, and attempting to run, all our hydro resources at full capacity for several days at a time (as ZCA proposes).

    7. Many more, but you can work them out. You are the proponents, it is your job as engineers to work it all out and propose a feasible, costed system with all bases covered.


  155. Neil Howes,

    Peter Lang is claiming wind power cannot be used to power pumped hydro because pumped hydro needs hours of steady power.

    That is just one of a number of reasons why it is not feasible, nor economically viable, to divert our very limited hydro resources to firming intermittent renewable energy generators like wind and solar.

    If you are not being intentionally missleading, yo might demonstrate good faith by summarising here all the reasons I told you, rather than just pick out one of them and imply that it is THE single reason. Or better still, include them all and address them in the article you and Stephen Gloor prepare to explain your proposal.


  156. @Lang: you describe your enemies on this thread as “computer jocks and passionate RE advocates based on belief” in the face of “sound engineering judgement and experience”. So you will agree that if support of nuclear is like support of basic laws of physics, there should be no engineer, especially an atomic one with decades of experience, who became an RE advocate. But we have the case of Klaus Traube, b. 1928, who is well-known in Germany. You may consult the entry in Wiki.

    His CV:

    graduate in mech. eng. TU Munich, held academic position there during his PhD.

    1959-1976: worked in the German and US atomic power sector. Positions held: director of atomic reactors at AEG; CEO of Interatom, responsible for building the Kalkar fast breeder.

    Prior, he had been with General Dynamics in San Diego.

    TMI seems to been the final straw for him in his gradual move away from nuclear.

    In the 1990s he then held a managerial function in the German RE sector.

    Persons of your persuasion are given to smearing such “renegade” people as having “personal problems” or alleging that “one swallow doesn’t make a summer.” Traube’s current age would also predispose you to allege senility of course.

    Nevertheless, Traube’s concern (writing in German in 2006 as the CEO of a firm that had been building one at Kalkar)

    – that fast breeders are too difficult to build, and
    – that the waste/spent fuel problem is insoluble

    is coming from somebody whose atomic industry managerial experience is invariably deeply respected by persons such as yourself, all other things being equal.


  157. Neil Howes, on 18 August 2010 at 14.26 — The French are capable of pumpin/generating from pumped hydro in 15 minute blocks. There is a graph somewhere on the web.

    Naturally, most of the pumping happens at night bu7t there are a few blocks around lunch time when balance is best preserved by a bit of pumping.

    Of course, the Franch are load balancing against about 90% nuclear…


  158. Neil Howes and Stephen Gloor seem to lack a sense of perspective or proportion. They want to spend all their time talking about totally uneconomic technologies (wind and solar) that continually under-achieve expectations – they now contribute only a few percent of our electricity generation after decades of massive subsidies and favourable treatment. Yet Neil and Stephen want to spend all their time talking about these uneconomic, unreliable technologies rather than talk about the technologies that could comprise some 80% of our electricity generation or more – the only technology that can give us genuine clean electricity generation.

    All Neil’s and Stephen’s posts are side tracks and diversions. If they are not prepared to put their case in an article, where all their arguments are assembled together in one place so we can critique it, I can’t see much point in continually answering their repetitive nonsense.


  159. John Bennetts
    To the already very high cost of wind power must be added the capital and maintenance costs of the backup
    I totally agree on this point, we presently have >40GW of thermal power generation and more NG is being built. The issue is what capacity factor they have to operate at as this is the major contributor to CO2 emissions. Whats a better outcome several coal-fired plants on standby 2 months of the year or operating as at present 12 months per year? or better still OCGT/CCGT running at 10% capacity factor or at 35% capacity?

    What the public will not accept is blackouts and brownouts due to there being inadequate available power generating capacity,
    This is not true, we have had wide-spread blackout in last 10 years, the Australian public will not accept blackouts every few days or weeks, but this occurs now in many parts of the world using FF power.
    To build a national grid which is capable of carrying everything from anywhere to anywhere else is simply beyond my comprehension.
    Now you are using the same exaggeration that Peter Lang uses about the needs of a national grid. The existing NEM grid doesnt have the capability to “move >40GW from anywhere to anywhere”, no grid does or ever has to do that. Specifically for wind it would be moving “surplus to local demand” during local high wind events, perhaps 5-10% of total capacity to regions of low wind, 1000-2000km distant. Any FF back-up would be located where it is today using present grid, but a small part of that back-up capacity would be moved to a specific low wind region to meet local regional demand, just as occurs now when we have a heat wave or a cold snap in one state. The critical link is joining WA with NEM grid, a similar distance that hydro power moves from sub-arctic Canada to Canadian and US cities via HVDC.
    As to nuclear power stations not being able to have a construction start within 10 years, this is yet to be demonstrated to be true.
    I would think construction would start well before 10 years, I was saying first power for the first few reactors built in Australia would take at least 10 years after a political decision to start a major nuclear building program. Will the power generating industry finance this as it is doing for NG and wind or will it require a major government funding?
    To do this we need the vision of the Snowy Mountains Project and the the voters’ support.
    Meanwhile while we are waiting ( beyond 2020) we can have another 5-10GW of wind capacity built without a Snowy Mountains vision and we already have political support and REC targets to 2020.
    All for vision to build nuclear and to build a national grid and to build a lot more pumped hydro all of which will be valuable even if nuclear becomes the dominant source of power by 2040 or 2050.


  160. Peter Lang – “Neil Howes and Stephen Gloor seem to lack a sense of perspective or proportion. They want to spend all their time”

    That’s you M.O isn’t it Peter. When you are wrong you never admit it just insult the people calling you on your bogus assumptions that gold-plate your critique of the BZE plan. Rather than accepting the valid points and amending your critique to make it better you bluster and bully in the hope that we will go away and leave you with the solution you.

    The BZE plan was compiles by qualified people and represents exactly what I would be putting up as you shrilly demand. You have responded to this with a dodgy critique and refused to acknowledge any problems with it. I cannot speak for Neil however for my part have offered reasonable compromises in an attempt to find out if you are a reasonable person or just a nuclear blowhard where it’s my way or the highway.

    The point is Peter you have demonstrated over and over again that you are not responsive to new or different ideas and just try to bully your way over objections. I also question your expertise as I posted the paper describing how the MRLs of AEMO were set. Yet you were still insisting that “we need a LOLP” done. However as long as the minimum USE standard of 0.002 is met then the MRLs in the BZE should be entirely adequate. If you understood this you would have calculated a slightly larger MRL based on the ones for 2012 and then added this. Rather you claim that supply is 33% over demand for reliability reasons whereas all states except SA have surpluses over MRL.

    I for one would be far more willing to exchange views if I thought it would do any good. As you are not here to learn as you apparently know everything there is to know about the energy industry there is very little point posting anything here. Mind you if you don’t include the same gold plating in you nuclear plan for Australia as you did for this critique I may have serving to say. Bye for now.


  161. Whats a better outcome several coal-fired plants on standby 2 months of the year or operating as at present 12 months per year? or better still OCGT/CCGT running at 10% capacity factor or at 35% capacity?

    What’s this? Coal stations are never shut down due to the wind being up. They’re just not that responsive. So there’s no point pretending that wind is ever going to cut back on coal power. CCGT is in the same boat, it’s just not responsive enough to shadow wind variability. That just leaves OCGT, the more expensive option.


  162. Couple of corrections – doing this from your phone in the train is difficult.

    the solution you.
    should be “solution you like.”

    Compiles should be compiled

    Nuclear blowhard should be nuclear advocate (sorry Barry)


  163. And yet another Climate Spectator article on solar thermal. This time by the BrightSource Australia director Andrew Dyer :


    There is a classic line in the article which shows the ZCA solar thermal Implementation Timeline is fiction :

    “Given that it takes five or more years to develop and complete a project, and none have yet been committed, there is a lot of work to do.”

    According to the ZCA report (Table 2.3 Energy production timetable on p36) they claim that solar thermal can be implemented in 2 to 5 years.

    I will also repeat what Dyer states in the front quote comments in the ZCA report, 3rd page in form the start of the PDF :

    “With far greater efficiencies, higher capacity factors, lower capital
    costs and the ability to operate the plant in hybrid mode and/or with storage…”

    Note that hybrid mode is where there is a natural gas feed to the solar thermal plant… I covered this aspect of solar thermal gas hybridisation in many comments in the earlier thread ->


    i.e. many of those solar thermal plants that are constantly trumpeted around rely on natural gas at up to 15%.


  164. bryen and others,

    Climate Spectator is a clarly renewable energy advocacy site. It has nothing to do with climate or cutting CO2 emissions, it is sim,ply a pipeline to propogate the RE beliefs of Giles Parkinson.

    So the best thing to do it to pose short replies asking questiosn and pointing out the most important flaws in wah they are saying.

    It is frustrating that this is where we are at, but we’ve been in this same position for 40 odd years. Marketing spin trumps substance everytime and that is what is happening with ZCA2020 Plan and the RE advocacy.

    I am surprised that Alan Kohler allows it on his otherwise excellent site. Either he doesn’t realise what is going on or doesn’t believe it will damage his credibility.


  165. Stephen Gloor,

    You talk a lot of rot. I do admit mistakes when I make them. But I’ve never seen you ever do so. I’ve explained that the hydro is not available to be used for backing up wind and solar. You and Neil simply don’t want to accept that, and you keep misquoting, quoting bits out of context, avoiding the main points, adn using diversion tactics.

    I’ve explaiend that I expect, and explained why, that an LOLP analysis would show that wind and solar with biomass back up, as proposed in the ZCA plan, cannot provide supply reliability no matter how high the reserve capacity margin. So it doesn’t matter what single component you want to pull out and argue about, it is simply not feasible to provide our supply at any cost. You want to argue about the reserve capacity margin: I say waht we used is a very conservative (ie low end) value (favourable to the ZCA2020 Plan).

    Why don’t you and Neil accept the suggestion I posted here:


  166. @Neil Howes, on 19 August 2010 at 8.51:

    You made several points, which are more or less seriously put, though indicating minimal understanding of the operational constraints of coal fired and CCGT power.

    Coal fired power stations have, for years, been “two shifted” in the UK. This means running them under load during the morning and/or evening peaks, then either idling them of shutting them down. This cyclic heating and cooling of boiler and turbine components is inefficient thermally but also brings with it substantial damage due to thermal cycling. However, it is possible, at a cost. I don’t envisage coal fired generating capacity being stood down for months and then returning reliably to service… they are too complex for that to be advisable and the diurnal energy demand curve would not suit this mode of operation. It is possible, but not reaqlly very practical.

    The preferred means of following load curves is for the coal fired plant to be spinning, generating at low load (say 40%) at all times of the day, ramping up during times of increased load or decreased wind. This happens now. It is not unusual in Australia’s grid at present for a generating corporation owning (say) 6 coal fired units to have one on maintenance or cold standby and 5 in service producing say 1.5 or 2 GW during shoulder periods and rising to 2.5 or 3 GW during peaks, still leaving 0.5 GW spinning reserve.

    OCGT can be started from cold in about 5 minutes, ramping up to 100% in minutes – say 10 or 15 minutes overall, but is not significantly less carbon dense than coal. It is much more flexible, but carbon emissions are not much better.

    CCGT is another kettle of fish again. It sits between the two above cases in terms of ability to respond to load changes, but the boilers are similar to coal fired boilers and thus suffer in the same way if they are ramped up and down wildly and/or run intermittently. This can be done, but at a monetary cost and a carbon cost. They would no longer achieve 60+% thermal efficiency and they are using for fuel some of the world’s supplies of either gas or diesel, which has a higher profile use waiting for it in transport.

    I view OCGT as an expensive emergency option, less desirable than nuclear options for everyday load scenarios for a host of reasons.

    Blackouts. You seem to be strangely accepting of blackouts. I am sure that Joe Public is nowhere near as sanguine on this subject, especially if his home dialysis machine is affected or Mrs Public is half way through cooking the evening meal and needs to hurry or she will be late for her second job, stacking shelves in Woollies. Thousands of train and tram passengers, mid-journey, would not be likely to sit idly and accept that a 4 hour wait or a two hour walk in the rain are reasonable additional prices to pay for the green power option.

    Perhaps unlike you, I have been trapped in a lift on several occasions. The humourous side of this wears off as soon as one of your fellow passengers needs to pee, or a toddler chucks a tantrum.

    You claim that some 3rd world citizens live through such events and so should Aussies. Quite simply, you are wrong. Does there have to be an armed insurrection to convince you to change your mind? I can forsee blackouts in the next winter, if not this one. Your proof will be evident in the letters pages of the newspapers immediately after the next 4 hour, peak hour, capital city blackout. Nobody will write in saying thankyou.

    To accuse me of exaggeration when I commented that we would need $50B or $100B to build a grid to connect everywhere to everywhere is wrong. You have stated that the wind is blowing somewhere. I demonstrated that weather systems can shut down or drastically reduce wind power throughout SA, Vic and NSW at the same time. I deduce that your additional wind must come from beyond the existing grid and I note that the report which started this thread envisages connecting all of Australia, from the west coast to north Queensland. This is no ordinary task, involving multiple DC links, immense stability issues, heaps of remote area construction and on second thoughts, I am sure that there would be no change from $200B, but let’s not quibble about something like money. The task is technologically impractical and, in 10 years, unconstructable. Wde are certainly not just discussing the existing NEM grid any more.

    Your contention that a start on nuclear would be delayed by ten years due to the actions and false obstructionism by the likes of yourself is either a threat or a self-fulfilling prophesy. It is, however, not necessarily true. A start within two years is absolutely possible if there is the political and public will to act rationally, at least cost and maximum safety and reliability towards a low carbon energy future. What is missing is the urgency and I do not happen to agree with your attempts to sit, irrationally, in the road.

    You end by admitting that nuclear may be dominant by 2040. Why, then, do you now argue against it? lf nuclear power is part of your vision by 2040, why not push for a start right now, in parallel with whatever wind, solar, etc capacity can be constructed in the meantime?


  167. Stephen Gloor,

    your bogus assumptions that gold-plate your critique of the BZE plan

    I am not sure which assumptions you are referring to. I thought I’d addressed all of them. Could you please do exactly this:

    1. List the assumptions that you feel we have wrong

    2. Provide what your revised assumption would be in place of ours

    3. Explain what is wrong with ours and why you believe yours is more appropriate

    4. Define the quantum difference it makes to the overall costs.

    Do not introduce fossil fuels as that was not allowed in the ZCA2020 plan so we did not consider it in our critique either (although fully aware that of course any solar power station will have to be a gas hybrid).

    If we were to introduce fossil fuels, than it becomes a totally different argument and we’d need to agree terms of reference before we could start that discussion.


  168. Climate Spectator is clearly a renewable energy advocacy site.

    That might be unduly harsh. I think they are a news site, which relies on advertisers, so their coverage reflects where the news (business activity) is, and the interests of their advertisers. There’s no nuclear news in this country but a lot of renewables news, so its unsurprising the coverage is focussed on renewables. In the end they’re just following the (advertisers) money. That doesn’t excuse uncritical coverage of energy, but I think there is more to the dynamic than simple renewable advocacy. If there were a way to connect adevrtisers with eyeballs by covering nuclear news I expect they’d do it. But in this country that’s not really a viable business right now.


  169. @Peter 11:13, I think you mischaracterise Climate Spectator somewhat. The thing to remember about them is that they are first and foremost a commercial operation. Their primary target audience is people involved in current climate-related businesses – carbon offset agencies and traders, solar, wind and geothermal workers, and investors in same. Those people are not going to appreciate being told repeatedly that they’re misguided.

    The Climate Spectator editors know this, and act accordingly.

    How’s that quote go? “It is very difficult to get someone to understand something, if their livelihood depends on their not understanding it.” Or something like that.


  170. Peter Lang – “I am not sure which assumptions you are referring to. I thought I’d addressed all of them. Could you please do exactly this:”

    And this is precisely the position you alway take. Divert with a list of questions that actually have been answered as they haven’t been. Neil in post 5 or so said this:

    “Thus scaling peak demand at 75GW is too high.”


    “A second error would be scaling reserve capacity to 25% above peak.”

    And this from me that Martin chimed in with:

    “In the absence of an LOLP analysis we took the view that the existing network operators will demand a 33% margin above the peak as they do today. ”

    They don’t. They calculate POE from demand forecasts and measure the USE resulting. They then set the MRL to less than the reliability standard. 33% above peak is simply what we have.

    Table 6.2 – Reserve Surplus over MRL, 2010-11 and 2011-12
    Qld NSW Victoria SA
    1422 2206 682 -25
    2011-12 MRLs 752 1760 722 139


  171. con’t as I hit submit by mistake formatting the table

    Table 6.2 – Reserve Surplus over MRL, 2010-11 and 2011-12
    Qld NSW Vic SA
    1422 2206 682 -25 2011 MRL
    752 1760 722 139 2012 MRL

    This is from the “Final Report for Operational MRLs – 2010 MRL Recalculation”

    Click to access 0249-0002.pdf

    As you can clearly see all states except SA have healthy surpluses over MRL. To say that supply is in excess of demand to the tune of 33% is for reliability reasons is demonstrating that you do not understand how MRLs are calculated and applied in the energy market. If the operational reserves were required to be 33% above demand then there would not be surpluses in any of the generating areas. How much plainer can I put it? Would you care to contact the AEMO and tell then that the consulting group ROAM, that they hired to do this very critical work, actually got it wrong and they should consult with you instead?


  172. Stephen Gloor,

    I won’t bother answering your nonsense. You haven’t a clue what you are talking about, and it is not worth the trouble trying to sort it out with you. I’ve answered all your questions and assertions. But you choose not to take any notrice because you do not get the answer you want. So I agree, it is totally pointless trying to discuss your assertions. I think the suggestion I put to you and Neil here https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/08/12/zca2020-critique/#comment-92000
    was constructive, but you don’t want to risk trying that approach.


  173. ROAM’s report to AEMO is relatively straight-forward, but only in a mathematical manner.

    FROM MEMORY: A couple of years back, an explosion and fire in Bayswater’s switchyard which belongs to TransGrid, not Macquarie Generation, took out three of the four units. This is a capacity of 2980 MW, which was running mid-afternoon at somewhere above 60% capacity. The finakl unit sagged to well below frequency but miraculously stayed on line. About 1300 MW was lost and a further spinning reserve of about 700MW was taken out. It was extremely fortuitous that this did not result in a cascading failure throughout the system.

    Thus, mathematicians may come and mathematicians may go, but the engineer in me is convinced that the system must remain stable under conditions where the worst possible single event happens – in this case, the loss of the biggest power station in Australia.

    Mathematician’s curves are smoothed and played with, averaged and integrated to within an inch of their metaphorical lives. The real world comes in chunks and these chunks are linked in ways that defy modelling, especially statistical modelling.

    NSW was particularly lucky that, at this time of need, there was surplus capacity in the system above the calculated target Minimum Reserve Capacity.

    So, both Ender and Peter Lang are correct. Only the assumptions and perspectives differ. There is no need for duelling statisticians.

    The fact remains, however, that whatever the installed capacity of wind, this same report explains why energy from wind is not capable of being despatched or modelled. Wind power is so unreliable that it is ignored in calculation of system capacity and MRC. No matter how much wind energy is harvested, the whole system must be designed for the non-wind case and then try to pay for wind on top.

    Wind is thus a very expensive extravagance and a great way to export dollars to Denmark for hardware.


  174. OOPS!

    Para 2 above. 3 Bayswater units are 1980MW, not 2980MW as stated.

    Further, my memory is not clear – all four units may have tripped, with the first restored to service within an hour or two and the last after about 12 hours. This does not affect the story materially.

    My apologies.


  175. I’ve answered all your questions and assertions.

    I’m not sure if you have. You seem to be ducking out of something here Peter.

    Did you really address the following? If so, where?

    To say that supply is in excess of demand to the tune of 33% is for reliability reasons is demonstrating that you do not understand how MRLs are calculated and applied in the energy market. If the operational reserves were required to be 33% above demand then there would not be surpluses in any of the generating areas. How much plainer can I put it? Would you care to contact the AEMO and tell then that the consulting group ROAM, that they hired to do this very critical work, actually got it wrong and they should consult with you instead?


  176. EclipseNow,

    Sorry, I disagree. Both Martin and I have answered these assertions. See thse two posts for a start:



    Is this the last outstanding assumption that you, Neil and Stephen disagree with or are the three of you still arguing that our hydro resources can be diverted to use for backing up for wind and solar. I’d just like to know how many assumptions are still being disputed, because I am frustrated with trying to address continually changing arguments. We don’t get resolved, they never admit when they are wrong, never retract any of their wrong statements and assertions. I feel they actually don’t want to address the issues, they just want to try to find some point to argue about, not because it is relevant, but just to try ot cause a smokescreen to support their belive in RE. So I’ve runn out on patience in trying to resolve anything with either of them.

    Regarding your assertions about ABARE, I’ll be getting back to you.


  177. Stephen and John, I also read the ROAM report when doing the analysis for the Critique.

    I was struck by the fact that all 3 independent networks (NEM, SWIS and NWIS) had reserve margins of around 33% above summer peaks. I was aware that the ROAM MRL calculations suggested this was excessive.

    I decided to go with the guys who have to make it work, the system operators, rather than an advisory consultant’s view using, as John pointed out, simulation models.

    If we see the reserve margin in these networks progressively reduce then I think we can agree that the 33% is excessive. Until then? I’d go with the guys whose jobs are on the line.


  178. Eclipsenow,

    I’ll try to make this simple.

    I believe the 33% reserve capacity margin we allowed is enormously generous to the ZCA plan.

    I don’t believe any amount of reserve capacity margin could make the proposed ZCA system able to provide a reliable electricity supply.

    So arguing about whether the reserve capacity should be 33% or something less is just silly.

    Just think for a moment and compare the reliability of our mature, coal and gas electricity generators with wind and solar plants, backed up by burning pelletised wheat stalks, and located a long distance from the demand centres.

    Think about all the problems in the reliability of these un proven technologies, the logistics sytem needed to get the wheat stalks from the wheat fields to the solar power stations, and so on. The need water supplies to the edge of the desert. The power stations need a work force and repair people out there with quick access time. We have to allow for droughts and floods causing unexpected biomass shortages. We have to allow for dust storms like we had a year ago. That dust caked on everything and didn’t wash off. It would take years to clean all that off the solar reflector surfaces.

    I urge you and the others to think before attacking and accusing us of misleading you. Just think how could these suggested technologies possibly provide a reliable electricity supply?

    Given the above, what is the point of arguing whether the reserve capacity margin should be 33% or any other figure. Even if we cut it back to 25% or 20% (an absolute minimum for the best networks in USA and Europe) it would make very little difference. ZCA missed it altogether and that is a significant error.

    I think 33% is very conservative and 100% would not be sufficient. No amout would be sufficient.

    I hope this helps.


  179. At the top of the above post, I’ve now added some media-suitable ‘sound bytes’ from the critique, prepared by Martin. Obviously, please read the whole critique below to understand the context:

    –They assume we will be using less than half the energy by 2020 than we do today without any damage to the economy. This flies in the face of 200 years of history.

    –They have seriously underestimated the cost and timescale required to implement the plan.

    –For $8 a week extra on your electricity bill, you will give up all domestic plane travel, all your bus trips and you must all take half your journeys by electrified trains.

    –They even suggest that all you two car families cut back to just one electric car.

    –You better stock up on candles because you can certainly expect more blackouts and brownouts.

    –Addressing these drawbacks could add over $50 a week to your power bill not the $8 promised by BZE. That’s over $2,600 per year for the average household.


  180. Barry Brook
    They assume we will be using less than half the energy by 2020 than we do today without any damage to the economy. This flies in the face of 200 years of history.
    This is very misleading, the ZCA2020 plan envisages 50% more electricity consumption, but replacing the energy in FF’s ( PJ/year) with much more efficient kWh. If all FF is replaced by nuclear power we would also see a dramatic reduction in energy use based on MWe output, because more than 2/3 of coal and oil energy is lost as waste heat. It is also envisaging a more energy efficient economy, approaching present day Europe.
    I dont see how poorly insulated homes and low fuel economy vehicles are helping our economy.

    They even suggest that all you two car families cut back to just one electric car.
    To be fair, the ZCA2020 plan is suggesting 3/4 of private vehicle transport is replaced by mass-transit, with the 1/4 private using electric rather than oil based energy. It is really the VMT by private vehicles not the number parked in driveways.The energy used by maintaining present private vehicle use(VMT) but switching to electric is rather small, and is going to have to happen whether renewables and or nuclear provide that electricity.
    I dont think you are suggesting our society should continue to rely on private oil based transport


  181. Neil Howes (20 Aug at 10:28) appears to draw some of his numbers from strange sources, perhaps his derriere.

    First, he claims that the plan allows for 50% increase in energy consumption. Not so. This is absolutely misrepresentation of the highest order and is based on a mythical increase in efficiency of 50 to 80%. So, today’s loads increase by 50% then decrease due to these supposed efficiency gains to 50% of the number we started out with before the pea and thimble game began.

    To achieve this is somewhat akin to re-engineering and re-tooling every single residence and workplace in Australia by tomorrow afternoon. Pink batts will not achieve this. Windows would need to be replaced in toto, wall materials such as weatherboard tightly sealed, everythin pulled apart and rebuilt, repainted and to exacting standards, and that’s just homes. Repeat ditto through every part of our infrastructure. Immediately if not sooner. What dreaming this is!

    The thermal efficiency of modern thermal power stations, whether nuclear or coal fired or whatever, is well above 40%. I leave others to make fine corrections here. Bayswater (vintage 1985 or so) units are about 39% efficient. Qld’s supercritical units are somewhat better. About half these losses go up the stack or are used to run auxilaries such as steam feed pumps, which every power station needs.

    Nuclear will be about the same, except for the stack losses, depending on the technology adopted, because the boiler/turbine sets operate on similar principles – only the heat source has changed. The sentence “If all FF is replaced by nuclear power we would also see a dramatic reduction in energy use based on MWe output, because more than 2/3 of coal and oil energy is lost as waste heat. is thus nonsense. The difference between the two is not worthy of argument in the real world. What matters is the energy sent out, which is 100% of the NAMEPLATE rating of the FF or nuclear units, where 1000MW means 1000MW.

    Solar and wind and other related sources operate intermittently, typically averaging say 30% of the NAMEPLATE rating and require substantial backup if blackouts are to be avoided. 1000MW means 300MW and even these are unreliable. Go figure.

    Regarding the discussion of numbers of cars and motive sources for same. This is a case of chicken and egg, or rather, cart before the horse.

    Of course people don’t want to pay for additional cars just to soak up their domestic capital. The way things now are, there is no option if husband, wife and perhaps a couple of kids are to get to work and play. Let’s see the alternative before we cut the ground out from under the millions of Aussies who don’t choose cars – they need them. Most have no alternative yet and most will still be in this same situation in ten years’ time, because rebuilding all of our transport system is likely to take decades, regardless of the effort and money thrown at this problem.

    Even the Snowy Scheme took 20+ years. If this debate continues without thought for time and cost constraints we are wasting our time.


  182. Regarding time constraints please note that there is an addendum critique on wind farm Implementation Times in ZCA at the top of this page. Barry forgot to mention this addendum in his earlier post.


  183. John Bennetts,
    You made several points, which are more or less seriously put, though indicating minimal understanding of the operational constraints of coal fired and CCGT power.
    We have several examples of coal-fired power being used seasonally and some mothballed coal-fired being activated when gas supply has failed.
    Furthermore, the existing >40GW of FF thermal power is going to be around for a long time before replaced by renewable and or nuclear. The CO2 emissions are going to be determined by how frequently it is operating and at what power level. Wind and solar variability is fairly long duration( days ) and seasonal. It is not necessary to have 100% back-up for wind and solar to be available in 5mins because wide-spread cloud or low wind weather systems move over periods of days. Further, much more OCGT is planned to be built.

    Blackouts. You seem to be strangely accepting of blackouts thats not what I said, I said we already have blackouts and they are accepted, because they are relatively infrequent and of a short duration. Furthermore, many industrial users accept non-firm power that can and is load shed during high demand periods.


  184. @Neil Howes, on 20 August 2010 at 12.13:

    I stand by what I said re operational constraints on coal fired, OCGT and CCGT power stations. Whether or not >40GW of existing coal fired power will be around “for a long time” is in part a function of how fast the steam generating end of these is converted to using a nuclear heat source in lieu of coal, which is entirely possible if not guaranteed. I have explained the value in this previously.

    OCGT and CCGT systems operate exactly within constraints as described by me.

    My real point is that regardless of the amount of sun and wind that is harnessed, the initial report is based on abandoning the coal fired units, which is an impossibility without replacement nuclear, in order to get some kind of reliability at levels acceptable to the public.

    Similarly, I stand by my comments re blackouts. The current standards for blackouts/load shedding call for meeting at least 95% of all loads 99.98% of the time, ie one reasonable sized blackout somewhere on the grid each year, or thereabouts. What I believe the public cannot and will not accept is a laissaiz-faire attitude to blackouts to the point of risking them on a daily basis or whenever the wind drops, purely because of quasi-religious determination that nuclear, which is safe and cheap, is somehow preferred to expensive, underpowered, unreliable, so-called renewables which are proposed on the basis that they will last 25 or more years with no such records on the board.

    Show me a 25-year old solar panel which has generated reliable, day and night, rain and shine, for 25 years and I will consider changing my mind.

    Until this happens, I prefer to rely on statistically relevant methods for assessing reliability.


  185. Yet again, OOPS!

    I presented a reversed meaning in one sentence above, due to attempted haste and an overly long sentence.

    What I believe the public cannot and will not accept is a laissaiz-faire attitude to blackouts to the point of risking them on a daily basis or whenever the wind drops, purely because of quasi-religious determination that nuclear, which is safe and cheap, is somehow NOT preferred to expensive, underpowered, unreliable, so-called renewables which are proposed on the basis that they will last 25 or more years with no such records on the board.

    My bad.


  186. Bryen,

    Thank you for this additional critique. It is valuable to have these details of the critique posted here.

    I would like to expand on your critique of the ZCA2020 solar timeline:

    1 The material we have found on RSEP so far does not state how much storage is planned, but we know it is small because the expected average annual capacity factor is only 34%; it will be much less in winter. It is basically a summer time, day time generator. Nothing like what the ZCA plan is built on.


    “Stage 2 (2015-2020) : During stage 2, a constant rate of around 6,000 – 7,000MW/yr of construction will see the completion of the bulk of the required CST capacity.

    Since solar thermal needs about 10 times as much material as nuclear per MW of capacity, solar would need roughly 10 times the workforce to construct it. Therefore, if we could build 6000 MW per year of solar thermal (that has never been built anywhere yet), using the same assumptions we could build the same capacity of nuclear even faster. On this basis nuclear could replace all our fossil fuel generators by 2020, just as ZCA claims could be done with solar thermal. The point to take from this is how ludicrous is the ZCA assumptions. They are unrealistic but orders of magnitude. This is a window on what the whole ZCA2020 plan is like

    Furthermore, not only does solar thermal require 10 times the material and, therefore roughly 10 times more workforce, but whereas nuclear would be constructed relatively close to our cities where workforce and the necessary supporting services are available, the soar farms are a long way from the major population centres. Therefore it will be much more difficult, and costly, to build solar farms than nuclear even if an equivalent amount of labour was required.

    I suspect one of the supporters of the ZCA plan will point out that nuclear takes about 4 to 5 years to build (Gen IIIs in Japan, China, Korea), but the ZCA plan assumes the solar thermal plants can be built in 2.5 years. Well the ZCA plan has no basis for its assumption. It is just another example of the extreme case of wishful dreaming upon which the plan is built. No solar plants of the types assumed in ZCA have ever been built, nor even designed. They are decades away from reality at the most optimistic.

    3 Regarding Table 3.2, S&L forecast 1214 MW of solar thermal tower projects would be installed throughout the world by 2020. The first plant is now at least 7 years behind schedule. Despite this, ZCA2020 plan assumes 100 MW will be under construction in 2011 (next year) and 42,500 MW will be installed by 2020, in Australia! Not only this, but ZCA assumes a a plant with storage capacity that is not even on the drawing board.

    4 You say

    It is also unlikely that Solar 220‟s will be online before 2020

    It should be pointed out that none of these plants are planned to have 17 h storage, so it is unlikely any plants of the type assumed by ZCA2020 plan will be online by 2020.


  187. @ Barry Brook, on 20 August 2010 at 16.13.
    Fantastic addition, Barry!

    It saddens me to see that solar thermal is now 7 years behind and that many of the ZCA’s assumptions re techological availability and actual completed, commercial experience are not supported by their own references. Nobody gains from delays to development of otherwise promising green alternatives, however it is simply inexcusable for ZCA to include such wildly inaccurate nonsense.

    Now we will all (ZCA included) have to work much harder to correct these errors and re-educate the public before we will be able to move forward. Damn.


  188. Tremendous site guys, and very interesting exchanges of views. I hope you can all refrain from too much name-calling though i know this can be difficult when arguing passionately-held beliefs.

    I will declare my bias up-front: i am involved in exploration to locate uranium reserves with the firm belief that EVEN Australia, with its world-dominant position of nuclear source materials (low-cost uranium) will eventually swing towards nuclear power generation. perhaps not for mainstream power in the Southeast populations centres, but certainly for desalination plants and regional industrial hubs.

    Can I ask please that you provide a background somwehere on the site for the authors of the critique? Perhaps it is there and I missed it. However I find it useful to know the background and qualifications of the people who post important information.

    Thanks again and congratulations.


  189. Whilst I can understand why this site pushes hard for a nuclear solution I think that there is excessive focus on renewables and their inadequacies when the greatest obstacle to nuclear is not the Green/renewables push but the thoroughly entrenched fossil fuel industry and the lack of an effective carbon price. I really think Martin – and Barry – has been wrong to direct so much focus on attacking renewables whilst tolerating dirty cheap energy until sentiment changes; the wait could be longer than any of us can tolerate.

    Get a price on carbon and there’ll be more effective selling of the lower cost benefits of nuclear – even more so if renewables fail to deliver – but I really fear King Coal will simply divide and conquer – the high costs of renewables plus the lingering but not altogether logical public opposition to nuclear will be their PR tools to prevent effective policy. That and the power of mining royalty gigadollars.

    Sorry but I can’t condemn the Greens position; they actually have a policy, albeit one that will almost surely be expensive but it won’t be as expensive as failure to reduce emissions at all and that’s where the mainstream parties remain. It’s mainstream politics that’s letting us down here. They seem incapable of serious direct action and show no signs of being on the verge of making nuclear the keystone of any future energy policy so you better add at least another decade or more to any projections of what nuclear might really do for us.

    The best we are likely to get is a price on carbon that doesn’t simply funnel the money into an even less workable clean energy solution; Carbon Capture and Storage – possibly the greatest greenwash scam ever perpetrated on the public. Get that price in place and maybe, just maybe there’ll be some chance of progress on climate and energy.


  190. Ken you have raised some good points. For 40 years I have observed the renewable versus nuclear debate take centre stage while in the background fossil fuels continue to pollute the atmosphere with CO2 without any cost penalty. This has allowed the rapid expansion of fossil fuels during this time with little if any competition from non carbon energy sources. Until CO2 emissions are regarded as pollution and are penalised by a carbon tax or similar I fear that we could still be in the same position in another 40 years as vested fossil fuel interests continue to successfully stall any move to a viable non carbon energy economy.


  191. Peter, the fear of rising energy costs is more widely a tool of the Denial, Doubt and Delay crowd (I like to refer to them as 3’Ders – a lot like ID’ers but with a poorer grasp of science) and such a message from pro-nuclear activists who genuinely want action on climate is lost amongst that crowd’s noise.

    I fear rising costs less than I fear complete failure to act. We’ve had 2 full decades of pretending that delay is our friend. Australia, as the word’s largest coal exporter, is not inconsequential in a global sense. I think that our ‘good fortune’ in that regard will come back to bite us when the real world consequences hit and politicians and nations that happily purchased our fossil fuels look for scapegoats for the collective failures they were part of. There are more costs to Australia than those purely based on price per KWHr.

    Despite the protest swing to the Greens, neither major party has really grasped this nettle. Both look well suited to presiding over the world’s coal mine for the foreseeable future and look more likely to push for gas for local consumption when hard pressed than nuclear, despite it being no more capable than coal in delivering the longer term emissions reductions we really need.

    Right now there are major new coal plants in the pipeline; sorry but I’d rather we ‘waste’ money building renewables than waste it building coal or gas plants that we can’t allow to run for more than a fraction of their working life. There’s waste and there’s waste; at least new solar won’t face premature closure and I don’t think we will regret having them when the heatwave that kills whole regions ends all remnants of denialist delusion.

    Lay the groundwork for inclusion of nuclear as you go but get clear about who and what your real opposition is in this. And don’t underestimate their power to thwart and undermine public will.


  192. Tom, I agree; the per KWHr costs of fossil fuels do not represent what they really cost. As long as the energy market fails to incorporate the ever growing climate debt that’s growing with interest we’ll keep building coal and gas plants on the mistaken belief they are cheaper. They’ve given a lot of good to billions of people but it’s time to quit whilst we are (arguably) still ahead.


  193. Mike Rann, Premier of South Australia, is reported to have said yesterday that Australia is failing to meet its international responsibilities by delaying introduction of an ETS.

    What hypocrisy. He says this, with a straight face, while he, and all the other Federal, state and territory Labor governments, stridently oppose nuclear power, put in place and maintain bans on nuclear power, make anti-nuclear statements at every opportunity and whip up anti nuclear fears at every election.

    Why should we take these sort of pronouncements as any more than opportunistic, wedge politics.


  194. Tom and Ken,

    I hear you. Your call for an ETS is familiar. As is arguing it is delay and denial is too.

    I partly agree. However, I feel that most of the people who call for this do not understand the economic cost of imposing a carbon price while at the same time preventing the most cost effective way of reducing emissions. They also have not considered the consequences of doing so with respect to th rate of world emissions reductions.

    Most of the people who make the arguments you are making are really arguing from an idealistic and ideological perspective. What they really want is more command and control, more taxes, imposts on business, and Renewable energy, just because they think it is good.

    I am convinced we will never get past this and remove the imposts on nuclear if we impose a price on carbon first.

    When I see the two of you making the case and genuinely arguing to remove all the imposts on nuclear, that is when I’ll believe your genuine about cutting CO2 emissions rather than just trying to push your ideology.

    Tom said:

    Until CO2 emissions are regarded as pollution and are penalised by a carbon tax or similar I fear that we could still be in the same position in another 40 years as vested fossil fuel interests continue to successfully stall any move to a viable non carbon energy economy.

    This is true. But equally true is we’ll be in the same position in 40 years time if we don’t remove the ban and other impediments on nuclear. There is no point imposing a carbon price while the ban and imposts remain. That is what needs to be tacked. While Labor Greens and the environmental NGO’s oppose nuclear, the whole basis of their argument is a fraud.


  195. I agree that if the Greens have their way we will end up following the disastrous German model but without the benefit of pre-existing nuclear. What troubles me is that they not only want the $23 carbon tax but to introduce feed-in tariffs for commercial wind and solar, presumably replacing the REC approach.

    At face value you’d think that this policy might make life difficult for Hazelwood since 1.4 kg CO2/kwe X 2.3c per kg CO2 = 3.2 c extra on each kwh. Since mixed cycle gas might only pay 1c they get a leg up but their basic fuel cost is higher. However I am certain that the parasitic carbon credit industry will find some way of wangling carbon tax ‘deductions’.

    Should Abbott get to form a government he not only has to face the Greens in the Senate but now the power industry say they want long term policy assurances. PMs come and go in 3 years or less but a big power plant is for 40 years. I also note that under the RET framework generators will directly own their quota of wind farms to generate inhouse ‘credits’. Once met the coal plants then get to emit unabated.

    Thus I think none of Liberals, Labor or Greens has the right approach. However I’m not longer sure just what is the right approach but it ain’t the German model.


  196. Ken, I am not attacking renewable energy per se. If I am attacking anything it is the unrealistic expectations that are promulgated by renewable energy supporters. The BZE proposal was one of the more realistic attempts I have seen to find a way to exclusively use renewable energy. Where it failed badly, and the focus of the critique, was that it grossly misrepresented the likely cost. It gives false hope to those who want to believe that renewable energy can provide an attractive solution.

    Unlike Peter, I agree that a price on carbon is essential. The difficulty is that for a carbon price alone to make renewable solutions like BZE’s financially viable it probably needs to be over $300 per tonne. For CCS and nuclear it needs to be “only” $90 and could well be much less for nuclear. Doing nothing, the carbon price can remain zero. For me, doing nothing is not an option. A carbon price of $300 will add 30 cents a kWh to the cost of electricity coming out of the Hunter valley and 40 cents from the Latrobe valley. That is between 6 and 8 times the cost we currently pay to those generators. One way or the other we will all have to pay for that because we won’t be able to close those coal plants overnight. A carbon price of $90 will reduce the cost to under 10 cents – about double what we pay now to the generators.

    Unfortunately for renewable energy the “science” (to use that awful popular expression) is against it. All RE energy sources are more dilute than existing solution, particularly uranium, and it will necessarily be more expensive to extract that energy and turn it into electricity. This is not “attacking” renewable energy it is just being realistic.

    Personally, I don’t accept that it needs to take decades to implement nuclear power in Australia. There are no technical barriers to installing current generation nuclear plants in the same timescale it would take to implement BZE’s solution but at a fraction of the cost. It’s a different story for CCS because there may be technical barriers yet to be overcome. The nuclear problems are all political to do with regulation and public perception. We need to be honest with the public about the likely cost of electricity from renewable energy and nuclear power so they can make an informed choice. Hopefully at the next election.


  197. I heard Dr Mark Diesendorf on ABC radio yesterday afternoon (2NC 1233, approx 4:40pm) spouting the usual nonsense about solar PV being appropriate and viable and deserving of a capital construction subsidy from the other electricity users, via the retailers as well as a feed-in tariff of 60 cents per kWh (cf circa 4 cents per kWh for current coal or for proposed nuclear, as per the NEM).

    Mark went on to spin that the Spanish and Germans have wound these tariffs back to 50 or 40 cents per unit because of the decreasing costs of construction and anticipated life spans of beyond 30 years for PV.

    His affirmations that this is rational were not challenged by the interviewer. Not a word about the inequity of the government forcing non-users to pay more as the government also pays more and the retailers pay more… as the manufacturers and the sales folk laught on their way to the bank.

    He also touched on the stupidity of offering this federal subsidy towards the capital cost of Solar PV, which has been so overgenerous that in only a few months, the allocation of funds for this has been fully taken up. This is supposed to be a 5 year program.

    Mark is in favout of increasing the funds wasted through such largesse by (1) Allocating an unlimited amount of money so that households can put more of these onto their rooftops continuously; (2) Increasing the maximum size of PV array that the government will subsidise for private customers to place on their rooftops; and (3) Extending both the capital and the feed-in subsidies to commercial ventures.

    This is by far a greater wrong than anything else happening in the power industry at present.

    This type of illogical action leads to enormous boom and bust cycles in this industry, leaving n o industrial and skill base for future maintenance.

    Enormous anmounts of money are already being wasted by capital subsidies. Mark D obviously is proposing at least a ten-fold increase in this waste, perhaps much much more.

    Huge amounts of private money have been committed by governments who have arranged for the energy retailers to collect from such as my family so that this loot can be distributed, year after year, amongst the beneficiaries of the capital subsidy so that they can feel good about their inflated feed-in tariffs. This is planned to continue to be a weight on all of our shoulders for decades.

    Maintenance of these solar panels on top of roofs is virtually impossible for householders, because it entails working on rooftops. Untrained, ill-equipped householders will soon start falling from their roofs and snapping their limbs and necks because of this. How can this possible be a sane or desirable outcome? It will certainly happen, and families will suffer as an unintended and uncosted consequence.

    Mark also, quite erroniously, stated that this solar power will be available during morning and afternoon peaks. What? In Winter, when Mr Victoria rises in the dark of morning, the solar panels will contribute precisely zip to the morning peak. Similarly, in the evening, Mr Victoria had better be cooking by candle light on a gas stove, because PV certainly will not do the job.

    I suggest that those who understand the illogical and the just plain stupid amongst current practices speak up. Peter’s call for us to only argue against policies which hobble the as yet non-existent Australian nuclear power industry are arguing for inaction on all other fronts.

    Peter’s oft-repeated refrain on this topic is both illogical and just plain wrong. Repetition does not alter that very clear fact.

    Ken Nicholson’s post immediately above is absolutely correct.

    The Australian carbon footprint will not be decreased by focussing our efforts on an attempt to ignore the present in a vain hope for a better future. Peter Lang is just plain wrong on this and should re-think.


  198. I’ll have to come back to the argument about carbon pricing later. I don’t have time to do it justice now. I’ve written many posts on the matter previously, but they are not all together in one place and are not consolidated.

    In the meantime, this article on Bjorn Lomborg’s new book may be of interest:
    I have not read this new book but have read his previous books.

    I do believe that investment decisions should be made on a proper cost/benefit basis.

    I am convinced that pricing carbon in Australia, while the Greens and Labor and the environment NGO’s remain firmly opposed to clean electricity generation, is a fundamentally flawed approach. I’ve seen the delays this has caused for 20+ years and I am convinced it will continue for as long as we attempt to ignore and cover up the underlying problem – ideological beliefs!

    The advocates would be better off to spend their energy confronting Greens, Labor party machine, and the environmental NGO’s to change their anti nuclear policies.


  199. @Peter Lang:
    I believe that most users of this site have no reason to come together here to “confront Greens, Labor party machine(s)”.

    Your ideological belief that one side of Australian politics must be destroyed so that the other side can do something about nuclear is purely political spin. There is no need for it here and it tends to devalue whatever else you wish to say.

    You have never been able to coherently show that by re-pricing coal and other GHG power sources, this in any way slows down the switch to nuclear. It remains an unproven contention of yours.

    Peter, you seem determined not to give an inch on this mad claim of yours; you repeat it endlessly; and you deprecate those who disagree.

    Please, leave it alone! If anybody agreed with you, you would have received support in this and other threads. Face it – you are an army of one, in step with only yourself.

    Points for thick skin and tenacity you certainly win, but not your own argument of choice.


  200. John Bennetts you seem to spend a lot of energy telling me what I should and shouldn’t say and believe. You also seem to believe your unsubstantiated statements are OK and should simply be accepted, like “Peter Lang is just plain wrong on this and should re-think”.

    Perhaps you need the rethink.

    And how about this for a stupid statement:

    Please, leave it alone! If anybody agreed with you, you would have received support in this and other threads. Face it – you are an army of one, in step with only yourself.

    That might be how your unions work, but luckily I didn’t spend my career being indoctrinated that way.

    You are telling me to leave alone and I should support group think; that might be your approach, but it’s not mine.


  201. Peter, I have put the rational point of view many times. Your totally emotional, personal and disruptive messages have been left unsupported by the many other visitors to this site.

    Of course this is significant.

    A sentient being would realise that they were not making headway and reconsider their message, technique and methods. Instead, you play the same cracked record resisting attempts by others to put in place any form of pollution charge for GHG emission.

    A sentient being would, in the face of repeated negative remarks by EVERY other contributor, reconsider the effectiveness of a barrage of personal abuse emanating from your keyboard.

    A sentient being would also reconsider your use of blatantly political sloganeering re Green policy and the current government’s efforts during the past couple of years. The Federal Government did not kill four workers – this matter is a usual OH&S issue within the realm of State governments. Domestic building fires have not be statistically worse or better post-insulation than before. These issues have absolutely nothing to do with nuclear power and have, at best, slight relevance to anything which appears on this wonderful site.

    Are you intentionally setting out to drive Barry brook’s readers away? Is there a double negative thing happening here, whereby you are seriously trying your level best to upset those who vist here and to drive them away?

    I have not really suggested that you should support group think, as you have said. What I want you to do is to at least respond to the thinking of the group.

    I once said that you are a slippery person, changing the subject rather than accepting criticism. This is still true. Nobody but you introduced the party political invective which s so unnecessary. This is a sure sign of a poor loser.


  202. I still believe the most serious opposition nuclear faces is the fossil fuel industry, not the Greens. Their strategists are surely snickering with delight at what they read on this site; clear evidence this schism within climate activism still has plenty of scope for blocking a price on carbon and maintaining business as usual. And they’ve barely begun to shift from behind the scenes influence into open campaigning.
    On the mass media front they continue to score victories, currently with the media encouraging public perception of IPCC incompetence and bias. The media is not promoting the perception that in every important respect it has represented the true state of our scientific understanding of climate remarkably well and climate change is inexorabley gathering pace. They’re giving national coverage to Bob Carter right now, not Barry Brooks!


  203. I might add they are giving uncritical national coverage to Bob Carter right now. All those Nationals voters who’ve been sucked in by the lectures the Nationals helped organise are getting their misinformation confirmed.


  204. Ken Fabian,

    I agree. But it is both fossil fuel industry and the Greens/Labor. We need to remove the impediments to nuclear first.

    It should be much easier to change the policy of the Greens and Labor and the environmental NGO’s than the fossil fuel industry. After all, the fossil fuel industry has massive investment to defend, massive revenue to support a near unlimited campaign. On the other hand, the Greens and Labor are supporing their arguments with spin and nonsense. On one hand they say they want to cut ewmissions and on the other they are stridently opposed to nuclear – the cleanest of all electricity generators (LCA basis).

    The logic is clear. But the message we need to get out is to change the position of the Greens and Labor.

    The Greens and Labor are clear;ly more interested in symbolism than in implementing real solutions. If they were genuinely interested in real solutions their arguments would be about want we need to do to remove all the impediments to nuclear, and especially to low cost nuclear in Australia. And what we can do to facilitate fast roll out.

    \Here is one out of left field. Remove the $3 billion subsidy to the car industry and the subsidies to renewables and fossil fuels and build a production system like was built in the USA in the 1940’s to build tanks. The plant would build small reactors under licence such as the Hyperion, or PRISM or some other suitable variety of small nuclear power plant. Then we’d roll them in Australia at an appropriate rate. Then we’d export them to the developing countries. I reckognise that China or Japan could probably do it cheaper, but we are subsidising the car, fossil fuel, renewables and CCS industry, so why not switch that to building small reactors? After all, that is how the Holden got its foot hold in Australia.

    Ken, if you want to know what is behingd the push for the price on carbon, follow the money:

    – EU versus USA for economic advantage
    – Gas industry
    – Renewable energy and researchers (all tjhose with their snout in the public funding trough)
    – Banks
    – traders

    And of course the Left leaning activists who want to impose more command and control on society.

    The left leaning political parties who want more tax revenue so they can spend it on pork barrelling to win elections, and waste it on programs like the Pink Bats insulation fiasco, the $43 billion nationalised broadband government owned and union controlled monopoly, and the BER rourt.

    Those are the interest groups arguing for a carbon price.

    The fact that you are arguing so strenuously for a symbol – a legisllated carbon price – instead of arguing for removal of the impediments to low cost nuclear convinces me that the argument ihas much more to do with symbolism than substance.

    I am convinced that all whoa are arguing for a carbon price should be putting all their effort into arguing the case for the Greens, Labor, Greenpeace, ACF, WWF, FoE to change their policy on nuclear, and to do it NOW, if it is as urgent as you believe it is.

    If you don’t do this, you are hypocritical.


  205. Ken,

    You are really showing your left wing bias with this statement:

    I might add they are giving uncritical national coverage.

    I haven’t seen you complain about the ABC’s bias agaiinst nuclear and for renewable energy that has been blatant and continuous for 20+ years. The ABC is basically the advertising arm of the Labor Party. It is Australia’s Pravda.


  206. The ABC seems to have a split personality . On the one hand shows like Q&A berate climate change deniers. Shortly thereafter Lateline Business is cock-a-hoop over the latest coal export figures. Policy memo to ABC; coal is either good or bad, work out which.


  207. John Newlands.

    No. Wrong. The ABC is not a political party. At least it is not supposed to be, even though nearly all the reporters seem to think it is their job to try to get Labor elected to government.

    ABC is not supposed to take sides. It is not supposed to be a decisions making body. It is supposed to provide even handed reporting.

    However, the Left want it to be a propoganda organisation for their beliefs. And so it is.


  208. Peter Lang wastes many column centimetres accusing those who differ of being Green, left wing, politically motivated ineffective dolts. He mixes this rhetoric with claims that he cannot and has not validated, to the extent that nothing apart from doing just one thing – lowering the cost of nuclear, if need be by subsidy using funds switched from, eg, the auto industry, to achieve this.

    In particular, he illogically sticks to the concept that making coal pay its way via tax or by any other means is counter productive and that most people, including virtually every other contributer to BNC, are dead wrong, simply because in Peter Lang’s world he has power to decree that this is so.

    What evidence is there of an alternative political force which is pro nuclear?

    What evidence is there that any Australian political party will consider subsidising NPP’s and/or dropping existing support packages in favour of NPP’s?

    What relevance does carping on about so-called leftists have, when at this stage no party in Australia has addressed any part of the real GHG problem?

    If such a motivated and focussed party in fact exists, and this is clearly not the anti-nuke Greens, let’s get behind it, regardless of red/green/blue irrelevancies.


  209. John Bennetts has identified the key issue to my mind when he says (above):

    “What evidence is there of an alternative political force which is pro nuclear?”

    “What evidence is there that any Australian political party will consider subsidising NPP’s and/or dropping existing support packages in favour of NPP’s?”

    This site represents the first necessary stage in starting the debate we need to have and hopefully making these questions redundant because it provides a forum for a rational exchange of ideas and a way of placing those ideas out for critical review.

    I have found Peter’s comments central and highly enlightening though yes, I’m sure he and others have been a trifle emotive at times.

    Can I suggest that the authors of the BZE critique consider updating it to include some of the new information that is presently in addenda and later exchanges?

    I think this critique is one of the most important pieces of work around. If we really don’t have any choices except nuclear to take us forward then let us get the debate out to the community as soon as possible.


  210. “the Left want it to be a propoganda organisation for their beliefs”
    Since when have Labor been considered “Left”? Not for the best part of 15 years.

    And when the main alternative is led by a climate-change denying, religious nutjob who invades our televisions with crap like “stop the boats”, what do we expect?. Honestly, if he’s the only party leader pushing for nuclear power in this country, it’s no bloody wonder a lot of people in this country don’t take the energy issue seriously.

    That said, I haven’t heard him say he’d actually look seriously at nuclear power either! Certainly wasn’t a part of his election campaign.

    If the Libs (or anyone else for that matter) stated that they will take the climate problem seriously as well as remove the impediments to nuclear power (i.e. the ban and risk-premium) in the next election campaign, I’d probably vote for them. Until then, all the main parties (ALP, Libs, Greens) remain as underwhelming as each other.

    This political mud-slinging around nuclear does not help to promote the implementation of it.



  211. I agree Tom Keen. Enough. I remind people of the fairly straightforward commenting rules of BNC:

    Comments Policy — I welcome comments, posts, suggestions and informed debate, from a wide range of perspectives. However, personal attacks, insulting/vulgar posts, or repetitious/false tirades will not be tolerated and can result in moderation or banning. Trolls will be warned, and then disemvowelled.

    Civility — Clear-minded criticism is welcomed, but play the ball and not the person. Rudeness will not be tolerated. This includes speculation about motives or what ‘sort of person’ someone is. Civility, gentle humour and staying on topic are superior debating tools.

    Relevance — Please maintain focus on the topic at hand. Do not attempt to solve big problems in a single comment, or to offer as fact what are simply opinions about complex matters.


  212. Peter, I have not said I oppose nuclear power and don’t; I just think it’s a long, long way off in Australia and that holding back growth of emissions, even if that means high energy costs is better than building more coal or gas plants that will face forced early closure with the extravagant waste that entails. That I consider solar if it’s got decent EROI to be worthwhile, that I don’t consider endless growth in energy supply to be essential or more important than emissions reduction, that I believe a society that is extravagantly wasteful of energy will not be brought to it’s knees by being less wasteful does not equate to opposition to nuclear.

    I don’t oppose nuclear and I don’t oppose renewable having to compete but not on an unequal footing with fossil fuels that continue to accumulate a growing burden of external costs they don’t have to pay for.

    I think renewables have shown a strong trend of getting cheaper that doesn’t look anywhere near over, despite the unequal time scales and resourcing that underwrote the long development time given to nuclear.

    Meanwhile as we argue Australia is massively increasing it’s contribution to the problem; perhaps the coal and gas we sell can be considered the responsibility of the user but when the climate problem becomes a clear and present crisis Australia will not be absolved of responsibility. What that will cost is beyond calculation. I say Tax carbon, preferably tax carbon at the minehead.


  213. @Ken,

    Well put. I would add that exports (coal, aluminium…) may well earn a refund and imports should be taxed for their energy content, the amount of import tax to reflect the CO2 emission rate of the originating country. That avoids the “one world government” issue.


  214. Peter, I meant to add that, regarding Bob Carter and the media; this goes to the heart of acceptance that there is even a climate problem, not the pro’s and con’s of proposed solutions. On that fundamental issue the fossil fuel industry is still scoring notable wins.


  215. Ken,

    Meanwhile as we argue Australia is massively increasing it’s contribution to the problem;

    I agree. The solution is absoluteley clear. Get after tjhose blocking progress, which thoost opposed to nuclear.

    Dont support renewables. It is totally uneconomic and has no hope of nbeing economic. As long as you and others keep hangiing to this hope (which is arguing for an economically irrational position) we will continue to delay.

    Most people ar not going to support highly irrational policies, although some on the edge do support them irrespective of the cost to society.

    So the way forward is clear, and what you shou;d nbe arguing for is clear. It is you and those with the views you are arguing for that are the block to progress.

    By the way, attitudes of the majority can change quite quickly. The job is to get the information our and explain it. Not continually repeat it is too hard and wont happen. If we take that attitude it certainly won’t happen.


  216. PL I’ve got a hay shed. When that electric train pulls up I’ll kick in a few bales to keep the aluminium smelters going.

    I think the simple message should be that despite generous subsidies wind and and solar have shown themselves totally unable to replace coal. Therefore we have to think of something else.


  217. Peter, I’d just like to make a few more points –

    I think the price of carbon is absolutely fundamental to this issue; the abundance and low cost of fossil fuels is why we are both at the point of no return on climate change and why we face an impasse on effective action.

    The cheapness of coal energy particularly has contributed enormously to better lives for huge numbers of people but it has also contributed greatly to a society that doesn’t really value energy and has come to see extravagant wastefulness not merely as some kind of inalienable right but as somehow an ingredient essential to our future.

    Coal’s cheapness is why power stations have not been designed to respond to changes in demand; what so many here see as a problem with intermittent energy sources – failure to result in equivalent reductions in emission – is actually a fundamental flaw of coal fired power plants, not of wind or solar. I don’t believe it’s ever been an engineering difficulty that could not be overcome but builders and operators of coal power plants have had abundant, cheap raw materials and simply have never had incentive.

    We haven’t seen any long term efforts to come up with large scale energy storage as a direct consequence of coal being so cheap that storage has never been an issue. It’s even now being treated as an afterthought. I don’t see that hydro should count in this regard as it’s more about them making most effective use of their high dams and issues with keeping enough water in them. Climate change could well see what hydro we have lose it’s reliability.

    Most relevant to the arguments here – had Australia not had abundant cheap coal we would almost certainly have a well established nuclear power industry right now!

    I’ve mentioned the impacts on Australia’s international standing from it’s place as the world’s biggest coal exporter. With a continuing policy of supporting fossil fuels domestically, we will exacerbate those trade and security problems. I don’t believe we will get off scot free. What that might cost can’t be embodied in any economic modelling.

    I remain deeply dismayed that you would put any preconditions on supporting a carbon price and by that, allowing fossil fuel’s unfair market advantage to continue undiminished.

    Lastly, I personally make a point of telling people I encounter who do accept that climate is a serious issue that nuclear power must be part of the solution, however when I encounter denial and doubt I try not to complicate the issue by making this about nuclear versus renewables. At this point I think the denial and doubt is widespread and persistent enough that it is the greatest impediment to community support for action. I consider doing what I can for future generations through urging genuine action on climate something that does not diminish us even if it does reduce my disposable income -just like if I put aside money for my kids education or health I am not diminished. That I voted Green is a reflection of my frustration with mainstream politics in Australia and I have made it clear to them that I think their historical attachment to anti-nuclear policy does not have my support.

    I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made to respond to comments; not everyone makes such an effort


  218. Interesting thoughts.

    I’d Barry is following this, the open thread has fallen off the home page. Might be time for a new one, and the discussion on carbon pricing and the future of the coal industry can be continued there.


  219. Peter,

    “Did everyone notice the cloud cover on the weather map tonight. Nearly all the ZCA2020 proposed solar power station site in Eastern Australia are under cloud.”

    A screen shot of that overlayed with ZCA’s proposed solar stations would make a good image to go with this article I think. Basically…where’d the power go?!


  220. Ken, you seem to think that coal fired power stations cannot follow the loads. This is incorrect. At any given time most power stations have partially loaded units, typically running in the range 30% to 70% load.

    These can be ramped up or down as load changes, at 10 ot 20 MW/minute or better.

    Even a very large load swing of 1000 MW can be accommodated easily by ramping 10 units up or down over 10 or 15 minutes, during which time some switchable loads can be reduced or dropped without affecting supply generally. These might include aluminium smelter, other large industry, off-peak water heaters and the like.

    Of course, the immediate response would be to ramp up hydro – this can be achieved in a minute or two and stopped again just as fast, thus reserving water for this kind of need.

    Thus, there is no realistic major impediment due to coal fired stations being inflexible… in practice, they are not.

    I suggest that you drop this as an arguing point against coal.

    I am surprised that nowhere in the literature have I seen any discussion of possible re-engineering existing coal stations to nuclear. Perhaps this is not possible, due to different steam temperatures and pressures. The cooling water systems should be pretty close to identical, though. Any thoughts on this?


  221. I am surprised that nowhere in the literature have I seen any discussion of possible re-engineering existing coal stations to nuclear. Perhaps this is not possible, due to different steam temperatures and pressures. The cooling water systems should be pretty close to identical, though. Any thoughts on this?

    Check this site out:



  222. Ken Fabian,

    I think the price of carbon is absolutely fundamental to this issue; the abundance and low cost of fossil fuels is why we are both at the point of no return on climate change and why we face an impasse on effective action.

    I disagree with you. I’ve explained why on many posts on many threads including the “Alternative to the CPRS” thread and coments throughout, especially towards the end:

    Increasing the cost of electricity is exactly the wrong policy if we want to cut world GHG emissions.

    Continual repetition of “I want a price on carbon because it will save the world” is not going to persuade the majority. They majority will see it is just another silly symbol. You and others are arguing for this just as strongly as your predecessors who had similar beliefs have argued for all the prevous attempts to impose their will though regulations that damage the economy but do not achieve the desired outcome.

    If we want to cut emissions we need to remove the impediments to low-cost, clean, safe electricity. To add more and more regulations to distort the market is the reverse of what should be done. If you the Greens, the environmental NGO’s and the Labor Party could get over your hang ups on this, then we’d make real progress and quickly (just like the other G20 countries).


  223. Dear me, Peter, you again pass up an opportunity to debate something and instead make an argument of it.

    You have again provided a rude response to one who disagrees with you, topped off with political invective.

    This is not rational and will convince nobody of the strength of your argument. I assume that you DO care? Or is this all about reflex action to feed an ego?

    Your argument against a carbon tax is wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes. There is absolutely no problem with polluters having to pay for the privilege.


  224. Bennetts,

    Dear me, Peter, you again pass up an opportunity to debate something and instead make an argument of it

    Dear me, yourself. I’ve been debating this matter long before you arrived on this site and decided it was your duty to straighten me out as to what I should and shouldn’t say. What is your problem? Are you still wanting to play the unions shop-steward role? You can discuss the subject if you want to. You don’t have to keep on advising me about what I should and shouldn’t say, believe and think.


  225. Peter I want to think tactically. Your tactic appears to be negative, carping and unsupported abuse and politically motivated. Nothing more. Nothing substantial.

    You claim to have hung around this site like a bad smell for years. This may be true, but smells eventually give way to clear air.

    Please, just engage your faculties – your technique is not winning you friends or supporters. It is failing the cause.

    Think about it. Please just lay off the personal stuff and stick to the facts. Blind refusal to allow costs which correctly, ethically and morally should be to the account of either the miners or the burners. You have not provided a shred of evidence why this should not happen. Nothing.

    Please either stop pushing this empty argument or provide some proper argument in favour of this position. Simply accusing others of being Green, Shop stewards, or socialists or left wing or whatever is not an argument, it is carping nonsense.

    This non-issue keeps being dragged onto centre stage, by one lone supporter. It is not productive to the cause of NPP’s and indicates an unwillingness to actually discuss the issues on their merits.

    Perhaps Barry is right – this thread should be closed and a new one started. At least one of us needs to take a break.


  226. Bennetts,

    In an earlier post you said let’s not talk about Bennetts, its not relevant. So why are you spending so much effort trying to advise me about what I should think and say. Are you a self appointed expert on this too? A frustrated father? A failed union shop-steward. Or the ‘thought police’? all ovf the above?

    My advise to you is to not concern yourself about what I am saying. If you don’t like it, don’t read my posts.


  227. Pingback: Another ZCA 2020 Critique – will they respond? « BraveNewClimate

  228. The ZCA2020 document has proposed that 60% of their prediction of Australian electricity needs, could be met by using solar concentrators by the year 2020, using current technology.

    On p.50 of that report they state that the amount of molten salt required was 25 tonne/MWh. In many places in the report it says that the Molten Salt tanks would be dimensioned to support 17 hours of electricity production.

    The arithmetic is easy: Each site, with its 17+ solar
    concentrators, is intended to produce 3540MW.

    Therefore the amount of salt is:
    3540*17*25 = 1,504,500 tonnes,

    Can you imagine how many truck loads that
    would require? At 40 tonnes per B-Double, at
    50 loads a day, 250 trucking days a year, that
    would take several years to bring the salt.
    Imagine the road damage caused by this
    many trucks on desert roads.

    The “salt” is basically sea salt
    (see this ad: http://www.coastalchem.com/PDFs/HITECSALT/Hitec%20Solar%20Salt.pdf

    As far as I can determine there are only two plants
    currently using solar plus Molten Salt Storage.
    These are the 5MW Archimedie plant in Italy, and the 50MW Andersol 1 plant in Spain.

    The Archimedie plant is just window dressing for the
    gas turbine generator on the site.

    The Andersol 1 plant has only 7.5 hours of molten salt storage.

    Hence their claims that they could build 12 * 17 * 217MW plants with 17 hours of Molten Salt Storage with “current technology” is fraudulent – anyone with a calculator can prove that.

    I have checked the 25 tonnes/MWh figure and it is correct. Here are my calculations:

    The heat capacity of the salt is 0.37 BTU/lb/degF (see the above link). This is 0.1084 Wh/lb/degF, or 429.85Wh/tonne/degC. The plant is to cycle the salt from 565 to 290C which is 275C difference. Thus
    the heat extracted would represent 118.2kWh/tonne.

    That corresponds to 8.44 tonne/MWh. Unfortunately the Carnot efficiency from converting this heat to steam would probably be, at best, 40% (Coal power stations
    and car engines achieve this – just). Thus you would
    need 8.44/0.4 = 21.1 tonnes/MWh. Since they intend to capture the steam and cool it, their efficiency would be less, so their figure of 25MHh/tonne is more realistic.

    Also their estimate of a 52 Megalitre tank at each of the 217MW plants is correctly dimensioned. I had to check this because nothing in this report can be taken

    They then (again on p.50) dismiss this as trivial because, whilst extremely large, there are oil tanks this big. The fact that oil weighs half as much as molten salt (1796 tonnes/ cubic metre), and that the molten salt is to be stored at temperatures over 565C is ignored.

    The report was written to please the audience they expected to read it. This audience loves to read that
    solar power is viable, and available, despite all the
    evidence against either of those being true.

    This report is embarrassing. I sincerely hope that all academics associated with this report are never, ever, taken seriously again.

    David leComte


  229. David leComte,

    Thanks you for this excellent post. We didn’t check these calculations, and didn’t look into the practicality of getting the salt and building and maintaing the tanks to hold 1.5 Mt of salt at temperatures up to 565C.

    Just one point about Gemasolar (the spanish plant). It is planned to have 15h of molten salt storage; however, that is just the plan. The plant hasn’t been built yet so we won’t know until it has operating experience.


  230. Well done David. We didn’t get down to that level of detail in our critique but I am not surprised that such “inconvenient truths” could be scattered throughout the proposal.

    And remember in our critique we are suggesting the need for over twice the amount of solar proposed. So the real problems are twice as bad as your calculations.

    My first instinct was to suggest someone tables all such “truths” and present them to the ZCA2020 authors for consideration but I suspect it might be a waste of time. It would certainly be a potential embarrassment to some of the learned supporters of the plan.


  231. David leComte,

    My mistake and my apologies. Your comment was about Andersol 1 but I had Gemasloar on my brain and interpreted your comments as referring to Gemasoalr.

    You are correct that

    The Andersol 1 plant has only 7.5 hours of molten salt storage.


  232. Hi David,

    I saw you your post at Climate Spectator. That’s great. I don’t have other sites to suggest but other BNC’ers might.

    Climate Spectator adds several new posts each day, but they usually only keep interest for a day or so, so they do not have the ongoing discussions and history that BNC has.

    By the way, you can edit after you post on the Climate Spectator site, which allows you to fix formatting (such as paragraphs and URL) if you want to.


  233. Nice work David.

    Two quick corrects – first, the salt density is 1.796 tonne/cubic metre, and second, its not sea salt. Its a KNO3/NaNO3 mixture, not NaCl.

    I wonder what the energy required to produce this much salt is, and the CO2 emissions. As far as I know the nitrate is derived from nitrogen fixed by the Haber Bosch process which basically produces NH3 from atmospheric N2 by combining it with H sourced from fossil CH4, with CO2 as the byproduct. The NH3 is then oxidised to -NO3 which winds up in the salt mix.

    52 ML salt mix requires about 1/8th that amount of methane, stoichiometrically, and ignoring energy inputs, or 11674 tonne CH4.

    The energy content of methane is 57 kJ/g, or 6.7e17 J in 11674 tonne CH4. At 217 MW and a capacity factor of 20% thats about 6 months worth of the solar plant output just in the stoichiometric nitrogen in the tank. Consider the process energy and you’d be pushing towards about a year’s output of the plant required to produce its storage salt.

    Once made, of course, it doesn’t degrade. But it represents a significant up front energy cost and one off CO2 emission.


  234. I can envision other problems with nitrates though I’m not a chemist just a backyard experimenter. I note ammonium nitrate can explosively dissociate if triggered by a shock. Even in the case of a simple molten salt leak I wonder if potassium nitrate would cause steel and aluminium to burn. That may be just as bad as a sodium leak in an IFR. I take it a thinner and lower melting point fluid is always needed to conduct solar heat to the molten salt reservoir. How long does it take to get a large salt reservoir hot enough to produce steam at night? Not only for the initial startup but after a week of rain.


  235. Theres no risk of KNO3 or NaNO3 going off like ammonium nitrate. Its quite a different mechanism. I don’t know for sure about combustion of steel or aluminium in the salt, but aluminium will rip the oxygen out of rust, so it wouldn’t surprise me. Heat up time will be of the order of the energy storage time (or a bit longer), if the sun is shining. Call it a week to be sure.


  236. John:

    Thanks for the 1.796 tonnes/cubic metre correction. That was a typo on my part – my calculations regarding the 52 megalitre tank were based on the “salt” reference I used in the comment which report that Hitec Salt is (when molten) 112lb/cubic foot.

    The Salt isn’t Sea Salt, and I have no idea why I wrote that? I’ve checked the link in my comment for Hitec “Solar Salt”, and it clearly shows that it has almost no NaCl (< 0.3%)..

    Prompted by your correction, I went and looked at the chemical properties of the two active ingredients NaNO3 and KNO3. The combination of the two melts at 220C, but they individually melt at 308 and 334C respectively?

    Also KNO3 is supposed to "degenerate into Potassium Nitrite and Oxygen" above 560C. Incredible that when mixed with Sodium Nitrate that this doesn't happen?


    I'm not sure that the Andasol 1 project has only 7.5 hours of MSS. The wikipedia reference says this, but it also says that the tank has 1010MWh of storage. At
    50MW capacity, that is 20 hours of storage. The wikipedia reference gives the dimension of "the tank"
    and its dimensions check out with it holding at least
    1GWh. (dimensions = 18m high X 36m diameter)

    The wikipedia reference may not be accurate.

    This reference:

    indicates that there are to be three 50MW turbines
    (when all three are operational) and that two tanks
    will give 7.5 hours for the 3 turbines.

    That is starting to make sense, ie if the two tanks hold
    28,500T as this reference states, then 1GW/150MW is around 7.5 hours. BUT, the dimension of each of the two tanks is consistent with 1GWh each. They are as per the wikipedia reference, ie 18m X 36m diameter.

    So I think this website isn't correct either.

    Does anyone have better data on the Andasol 1 project.

    Also, the above URL indicates that Andasol 2 is supposed to be operational by now – Is it?

    David leComte


  237. John:

    The material cant be pumped until it is in liquid form.

    I’m guessing that they may have some intermediate vessel(s )where external heating can be applied to melt enough to keep the pipes flowing.

    At the end of each day, the fluid in the pipes and to the heat exchanger might then be dumped into the reservoir?

    It would take a long time to heat the reservoir this way though.

    David leComte


  238. Peter Lang:

    There is no “p” in my name.

    Thank you for those references.

    The NREL report clears up some of the confusion though.

    Thermal Storage
    Storage Type: 2-tank indirect
    Storage Capacity: 7.5 hour(s)
    Thermal Storage Description: 28,500 tons of molten salt. 60% sodium nitrate, 40% potassium nitrate. 1,010 MWh. Tanks are 14 m high and 36 m in diameter.

    The second report suggests a possible explanation as well. (ref p.29)

    the use of thermal storage systems: Proposing to use the maximum full load hours and
    at the same time increasing the solar share towards 100% requires an increasing storage
    capacity. Starting with 7.5 storage hours (planned for Andasol 1) we assume to work
    with a 16 hours storage capacity from 2021 which means 24 daily operating hours (see
    Figure 3.6).

    I think that (possibly) only one tank is being used at present, ie they have only about 14000 tonnes, and that by 2021 they intend to get the second tank operational?

    I have been assuming that the tanks are meant to
    keep temperatures around 565C. That is an
    assumption in the ZCA2020 report otherwise their
    25 tonnes/MWh figure makes no sense.

    The Andasol report indicates that it can only get 1GWh from 28,800 tonnes. The NREL report states:

    Power Block
    Turbine Capacity (Net): 49.9 MW
    Turbine Manufacturer: Siemens (Germany)
    Output Type: Rankine
    Power Cycle Pressure: 100.0 bar
    Cooling Method: Wet cooling
    Cooling Method Description: Cooling towers
    Turbine Efficiency: 38.1% @ full load

    The Carnot efficiency is 38.1%. That suggests
    to me that you have 0.381*28.8 tonnes/MWh = 10.97 tonnes/MWh. A 565- 290C thermal cycle would yield
    8.44 tonnes/MWh. I’m guessing that the average temperature of the reservoirs is less than 565 and/or the average minimum temperature is expected to be higher than 290C. Either way, the ZCA2020 figure of 25 tonnes/MWh is 25-30% too low.


  239. The combination of the two melts at 220C, but they individually melt at 308 and 334C respectively?

    Thats right. The mixture melts at a lower temperature than either pure component. The intermediate composition with the lowest melting point is called the eutectic point, hence the term ‘eutectic salt’.

    Also KNO3 is supposed to “degenerate into Potassium Nitrite and Oxygen” above 560C. Incredible that when mixed with Sodium Nitrate that this doesn’t happen?

    Yes, after I wrote above that the salt mix was stable, I started wondering about the thermal stability of the salt mix. I know its not stable – at high temperature it breaks down as you say, and the sodium nitrate will also. Any moisture in the system would be expected to come out as oxides of nitrogen – potent greenhouse gases and ozone eaters. So some consideration of the salt stability and nitrogen oxides emissions would be interesting.


  240. I think I may have solved the mystery with regard to the Andasol 1 project.

    This is the mystery as to why they quote only 7.5 hours of storage when their capacity is 20 hours worth (ie the plant has a 50MW turbine and the molten salt capacity is 1010MWh).

    During the day, some of the heat arriving at the tower generates (steam?) pressure to run the turbine. Some of the heat warms the molten salt from the “cold” tank. and delivers it to the “hot” tank.

    Any excess heat is then pumped into the air using fans.

    If you gathered solar power for 8 hours, and you had 16 hours of storage, you would need >= 3 times as much heat to arrive at the tower, over the 8 hours, as you needed for the turbine.

    Now on some days you could fill your reservoir. There would also be days when you couldn’t.

    The result is that on average, you could not always draw your peak capacity when the sun didn’t shine, because, whilst you can under-fill your storage, you can never over-fill it.

    This ratio of peak storage to average storage would be a function of the time of the year, the number of cloudy/rainy days, and the ratio of the heat arriving at the tower relative to the heat required by the turbine.

    Is this making sense?

    The bottom line though is you could never quote your peak molten salt storage capacity as being your average storage capacity.

    I think that the ZCA2020 report might be doing just that!

    David leComte


  241. I notice that Climate Spectator have removed comments from the ZCA2020 article

    What a bunch of dishonest jerks. Did anyone here chance to archive the comments?

    Perhaps the criticisms were being repeated to them by potential investors in various renewables schemes. I suspect our activism has caused them more grief than they’re ever going to let on. Otherwise they wouldn’t have printed that article attacking the critiques of wind power.


  242. I’ve put up the following comment on the same thread my previous comment was deleted from at 21:11.

    It’s not going to work, Giles. Gone are the days when media was a one-way street. You can try to keep a lid on things by censoring comments or deleting entire comment threads, but you’re probably beginning to realise that in this most critical of issues, providing energy for the future and caring for the environment we depend on, you will not be given a free ride. More people are becoming actively involved in the process, and much of the newly interested demographic is far more sophisticated in these matters than the audience you first thought you were playing to, and to a
    large degree, likely more so than you yourself. You are under the microscope here. This is the way it will be from now on. Keep up this habit of censorship and you will lose the propaganda war all that much more swiftly, once people recognise what you’re up to with it.

    I realise that you are likely to delete this comment on sight, so I’m going to keep a copy for myself and probably use it in the future on my own blog when I get around to the subject of media coverage of energy issues.

    If I were a gambling man, I might be tempted to take bets on how long it will remain there.


  243. Finrod

    I wonder whether Climate Spectator were asked to remove the comments by the ZCA authors, who participated in the forum, wanting to avoid embarassing critiques of the plan? The plan is also potentially embarassing for Melbourne Uni and the politicians who endorsed it once it is put under the microscope. Consider, for example, the proposal to essentially ban all petrol and diesel cars and force people to replace them with 3 makes of electric cars.


  244. Sophie Vorath, one of the ClSp editors, has commented claiming that the thread was not deleted, just made invisible because there was too much bickering and personal attacking going on there, and if they ever get enough time or staff to go through the thread and delete the comments they deem inappropriate, they might just uninvisible it.

    That’s their story, anyway.


  245. Hi,

    I am a newbie to these sorts of sites.

    Is the Climate Spectator site important? Does it matter that they have tried to impose censorship on this issue?

    Could the fact that I have found that the ZCA proposal is technically (and totally) flawed be of concern to them?

    It does seem a coincidence that the critique has been running for some time, but they decide to shut it down now.

    david lecomte


  246. David,

    Yes, Climate Spectator is relatively important in the Australian context because it has a large and rapidly growing readership, fed in part through a relationship with Crikey.

    Oddly, they are trying to out-do Merdoch through ignoring or deleting opinion which is contrary to the site owner(s). Just why any sentient beast would adopt the same techniques as Lkimited News is beyond me.

    They have just about lost me as a reader as a result.


  247. The Sept edition of Engineers Australia contains a positive article on the ZCA 2020 Plan.

    Below is a copy of my letter about the ZCA 2020 Plan to the editor which I sent off today.

    Dear Editor

    Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan (ZCA 2020)

    The ZCA2020 energy plan (featured in the September edition of Engineers Australia) is a transition plan to a non carbon energy economy that appears to be based more on a political, ideological belief than engineering technical expertise. A comprehensive engineering critique of this plan can be found at https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/08/12/zca2020-critique/

    Just applying a simple reality test to ZCA2020, the following question could be asked “has any other country tried to do this and were they successful?”

    Over the past 20 years, Denmark, Germany and Spain, really committed to the development of renewable energy powered economies and have invested more than $100 billion dollars. The result is disappointing, no fossil fuel power stations replaced, no change to carbon emissions and high electricity charges.

    By stark contrast about 30 years ago, in a period of just 10 years, France constructed 35 nuclear reactors replacing almost all its fossil fuel electricity generation. Today France has 58 nuclear reactors, the lowest carbon emissions (per capita) of the large developed countries and low electricity charges.

    The need to transfer to non carbon energy sources, because of climate change and the depletion of global oil and gas reserves, will be the big challenge for the world economies over the next decade or so. Successful, cost effective transition plans will be based on real world engineering data and evidence, not ideological beliefs.

    Tom Bond OFIEAust


  248. I posted the below comment on John Quiggan’s web site at:

    John Quiggan,

    I understand what you are saying. It has been said many times by others. However, I disagree (but am open to be convinced).

    Can we simplify this discussion so we reduce the number of variables.

    Let’s compare the cost of a) an emissions-free system that can supply our existing demand with b) an emissions-free (no nuclear) system that can provide the demand as you expect if we have the pricing system you are advocating.

    For the existing system let’s assume the NEM demand (for 2007 because I have the figures on top of my head)

    1. Average demand is 25GW
    2. Peak demand is 33GW at 7 pm in July (winter)
    3. Summer baseload is about 18GW (occasionally 17 GW)
    4. Mid winter baseload is 20 GW

    That is the demand we have to supply. The capital cost for this system with nuclear only (for simplicity I am ignoring the capacity reserve margin of about 20%) is roughly estimated as follows.

    New nuclear, settled down cost, at say A$3000/kW ($3700/kW for the first units if wee remove the impediments so we get the same price as for the UAE):
    The total capital cost is: $33GW x $3000/kW = $99 billion

    We can reduce this cost a little if we replace 8GW of nuclear with 8GW of pumped hydro (for $15 billion, refer to the pumped hydro paper on BNC); the cost reduces to:
    Nuclear: 25GW x $3000/kW = $75 billion, plus
    Pumped hydro: 8GW for $15 billion
    Total = $90 billion

    But keep in mind, we have to replace the existing fleet of fossil fuel generators with something over the same time period as we would be building new nuclear. If we replaced the existing generators with coal (no CCS), the cost would be:
    Coal only: 33GW x $2000/kW = $66 billion

    So the extra capital cost for nuclear and pumped hydro would be $24 billion

    Sensitivity analysis on the unit costs I’ve used: If I have underestimated the settled down cost per kW by 50%, the cost of the nuclear only option would be say $150 billion instead of $99 billion. The difference between replacing with coal only or replacing with nuclear only would be $84 billion.

    [By the way, I believe that nuclear should and could be a lot cheaper than coal. It can be in the future. We need to remove all the impediments that have been imposed on nuclear as a result of the 40 odd years of anti-nuclear protesting.]

    Now let’s turn to your alternative. I understand (perhaps misunderstand) you are arguing that, through flexible pricing, smart grids, etc., we can shift load to when the renewables are most efficient. This would require totally impracticable amounts of energy storage.

    The BZE have put a great deal of effort into developing the ‘Zero Carbon Australia by 2020’ plan to do what you are arguing for. They used heroic assumptions about smart grids, efficiency improvements and fuel switching from fossil fuels to electricity for land transport and heat. Martin Nicholson and I authored a critique of this study. You can Google it or find in on BNC.

    In short, it shows that their plan to provide our electricity needs is based on non-existent technologies, and performance from their assumed technologies that are unlikely to be viable for decades, if ever. The conclusions of the critique are:
    • The ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan has significantly underestimated the cost and timescale required to implement such a plan.
    • Our revised cost estimate is nearly five times higher than the estimate in the Plan: $1,709 billion compared to $370 billion. The cost estimates are highly uncertain with a range of $855 billion to $4,191 billion for our estimate.
    • The wholesale electricity costs would increase nearly 10 times above current costs to $500/MWh, not the $120/MWh claimed in the Plan.
    • The total electricity demand in 2020 is expected to be 44% higher than proposed: 449 TWh compared to the 325 TWh presented in the Plan.
    • The Plan has inadequate reserve capacity margin to ensure network reliability remains at current levels. The total installed capacity needs to be increased by 65% above the proposed capacity in the Plan to 160 GW compared to the 97 GW used in the Plan.
    • The Plan’s implementation timeline is unrealistic. We doubt any solar thermal plants, of the size and availability proposed in the plan, will be on line before 2020. We expect only demonstration plants will be built until there is confidence that they can be economically viable.
    • The Plan relies on many unsupported assumptions, which we believe are invalid; two of the most important are:
    1. A quote in the Executive Summary “The Plan relies only on existing, proven, commercially available and costed technologies.”
    2. Solar thermal power stations with the performance characteristics and availability of baseload power stations exist now or will in the near future.

    The demand is higher in the ZCA plan and in our critique than in the NEM 2007 figures I used in the example above so the two sets of figures are not directly comparable. However, the costs are consistent with the other studies that show renewables cannot do the job and, even with heroic assumptions, the cost of a renewable system would be in the order of 5 to 50 times the cost of doing the same with nuclear.


  249. The critique is mainly focussed on assumptions about the availability of wind, sun, and the initial assumptions of the energy needed.

    The ZCA report though doesn’t even pass muster on a technical level.

    The Molten Salt Storage requirements are vastly underrated to achieve the stated claim that power can be generated through each night.

    Similarly the solar multiple is vastly underrated. At best, the solar multiple quoted could heat but a minor fraction of the the peak storage specified (17h).

    Lastly, just to achieve the storage specified, which would not be enough, would require around 1.6 million tonnes of salt per site, about 20 million tonnes across all 12 sites. This would strip the world’s known reserves, plus require convoys of trucks rolling across desert roads, every day, for several years, just to deliver the salt to site.


  250. There’s been a lot of support in these comments for nuclear power. After about 60 years of nuclear generation overseas, has the world really found a safe and secure way of disposing of the nuclear waste? If so, what is it and has the cost of doing this been factored in?


  251. Hi Peter Stewart, and welcome to BNC. I hope you will stay and continue discussion.

    The BNC web site includes many articles and comments on the issue of the management of what is commonly called nuclear waste but I call once used nuclear fuel.

    1. Firstly, I do not see that we want to dispose of ‘once used nuclear fuel’. We’ve only used about 1% of the available energy so far. So I argue we want to keep it until such time as it is more economic to reuse the ‘once used nuclear fuel’ rather than mine more uranium (or throium). So I suggest the question should be about the long term management and storage of ‘once used nuclear fuel’ rather than the disposal of it.

    2. The quantities of used fuel are miniscule compared with the toxic emissions from fossil fuel electricity generation. This picture shows 16 concrete canisters that hold all the used fuel from the entire life of a now decommissioned US nuclear power plant. The power plant operated for 31 years and supplied 44TWh of electricity. If that electricity had been generated by coal, it would have produced about 44 million tonnes of CO2, roughly equivalent amount of mine waste and fly ash, 44 tonnes of uranium released to the environment, and many tonnes of heavy metals, carcogenic hydro carbons and particulates. These are not contained; they are released to the environment. The point that I am making is the the eventual waste products from nuclear are miniscule in quantity, and are contained, unlike the emissions from fossil fuel generators. I’d also point out that the toxic emissions from nuclear decay over time but many of the the toxic emisisons from fossil fuel generation do not.

    Compared with the waste from fossil fuels, the waste from nuclear power is trivial both in quantity and in the cost of the externalities. If you would like to know more about this, you might like to Google “ExternE”.

    You ask whether the cost of waste management has been factored in. Yes, the cost is included in the cost of electricity from nuclear power plants.


  252. Well… if this so-​​called waste is such a big deal, then you do with it what you do with any other kind of waste, really. Reduce, re-​​use, and recycle.

    There’s really a very, very small quantity of this byproduct material — approximately 20 tonnes of used fuel per gigawatt-​​year, for existing light-​​water reactors with no processing or recycling of that used fuel. Even though it’s such a small quantity of material, improving the efficiency of modern power reactors and the burn-​​up of their fuel reduces still further the amount of used fuel generated.

    That’s an infinitesimal quantity of material, compared to all the other waste, and potentially hazardous waste from industrial processes, that we’re producing in society.

    That quantity of material should be compared to the approximately 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere from an equivalent amount of coal-​​fired electricity generation.

    This used fuel is a solid material with quite a high density, and a small volume. It’s easy to handle and store, and it’s compact.

    It’s radioactive, but there’s nothing supernaturally mysterious or dangerous about radioactivity.

    This material is a stable solid, it’s insoluble in water, and it doesn’t burn or spill. It’s easy to handle. We can easily handle this small amount of material at the plants where it is generated for as long as a century, so moving it off-​​site doesn’t need to be done in a hurry.

    But is this used fuel really “waste”?

    95% of typical once-​​used LWR fuel is unchanged uranium. Why not simply recover the uranium from this used fuel, and re-​​use it?

    Straight away, then, we’ve reduced the “waste” quantity to only 1% of what we originally had, or approximately one tonne.

    Of that one tonne, 25% of it, 250 kg, is made up of a mixture of transuranic actinides. All those actinides can be re-​​used as fuel in fast reactors, and many of them, such as Np-​​237, Pu-​​238, Am-​​241 and Cf-​​252 have important, valuable technological applications.

    Most of this mixture of transuranic actinides is made up of a mixture of plutonium nuclides, but this mixture is not viable weapons fuel, and the efficient use of this material as reactor fuel does not require the use of the plutonium-​​selective chemical extraction which would be needed to manufacture plutonium for a nuclear weapon.

    Making up the remaining 750 kg of material, we have the fission products. The fission products make up almost all of the radioactivity in used nuclear fuel, but the majority of the radioactivity comes from relatively short-​​lived radionuclides which will decay quickly. Many of the moderately long-​​lived radioactive fission products have valuable technological applications, in medicine, research and industry, and they can be recovered for productive uses.

    In short, handling and storing this tiny amount of solid material, which is easy to handle safely and keep isolated from the environment, is not at all an unsolved, intractable challenge.

    When discussing “nuclear waste”, it’s very valuable to be informed about exactly how much of this material is formed from a certain amount of energy generation, what it’s made of, what its properties are, what the actual lifetimes of these radionuclides are, and what their applications and uses are.

    If “nuclear waste” is such a dilemma, the best thing to do is to not waste it.


  253. You query the use of 2008 data and yet base on your arguments on the ABARE report.
    The ABARE report use 2007-2008 data.
    They also site that wind power will make up 12% of power generation under their modelling set to increase due to its efficency and cheap cost.
    Did you guys even read the report your quoting?


  254. Reginald Barrington,

    Of course we’ve read the report, and thoroughly. How could we have prepared the critique if we didn’t?

    Your question is silly. My question to you is “have you understood the ZCA2020 report?

    Have you understood trhe critique?

    Do you understand that if one option costs twice as much as another (in this case it is about 5 to 10 times as much),you don’t go chasing details that will make only a few percent difference to the outcome.

    The ZCA 2020 plan is totally nonsensical. It is based on technology that doiesn’t exist and porobably will never be commercially viable.

    perhaps you should read, and study, the report and the critique and understand what both are saying.


  255. Wind capacity factor actually 12% at morning peak?

    Even if I am correct, this is still far below the assumptions made in the ZCA so-called Plan. ZCA state that 50GW will come from wind in 2020. 200MW is only 0.4% of the assumed wind contribution, which is itself still inadequate.


  256. Thanks for this critique.

    The BZE plan has a trans-Nullarbor HV DC power link; Do you factor the consequent modest degree of demand smoothing between eastern state and WA grids into your calculations?

    How would a nuclear power station near the Nullarbor coast west of Ceduna and connected to the now national grid via that trans-Nullarbor HV DC power link affect the BZE proposal?

    Is there a problem with a substantial proportion of domestic plane travel being replaced by CO2 emission-free High Speed Rail?


  257. DA a couple of factoids in favour of the proposal

    1) WA has 60% of Australia’s gas. It would be easier to transmit peak electrons than piped gas to south eastern Australia when it runs short. Indications are that Qld coal seam gas will go overseas, not interstate, so WA is the swing producer.

    2) Olympic Dam mine needs 700 MW to expand, including a large desalination plant and pipeline from the coast. Where will that energy come from?

    PS I read on Crikey or somewhere that Westpac was going to finance new coal fired plant in WA. That seems to have been quickly hushed up.


  258. There’s a bit of a typographical error in my above comment. It should be fairly obvious, but anyway:

    “95% of typical once-​​used LWR fuel is unchanged uranium. Why not simply recover the uranium from this used fuel, and re-​​use it?

    Straight away, then, we’ve reduced the “waste” quantity to only 1% of what we originally had, or approximately one tonne.”

    That “1%” should actually say “5%”.


  259. JN, keep reading Crikey.

    ANZ has been outed as the silent financier for the revamp of the former Muja power station in WA. More interesting by far than their actual finncial arrangement was the fact that they demanded anonymity, presumably for fear of being slaughtered in the Court of Public Opinion.

    Olympic Dam would be a fine business case for Australia’s first NPP or two – say, 2 x 400MW, dry cooled, located close to the load at the mine site. The existing transmission line, upgraded if necessary, would be excellent for transmitting surplus into the SA system and from there to the Eastern Australian NEM, as well as providing adequate back-up capacity in case one of the NPP’s was not available.


  260. “Olympic Dam would be a fine business case for Australia’s first NPP or two – say, 2 x 400MW, dry cooled, located close to the load at the mine site.”

    I’m not 100% sure, but I would take an educated guess that a large portion of Olympic Dam’s energy requirements are not electricity, but they’re primary energy supplied by natural gas and fuels like diesel for vehicles.

    The furnaces used to smelt the 200,000 tonnes of copper each year presumably account for a great deal of the energy requirements – I’m pretty sure they’re fueled by natural gas.

    Anyway, regarding plans for renewable energy like Zero Carbon Australia, I think the conclusion, in brief, is this:

    I think everyone agrees that it is technically possible in theory to build enough solar thermal and wind generation that could replace all of Australia’s fossil-fuelled stationary electricity generation.

    However, it would take far longer, and it would cost far, far, far more, and it would have a greater footprint on the landscape, than the use of nuclear energy.

    So why then would you ever consider this scenario to possibly have more merit than the use of nuclear energy?

    The only way that you can possibly judge this option to be better than the nuclear energy option is if you have this dogma, this ideology, which just takes it as a given that nuclear energy is intrinsically bad and that solar and wind are intrinsically good, outside of any examination of science, evidence or reason.


  261. Regarding wind farm construction rates, Gunning wind farm (46.5MW, 31 turbines), run by Acciona who run the Waubra wind farm in Vic :


    Approval granted 2004. Construction started May 2010, expected 12 to 18 months construction time. Again add 2 to 3 years of previous time for wind monitoring, compiling EA etc, so thats about 10 years form start to finish.

    Interesting to note the sum total of the community newsletters is 1 :


    The website for the Gunning Wind Farm, which currently has a placeholder page :



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  263. * For $8 a week extra on your electricity bill, you will give up all domestic plane travel, all your bus trips and you must all take half your journeys by electrified trains.

    * They even suggest that all you two car families cut back to just one electric car.

    So then…… EXACTLY WHAT do you people think will happen post Peak Oil (which occurred two or three years ago?)


  264. Hi Mike Stasse,

    Thank you for the question. I wonder if you are actually interested in the answer. If you are, there are many posts on BNC that will answer your question. Here is one that shows the way to least cost electricity, low-emission, environmentally benign electricity generation: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/09/emission-cuts-realities/

    Other posts explain how low-cost, low-emissions electricity will diplace, over time, gas for heating and oil for transport (in part with liquid fuels produced by electricity). The key is to have low-cost, not-high cost, low emissions electricity. This is what renewable generated electricity cannot achieve.


  265. Just a quick couple of questions for the experts.
    (1) If we were to replace existing coal fired power stations with nuclear, in theory we would only have to replace the boilers and coal handling facilities with nuclear reactors. The existing steam turbo-generators, switchgear, power lines etc could remain, as well as some of the communications, buildings, etc. Would this significantly reduce the cost?
    (2) How safe is it to transfer nuclear fuel from point of origin to the power station? (Accidents, theft etc.) Can this fuel be used to make WMDs?


  266. Hi Peter Stewart,

    These are excellent questions, and just exactly the questions many in the general public ask. I’ll give a preliminary short answer, and may come back with more. Others may contribute too.

    There are many posts on BNC that will answer your questions and I’d point you to the “Sustainable Nuclear” tab and the “Renewal Limits” tab. There is a wealth of information in the posts and comments.

    Here is my quick initial response:

    1. Some argue that we could simply replace the coal boiler and coal handling facilities ad coal power statiosn with nuclear reactors. But it is not that simple and many others believe it would not be economic to do so. I expect it would be more economic to build whole new nuclear power stations. If we ‘brown-field’ (build a new nuclear plant on an existing coal fired power stations site) then some existing infrastructure can be used and save some costs. However, it may be more economic, considering the 60+ year life of a nuclear plant, to build it on the coast where it can use sea water cooling instead of requiring our scarce fresh water for cooling.

    2. Nuclear fuel can be handled. It is not dangerous until it comes out of the reactor. Uranium, has about 20,000 times the energy density of coal – this means far smaller shipping quantities and costs. Roughly 20,000 times less ships, ship journeys, trains, train journeys and rail lines. Similarly less mining and less mine waste and heavy metals released to the environment. Nuclear fuel is far safer, and so is the extraction process.

    3. Regarding nuclear safety, I’d refer you to this post, and particularly to Figures 1 and 2: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/07/04/what-is-risk/ Nuclear is about 10 to 100 times safer then coal for electricity generation.

    4. Others will be able to answer your questions about thefts and WMD better than I can, or point you to the best posts and comments to address these questions.


  267. Peter Stewart,

    A photo is worth a thousand words, so here a re three:

    1. Used nuclear fuel stored in canisters http://www.nukeworker.com/pictures/displayimage-5205-fullsize.html . These 16 canisters contain all the once used nuclear fuel fro 32 years of operation of a now decommissioned Yankee nuclear plant. The once used nuclear fuel will be reused in the next generation of reactors, so it is not waste and will not be permanently disposed of.

    2. Pickering nuclear power station, nestled nicely in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, and emitting no soot, smog, heavy metals, or toxic benzenes, long chain hydro carbons, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides or fly ash.

    Further to my answer to your first questions, this site argues the case that we can convert existing coal plants to nuclear plants:


  268. Hi, Peter Stewart,

    Brownfield nuclear power stations cannot use existing turbines, etc, because they run at too low a temperature. Nuclear power stations require physically larger, low pressure and low temperature turbines to achieve the same power output.

    However, existing coal fired power stations have workforces, switchyards, land with appropriate zoning for existing use, cooling water supplies, but note Peter Lang’s comment re salt rather than fresh – it is a factor, but perhaps not a determining factor.

    There is s strong argument for locating coal fired power ststions near the coal source, rather than near the electrical load, which is commonly a city or a steel works or an aluminium smelter.

    Existing power stations also have connection via their switchyard to the national grid covering Qld, Victoria, NSW, Tas, ACT and SA. Extending this HV system to WA and NT would possibly be prohibitively expensive, so I will not suggest that it is viable at present, although some solar enthusiasts have based their predictions (guesses?) on an asumption that Australia will be connected from top to bottom and side to side quite soon. Costs for this could/would put the NBN in the shade.

    Salt versus fresh water? NSW is essentially alone in having three coastal power stations – Eraring, Vales Point and Munmorah. The latter is worn out with 2 of its 4 units no longer functional and the other two on life support. It is an obvious candidate.

    One benefit which Peter did not mention but is becoming a bit of an issue in the Hunter Valley is dust. The research is in its infancy, but the smallest sizes of dust may well be the most damaging to human respiratory systems. These appear to originate with power stations rather than with coal mines or farms, as reparted by Prof Howard Bridgeman at a public meeting I attended not much more than a month back. The local power stations, which have state of the art fabric filters, like tens of thousands of large vacuum cleaner bags, through which the gas from the furnaces passes before being blown into the chimney stacks by large fans. Note: the research is in its infancy and centres on sub-2 micron particles, which are fiendishly difficult to measure, let alone to analyse.

    So, I am a supporter of brownfield power locations for the first few nuclear power stations, in order to capture the advantages I referred to above. The future, however, will see at least some of the new power stations on the coast, close to or inside cities, in order to avoid transmission losses and transmission costs and to conserve fresh water.


  269. It seems to me a prime candidate for nuclear would be the proposed Bayswater B baseload station next to an existing coal fired station. Presumably transmission and cooling will only require minor new work. My impression is that the developers don’t really want to use gas but feel they are being forced into it.

    I believe that long run most of the natural gas in south eastern Australia (SA, Vic, NSW, Tas) will have to be supplemented by coal seam gas from Queensland. WA’s abundant natgas is too far away to be of help. Before carbon pricing has been implemented there is already major resistance to anything more expensive than coal.

    Thus one advantage of an east-west transmission line is that power from WA’s cheap gas would be on tap to SE Australia. There is also the 700 MW and desalination plant needed for Olympic Dam mine which is in the path of that east-west connection. Diverting half the NBN budget to that end would help.


  270. @John N:

    Bayswater B power station site may not be as attractive as you hope. It does not come with a water cooling supply. Air cooling is not impossible by any means but it adds considerably to the cost and noise. It is also new to Australia.

    Apart from cost and efficiency, the first-of-a-kind issues relating to air cooling are best avoided during the design and approvals process if more conventional options are available.

    Regarding coal seam methane, the resource in NSW is huge but there are very significant environmental issues which are becoming very contentious, whether Qld or NSW. These centre on degradation of both underground and surface water supplies, use of chemical cocktails during extraction, the need for large volumes of fresh water during extraction and not just the NIMBY stuff, though that is also present. Landowners fear that their land and water supplies will be degraded permanently and that they will suffer significant and permanent loss due to a one-off operation which will bring them very little return.

    Regarding your comment re WA’s gas supplies and a transmission line across the Nullabor… how much electricity do you think can be pushed down a single set of three wires? We are talking about half a dozen transmission lines carrying direct current (HVDC) if we are to make any sort of impression on East Coast power demands. That will cost not part of an NBN, but the equivalent of many NBN’s. In the absense of a proposal to cost, think 1500km x 6 off = 9000 km, plus beefed-up interconnectors up and down the East Coast, a similar sized undertaking.

    Tens of billions of dollars to cross the continent
    Tens of billions to increase the capacity of east coast distributors.
    More tens of billions of dollars to build a mixture of CCGT and OCGT in WA.
    At least 5% additional losses between generation in WA and the point of consumption.
    Security of supply issues, especially during heat waves.
    All the above, to still end up with a carbon-based power system, although only about half as carbon-intensive as coal based power.

    This suggestion is seriously flawed.

    I have not seen anybody attempt to put dollar values on the possible savings, but nuclear power has the advantage of being able to be located close to major loads and in relatively diverse locations throughout the grid. Done properly, some of the planned transmission line upgrades may be avoided, delayed or reduced in scale without jeopardising security of supply. My rough guess is that, if network upgrades planned for the next umpteen years are tens of billions of dollars per year, that there must be enough savings from this source alone to pay for one or two GW of installed capacity down the track.

    More capacity means more than just more wires and the same capacity.

    A little considered aspect of nuclear power is the reduction in terrorism opportunities. Yes, reduction. Transmission lines are very attractive terrorist targets because they are so easy to knock down and so difficult to defend. Bougainville Copper Mine was targetted by the secessionist rebels not by frontal assault. What eventually forced the closure of CRA’s (Now Rio Tinto) large gold and copper mine was the realisation that the power station at the coast simply could not provide power to the mine because the rebels could take out the transmission towers at will. Nuclear power stations, when sited close to the loads which they serve, not only save the costs of building transmission lines but also substantially reduce the potential for this type of activity.

    I say this, because detractors sometimes state that nuclear power increases the opportunity for terrorism, either by providing a target or by fuel theft. The truth is the converse, because the major threat is to transmission towers. The other two threats are hypothetical in that no nuclear facility has ever been targetted directly by terrorists, anywhere.

    My apologies for bringing terrorism into this thread, but it is in the context of pointing out that large, heavy duty transmission systems not only cost heaps, but that they also come with risks which, though the probability is small in Australia, are very difficult or impossible to handle when things go wrong.


  271. This is in response to John Bennets comments,
    and others, regarding a DC link across the Nullarbor.

    If all we wanted was to pump about 10GW peak across the Nullarbor, we would only need 4 lines – two pairs
    of +/-800kV line-pairs. See Xiangjiaba-Shanghai UHVDC link – This link is 1907km long and can pump 6.4GW.

    I agree that the cost of building this to use some WA gas reserves (alone) would not be justified.

    If we wanted to create a supergrid along the lines of Gregor Czisch’s study, we would probably need four times the capacity of the Xiangjiaba-Shanghai UHVDC link.

    If we did go nuclear, the reality of NIMY-ism will mean that there will not be many available sites for nuclear power stations and I suspect none will be near the main loads (cities). Building a few (large nuclear power stations on a single site may be the only feasible solution. In that case we may need such a DC link after as well


  272. Sorry for all the typos:

    NIMY-ism is NIMBY-ism.

    last sentence should be:
    Building a few (large) nuclear power stations on a few sites may be the only feasible solution. In that case we may need such a DC link to send nuclear generated power to WA.


  273. @David leCompte:

    I agree with David, to a point. NIMBYism is alive and well and that is one reason to support brownfield development of NPP’s, at least initially.

    Winning the hearts and the minds of 100% of the population is impossible, but at least some of the doubters will come across as existing sites are developed and their fears are dealt with. The challeng will be to convince enough people to welcome the cheapest, safest, lowest cost, most technologically complete energy options in future and I am convinced that nuclear has a big role to play in a balanced mix.

    To say in relation to future nuclear power stations “none will be near the main loads (cities)” is to abandon hope without even trying. People aren’t generally stupid, but on this issue they have been mislead for so long that time and patience will be needed for the old fears and prejudices to be sorted out and for the majority to see clearly.

    One of the best ways to educate the public about nuclear power is to pick the starting point carefully, avoiding as many non-core issues as possible. Remember, Sydney used to have large coal fired power stations at White Bay, Bunnerong and Balmain. These may not have been loved by all, but for a generation or two, they performed very well indeed. Other capitals will have similar stories to tell re coal fired power stations in their midst.

    Nuclear has been shown to be cheaper and far safer to its operators and its neighbours than coal or, for that matter, traffic jams, yet populations have happily put up with them. Who knows what decisions may be preferred by Joe Public in 2 or 3 decades? Certainly, the necessary square miles of mirrors and PV collectors would be an impossible sell in a city.

    Look at the current ruckus re coal seam methane in Balmain (?), which caught the local community by surprise.

    I have faith in the capacity of humans to figure out what is best for them and, given time, to follow the chosen path. If there is better base load power technology than NPP’s for Australia’s near future, I have yet to hear of it. The rest is just details.


  274. WIth regard to NIMBY-ism one has to face reality.

    When I came from the country to Sydney to start my 1st bachelor’s degree in 1972, there were protests about a 2nd runway then. In 1974? the Whitlam government chose a 2nd airport near Galston (and not near the Gorge as many thought). Later the Hawke government sited one near the radiotelescope I (then) worked on at Kemps Creek.

    The 2nd runway was built, but a 2nd airport will never be built in Sydney.

    As suburbs build up around Lucas Heights, the pressure increases to move or close it. My guess is that it will be moved.

    In 1972, I remember the protests to stop the Western expressway through Glebe, as well as the “Missing Link” from Figtree bridge to the
    toll gates of what is now called the F3.

    Then there were the plans in the 70s to upgrade Pennant Hills Rd to a freeway – when most of the land along the road was farm land.

    NIMBY-ism stopped these too.

    Given this history, what hope would there be to get a nuclear power station near Sydney?


  275. On the east-west connector a perusal of Google Earth shows that Olympic Dam is close to mid longitude between Sydney and Perth. If they get their 700 MW from the east Australia grid then the transmission will have reached about half way across the continent. Why not keep going?

    Perhaps this is early days but I believe the whole of eastern Australia will come to depend on Qld Surat Basin coal seam gas. In the last couple of years connectors have been built to northern NSW and the Moomba SA natgas pipeline. Note the latter connects to Victoria from the node at Adelaide. Another hint on increased Qld gas import is that the 250 MW peaking plant to be built at Mannum SA may expand to 1000 MW. The next combined cycle plant to come online will be Mortlake Vic I believe. I suspect they are looking further ahead than Bass Strait supplies.

    By 2020 or so eastern CSG could be higher priced than WA natgas. I believe there is a major gas price discrepancy between the east and west coasts of Canada. I suggest the E-W connector is an issue that will keep coming up.


  276. @John Newlands:

    One: The 1GW you mention is close to the natural growth annually in Australian electrical power. It is chicken feed in the longer term.

    Two: Where the 700MW is generated to supply a mine in northern SA is similarly immaterial in the long run. I have previously suggested that it may represent an opportunity for NPP approaching that size at the mine and upgraded connection back to Adelaide, where I understand that they are considering new power supplies for a water purification facility. Of course, cooling water is a bigger issue at the m ine than it is at the coast; air cooling may work out OK. NIMBY-ism at the mine’s end of things may well be less of a problem. And so on and on.

    Three. Since when does Qld have the only coal seam gas in Australia? NSW’s resources are also significant. Victoria hints at coal-to-gas options for brown coal. I don’t like CSG much, but the gas options are more varied than just a pipeline from Qld to somewhere else.


  277. Wow – Dr Karl just told me on The Drum (while making the jap nukes sound a bit scarier too) that the BZE plan would deliver 100% renewable energy at 1/3 the costs of using coal to deliver the same electricity.
    [deleted ad hom]


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  280. I’ve been directed here a couple of times from various climate discussions – unfortunately, I have not been able to make use of the content, as the _complete_ lack of contrast between black text and the background photo makes it entirely unreadable (in both Firefox and Explorer). I had to select all the text in the page in order to even _find_ the comment field.

    Just a suggestion – use a different background photo, change the font color of your text, or otherwise modify the site. This layout meets, I have to say, the criteria of http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/


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  282. On ‘The Conversation’, Roger Dargaville, of the Research Institute, University of Melbourne, posted an article “How do you power a billion lives?” https://theconversation.edu.au/how-do-you-power-a-billion-lives-4596 . In reply to one of my comments Roger Dargaville said:

    “I’m a fan of the concept of ZCA – I don’t see any component of their plan that is not already in existence or unfeasible.”

    I’ll post my full reply here for BNCers and for ease of future access because it will get lost on “The Conversation”.

    It is unfortunate the University of Melbourne, Energy Research Institute is misleading the Australian public by advocating a discredited proposal [1], [2]. It suggests University of Melbourne’s Energy Research Institute has little understanding of energy economics and is not objective. It appears to be promoting an ideology instead of rational analysis.

    Let’s conduct a simple comparison of what we could achieve with nuclear versus renewables. First, let’s set context as to how much we could afford to spend. Then we’ll compare what we could achieve if we spent those funds on a renewable or on a nuclear generating system. To keep it simple we’ll compare solar thermal and nuclear. We’ll use current costs for existing technology. Expenditure and costs are in current 2011 dollars (at parity with US $).

    The Australian government has committed $50 billion to build a National Broadband Network by 2020. (The most recent estimate is $78 billion but let’s ignore that for now and assume $50 billion over 10 years). Let’s extend this spending rate to 2030.

    The electricity industry already spends about $3.5 billion per year on capital expenditure for existing and new electricity generation plant [3], [4]. Let’s add say 1/2 of this, i.e. $18 billion per decade, to our kitty for building new generating capacity.

    Thus, we have $68 billion per decade to invest in new generating capacity ($50 billion from the NBN and $18 billion from redirecting new generating capacity capex).


    The most recent approved solar thermal plant (construction has not started yet) is the Tonopah solar thermal plant in USA [5]. It will be 110 MW with expected 50% capacity factor. It is expected to generate 485,000 MWh per year. The US government has provided a loan guarantee for $737 million [6] but the estimated total project costs does not seem to be publically available information. Wikipedia says “about $1 billion” [7]. Whatever the current estimate for the total project cost is, it will probably double by the time the project is commissioned. But let’s use $1 billion for now. The unit capital cost is $9,090/kW for 50% capacity factor (expected).
    Land area is 1600 acres (647 ha). Water use is 600 acre-feet (740,000 m3) per year.

    From the above we can calculate for $68 billion we’d get:
    7,480 GW capacity and
    33 TWh per year of electricity

    It would use 50 million cubic metres of fresh water per year (in the deserts!)
    It would require 440 sq km of land area
    It would last 25 years and then have to be replaced.

    2. NUCLEAR
    The United Arab Emirates has contracted a Korean consortium to build a 5,600 MW nuclear power plant for $20.4 billion [9], [10], which is $3,650/kW.

    For $68 billion per decade we could have:
    18,630 MW capacity
    140 TWh per year of electricity

    It would use negligible fresh water per year (use sea water for cooling)
    It would require 19 km2 of land area
    It would last 60 years with probable life extension.

    For the same cost, $68 billion, nuclear would generate over four times as much low emissions electricity per year (for over twice as many years). The nuclear plants would last more than twice as long as the solar plants. The nuclear plants would not need the costly infrastructure in the deserts the solar plants would need. The nuclear plants would not require 50 million cubic metres per year of fresh water in the deserts. The nuclear plants would require about 5% as much land area [11]. The nuclear plants would need about 10% as much material (steel, concrete, glass etc.) per MWh of electricity generated.


    [1] Nicholson and Lang (2010), “Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy Plan – Critique

    [2] Trainer (2010) “Another ZCA critique

    [3] Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA), (2010)

    [4] Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE), (2011)

    Click to access BREE_MEGP.pdf

    [5] NREL (2011), “Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project

    [6] US DOE (2011), “Loan Guarantee Program – Solar Reserve LLC (Crescent Dunes)

    [7] Wikipedia, “Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project

    [8] Solar Reserve (2010) “Tonopah Solar Energy, LLC

    Click to access FactSheet_CrescentDunes.pdf

    [9} “South Korea wins UAE $20.4 billion nuclear contract” (2009)

    [10] Nuclear power in the United Arab Emirates

    [11] David Mackay (2009) “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air


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