Australian power problems: Renewables and ideology don’t cut it

Australian power problems: Renewables and ideology don’t cut it. By Graham Lloyd.

Too many people with too little understanding have turned a problem of physics and engineering into one of politics and economics.

The breakdown in electricity supply is as serious as it has been predictable. Engineers know that grinding the coal sector into the ground won’t make renewables produce electricity when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. Leaving gas in the ground, as NSW and Victoria have done, won’t power a back-up supply. Stealing back supplies of gas from companies that have contracted to sell it elsewhere will compound the problems. …

Contrary to popular opinion, Germany’s transition away from nuclear power has not been fuelled by wind and solar. It has been powered by greater use of brown coal and a dependence on Russian Gas.

Power shortages in South Australia, California, Texas, UK and Europe all share a common feature, a naive hope that renewable energy will do the job it is not equipped to do.

Politicians have been cowered into supporting solutions they don’t understand. No serious thinker believes it’s economically sensible to firm up a national grid with batteries but a whole industry is willing to take government money to give it a try.

It might well be an expensive fix for individual households, but not industry. Spending billions to extend the national grid is based on the premise that the wind will always be blowing somewhere. The reality is this is not necessarily the case. …

Political interference by ideologues is ruining our electricity grid:

Alinta Energy chief executive Jeff Dimery belled the cat this week that the energy crisis was caused by chaotic market planning that had swamped the country with renewables that in turn made coal uncompetitive. …

[The former head of Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Adi Paterson] says the nation is locked in a false struggle. “This ­debate has become about economics and the universal law of economics is that it does not trump physics,” he says.

“We have the burden of ­explaining more clearly to people what the real energy choices look like. … If we are going to electrify everything, we are going to need reliable, predictable, ‘always-on’ electricity for a rational society to function.

“With the energy cost issues, people are starting to see that when you take the baseload out the costs go up.” …

Nuclear is the only existing technology that can supply cheap and reliable low-emission electricity:

In the domain of nuclear fission, the first small-scale modular nuclear reactor by a US firm NuScale is under construction and will be completed this decade. …

The US National Academies road map has set a time line to build nuclear fusion reactors from 2035. …

Despite this, nuclear fission and fusion technology are not part of Australia’s official energy discussion. Jim Chalmers, says he has ruled out nuclear energy because “the economics don’t stack up”.

The Treasurer said he had never been a supporter of nuclear power and would maintain his opposition to it, which was “economic not ideological”.

Paterson says this view misunderstands the problem.

“There is a tendency to oversimplify,” he says. “I think the fundamental problem of wind and solar is it is highly accessible to the domestic consumer but most of what is useful in our society we don’t really understand. You can win an argument by saying solar, wind and batteries because people understand it.

“I think we need to have this discussion about fission and fusion as a low-cost source of electrons because it gives us predictability and optionality.

“It will give us a stab at solving the energy problem not just the electricity problem. The question for wind, solar and batteries is ‘Where is the process heat?’

“If we solve the issue of nuclear fusion plants — because they will also provide process heat for ­industry — they will be the anchor tenant of most modern economies from about 2060.”

Too bad the ideologically-driven political process didn’t do due diligence on the carbon dioxide theory before they went down this path. They might have started by noticing that of course all scientists agree when you cancel the ones who don’t, and that only western bureaucracies fund climate science.