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Act now on Australia’s power system or pay more later

Australia has a problem with its power system that goes to the core of many issues we’re facing at the moment — increasing coal and gas prices, changing electricity usage, and climate change. That’s the…

We need more types of electricity in our mix. Flickr/Chip_2904

Australia has a problem with its power system that goes to the core of many issues we’re facing at the moment — increasing coal and gas prices, changing electricity usage, and climate change. That’s the problem of resilience: how well our power system can adapt to change.

Right now, our power system is not in a position to adapt to change. If temperatures rise as expected; if the global price of coal and gas increase dramatically; if global carbon reduction becomes binding; or we start changing our electricity usage patterns, adjusting the system will be very expensive.

This is mainly because the Australian power industry has put all its eggs in the basket of electricity from coal. Even transitioning to gas — ostensibly a low-carbon alternative — will be costly and uncompetitive.

Diversifying fuel sources for electricity will provide the greatest improvement in resilience and adaptability for the supply of Australian electricity, saving us money in the future.

So how have other countries approached the problem of resilience in the supply of electricity? And what should we be doing? We looked at these questions in a recent paper.

Germany

Germany has been hailed for its ambitious roll out of renewable energy. But more than 50% of Germany’s fuel for electricity is imported, which has presented it with an energy security problem.

For this reason, and also because of a commitment to climate change mitigation, Germany has sought to diversify and domesticate their sources of fuel through feed-in-tariffs paid to renewable energy owners. This single policy measure has increased Germany’s renewable energy generation from 3% in 1990 to 22% in 2012.

While critics have pointed to disruption on the grid and in the wholesale market, proponents have cited employment, investment and increased exports.

In our study we found that feed-in-tariffs not only increased renewable energy generation, but democratised production too. Instead of industry, generation shifted to families, villages and farmers.

Ultimately this has resulted in tensions between industry and voters (much as it has in Australia), but the German public remains committed to the policy.

California

California is also in the news, for its Californian Solar Initiative, a US$2.2 billion program to encourage rooftop solar investment. California’s interest in diversification was founded in an electricity crisis back in 2000, causing black outs, upward price spirals and state bail-outs of electricity companies.

There were many reasons underpinning the electricity crisis. Higher gas prices and flaws in market structure that allowed former energy giant Enron to game the energy market were key factors. As a result, the Californian Energy Commission has been committed to diversifying fuels for electricity, encouraging efficiency measures and strengthening both the infrastructure and the institutional structure of the industry.

Initial attempts to diversify away from gas-fired generation were focused on renewable portfolio standards, in effect the same as Australia’s Renewable Energy Target. These were unsuccessful in transitioning California away from its reliance on gas.

For that reason, the Californian government intervened with the Californian Solar Initiative rebates to boost electricity from solar. Notably, with its hot, dry weather conditions, California also has the world’s largest solar thermal generators which have been constructed and are in the process of being commissioned thanks to support from a variety of federal support mechanisms.

California’s shift to greater resilience and energy security has involved a number of overlapping policy measures. These are now starting to deliver greater diversity of supply and energy security.

China

China’s gigantic investment in coal-fired generation tends to dominate discussion about how the nation is bolstering electricity systems for the future.

But China has also taken steps to significantly enhance the resilience of their electricity system. Inefficient coal generation has been retired in favour of considerably more efficient generation, which has reduced energy losses, carbon emissions and non-renewable energy use.

The Renewable Energy Law has facilitated deployment of 161 gigawatts (GW) of hydro, 45GW of wind and 11GW of nuclear power since 1990, whilst US$55 billion has been invested in power transmission. Targets are for an additional 93 GW of hydro, 55GW of wind, 30GW of nuclear and 28GW of solar by 2015. This is along side an ultra-high-voltage network to provide a “unified strong and smart grid”.

At the heart of China’s ability to deliver on their objectives and increase the resilience of their electricity system is their command economy. This directs investment according to centrally determined five-year-plans.

Australia

By comparison, Australia has focused on its Renewable Energy Target to deliver diversified energy. Only recently has the target started delivering greater levels of wind power.

State based support for rooftop solar panels has resulted in an estimated 2,368GWh in 2012 as a result of A$8 billion investment by Australian homeowners. It also employed more than 17,000 in 2012.

Feed-in-tariffs have recently been removed due to fiscal concerns. But accusations of the high cost of solar are overstated, particularly when we consider the electricity market as a whole.

The reason for that is investing in solar can postpone or entirely cut costs of investing in electricity infrastructure to cope with summer peak demand.

Feed-in-tariffs have provided investment for a diversity of options for the provision of electricity. The Renewable Energy Target can also secure investment, but at the moment Origin Energy and others are trying to reduce the target from an absolute amount of 41,000GWh to 20% of energy generated. This is expected to reduce the renewable energy requirement and is therefore restricting investment in renewable energy.

The majority of academic analysis of the roll-out of renewable energy in the EU similarly concludes that well-adapted feed-in-tariffs are effective support schemes for diversification to renewable energy.

Working with a price on carbon

There is a gap between carbon pricing in theory and application in the real world. The experience of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the UK Climate Change Levy show that carbon pricing alone doesn’t automatically reduce electricity consumption. We need something else.

Even back in 1978 economist Martin Weitzman advocated the use of both price and quotas.

So if it’s not the Renewable Energy Target, what else should complement a carbon price?

There is resistance to funding feed-in-tariffs through ever-increasing electricity prices. We propose that a carbon price and what we call a differentiated power purchase agreement need to be rolled out together.

The power purchase agreement is effectively a feed-in-tariff for the power industry, but not for consumers and not exclusively for solar.

In this scenario the carbon price provides a funding mechanism, and the power purchase agreement delivers a specified level of diversification. Instead of paying for a carbon price and a Renewable Energy Target, consumers would only have to pay once, for diversification.

While the debate over the carbon price focuses on electricity prices, we ignore Australia’s vulnerability thanks to our dependence on coal. We need to start adapting the system, diversifying it from its current reliance on coal. We must direct it towards a hotter, drier future where centralised coal and gas-fired generation will no longer be desirable.

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  1. Mark McGuire

    climate consensus rebel

    Quote:"The experience of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the UK Climate Change Levy show that carbon pricing alone doesn’t automatically reduce electricity consumption. We need something else. Even back in 1978 economist Martin Weitzman advocated the use of both price and quotas."
    Reduce electricity consumption? Quotas? Of course these extreme measures will not apply to the author, or she would already doing these things to save her children's children. No, these restrictions must apply to other people to save the planet. We, the people, are warming up the tar, and have bags of feathers ready, pitchforks in hand ... http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84551

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    1. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark McGuire

      "Of course these extreme measures will not apply to the author"

      Do you know the Author do you?

      Or is this more you making claims to knowledge you either do not know or could not possibly know

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  2. John Newlands

    tree changer

    It is noteworthy that each of Germany, Japan and California have increased emissions after the closure of nuclear power stations, a fact that will be lost on many. It will be interesting the see this summer how many PV owners switch to grid electricity to power aircons at night, for example when it is 35C at 9pm. Perhaps we should be grateful that the 'gold plated' grid can now cope better.

    The problem with simultaneous quotas and taxes is double dipping. It looks as though wind reduces emissions at a cost of over $200 per tonne of CO2 (compared to an all gas system) yet for now the official price is $24.15. There's also some weird fiddling, for example a heat pump water heater that resides in a darkened cupboard is deemed honorary solar.

    I favour a system based on a CO2 cap that shrinks 1-2% a year, no RET (ie quota) plus restrictions on free permits and offsets. Direction Action appears to be so ill conceived it seems unlikely to get off the ground.

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    1. Mike Pope

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to John Newlands

      California closed a nuclear power station and so increased its CO2 emissions. Really, when and where?

      If the Australian Govt. removed the subsidies it paid coal miners, we would see the cost of generating electricity from fossil fuels and v renewable sources significantly narrow.

      And if we see the commercial development of a rapid-recharge battery with capacity to store sufficient energy to meet household needs for a couple of days, over a million households would go off-grid within a year.

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    2. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      I am suprised that the Nuclear news website would blame disuse of their product with increase in emmissions

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    3. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to John Newlands

      I mildly disagree with you,John, on your CO2 cap system. I favour a direct tax on carbon emitted. Start with $1 per tonne for five years and then double the charge each fifth year. In 20 years the tax would be at $16 per tonne with the next rise to go to $32 and then $64. The polluters would have ample time to find ways to avoid such an impost or close shop. We are trapped in this notion of everything having a price and it is unlikely to change - so we need to use it for our own good rather than the good of multi-national entities.

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    4. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Mike Pope

      Perhaps we could add a massive solar set-up on the edge of the Simpson Desert with a similarly massive storage system. That would fix the air-conditioners !

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Hay

      That would be fine Michael if people were living out on the edge of the Simpson Desert or nearby and they would certainly feel like having airconditioning for a good bit of the year and of course even FIFO operations and maintenance people would need to be there some time.
      Other than that, there will be transmission losses to be contended with not to mention the construction and re-construction as the life of solar plants and the massive storage batteries is determined.
      Then of course, there'll also be the costs of transport for all the people involved, plant and even water.

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    6. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to Greg North

      Oh Dear! Don't we already have transmission losses? Why not a few more - unless of course some bright retired engineer could be positive and work out a transfer system with minimum losses.
      But you are right: massive storage systems would be untenable, better to use the other options already touted like the one where water is pumped uphill and then gravity fed to a power station at night. Unless, of course, there is a reason why such schemes are as bad as a yet to be developed storage system.
      As for the cost of transport and people - how many redundant workers will be looking for useful work in the next 5 years? Surely we could be a bit inventive in finding work where, at present, there is none?

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  3. Jonathan Adamson

    Brain Surgeon

    Just reading the above seems that one of the best performers has been China. Whether this is actually the case is debatable but perhaps it does highlight the fact that perhaps a major inhibitor to actually doing something constructive on the problem is our adversarial political system.

    The right wants direct action and the left condemn it and the left want a carbon tax that the right condemn. In this case the end result is a general commitment to do nothing. This points to the value of authoritarianism as a path to a solution arising from an international agreement that is imposed on individual nations.

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    1. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Design Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Adamson

      China is increasing it's generation capacity by 80 GW per year on an already massive base.The wind and solar component is microscopic in the big picture. Adjust the figures of 55GW of wind and 28 GW of solar planned back to real 24 hour outputs of 16.5 GW wind and 5GW solar we see that renewables are not really significant in the big picture. Quoting nameplate ratings of renewables is a favorite ploy of those promoting these ridiculously expensive and unreliable technologies.

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    2. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Neil Gibson

      I agree that ignoring capacity factors for renewables can lead to miss-understanding. However, assuming that non-renewables always have capacity factors close to 100%, or even greater than those of renewables is also wrong.

      Have a look at Fig 2-5 and 2-6 of the capacity factors of power stations in South Australia. You'll see that the capacity factors of the wind farms is pretty much bang on average for all power stations. There are plenty of peaking plants that have much lower capacity factors than wind farms & solar PV. So while you adjust down the installed figures for wind and solar, you may also want to do the same for the remainder of the 80GW of generation.

      http://www.aemo.com.au/Electricity/Planning/South-Australian-Advisory-Functions/South-Australian-Electricity-Report

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    3. John Newlands

      tree changer

      In reply to David Osmond

      While there is some fuel reduction of thermal plant when intermittents are performing the RET means they are obliged to throttle back. The fixed costs of the thermal plant then get spread less thinly. In SA's case that will be heavily gas fired. Late 2014 Moomba gas will head to Gladstone Qld to make export LNG not so much to SA gas fired plants.

      Take away the RET but leave the carbon price and generators could work out the least cost combination. That could be more than 20% intermittents if gas gets prohibitive. SA would be a perfect place for a nuke; after all they have a third of the world's easily mined uranium.

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  4. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    With all due respect Lynette, there could also be ab article titled Paying Heavilly Now and expect to be Paying Increasingly Forever More.
    It is something like the Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth and you are supporting renewables on so many Ifs, assumptions and glossing over what problems the arguably global leader in renewables is experiencing.
    Another twist on Germany's experiences can be found @ http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/high-costs-and-errors-of-german-transition-to-renewable-energy-a-920288.html

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    1. Mark Duffett

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Greg North

      And now it seems even the Germans are sick of paying through the nose for renewables: http://www.smh.com.au/business/carbon-economy/germany-shifts-priority-to-economy-ahead-of-renewables-20131217-2zhpe.html

      Maybe they will yet see sense about their nuclear shutdown.

      The authors' virtual non-treatment of the OECD country that topped the Climate Institute's Low-Carbon Leadership rankings, France (http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/global-climate-leadership-review-2013.html), is curious to say the least. A highly dubious argument on resilience grounds is a masterpiece of goalpost-shifting. "likely time-consuming task of
      finding a suitable site for (nuclear) plants" is a glib joke. Just put them where the current coal plants are! Their requirements are essentially the same.

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    2. Jeremy Culberg

      Electrical Asset Manager at Power Generation

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      Mark, your comment on the placement of the nuclear power plants has merit - all the existing transmission infrastructure already exists at the power plants, the cooling water requirements are (generally) already sorted.
      If I were going for a nuclear option I would consider putting in multi unit power stations (nominally 6 identical units at a site), as you get significant savings in terms of engineering set up of the production run, savings on spares, savings on training, only one environmental…

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    3. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Greg North

      You seem to be suggesting that nuclear, gas & coal provide a totally reliable power supply, in contrast to renewables.
      Here's an interview with the CEO of the Texas grid who thanked wind power for providing significant generation while 50 coal and gas stations went off-line in 2011:

      http://www.texastribune.org/2011/02/04/an-interview-with-the-ceo-of-the-texas-grid/

      There's countless examples of nuclear & coal having to be turned off or derated due to drought or extreme heat conditions:

      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/mining-energy/drought-hits-electricity-wholesalers/story-e6frg9df-1111114272294
      http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/drought-and-heat-reveal-us-power-supply-risk-26937
      http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2012/7/20/climate/climate-risk-nuclear-power
      http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/drought-causes-power-struggle/story-e6freoof-1111112573788

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Osmond

      Well David, aside from my often amazement at the names of some people in the US and with whom they are associated ( Like with a name of Trip Doggett, you could be forgiven for thinking he was appointed the CEO of a power utility, solely because of his name! )
      You do really need to look at the news behind the news sometimes and you might note the reasoning for power units being off line.
      http://www.valleycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=576581#.Uq-b19IW0uc
      Basically, there was too much power demand…

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Shand

      The SECV ( in Victoria ) Michael was its own insurer, quite possibly because they were a state owned utility back then.
      What the situation is now with a few private entities, I'd not know and if a private entity was to be looking at a nuclear project, I expect insurance would be one of the first requirements for assessment.
      If it was to be a project feasibility issue, perhaps that would show there is still a role for basic service utilities to have state ownership, possibly joint state ownership in the context of NEM for the eastern states grid, much as the SMHE was/is a multi state enterprise.

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    6. David Bindoff

      manager

      In reply to Jeremy Culberg

      That all sounds like a sensible hypothetical Jeremy but I'm interested to know how the energy and emissions payback is going to work. According to Mark Diesendorf the energy payback for low grade Uranium is 14 years, I imagine emissions is even longer, plus a fleet of EV's with all front-loaded energy and emissions in manufacture to keep the plant running with overnight charging adds up to an enormous debt with returns over 2 decades or so. We need 80% emissions reduction and steady decline from…

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    7. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to Greg North

      The Texas blackouts were the result of extreme cold, plus the fact that fifty of the state's power plants were offline due to the effects of the cold:
      =========================
      http://www.masterresource.org/2011/02/texas-winter-power-outages-ercot/

      "In brief, extreme cold weather pushed power demand to very high winter levels. At the same time, fifty of the state’s power plants were offline due to the effects of the cold, and several others were undergoing planned maintenance. The combination…

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Osmond

      David, as I said earlier, you need to look behind the news and yep any utility can get operational problems in extreme weather conditions and the Texans will need to look at some design and operational issues.
      Your link also states:
      " No power system is immune to hazards. But policy decisions that increase the likelihood of hazards or multiply the resulting damages ought to be given careful reconsideration. In this case, the choice by Texas policymakers to keep ERCOT isolated from surrounding power…

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  5. robert roeder
    robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    In the past state governments had a monopoly in power generation. They did as they saw fit, now they are reluctant to give up that privilege. If you install a system which is independent of the grid the states still insist that you pay the service fee due with every bill, here that's $114.19. A friend who has such a system which cost around $20,000 now find that when the batteries are fully charged he has to turn off half of the panels so that damage to the batteries is avoided.
    The states position…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to robert roeder

      If your friend is still connected to the grid Robert, that would be why he is paying the service availibility fee, it being that you either opt for a grid connected system and so export excess power into the grid as it is with normal rooftop or otherwise mounted PV systems or you do as some people do and have your stand alone system with battery storage and other back-up such as with a generator.
      Unless they start changing the regulations, I doubt that you will find there is provision to both export into the grid and also maintain a live system with batteries and that is a safety issue.
      If there is a local power failure, homeowner PV systems automatically switch off or otherwise you could still have power going into the network and live wires and linesmen attempting to fix problems do not go together too safely.
      Of course, for anyone to go off grid, they will need to have their own system controls so as not to overcharge batteries.

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    2. David Bindoff

      manager

      In reply to Greg North

      I doubt that you will find there is provision to both export into the grid and also maintain a live system with batteries"

      It depends Greg, as I understand it Horizon Power in WA are requiring storage for grid connect solar PV.

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    3. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to robert roeder

      the NEM grid is the NEM Grid and you have to pay a fee for being connected to that grid.

      Power cannot be stored in the grid, it needs to be used as it is generated.

      Most people that have solar, generate the power when they are not at home and so this power goes into the grid for others to use. Most do not have batteries.

      So the load on the network needs to be managed in real time and the distribution of the power - that's what your paying for

      you are paying the distribution companies…

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Bindoff

      Yes David, seems that HP as of last year were into having PV connections with storage for smoothing supply or system stability as it is mentioned - http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/pv-storage-horizon-moves-closer-with-solar-smoothing-89523 and more on
      http://www.horizonpower.com.au/renewable_energy_technical_requirements.html
      Looks as though they are targetting generation over 50 kw and for network areas where smaller generators are the main supplier, diesel generation stations being mentioned…

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    5. robert roeder
      robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Greg North

      My understanding is that even if you opt out they still apply for the availability of the service, if the power passes your home they charge. This is similar to councils who charge for water even though you have your own supply. In QLD on new connections there is no charge if you are further than 2klms from a power line.

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    6. robert roeder
      robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Michael Shand

      My friend does not export to the grid hence why he limits the production. It's similar to off peak meters, even though you have changed to a different power source and no longer use the meter they still charge a fee every bill, well AGL do.

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    7. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to robert roeder

      I'm not sure why he wouldn't export to the grid if he is hooked up to it but I am sure the devil is in the details, if his system works for him, awesome.

      Unfortunately, the grid is a bit like a gym, regardless of whether you actually go and workout, you still have to pay membership fee's in case you do deciede to go work out.

      So the only way to not pay the fee, is to disconnect from the grid. AGL are not a distributor, they are a retailer and generator but have to outsource any work that takes…

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    8. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to account deleted

      "there certainly is a perception in the distributors that things are rigid and cant change"

      I'm not sure where you got this from but having worked for all VIC Distributors and the SA one, I can tell you this is dead wrong.

      As an example, the Asset management plan for one of these companies for the period 2011-2016 puts the number one challange as Climate Change - this is because how it affects their asset maintenance plans, fault response, etc.

      They are also champions of the smart meter…

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    9. Henry Verberne

      Former IT Professional

      In reply to account deleted

      Your suggestion advocating the use of batteries in every house to improve the efficiency of the grid is interesting. I am attracted to the idea of solar panels but I am not convinced the payback is short enough to make them economically attractive- at least for now.

      But what about the cost of the batteries for the houses? Do you envisage distributors or generators paying house owners for hosting the batteries and what is in it for them?

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    10. Neil Gibson

      Retired Electronics Design Engineer

      In reply to account deleted

      Both Tumut and Wivanhoe are small systems and while pumped storage is a great idea new dams have been successfully opposed by the back-to-the-cavers in recent decades. The same group approve of putting ugly bird-mincers across our beautiful landscapes. Even without this opposition there are not enough suitable sites anyway. House batteries would certainly make solar more attractive and some technologies like vanadium redox show promise with MW batteries in service.

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    11. In reply to Neil Gibson

      Comment removed by moderator.

    12. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to account deleted

      "I would love to see that report that you indicate shows that 100% renewable is possible.... cause it sounds like lip service as it is not possible without energy storage and energy storage "

      Yeah dude, it's AEMO, the market operator, they have no skin in this fight, they merely did the report they were asked to.

      As for your - it's lip service is they without storage - guess what? they mention storage

      Also - "although the rolling out of smart grid has very little benefit without energy storage…

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    13. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to account deleted

      Calm down fool, what is all this union talk about? I am an indepedent contractor, I am not important, I was merely informing you of my qualifications

      you got a massive chip on your shoulder

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    14. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to account deleted

      Okay, I can understand that would be frustrating but thats not me.

      I think we are largely in agreement about what needs to be done and we are talking past each other.

      I only wanted to set the record straight about your perception of Distribution companies and seeing as I have worked for many of them, I felt I had valued input here.

      "There certainly is a perception in the distributors that things are rigid and cant change"

      You then went on to descredit the AEMO report for some reason and…

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    15. David Osmond
      David Osmond is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Wind Engineer

      In reply to account deleted

      The AEMO report relied heavily on concentrated solar thermal storage. Hydro was not the only form of storage that they used.

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    16. Michael Shand
      Michael Shand is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Tester

      In reply to account deleted

      The AEMO Report was the first one of it's kind in Australia so it's not going to be perfect but it is encouraging to see these stakeholders participating in these discussions because if anyone knows the in's and out's of the grid - it's the market operator

      Your idea about batteries are interesting, and it wouldn't nessecarily be every house right, it could be every substation or even terminal station, depending on the cost of implementing big or small batteries.

      There is definitely a lot of room for improvement and God Bless the earlier adopters for paving the way.

      Your comment about being willing to learn is spot on as well, unfortunately established powers usually have an interest in maintaining the status quo

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  6. Chris O'Neill

    Victim of Tony Abbotts Great Big New Tax

    "There is a gap between carbon pricing in theory and application in the real world. The experience of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the UK Climate Change Levy show that carbon pricing alone doesn’t automatically reduce electricity consumption. We need something else."

    Carbon pricing is not primarily about reducing electricity consumption. It is primarily about switching electricity generation to non-Carbon-burning sources.

    There is no gap between carbon pricing in theory and application in the real world.

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  7. Craig Myatt

    Industrial Designer / R&D

    This is all well and good...discussing different models for power system diversification. What about the political power system, that seems to have beget the current laughable approach to power networks? It would appear to me that there is a tendency of conservative governments, via lobbyists within their parties, to simply 'drive' power or renewable policies at the expense of taxpayers, or of good public administration, and of sensible shared outcomes. I know this is slightly off topic, but I am exasperated by what I would describe as 'brakes' being put on to highly successful renewables and carbon emission reduction mechanisms, by what appears to be industry 'agents' within government, seeking to remove gains made, for their own self interest.

    Certainly, if the diversification model appeals over the RET+carbon pricing, and it works, let's give it a go. But how do we weed out the industry threat to a common good, then forge good public policy?

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      Politics is politics Craig and you will have lobbyists of all persuasions lobbying with different parties and particularly the one in government at any given time Vs what the policy of different parties is.
      " But how do we weed out the industry threat to a common good, then forge good public policy? "
      It was Paul Keating who told Maxine McKew ( was it ) on winning John Howard's seat that Canberra even within the Labor party was the a battleground of ideas.
      The same could be said for power generation…

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  8. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Michael Hay

      retired

      In reply to account deleted

      Imagination! Good wholesome practical imaginative solutions. Yippee!!. More of this on TC would be much better than sniping comments (which tend to become uninteresting and therefore, boring).

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    2. In reply to Michael Hay

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to account deleted

      " Less than 10% of the available energy in coal/gas is available at the household power socket ... which is a pretty atrocious efficiency. Energy storage has the ability to double efficiency to above 20% within a 5 to 10 year time frame.... which means that no new coal fired or gas fired power stations would need to be built for many decades, even with an aggressive population growth strategy "
      I recall seeing an article that relates something like the 10% you quote Mike to losses within centralised…

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    4. In reply to Greg North

      Comment removed by moderator.

    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to account deleted

      Mike, I've worked in power stations though not involved in detail with the control side but with:
      " would be the removal of power demand spikes which might only occur for few seconds and require double the power... its the spikes and inability of coal fired power stations to respond to demand fluctuations .."
      That just don't seem too right, though for sure a flat chat coal fired boiler is not responding to blips.
      Not that I ever got out the tape measure but with a boiler furnace about 30M square…

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    6. In reply to Greg North

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  9. Luke Weston

    Physicist / electronic engineer

    "State based support for rooftop solar panels has resulted in an estimated 2,368GWh in 2012 as a result of A$8 billion investment by Australian homeowners."

    So we've spent 8 billion dollars, and the resulting amount of energy generated in a year is about 15% of the output of one single large coal-fired station.

    Or we could spend the money instead on one single nuclear power plant which simply replaces the large coal-fired power plant - completely replacing it, replacing that 15-20 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions completely - not just trying to "replace" it with something that still costs billions of dollars but only generates 15% of the amount of energy generated, with far less reliability, far less predictability, which is not replacing the coal fired plant at all!

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    1. In reply to Luke Weston

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to account deleted

      "We don't need nuclear" [because we can use X unproven, unscalable, technologically immature, massively expensive Heath Robinson scheme instead] just means "I don't want nuclear", and the only result is helping to make the world safe for coal.

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    3. In reply to Luke Weston

      Comment removed by moderator.

  10. Doug Hutcheson

    Poet

    "... we ignore Australia’s vulnerability thanks to our dependence on coal ...", both for internal consumption and for export to foreign markets. Any disruption to demand overseas for our coal would have flow-on effects throughout the Australian economy. China will not hesitate to cut demand, if it suits their own purposes, so our slavish reliance on coal exports is short-termism at its worst.

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