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Counting the hidden costs of energy

A recent Bloomberg press release got wide coverage with its claim that wind power is now cheaper than coal. But a new report from the OECD shows that when you cover the full cost to the grid, variable…

When comparing power sources, we have to take the costs of system effects into account. Flick/a_whisper_of_unremitting_demand

A recent Bloomberg press release got wide coverage with its claim that wind power is now cheaper than coal. But a new report from the OECD shows that when you cover the full cost to the grid, variable renewables like wind don’t add up as favourably.

It is often claimed that introducing variable renewable energy resources such as solar and wind into the electricity network comes with some extra cost penalties, due to “system effects”. These system effects include intermittent electricity access, network congestion, instability, environmental impacts, and security of supply.

Now a new report from the OECD titled System Effects of Low-Carbon Electricity Systems gives some hard dollar values for these additional imposts. The OECD work focuses on nuclear power, coal, gas, and renewables such as wind and solar. Their conclusion is that grid-level system costs can have significant impacts on the total cost of delivered electricity for some power-generation technologies.

All generation technologies cause system effects to some degree. They are all connected to the same transmission and distribution grid structure and deliver electricity into the same market. They also exert impacts on each other, on the total load available to satisfy demand, and the stability of the grid’s frequency control. These dependencies are heightened by the fact that only small amounts of cost-efficient electricity storage are available.

Any electricity generation technology can cause grid instability and price fluctuations if it goes offline unexpectedly. But a key finding of the OECD report is that renewables that are particularly variable, such as wind and solar, generate system effects that are at least an order of magnitude greater than for “dispatchable” technologies such as coal, gas, and nuclear.

These renewable sources require no fuel, and so have very low operating costs. This allows them to enter the market at low prices (or even negative prices if production subsidies or generation mandates are in place).

As a consequence, with the current power-generation mix in the OECD (including Australia), dispatchable technologies will suffer due to lower average electricity prices and reduced capacity factors when a significant quantity of low-cost renewable energy is available. (That is, dispatchable units will more often be forced to ramp down their output when there are high flows of low-cost renewable energy, yet will still need to be ready to ramp up again when the output from variable renewable generators is not sufficient to meet the total demand across the grid.)

The report defines grid-level system costs as the total costs (on top of plant-level costs) to supply electricity at a given load and given level of security of supply. These additional costs include the extra investment to extend and reinforce the grid, plus the costs for increased short-term balancing and for maintaining the long-term adequacy of electricity supply in the face of intermittent variable renewables.

The system costs are limited to costs that accrue within the electricity system, so environmental and long-term security of supply impacts are excluded from this study.

The study assessed the grid-level system costs for six OECD countries with contrasting mixes of electricity technologies: Finland, France, Germany, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. System costs, which include short-term balancing, long-term adequacy, and the costs of various grid infrastructures, were calculated at both 10% and 30% penetration levels of the main generating sources.

A summary of the results, expressed in dollars per megawatt hour ($/MWh) of electricity delivered, is shown in Table 1 below. The table shows the lowest and highest system costs for each technology considered at each penetration level.

Table 1: Grid-level system costs at differing penetration levels for a range of electricity generation technologies

The consequences of these results are clear. Grid-level system costs can be significant, particularly for wind and solar, and must be included in any realistic analysis of the total system costs of all technologies deployed at scale in regional or national electricity markets.

For Australia, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) in its AETA report sets out the Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) for each technology, with and without a carbon price. However the bureau does not consider grid-level system costs. The levelised cost reflects the minimum cost of energy at which a generator must sell the produced electricity in order to break even.

If we take the mid-point of the OECD grid-level costs for 30% technology penetration shown in Table 1 and add them to the plant costs and carbon costs from the bureau, we can make a more accurate comparison of the total system costs for each technology as might apply in the Australian context – see Figure 1.

Figure 1: Total system cost for generation technology (2012) including carbon and grid-level costs.

Ignoring such costs distorts the picture. For example, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) recently put out a press release headed “Renewable Energy Now Cheaper Than New Fossil Fuels in Australia”, which attracted a great deal of attention.

Bloomberg’s very high coal levelised cost ($143) and lower on-shore wind levelised cost ($80) were the primary reasons for the headline, as pointed out by Tristan Edis at Climate Spectator.

However, if we include the grid-level system cost for wind and solar as estimated in the OECD study and apply the arguably more authoritative levelised costs presented by the bureau (shown in Figure 1), then the Bloomberg headline seems unlikely to be correct.

Like the carbon price, grid-level system costs need to be internalised. In other words, the plant owner should have to pay for grid-level costs in the same way they pay for carbon emissions. That way, solar and wind bid prices into the national electricity market would need to include the grid-level costs and could no longer be bid at rock bottom levels. This would help to level the playing field with coal and gas (important for the future viability of carbon-capture-and-storage technologies), and allow for a realistic assessment of the financial viability of nuclear energy for Australia.

In particular, if the Australian Energy Market Operator is to make a fully costed assessment, it must include grid-level costs in its forthcoming 100 per cent Renewable Study.

This article was co-authored by Martin Nicholson. Martin is an independent researcher who recently published a peer-reviewed book The Power Maker’s Challenge.

Join the conversation

333 Comments sorted by

    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ev Cricket

      Leaving aside Barry's favourite Ev, you do raise some interesting points but then also get off the rails a bit:
      " Forget about studies in bubbles, if you can supply electricity cheaper than others at certain times you should. Then the pool price will come down and everyone wins. It is absurd to count the costs of running a gas turbine towards the cost of running a solar panel. If the panels can make electricity cheaper than everyone else then they will be dispatched. If the sun stops the next cheapest…

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    2. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Ev Cricket

      There's a clue in the text. Not sure if it came from the report, but saying there may be effects "on the total load available to satisfy demand" implies a very supply-centric, old-fashioned view...

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    3. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      What's old fashioned about wanting a reliable matching of supply and demand?

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    4. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Ev Cricket

      I'll address one particular fallacy in this comment. Nuclear power plants are perfectly capable load followers, always have been, and the newer plants are better than ever. Perhaps read "Technical and Economic Aspects of Load Following with Nuclear Power Plants" before throwing out false statements as factual premises for your position. http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2011/load-following-npp.pdf

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    5. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      A sign that perhaps the author thinks demand should adjust to the almighty god of supply.

      Not a very market-oriented phrase... generally it's the other way around (black/brown-outs excepted)

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    6. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      It used to be that there were no constraints on demand and managers "merely" despatched supply to suit. In a 100% renewable system, both sides of the equation are stochastic processes ... except that renewable advocates tend to want smart grids that can dump demand (power down air conditioners etc) when supply is inadequate.

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    7. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Not sure it's a complete overlap with renewable advocates - plenty of "fossil" power people want demand management/response type facilities. But in the modern world it is (or should be) more of a market-based approach (i.e. pay or offer to pay for demand reduction). But then again, the real world is not there yet...

      To my way of thinking it's more about ramp rates - there is almost always some peaking capacity in the system, just a matter of it responding.

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    8. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Ben Heard

      They may be technically capable but because the LCOE is almost entirely due to the initial capital cost, if you run the plant at half power the electricity costs twice as much. Thus nuclear plants are always run at near 100% unless there are no other options for load balancing.
      This is exactly the same situation as for renewables and so in a sense nuclear power is equally inflexible. Keep in mind, it is very easy to reduce output from wind or solar generation and they can be used for load balancing in exactly the same way as other generation sources.

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    9. Glenn Tamblyn

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      What might be 'old fashioned' about it is the notion that this must necessarily be met primarily from supply side management.

      What is also missing from the mix is the whole area of demand-side management. This isn't just greater efficiency of usage, although that is a big issue. It is also the possibility that electricity consumption can be designed to follow supply availability.

      Imagine a grid that is continuously broadcasting to all equipment drawing power from the grid, from a light bulb…

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    10. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Ev Cricket

      >"Forget about studies in bubbles, if you can supply electricity cheaper than others at certain times you should. Then the pool price will come down and everyone wins."

      If you want cheaper electricity the first thing you will do is to remove the 'Must take" regulations for renewable energy. That is remove the RET, REC's FiTs and the rest of the market distortion imposed by "direct action".

      If we removed the "must take" regulations and other government imposed distortions there would be no solar or wind power connected to the grid. None would be built (to supply to the grid). They are not even close to being cost competitive.

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    11. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Ev Cricket

      Yes and a few more associated quesions:

      What are the respective decommisioning costs?

      Inclusive of long-term storage of nuclear waste costs - which as far as I am aware is yet to have been implemneted anywhere?

      And ... inclusive of taking the observed occurence frequency of serious nuclear problems leading to radioactive contamination with decades long impost of integrated costs including cleanup, loss of assets like land, buildings, infrastructure, industry and population dislocation costs?

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    12. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Thank you for this reference - it is more interesting than the above article.

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    13. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      The 2010 Pakistan floods displaced 20 million people and cyclone Nargis killed 140,000. What proportion of this cost should we allocate the anti-nuclear movement for stopping the nuclear roll out 20 years ago? Martin Green predicted solar would replace coal within 10-15 years ... back in 1989 on ABC's Quantum. All we have from solar is hype and promises. Why risk 6 degrees on hype and promises when we have a technology which we know actually works?

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    14. Alex Cannara

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ev Cricket

      EV, this comment sounds like that of a utility operator running as a charity...

      "It is absurd to count the costs of running a gas turbine towards the cost of running a solar panel."

      Our problem with 'renewables' is their odd, unrealistic name -- they don't 'renew'.

      The sun certainly is best at showing up with ~86,000 terawatts each moment of each day, but even it will last less than the life of earth top date. Wind is perhaps the worst, being subject to both weather & climate, as the Chinese…

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    15. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Ben - I take your point on load following.. I see that nuclear plants can do so, but note the response times given in the report you cite.. They are way, way too slow to accommodate a large proportion of wind on the system.. for that you really need gas turbines turning over offline, and a lot of them if you're going to have 20-25 per cent..

      would probably work well for small amounts of wind..

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    16. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      The report draws specifically on the case of Germany where nuclear has been effective in this role, where they now have 25% electricity from renewable, of which 40% is wind and 16% is photo-volatic. Their plants are not particularly new, and new ones do it even better. It does not negate the need for the presence of very fast ramping gas turbines if we want lots of intermittent sources. It's just an annoying fallacy that should be ditched, not used to premise comments. Here's an additional reference discussing this http://www.oecd-nea.org/nea-news/2011/29-2/nea-news-29-2-load-following-e.pdf

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    17. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      It's only about ramp rates if there is something to ramp. You can ramp solar and wind down, but not up unless you have storage. There is no room for gas in any long term solution (unless you have CCS) so why waste time building a gas based energy system ... you'll only have to throw it out because it's outside the global carbon budget.

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    18. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to David Jones

      Naturally, it is economically preferable to sell as much power from them as possible, so if you have them in a system that is what you should do. Comparing them in flexibility to intermittent renewables however seems... odd? You can reduce output from wind or solar... yes, but you cannot increase it if the wind is not blowing of the sun is not shining can you? So they can't be used in exactly the same way as other sources, Not remotely. Fossil and nuclear are roughly equivalent in what they do, intermittent renewables are a class apart.

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    19. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      I can imagine all sorts of things, but why bother?

      This is the renewable mantra, "Ah, we JUST need a smart grid", "Ah and we JUST need storage", "Oh and did I mention efficiency, we JUST need a total lifestyle change", and we JUST, JUST, JUST. The WWF Solar Atlas report made it sound so easy to JUST cover 1% of the planet with panels. If I have a thousand computer programs on my computer and I want to improve its performance by 30%, I can JUST optimise each of the programs or I can JUST buy a faster machine. Which is easier? It's the same problem, optimise 7.6 million households or build some nukes? Globally, the solution is even more self evident.

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    20. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      There is always something to ramp (or else a blackout).

      Multiple renewable types, and spread over a large area, have low output correlation, so the amount of spinning reserve or backup needed is greatly reduced.

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    21. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      "Multiple renewable types, and spread over a large area, have low output correlation,"

      No, wind generators, for example, correlate over a large area. If you have a big, fat high sitting over southern Australia then there is very little total wind-generated power. The wind generation system needs to be considered like one big generating unit because of this.

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    22. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      The Spencer gulf and SW Victoria (where most of NEM wind power is) is not really a large area.

      If you look at the generating data for the farms at Canberra and Ballarat - they do generate at different times to those on the South Coast.

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    23. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Sure the instantaneous correlation decreases over large distances but it is still substantial.

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    24. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Ev Cricket

      Ev Cricket wrote; "As with every study of this type I wonder about the assumptions" I do not, the OECD is pro nuclear.
      It is a veiled attempt at promoting the transition to from carbon to nuclear by maintaining the current grid.

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    25. Wil B

      B.Sc, GDipAppSci, MEnvSc, Environmental Planner

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Of course, this demands a lot more poles and wires being strung up everywhere, which I for one am not very happy with.

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    26. Fred Pribac

      logged in via email @internode.on.net

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Weird argument!

      I was simply pointing out that there are significant costs associated with nuclear energy which are usually just ignored or downplayed.

      The inaction on climate change is a responsibility that could be more squarely apportioned to those pundits who obfuscate and seek to undermine the consensus reporting on the need for concerted unilateral action.

      The idea that if we had implemented a massive rollout of nuclear generation capacity 20 years ago that we would now be in a markedly different climate change regime than if we had backed an equivalent rollout of renewables is not at all obvious and would need serious examinantion to disentangle.

      The other implied idea that it is somehow a competition between "either" renewables or "nuclear" is also a logical fallacy and was not implied by my question.

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    27. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Fred Pribac

      Let's be clear. I may come across as vehemently anti-renewable, but a more accurate statement is that I'm seriously anti the anti-nuclear movement and anybody who advocates that renewables are enough. I'm also vehemently opposed to biofuels or solar farms siphoning off farmland to produce electricity.

      But the argument about the 70s and the oil crisis isn't weird, it's
      blindingly obvious if you consider the data. Have a look on the IEA site,

      http://www.iea.org/stats/

      and have a look at…

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    28. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      60GW in 12 years ... that's about half the speed that they built
      nuclear in the 70s and 80s. Thanks for yet another example of how slow it is to roll out wind and solar. The nuclear build in the 80s was truncated, otherwise it would have been even more. That 60 GW generates about 140 TWh/yr ... the French, with less than 1/4 of the US population added 200 TWh/yr of nuclear in the 80s.

      Don't forget the US added quite a bit of wind power in response to the oil crisis, but while the nukes are still operating those 80s turbines are just rusting junk littering the landscape. This is inevitable in distributed systems where unit costs matter. Nobody designs for the long haul because you'll be undercut by somebody who doesn't. Notice the bankruptcy of the world's biggest solar panel maker today ... SunTech.

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    29. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Gary Murphy wrote; "........ OECD Nuclear Energy Agency" Thanks, most every report quoted here for verification comes from within the industry. It is hardly surprising the spin is assuring to those with a certain worldview.

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    30. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Andy Saunders,
      Then you'd have no problems with this intermittent delivery?
      http://www.geoffstuff.com/unpredictableJ.jpg

      This is actual data from a large part of Great Britain.
      It's not cherry picked. The last date is the day before the graph was released. Read the paper to see how believable it is.
      The potentially big problem comes from a fast outage of a large input, like a large windmill failing. This can cause brownouts and blackouts, even if you have a pretty good spinning reserve…

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    31. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Let alone the complications caused by daylight saving on solar installations. Not joking.

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    32. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      "it's failed to warm the world significantly for the last 15 years"

      That's STATISTICALLY significantly, which means it's "only" 90% or so likely to be warming from the limited amount of data in 15 years.

      Tell me Geoffrey, would you get on a plane that had "only" a 90% chance of crashing?

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    33. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Ben Heard

      You can definitely increase the output from solar and wind, it just requires you to be running at less than full output when you do it. This is exactly the same for any generator. If a nuclear (or coal) plant is running at 100% of output it cannot increase its output. A wind farm is exactly the same. However, if it is running at 80% of available output then it can increase output by another 20%. The reason that people misunderstand this is because renewables tend to be operated at 100% of available output all the time - just like nuclear, and for the same reason. They are capital intensive but have low operating costs. All generation types have changes in available output. It might be because of plant failure, maintenance, refueling, water availability. The difference for renewables is that the available output changes more frequently than for other generation types.

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    34. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      60 GW of wind power generates 180 TWh/yr (35% cf) which is 90% of NEM supply.

      Your argument might be valid for other countries - but it isn't for Australia.

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    35. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      A country of 310 million people built 60 GW of wind in 12 years. How long will it take a country of 22 million to build this much wind power?

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    36. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      "A country of 310 million people built 60 GW of wind in 12 years. How long will it take a country of 22 million to build this much wind power?"

      Seriously? I don't think it took all of those 310 million people to construct the wind farms. If you really want an answer to that question - find out how many people are employed in the construction of a wind farm.

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    37. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Pro nuclear as in a conspiracy sense?
      If so, seek advice from UWA, Dr Lewandowsky.

      Or pro nuclear from carefully deduced reasoning by experts?

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    38. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Yes Ben,
      The granting of a licence for a nuke in the USA requires an ability to shift load at a mandated minimum following rate. Does the same apply to wind power?

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    39. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris,
      It's the temperature that is going down, not the aircraft.

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    40. Dug Edwud

      Mr

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Citing anything from the Nuclear Energy Agency on nukes is not credible.

      Although some nukes can load follow to a limited extent, it's really not economical. Nukes are not compatible with a network of renewable energy generators - which is partly why Germany and other countries are phasing them out.

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    41. Dug Edwud

      Mr

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change. "In combination with renewables supplying up to 40% of supply in 2050, it would require more than a doubling of nuclear reactors to stabilise CO2 at 2000 levels. That would mean a new nuke coming online every 15 days on average between 2010 and 2050." http://ieer.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/InsurmountableRisksSummary.pdf

      Nukes get in the way of mitigating climate collapse.

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    42. Dug Edwud

      Mr

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      The obvious flaw in your logic is that there was a constant rate of deployment. There wasn't. Wind and solar are growing exponentially, while nukes are in global decline. That's largely because of economics - success of renewables and failure of nukes.

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    43. Dug Edwud

      Mr

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Five Studies - One Result: 100% Renewables. Renewable energies are not an alternative, they are the only alternative. The technical means are already there, the practical implementation is all that is an issue. Five power studies show different ways of getting there. http://www.unendlich-viel-energie.de/en/details/article/225/five-studies-one-result-100-renewables.html

      Don't confuse short-term reliance on existing fossil-nuke power with the long-term plan for 100% renewables.

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    44. Dug Edwud

      Mr

      In reply to Ben Heard

      If anyone were suggesting "let's rely on wind and solar and nothing else" then your argument might have some merit. But that is not what is planned for a 100% renewable energy grid.

      You really should read some of the many 100% renewable energy blueprints to understand the basics.

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    45. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Paul Richards,
      So we assume yes, conspiracy at work and make a time to see Dr Lewandowsky? He's just published again, you know.

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    46. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff Russell
      What actually works is the creation of immense personal wealth by a few individuals while the nuclear door is kept shut or slowed.
      Some are from German origins, some like are from USA. Russia is less clear.
      Here is a short essay I wrote for doodling a year ago. Within it there is a URL to a New Growth path for Europe, an official publication of the German Government with the help of Oxford Uni and Uni of Paris and a few others that add weight to its standing.
      I don't think you can understand the tactics of global nuclear unless you read this and other similar papers.
      Note the lack of emphasis on compassionate aid to starving countries with massive health problems, as you have noted.
      http://www.geoffstuff.com/Go%20GermanyBB.doc

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    47. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris O'Neill. temperature is going down...

      Which way is the blue line in the red box pointing? Looks like cooling to me. Now, there are other ways to show data, this being SST only, so you can produce other graphs if you want to debate. Just ensure that they have similar pedigree and relevance.

      Otherwise, you can concede I was right and apologise for calling me a liar.
      http://www.geoffstuff.com/Downwards.jpg

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    48. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to David Jones

      David... are you sure you are not arguing AGAINST the inclusion of these sources? You seem to be doing a pretty good job of it...

      From already low capacity factors, we then deliberately run even lower in the name of then being able to run higher at times...

      More and yet more overbuild required.

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    49. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Dug Edwud

      Oh NOW I get it! The renewable advocates are just cleverly co-opting the continued construction and operation of fossil fuel plants as part of a cunning long-term plan!

      Tactical brilliance. An idea so completely stupid that no one will notice it happening.

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    50. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Dug Edwud

      I see. Information is dismissed outright based on the source. That makes life easy doesn't it? No need to actually think.

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  1. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    so lets keep going with the old and see how much that costs - ultimately.

    dont all new technologies have initial costs that reduce over time.

    wind & solar would seem to have great value and benefits if only we would put our mind to it.

    how much does a nuclear plant cost to establish btw?

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      " so lets keep going with the old and see how much that costs - ultimately. "
      By old Stephen, coal fired power stations do have a life, 30 years in past decades being thought of as somewhat typical though modern technology and plant upgrades etc. may see that being well exceeded, Hazelwood PS in Victoria for example now into its fifth decade of operation and it will be operational costs in accessing coal as well as CO2 issues that may well determine its future.
      So you could say there is a very…

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Greg North

      hi greg

      fair enough.

      dont know if you are old enough to remember the good old days of yore in oz when we had many electricity blackouts from one thing or another (and i'm not referring to workers strikes).

      so perhaps its back to the future

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Yes Stephen,
      Just old enough to know Victoria had its problems in the fifties and early sixties, an era when Hazelwood construction was commenced and things like credit squeezes apparently made it a bit of an on/off project and possibly one reason that completion or lets say commissioning of different units spanned seven years from 1964 to 1971.

      Fortunately I was young enough not to be too concerned about power outages and I agree that with privatisation and wondering who in the eastern states…

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    4. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      >”dont all new technologies have initial costs that reduce over time.”

      Yes. At 10% cost reduction per doubling of capacity the cost of electricity from new small modular nuclear power plants would be half the cost of electricity from coal plants once 200 GW are installed world wide.

      >”wind & solar would seem to have great value and benefits if only we would put our mind to it.”

      Wind power is over 100 years old, Solar thermal engines about 100 years old. Solar PV and nuclear nearly 60…

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    5. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter Lang wrote; " But it is not the capital cost you want. It is the cost of electricity you need for making the comparison. " No, it is the comparative risk data included.
      Small nuclear reactors were explored years ago and set aside as to expensive, large nuclear reactors are now set aside as too expensive. The nuclear industry has gone full circle in the sales process and the total cost of large nuclear reactors has not been established. For that matter will not be until the last nuclear reactor is decommissioned. Then there is the issue of unused highly radioactive material and the cost of hundreds of thousands of years storage. Trust us, we know best is not good enough.
      Where is comparative risk data produced by non nuclear carbon energy industries for large older genration nuclear reactors? The new small reactors only have industry projections. Like just the older generation and the metrics produced to sell them, they are biased.

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    6. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen, the figures are coming out of China if you care to search. China is a good comparison because of the low zealotry price in their calculations. For nuclear in many countries, there is the intrinsic price set by the engineering, physics, materials, fuel price etc. Then there is another component that is social zealotry, devised over decades by the creeping chardonnay set, where there are extraordinary costs for site selection, insurance payments up front, NIMBY costs, protection of rare endangered…

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    7. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      But Stephen, a big number of blackouts WERE due to union thuggery. I can still remember the radio broadcasts of the post war era, announcing that there would be a 24 hour blackout from here to there in response to union demands for more money or whatever. I recall it as shambolic, rather like today in Canberra, with unions playing power struggles.
      Sure we have better equipment now. We'd just expended a huge effort and lost a lot of valuable workforce from the War. Had there been no war, we'd have had more people and time to design and make better gear. What goes around, comes around. Some wars seem to be started by shortages of energy in one place envious of another .....

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    8. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Paul Richards pulls the "Trust us" ploy. I'm gobsmacked.
      If you study your topic, you will find that the reactors commonly used now lose radioactivity from spent core very quickly as the short lived isotopes decay. After a while, the waste can be diluted say 10 fold by encapsulation in glass or Synroc. The resulting solid decays away more and more, until after a term of 50 to 500 years (depending on a number of factors that you can look up easily), the encapsulated waste has lower gross radioactivity…

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    9. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      "This Greenpeace hype of needing radwaste management for 25,000 years - some go to 250,000 years - has no physical basis."

      It was hypothesised from the half-life time of Plutonium 239 (24,100 years) which they round up and arbitrarily multiply by 10.

      Of course, Plutonium 239 is a valuable nuclear fuel but political activism prevented the reprocessing necessary to be able to use it.

      So we end up with a self-reinforcing political activism process. The first step is to oppose reprocessing that enables the productive use of Plutonium 239. The Plutonium 239 can then be claimed to be "waste" with a long half-life. How clever is that?

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    10. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Chris O'Neill,
      The primary factor for radiation health physics is the dose intersected by the person. The half life of the isotope is but one factor. Isotopes with long half lives are infrequent emitters and therefore inherently safer than short half life isotopes. Example, Po-210, half life 140 days, was said to be the toxin used in an umbrella tip stab for murder. Uranium-238 has a half life of some 4.5 billion years, so it's quite safe to carry in your pocket.
      Plutonium-239, half life 24,000…

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    11. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey Harold Sherrington wrote; "If you study your topic, you will find that the reactors commonly used now lose radioactivity from spent core very quickly as the short lived isotopes decay ...." Firstly thanks for commenting and not heckling.
      Assuming that both sides of this issue have not been studied is a projection of your value system.
      Geoffrey Harold Sherrington wrote; "Greenpeace hype ....... has no physical basis"
      Hype? Then why is the nuclear industry investing in deep geological…

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    12. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      "The primary factor for radiation health physics is the dose intersected by the person."

      I know. I was just pointing out where the Greenpeace hype originated and the perverse decision (outlawing reprocessing) that helped make it possible.

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    13. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Greg North

      Wind farms are now prevalent enough and operating long enough to allow an assessment of how fast they wear out/ There several reports that roll off a search, such as
      http://www.governorswindenergycoalition.org/?p=4400
      https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2013/03/08/rising-wind-farm-om-costs/

      In quick summary, plant is wearing out about 10% faster than expected. Some plausible reasons and detailed figures are given in these references.

      You can't justify wind power over any other source of supply if your economics are wrong. In essence, these reports are saying that the owners should start to examine if they have just lost 10% off the top line.

      Greg's scenario appears to be in progress: "Introduction of renewables will not have initial costs that reduce over time but likely hidden costs for our total electricity network that could be quite high." See the first graph in the second URL.

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    14. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen Ralph re costs in China, Prof Brook provided this reference -
      http://www.bree.gov.au/publications/aeta.html
      Go to page 55 -
      "WorleyParsons estimate that the average overnight capital cost for four first-of-a-kind (FOAK)
      nuclear power plants in the US based on AP1000 Gen III technology is $4210/kWe. With
      standardisation of design, it is projected that Nth-of-a-Kind (NOAK) versions of this power plant
      technology will cost $3470/kWe in the US. The overnight cost for new nuclear projects in Asia
      is significantly less. The AP1000 in China costs of the order of $2300/KWe, and the APR1400 in
      Korea costs $1556/KWe."

      Comparison - USA NOAK $3,470. China NOAK $2,300. See what I mean about zealotry pricing? If you want it reinforced, see Korea NOAK $1556. Less than half the cost for USA, but this is summarised so be careful with the comparison. It could be worse than you think.

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  2. Dave Smith

    Energy Consultant

    Barry,

    You somehow neglected to mention that the report was written by the Nuclear Energy Agency.

    Hmmm. I wonder why they would have an interest in wind and solar.

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Dave Smith

      Dave Smith NEA interest in wind & solar

      As understand it, in some countries if a source of electricity generation fails, it is mandatory to fill the gap with "renewable" energy until normal service resumes. So, if I was involved with a nuke, of course I would have to be current with renewables because I might be forced to use them against my better judgement.

      In earlier times, such procedures used to be prohibited or inhibited under legislation like Australia's Trade Practices Act, now repealed. That does not make the procedure more acceptable, it just screws more users with higher costs.

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  3. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    It's a pity Barry or anybody else needs to write articles like this. Just as it's a pity that short term greed is driving the structure of our responses to a global crisis instead of the crisis itself. We know what our (global) carbon budget is and we know, for example that gas (without CCS) will have no place in any long term energy system. We know that had we all followed the French model of the 1970s and 80s, then meeting that budget would have been far easier. And we know that meeting it now (for a 2 degree rise) is impossible, we are reduced to now shooting for less than 3 or 4 degrees at best. Meanwhile the French are producing electricity at <80 gm-co2/kwh and have done so for 20 years and we are going backwards with our electricity now costing 841 gm-co2/kwh (up from 810 in 1990) with the Germans stuck at 460 gm-co2/kwh and building more coal stations.

    And still we are making decisions based on spot pricing underpinned by all manner of subsidies.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      The French reactors of this century are even better than the rock era Geoff and no doubt you are aware of their nuclear waste recycling developments too, making it all a much better approach.

      It will still be the NIMBYism that will be the big hurdle in Australia and that probably got raised a few notches with Fukushima.

      Meanwhile, back down on our ranch or farms/stations spot pricing is all about how when we are all on the spot, being able to afford living here and now is still the reality of life and we'll need a totally committed bipartisan approach in politics to even think nuclear and then of course there will be the federal/state workings to get through besides all the protestors.

      And then another really big question is just how pertinent it would all be whilst we are excavating so much coal to export.

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  4. John Newlands

    tree changer

    In Europe the crazy situation has arisen whereby dispatchable generators like gas want to be paid standby fees (the 'capacity market') because the system must give priority to mandated wind and solar. It would a lot simpler if the single objective was to achieve an emissions target at least cost and not guaranteed shares by particular technologies. Gradually nuclear would replace a lot of coal.

    With the help of smart meters that could also mean the feed-in tariff or grid export price of residential…

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    1. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to John Newlands

      This call for a "capacity market" is mere rent-seeking. The existing spot market model allows the operators of dispatchable generation to charge as much as they need to pay their costs, at whatever load factor it is most economical for them to adopt. Open-cycle gas turbine peaker plants charge hundreds of dollars per megawatt hour, to run for just a few hours on just those few hot summer afternoons and chill winter nights that demand reaches its absolute peak.

      If other generators find themselves undercut by renewables when the sun is shining and the wind blowing, if they wish to remain in business, all they need to do is increase their charges when it's dark and still and the renewables are incapable of meeting demand. The market will readily pay for as much of their power as it can afford.

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    2. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to John Newlands

      John Newlands.
      There are several hundred pages of primary reading about Australia's smart meter program. When you distil it to a sentence or two, you might reach my conclusion. The purpose of a smart meter is to allow a remote stickbeak to interfere with your electricity supply without your permission and often without your knowledge. It was a con from start to (almost) finish, because the paybacks are still being handed over. Like the sparkie who phoned talkback this morning to report a housing block that was being dismantled, power supply was cut off, yet here (allegedly) were the utility workers busily installing smart meters for a fee.

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    1. Dave Smith

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Peter,

      If you are paying anywhere close to 50% extra for Greenpower you are being swindled. I am paying about 10% extra for 100% Greenpower: from that well-known promoter of renewables, Origin Energy.

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    2. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Dave Smith

      GreenPower via ACTEWAGL is 7.5c/kwh and I am paying about 15c/kwh (rough guess) on average with time of use metering in the ACT, hence my comment that it costs me about 50% extra.
      I just checked and Origin Energy are quoting 3.08c/kwh for 100% green power, certainly a better deal but unavailable to me. Since the going rate for RECs last time I looked was around $30/MWh Origin seems to be passed them on at cost price, whereas I am paying a retail mark up to ACTEWAGL.
      One option with with ACTEWAGL is to buy blocks, say 10kw/h per day (75c), rather than a percentage of actual consumption. I just asked Origin if I could do that but they only offer percentages to their customers and I can't get to be a customer only having premises in the ACT.

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    3. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      so whats with the trucks.........

      in ww2 there was that huge amarda of planes flying into berlin non-stop to keep the city in food etc.-
      over 2000,000 flights.

      where there's a will, there's a way. with negativity like this its a wonder humanity ever got off the ground.

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      At present there are no signs that there is anything like enough support to put all the nations of the world on a war footing to get the job done. Do you want to ration various metals together with petrol, meat and dairy? And that's just for starters.

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    5. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Definitely worth considering ... below is a link to a sample where a chemical factory in Gladstone needed to move half a million tonnes of salt a year ... they had options of rail, road and sea. Road was cheapest. It wouldn't always turn out that way, but its not a trivial problem ... which was precisely my point in writing the article!

      http://www.sd.qld.gov.au/dsdweb/docs-bin/v2/eis/lg_chem_eis_addm_app3.pdf

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Thanks for reminding people of this important issue.

      There's quite a good overview article here at Sceptical Science:
      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/10/13/332882/economics-coal-fired-power-plants-air-pollution-damages/

      This includes the recent Muller, Mendelsohn and Nordhaus analysis that found a significant net negative impact on the economy from coal generation - and that's without accounting for the suffering caused.

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    7. Dave Smith

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Peter,

      So you are being swindled. A 150% mark up on RECs is unconscionable.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      With your truckers Geoff, is Moree still a goer as I've read it is off and Nyngan/Broken Hill are the two big sites proposed to be developed.

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    9. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Dave Smith

      "So you are being swindled. A 150% mark up on RECs is unconscionable."
      I would have been happy to agree to buy them from Origin Energy this morning but they wouldn't sell them! Do you know who will sell small amounts? Even with a smaller retail mark up? I have even registered with the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator so they could be transferred directly to my account and I could hold them or choose to surrender them.

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    10. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Dave Smith

      Dave Smith,

      What is the basis fir that statement?

      Is it true that a rough average cost (LRMC) for black coal is around $30/MWh?

      And wind with back up and extra grid costs to make it an equivalent power supply is about $135/MWh?

      In which case, renewables cast about 4.5 times as much as the coal generated electricity it is claimed they are displacing?

      Which is a mark up of 350% on the wholesale price (which would cause a mark up on retail price of roughly 175%)?

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    11. Dave Smith

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Pete Lang,

      From what I understand from Peter Campbell, ACTEWAGL is buying RECs at around $30/MWh and retailing them (as GreenPower) at $75/MWh. So that is a 150% mark up.

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    12. Dave Smith

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Peter,

      No, can't help you there. I guess that, if there is not much demand for GreenPower, there is even less demand for small-scale REC purchases. So it is possible that nobody sells them.

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    13. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Greg North

      I've no idea Greg ... but Sydney->Broken Hill is about twice the distance.

      I wrote the article so people would be aware of how impractical a really large solar build would be. If people just want a symbolic solar build, then distances and trucks don't matter. Current rooftop solar is similarly just symbolic ... about 1% of electricity and about 1/5 of a percent of energy. We actually need a pathway to a total solution that falls close to our portion of the global carbon budget. Such a solution…

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    14. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff, most cost-effective solar installations are on the rooftops of businesses, carparks and homes which already have heavy vehicle traffic. Not only do they have to compete only with the retail (not wholesale) cost of grid electricity, the installers have to compete only with "retail" traffic.

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    15. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Understood.

      But I'm not interested in rooftop solar, I'm interested in the kind of utility scale solar builds that might make a significant contribution to getting us down to our share of the global carbon budget for the next 30 years. Rooftop solar can't ever do this. 1 million roofs, 3 million, 7 million, it's of no consequence. But a few million hectares is in the vicinity of what is required so is worth considering.

      Step 1 ... get us to where France has been for 20 years. Step 2. Add even more clean electricity, much more, to replace other fossil fuel energy. Rooftop solar isn't even step 0. Thinking about it is a waste of brain space.

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    16. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Dave Smith

      He is buying electricity, in part generated by 'unreliables', delivered to his house at the instant he demands it. He is not buying RECs. The retailer has to carry the costs and risks of all that and make a profit. You should know that if you are an energy consultant.

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    17. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Peter Lang

      I know what I am buying and so does Dave Smith. I am buying two things shown in two lines on my electricity bill. Yes, I am buying power delivered to my house at the instant I demand it generated by whatever mix of generators is operating at that moment. I am also buying RECs through the retailer; they are just not prominently marketed as such. Compared with me, I expect Dave is probably paying more for retail price electricity but less for GreenPower. This just seems to be the deals on offer from…

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    18. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      There are almost ten million households in Australia, at least half of which are able to benefit from installing one or more kilowatts of domestic solar PV. There are also over two million large commercial premises with flattish rooftops -- many of them potentially suitable for the installation of many tens of kilowatts.

      Average domestic solar PV installations tend to be over 4KWp now, and increasing. But of course some dwellings don't have roofs of their own, and some houses are poorly oriented…

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    19. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      There were 7.6 million households in 2006. Let's give them 3kw each. That's 7.6e6*3e3*24*365*0.14/1e12=27 TWh/yr of our 260 TWh/yr.

      So that vast investment in time, money and ladder injuries and deaths will yield just over 10% of annual electricity consumption and electricity is about 22% of energy use (95% of which is fossil fuels) so it's about 2.2% of total energy. 2.2% isn't step zero.

      Clearly Jonathan, you need to understand the difference between power and energy. A 1000 mega watt nuclear plant can generate about 1000*24*365*0.9=7.8 terawatt hours/yr of energy. 1000 megawatts of solar PV will generate about 1.2 terawatt hours/yr of energy (1000*24*365*0.14)

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    20. Dave Smith

      Energy Consultant

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter Lang,

      You appear to know about as much about the electricity market as I know about geology.

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    21. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      "Not only do they have to compete only with the retail (not wholesale) cost of grid electricity,"

      Most of the electricity from future rooftop installations in Victoria will be exported to the grid for 8c/kWh. 8c/kWh is not retail.

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    22. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      That "0.14" is a very small capacity factor you've got there -- it seems positively European. Insolation is so good in this country that panels frequently deliver more than their rated power. Annual capacity factors for well-oriented domestic rooftop solar power are well above 0.2 (eg. 7 "average full sun hours" is the norm for Adelaide ... that corresponds to a whopping 29% capacity factor).

      "Clearly, Geoff, you do not understand ..." well that's about par for the course in these conversations…

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    23. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathan, you quite clearly compared your estimate of 40 GW solar PV potential with our peak power consumption of 40 GW. It was generous of me to only presume you didn't understand the difference between power and energy.

      Australian electricity had an intensity of 817 gm-c02/kwh in 1990 and even higher now ... 847 is latest IEA figure. So those million or so roofs haven't even compensated for the extra emissions due to the wastage of lost energy flowing across more interconnectors. Will the next…

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    24. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Peter, so is the physics a no brainer. It costs less to convert concentrated power sources to electricity than it does for diffuse sources. End of story. The rest is artificial, man-made conceptual junk.

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    25. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Peter, you are so naïve. I negotiated a 14% use decrease for my mains electricity one week. Two weeks later I was informed of a unilateral decision to raise the price by 10%. Answering my protest, the utility wrote "Since deregulation of prices, Victorian utilities are free to charge any fee they wish".

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    26. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathan Maddox,
      That's where a sensible person would install them under present rules.
      But tell me, I live in a block where the roof area is miniscule compared to the number of people living here. Rooftop PV is not worth a second look, so we don't bother with it.
      Instead, we subsidise, by compulsion, without the politeness of even being asked, those who choose to freeload on us. Why is there no compensation scheme so we without roofs can recover our share of the large subsidies paid to those with the right roofs? Where is the principle of equity? The present scheme is rather close to stealing by political decree.

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    27. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey, I said much the same thing when rooftop PV was costly and FITs were 50c/kWh. And again when the 5x REC multiple was legislated for domestic rooftop PV. It was middle-class welfare. It was a boondoggle. It bought staggeringly overpriced equipment with give-away money which would have been far better spent on wind, gas- and biogas-fired cogeneration, tidal or even (to the chagrin of my fellow greenies) nuclear power. I thought PV belonged on toys, satellites and farmhouses only, in the…

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    28. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathan Maddox,
      If you forecast a drop from $4 to $0.5, that's a factor of 8.
      How will that factor be achieved when major alt eng companies like BP have pulled out much of their effort, and while PV manufacturers are going out of business fast.
      This was on my screen today -
      http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/blog/post/2013/03/suntech-insolvent-yingli-links-with-gcl?cmpid=rss
      Add it to a long list of predecessors.

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    29. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Suntech's technical insolvency does not mean that the business, least of all its manufacturing capacity, has ceased to exist. The article you posted makes it clear, actually, that the insolvency was a matter of the board and creditors mounting a coup against founder and majority shareholder, Australian technologist Shi Zhenrong. What we are seeing in the Chinese solar industry is nothing more than consolidation and a power shift -- a natural consequence of capacity which has temporarily overshot…

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  5. Peter Campbell

    Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

    I don't know if this was considered in the study, but turning off a load is just as useful to the grid as turning on a dispatchable power source. With Smart meters, loads such as the electric booster for a solar water heater or a charging electric vehicle could be turned off if the wind drops and back on again as it picks up. Similarly, water can be pumped up hill at a hydro scheme when the wind blows and power dispatched as quickly as turning on a tap (literally) when it drops.
    I would not be surprised if the numbers came out very differently if a combination wind and pumped hydro scheme (for example) were considered as a package. The hydro and wind would not need to be in the same place but one owner might bid to supply power from one or the other as if it were one generator.

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    1. Wil B

      B.Sc, GDipAppSci, MEnvSc, Environmental Planner

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Peter Campbell, where would these storage dams be built and at what cost?

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    2. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Wil B

      I don't know. Perhaps smaller dams above or below existing larger water storage dams? Is there more capacity to use existing storage in the Snowy Scheme for this function?

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    3. Wil B

      B.Sc, GDipAppSci, MEnvSc, Environmental Planner

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Very limited I'm afraid. Australia is really too flat. My understanding is that pumped storage has very limited viability in Aus. Though I could stand to be corrected.

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    4. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Wil B

      Australia's pumped hydro potential is huge. It is much greater than we need to support a 100% renewables grid. Australia has relatively limited conventional hydro capacity because the runoff is small so our rivers have low flows, but you do not need river flows for pumped hydro (you don't even need rivers). The great dividing range is a vast area with many places where pairs of very large dams can be placed at elevation differences of 60 to 400 metres. There are a number of existing large dams which are suitable for turning into very large pumped hydro schemes by adding a new dam nearby.
      The preliminary work from the AEMO study has done a very poor job of examining this because they explicitly rejected the possibility of creating new large dams. This guarantees that the economics will look very bad.

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    5. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      David Jones,

      Clearly you know absolutely nothing about the subject of pumped hydro and what makes it viable.

      Of course you need upper and lower reservoirs. If the lower reservoir is the sea, then you have the environmental issue of pumping salt water up to an upper reservoir and having it leak into the groundwater, or trying to seal the reservoir and maintain the seal for 100 years or whatever. It is done in a few places but it is all high cost. To be viable you need large upper and lower…

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    6. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Why does it need to be a 'reliable' electricity supply at those times of low demand? The whole point of pumped hydro was to convert intermittent sources of energy into literally 'on tap' energy. IE pump into the upper reservoir on the occasions when the wind happens to blow and the electricity price is low; take from it when the price is high. Or the pumped hydro scheme has a power purchase deal directly with a wind farm, or they are owned by the same operator. It would let the wind farm, in effect sell energy at a high price rather than cause a price crash when they have energy to sell. The other generators who complain about having to throttle back their coal plants should be happy.
      And who mentioned sea water?

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    7. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Did you ask this question after reading the link I posted and the comments that address exactly your question?

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    8. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      I think pumped hydro needs to be constantly pumping for 4-5 hrs at a time to be viable - large amounts of distributed wind power would provide excess power for those time periods.

      If you do look at Peter's pumped hydro costing - you will notice that there is a 50km horizontal distance between his top and bottom dams. It's not a technical problem - just makes the piping longer and more expensive.

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    9. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      >"I think pumped hydro needs to be constantly pumping for 4-5 hrs at a time to be viable "

      That's part of the issue. The other issue is that, to be economically viable, it needs to be pumped almost every day, not just when the wind blows.

      >"you will notice that there is a 50km horizontal distance between his top and bottom dams. "

      That is true. However, the alternative is to build dams and reservoirs, that have sufficient storage capacity, close to each other. The area that must be inundated…

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    10. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Peter Lang

      At the link from Mr. Lang there is an article in which he estimates the costs, output etc. from a hypothetical pumped storage system between two of the Snowy dams. It was written a couple of years ago and is followed by extensive comments from others. I admit I skimmed over the comments in places.
      While the rest of the article seems well reasoned as best I can tell, various people note that the article concludes with an unsubstantiated comment "But pumped hydro is not well suited to intermittent…

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    11. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      >"I can not judge whether the criticisms are reasonable or not."

      I am glad you added that bit. If you were interested in knowing the answers, as opposed to just making a point to support your belief/hope that renewable energy is viable, you would have carefully read the responses to the questions and assertions you mentioned.

      I've explained in the previous comments, if you want to get the energy storage capacity you have to either build new dams (on appropriate pairs of sites) or link existing…

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    12. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      Hi David,

      Each time pumped storage comes up in a discussion I feel it's necessary to point out that several alternative technologies are in the offing which, if successfully developed, could obviate the siting constraints and large environmental and capital costs of new dams.

      One was the subject of a recent article here at The Conversation, namely "liquid air" storage: http://www.highview-power.com/ (This employs similar techniques to those used in the production of liquid natural gas…

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    13. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter, the reason I have not traded comments with you in such forums previously is that you take a very belligerent attitude and I am not interested in being insulted by you.

      I have actually spent a lot of time studying pumped hydro and based on the flawed proposition you put forward on the bravenewclimate site, I know more about it than you do. That is assuming you think it is a sensible design rather than a strawman.

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    14. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      David Jones,

      >"I have actually spent a lot of time studying pumped hydro and based on the flawed proposition you put forward on the bravenewclimate site, I know more about it than you do."

      That is an unsubsantiated assertion. You've done nothing to demonstrate it. In fact the comment I replied to strongly suggest it is not true.

      And, No, I am not saying that concept is viable. I've said it is not viable. I've said so in comments on the thread and also in a comment on this thread. Perhaps you missed it. Probably no large scale pumped hydro is viable in Australia, and especially not if the source of power for pumping is unreliables.

      If you think differently, shows us your analyses.

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    15. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Thanks Jonathan, I have looked at lots of alternative storage systems over the last couple of years and a number show promise for different applications. I agree with you that hydrogen storage has lots of potential but even with expensive fuel cells the round trip efficiency is still not great. Where countries have the topology and space for it, pumped hydro is still way out in front for grid scale, long term storage because of its good round trip efficiency and almost limitless lifetime. If the dams are big, the cost is very low on a $/MWh basis.

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    16. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      This is the last response I will make to you.

      If you wanted to create a pumped hydro scheme in the Snowy Mountains, designed for use in support of a predominantly renewables grid, the logical arrangement is to use the full cascade of reservoirs from Eucumbene to Blowering. This would take advantage of the two largest active storage volumes in the system, which are conveniently at the bottom and (almost) top of the scheme. The original Snowy Scheme engineers were not stupid and they provided a…

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    17. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      David Jones,

      You have confirmed what I said before. You have next to know engineering knowledge or experience with hydro. I expect you are a young engineer and have done some desk studies. Your ideas are quite nonsensical. You are misleading everyone, although clearly you don't think you are. Until you crunch the numbers and estimate some costs you are talking waffle - like most of the nonsense presented in forums like this by renewable energy advocates.

      I'd say to any readers still following this thread, there have been comments by some very well informed people on this thread. I'd urge people with open minds to reread the thread and work our for your self who knows what they are talking about and who doesn't. I'll suggest four names that do are: Barry Brook, Martin Nicholson, Ben Heard and Geoff Russel.

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    18. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Peter Campbell,
      If the regulators seek the power to fiddle with my electricity, they are welcome to pay what I currently pay in premiums as insurance against accidents. It's all care, no responsibility in the present system. They will have the ability to ruin your freezers full of supermarket food, but will they sign a contract that they will replace the waste free of charge to the owner?
      Smart meters are going to result in increased accidents and increased waste, plus they are providing the criminally…

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    19. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to David Jones

      David Jones - dams
      Can you give a couple of examples of large paired dam sites so we can get a better picture of what is needed? Look up on Google Earth, that sort of thing? In general principle, I'm all for more dams, especially ones that are politically correct in the sense that they reverse the stupidity of Gordon below Franklin.

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    20. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      David,

      A power system dominated by intermittent renewables would be characterised by very big price differentials between short, sharp peak demand periods and relatively long, deep off-peak periods. Negative off-peak spot prices are likely if large discretionary loads (such as storage) are not available to soak up excess generation and put a floor under the price. In such a regime poor round-trip efficiency of storage is not a major consideration, because the dollar value of the input off-peak…

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    21. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      David Jones,

      You said this would be your last response you make to me, but I would like to ask some questions about your concept for a Tumut River pumped hydro system.

      But first a couple of questions about you:

      1. Is your real name David Jones or is that your on line name?
      2. If not, are you Neil Howes or have you discussed your concept with Neil Howes? If so, you may know that I debated this concept repeatedly with Neil Howes over a period of about a year or more. Neil is an academic…

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    22. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      "...They will have the ability to ruin your freezers full of supermarket food..."
      You misunderstood what I was saying I would be happy to have. I am not suggesting that my general electricity supply could be turned off. I am suggesting that loads on a particular circuit or with particular control capability could be volunteered as able to be turned off or on for a load regulating benefit in exchange for a discount or some other sort of incentive. I would not have the freezer on such a circuit but…

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    23. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      Questions and comments on David Jones’ Tumut River pumped hydro concept:

      I understand your concept is to convert the existing hydro infrastructure on the Tumut River Development (Eucumbene Reservoir to Blowering Reservoir) to an integrated pumped hydro system to use the large storage volumes in the top and bottom reservoirs of that system (Eucumbene and Blowering).

      1. Am I correct that your proposal is to excavate canals from below the minimum operating level of each dam to the power station…

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    24. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to David Jones

      Topography, not topology.

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    25. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter, I said I would not reply to you, but against my better judgement:
      1. I am not now and never have been Neil Howes.
      2. I have not communicated with Neil Howes (so far as I am aware) but I do recall reading some discussion on bravenewclimate about the snowy scheme a year or so back.

      1. No. The only canal required is between a new power station at the base of Jounama dam (replacing the existing mini-hydro)and the lower active level (for pumping) of Blowering about 25m below FSL. This would…

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    26. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to David Jones

      David Jones,
      I don't have the expertise to comment, but assuming your figures work out correctly, do you think it a shame that so much money has been spent on climate change thought bubbles when it could have been spent on actual engineering?

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    27. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Geoffrey,
      Wikipedia has a “List of pumped-storage hydroelectric power stations” which includes coordinates and links to system details for all of the world’s large systems. Tumut 3 is in the list. Bath County is still the largest (as far as I know, but lots of new ones are being built) at 3 GW. Head of 380m and max flow rate of 850 cubic metres per second. This is about half the total head and similar average flow to the scheme I described but using very small reservoirs in comparison. As far as…

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    28. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      David Jones,

      Thank you for your reply (against your better judgement). I agree I am belligerent in many of my responses. I began to respond in this way on web sites like this as a result of the most abusive comments imaginable over a period of about three years by those who think anyone that doesn’t accept their beliefs must be abused, called “deniers” and similar and denigrated. The worst offenders are the Left ideologues, the climate doomsayers, the renewable energy activists and the anti-nuke…

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    29. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      David Jones,

      >"As far as I know, there is not a single instance of a pumped hydro scheme anywhere in the world which uses two very large storages of Blowering and Eucumbene scale. They are all designed for demand levelling and so have charge/discharge times of typically 6 to 10 hours."

      I agree that is the case. The 6-10 storage is significant. They are mostly for use with reliable baseload power supplies for pumping, and for being used most days of the year for both pumping and generating. They are very high cost if used for unreliable renewable energy.

      A rough estimate of the LCOE for electricity from the nearly ideal wind and pumped hydro system on El Hierro Island is about $400/MWh.

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    30. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      Addendum to my comment of last night:

      I have serious reservation about your assumptions that lead you to calculate “5.4 GW all up capacity and 1460 GWh storage”.

      First, you can't reserve 50% of Blowering’s capacity for pumped hydro, because Blowering’s role is to store the water that comes down the Tumut River at optimum times for electricity generation and release it at optimum times for irrigation – i.e. store during wet years and release during droughts on a decade to multi-decade cycle…

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  6. Jovan Maud

    Anthropologist at Georg-August University, Göttingen

    I'm curious why nuclear and the renewables don't have any carbon price associated with them (Figure 1). I understand that minimal emissions occur in the production of the electricity itself, but surely materials, construction and dismantling of plants and maintenance need to be taken into account. In the case of nuclear surely we should add carbon expended in the mining, disposal and long-term storage of fuels and other radioactive materials in order to get an honest figure for its total cost. I'm no expert here, so if there's a good reason for excluding these factors I'd be interested to know what it is.

    Or another way of putting this question: is Figure 1 really showing a truly "total system cost", or is it also hiding certain costs?

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    1. Alex Cannara

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jovan Maud

      Just FYI, the present carbon-costs for construction and operation of various power sources were given a while ago in...

      "Comparison of Life Cycle Emissions in Metric Tonnes of CO2e per GW-hour for Various Modes of Electricity Production"; P.J. Meier, in
      "Life-Cycle Assessment of Electricity Generation Systems with
      Applications for Climate Change Policy Analysis"

      The table therin, titled "Life-Cycle Assessment of electricity Generation Systems with Applications for Climate Change Policy Analysis…

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Jovan Maud

      It is reasonable Jovan to question what the costs may be in Fig 1.
      An explanation is given with " The levelised cost reflects the minimum cost of energy at which a generator must sell the produced electricity in order to break even. "

      It could be assumed that an operator would determine break even minimum cost to include total set-up and operating costs and with the latter being minimal for renewables you would expect that the total cost would be inclusive of whatever carbon price loadings may apply and ditto with nuclear and waste and dismantling etc.
      It is however a broad assumption and like all reports huge numbers of variables with unknown accuracies are often included, a bit like how costs for many projects may be estimated but then estimates get greatly exceeded for whatever reasons.

      I'd hazard a guess and say like most things the devil is in the detail.

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    3. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Alex Cannara

      Thanks for providing the actual numbers with sources.

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    4. Jovan Maud

      Anthropologist at Georg-August University, Göttingen

      In reply to Alex Cannara

      Thanks for the responses, and thanks Alex for providing these figures. I must admit I'm surprised to hear that life-cycle carbon emissions of nuclear and the renewables are roughly the same.

      The points about the low power density and therefore scaleability of wind are are also interesting. It leads me to something I've often wondered: Why don't we see more hybrid production of power in order to more efficiently use land? Wind farms admittedly use a lot of space for the amount of power they generate, but why couldn't some of that empty space between the windmills be used for PV solar in order to increase the power density of the farms as a whole? I understand that the ideal position for wind and solar often don't coincide, but I would've thought that in a lot of cases this would make perfect sense. Are there technical reasons why this can't be done?

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    5. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Jovan Maud

      The space between wind turbines is usually used for growing grass for cows to eat - not really wasted.

      PV is best placed on rooftops demand-side, so that it reduces the daytime peaks and keeps demand-side transmission requirements down.

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    6. Jovan Maud

      Anthropologist at Georg-August University, Göttingen

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Thanks Gary, that makes sense, though I would imagine that there would still be arguments in specific cases for using land for PV. This is certainly not an argument against the value of having PV on rooftops though. Also, I suppose then that if land occupied by wind farms is used for other purposes such as providing pasture, a more holistic approach would figure this fact into a cost/benefit comparison of different modes of energy generation.

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    7. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Jovan Maud

      In the South Australian setting, you are right the first time.

      The wind turbines are sited for good wind.

      A large solar installation is very, very sensitive to the quality of the solar resource to be remotely viable. As it happens it is not remotely viable yet even with the best resource.

      One just would not do it in the name of saving space.

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  7. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    You shot yourself in the foot as soon as you admitted;

    "The system costs are limited to costs that accrue within the electricity system, so environmental and long-term security of supply impacts are excluded from this study."

    and then concluded

    "In particular, if the Australian Energy Market Operator is to make a fully costed assessment, it must include grid-level costs in its forthcoming 100 per cent Renewable Study."

    Why dont you take your own advice and include all costs

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Fair shake of the sauce bottle Michael or whatever Kevin might bring to the fore.
      Isn't Barry writing more about what has been costed rather than doing his own research to develop all costs which in itself is a bit rubber bandish.

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    2. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Greg North

      You are correct, he is just reporting what has been costed and he has done a good job of that

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  8. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    A report on the System Costs of Low Carbon Energy is at least a step in a responsible direction Barry and I sometimes really wonder about the expertise of those who are proposing and supporting all manner of renewable energy systems.

    " As a consequence, with the current power-generation mix in the OECD (including Australia), dispatchable technologies will suffer due to lower average electricity prices and reduced capacity factors when a significant quantity of low-cost renewable energy is available…

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  9. Mike Swinbourne

    logged in via Facebook

    Thanks Barry,

    I understand that all the 'externalities' should be included, so I have to ask why you have not done so. For example, what are the costs for nuclear fuel disposal? Should they not be included?

    And what about subsidies and government assistance in the building of infrastructure such as roads, ports and railway lines? Shouldn't they be included in your costings? How about the true cost of water, rather than the ridiculously low prices that energy corporations pay? It does not require much thought to realise there are lots of costs which we have to pay, but which are not directly included in energy pricing.

    If you are going to do these calculations, please include all the numbers so we can get a true picture, rather than only half doing it and providing a biased view which favours the industry for which you are an advocate.

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    1. Barry W. Brook

      Professor of Environmental Sustainability at University of Tasmania

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Nuclear fuel disposal is current costed in various jurisdictions (USA, Euro countries) in the range of $1 to $2/MWh: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Nuclear-Wastes/Radioactive-Waste-Management/ so it is very small relative to the system-level costs discussed above, and, moreover, is already incorporated within the LCOEs cited above.

      As to the other environmental costs mentioned by you above, and by others, in theory all of these types of costs should be included for ALL technologies, but in practice, it is increasingly difficult as the scope expands. However, that should not stop us including those costs can that be estimated.

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    2. Alex Cannara

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      "what are the costs for nuclear fuel disposal? " -- note that present, 1945-patent nuclear reactors use only a small fraction of their fuel's Uranium content, This is why "fuel disposal" is a non-issue.

      What is a cost, is the ultimate amount of nuclear waste, as after the french re-cycling processes. That depends on newer fuel cycles, some of which actually consume >90% of present fuel 'wastes'. The Chinese are well aware of this, as are some other nations moving ahead of those who don't…

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    3. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Barry W. Brook

      Thanks for your response Barry.

      And yes, I agree, if we want to get a true picture then we should be included all of the costs - and do it for all technologies as you suggested.

      Can I suggest that the title of your article is therefore misleading. You have rightly suggested that the grid level system costs should be factored into the calculations, but your conclusion that by doing so it has allowed a realistic comparison of the financial viability of the different energy sources is incorrect. Unless those other costs that I and others have identified are included (and there are LOTS of others - health costs for example), any assessment will be limited.

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    4. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      "And what about subsidies and government assistance in the building of infrastructure such as roads, ports and railway lines? Shouldn't they be included in your costings?"

      For a full life cycle analysis, the answer is, yes, all the extra costs are included but they are trivial compared with the ones included in the analysis above. Importantly, the extra costs you ask about are much higher for renewables than for fossil fuel and nuclear plants (per unit of energy supplied which is the way all…

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    5. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      >"Unless those other costs that I and others have identified are included (and there are LOTS of others - health costs for example), any assessment will be limited."

      What is the point of analysing and adding them if they only make the advantage of nuclear over the others even greater?

      Health costs: Nuclear is about the safest of all electricity generation technologies:
      http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html . So why delay progress by trying to muddy the waters…

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    6. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Barry W. Brook

      Well, the $1 - $2 / MWh is what the utilities are required to pay the govt for disposal. It may or may not be reflective of the actual cost of storing radioactive wastes for 10,000 yrs +.

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    7. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter,

      The reason why we analyse them is so we have the facts. If that means that nuclear becomes more attractive, then so be it. But you cannot simply dismiss something with mere hand waving and talking about 'irrelevancies' if you have not first done the work to find out the true situation.

      You have done this yourself with your statement about renewables. It is not good enough to make assertions as if they are fact, nor to only do half a job and to not include all the information in order to draw a cherry picked conclusion. Things may become clear when we remove the blinkers - but first we need to remove all the blinkers.

      But given that you are (were) a geologist and an engineer, you would realise the point of analysing and adding in all the evidence to determine which option has the greatest advantages - wouldn't you?

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    8. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      >"The reason why we analyse them is so we have the facts. If that means that nuclear becomes more attractive, then so be it. But you cannot simply dismiss something with mere hand waving and talking about 'irrelevancies' if you have not first done the work to find out the true situation."

      Mike, you seem to ignore or be unaware that we've been doing LCA analysis for electricity generation for over 40 years. One of the earliest I recall was by Herbert Inhaber in 1982 (I have it on my bookshelf…

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    9. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Nuclear fuel is only part of the disposal costs. Decommissioning old reactors involves disposal of a lot of radioactively-contaminated parts and materials.

      There is also significant fossil-fuel usage in refining the fuel, as well as mining it and in decommissioning old reactors.

      Anyone have any up-to-date figures on these?

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    10. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to John Harland

      Around $2/MWh for the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle - that's decommissioning and fuel waste management. It is included in the cost of electricity

      Decomissioning and waste disposal for renewables may well be more costly. At the moment these back end costs are not included in the electricity cost from renewable energy. Here are some examples of the mess left by abandoned renewable energy plants: http://webecoist.momtastic.com/2009/05/04/10-abandoned-renewable-energy-plants/ Why aren't the environmentalists complaining about this?

      The life cycle CO2 emissions from nuclear is around 10 - 30 kg/MWh. Wind is about 10-37 kg/MWh on a comparable basis. They are roughly comparable and about 2% to 3% of emissions from coal.

      So it is a red herring to continually raise these issues about nuclear and not raise them about renewable energy.

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    11. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter Lang wrote; "Around $2/MWh for the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle" Interesting metrics, since no nuclear power plant has been fully decommissioned.
      These metrics came from who?
      Were they associated with the nuclear / carbon industry?

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    12. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to John Harland

      John Harland; "Anyone have any up-to-date figures on these?" They exist as commissioned nuclear consultants reports or studies and are forward projections. Projections based on the nuclear / carbon industries best projected scenario.
      An overview of how the industry works with forward projections was reported recently by the BBC about the first nuclear site in UK;
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-21298117
      There are plenty of nuclear decommissioning projections from the UK, Canada and the US. The difficulty is establishing the value system of the authors. The hard question is; are the metrics from the nuclear / carbon energy industry? As this goes directly to the value of the data.

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    13. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Since we can have very little confidence about what the state of civilisation (or not) might be in 100s or 1000s of years, I don't believe we can be confident that people will understand what our nuclear waste is or what dangers it poses. Put crudely, what the cost will be to them.
      Of course some will be confident that our civilisation could not collapse or lose knowledge, even over a thousand year timescale. Others will say we have no moral obligations to distant generations.

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    14. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      1) there won't be any waste to worry about because we'll have used it to fuel fast reactors e.g., the SVBR-100 from Russia or similar from China, the US or South Korea.

      2) If there was any waste buried down a hole under many metres of concrete, do you really think people who didn't understand what it was would have the smarts to find it and dig it up?

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    15. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Geoff Russell; "If there was any waste buried down a hole under many metres of concrete" Are you aware a helium explosion can occur inside a stored nuclear waste canister?
      Research is showing the accumulation of helium in the canisters will cause them to explode after eight hundred to a thousand years.
      No one can predict the effect the explosion of thousands of canisters underground will have on the ecosystem in the future. The primary issue with nuclear energy is risk management, as with the issue of green house gasses.

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    16. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Let me get this right. We have a way of decarbonising electricty which we know works at scale ... French have been generating all their electricity for <80 gm-CO2/kwh for 2 decades ... but instead of using it, you'd rather risk 4 or 5 degrees of climate change by going with technologies which have failed for two decades and prefer to risk the real possibility of starvation in the millions to billions because you are worried about what might happen in 800 years to buried waste when we have a perfectly good way of disposing of it (fast reactors)? I'm guess you are happy to risk the deaths to millions or billions because fast reactors are too dangerous? Hell there might have another Fukushima where the health impacts will be "below detectable levels" (WHO) ... except for the impacts of the fear driven evacuation. Does that basically summarise your position?

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    17. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff Russell wrote; "Let me get this right. We have a way of decarbonising electricty which we know works at scale..." In your opinion.
      Decarbonising? More like a transition of capital within the energy industry, stakeholder links to the carbon industry are available on any market register you care to examine.
      'Let me get this right'. Your values allow the consultancy data commissioned by the nuclear industry 'carte blanc'. A powerful world wide energy group who employ lobbyists and their numerous…

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    18. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Ah, the old WHO conspiracy theory theory. I'd suggest you spend a month actually reading the recent WHO Fukushima report

      http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/pub_meet/fukushima_report/en/index.html

      I don't mean flick through it looking for sentences that suit you, but actually read it cover to cover and then look at the biographies of the 21 contributors from Universities all over the world and ask just exactly why any such academics would allow their reputation to be tarnished by allowing the 17 WHO experts to change their results at the whim of the IAEA and then ask exactly how many people must have been paid to falsify basic data. Then ask just what is the motivation behind such a monstrous cover up?

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    19. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff Russell wrote;"..... ask just what is the motivation behind such a monstrous cover up" Interesting.
      So you deny the overarching body decimating human health information on the nuclear industry over the last fifty years is the IAEA? Surely your values have grown past the K1- K3 development story of Mr.Fox and his request to look after the 'hen' house.

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    20. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Paul Richards

      I believe the $2/MWh is what the US govt collects from the generators to fund the Yucca Mountain project - the cost of which tripled from the original estimate to when it was cancelled and which was good for 150 years.

      The actual cost of storing the waste for 15,000 years would be about 100 times that.

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    21. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Gary Murphy wrote; "The actual cost of storing the waste for 15,000 years would be about 100 times that." The unprocessed nuclear material storage need is greater than a hundred thousand years. Storage of unused nuclear fuel aside, the true cost of the whole nuclear reactor cycle is unknown. As no nuclear reactor cycle has been fully completed, for that matter will not be in the lifetime of many commenters here.

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    22. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Wrong. Kindy book reading.

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    23. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to John Harland

      You can gain a relative impression of the values of nuclear by studying electricity generation in France and comparing it with another country that has no to little nuclear and roughly similar fossil energy endowments as France. Unfortunately, it is hard to find a standout country to compare with France on the basis of most things other than nuclear being equal.
      Qualitatively, then, you can look for plus and minus factors related to the French approach. The majority seems to applaud the early French decisions to go to heavy nuclear use.
      Do we have some negative consequences worth discussing here? I don't mean the ghosts of waste disposal stories, I'm more interested in recent scenarios where wind and solar comparisons are better known through more recent experience. Also, I'm not very interested in tales where France has elected to build some token renewables so its voters can see it has done more than nothing.

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  10. John Newlands

    tree changer

    I hope the AEMO report on 100% renewable energy is rigorous and objective. I say that because in the past there has been reason to doubt that. For example a couple of years ago AEMO authored a report (SASDO2011) that enthused about the prospects for dry rock geothermal in Australia. However that technology appears to have come to nothing which raises questions as to how hard headed the analysis was.

    The days of wishful thinking or acceding to political masters must be fading fast. The report will be picked over as if by vultures for the slightest error or questionable assumption. The almost certain reality is we'll keep burning coal long long after the report comes out.

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to John Newlands

      Australian dry rock geothermal

      I think that every one of my geologically trained compatriots would study and reject the proposition, based on present knowledge, in under a week of work. It's dream time material compared to the reality and immediacy of actual projects within the mining industry.
      There are sites in the world like Iceland and parts of California where geothermal in the wide sense is important, but it's a different class of geothermal and we don't appear to have that class in Australia.
      Now recall the vast sums of money being diverted by Canberra for this pie in the sky, when it's so easy to make a list of projects more in need of the funding and more likely to succeed. It's not the task of Governments to try to pick winners, especially when political preferences enter the comparison. There is persistent underestimation of the power of motivation by profit potential; and persistent lack of Government accountability for picking losers.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      Thanks Glenn - really important point.

      I think the concept is 'investment' - it used to be understood, even popular, a while back, before neo-liberal economic thinking focused attention far too much on the short term...

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    2. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      Thankyou Glenn, I think your comment gets to the heart of the issue.
      If you read the executive summary for the report, it is clear that this is a propaganda piece for the nuclear industry and all of the assumptions are loaded to place solar and wind in as poor a light as possible.
      If you consider South Australia, it now has at least 30% of its generation from solar and wind yet has wholesale power prices which are comparable with other states in the NEM. This totally refutes the scare story constructed in the OECD/Nuclear Energy Agency report.

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    3. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      I should have added that retail prices are now also comparable with the other states.

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    4. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to David Jones

      Hi David,

      I came to a similar conclusion that the article was "pre-loaded" to suit nuclear power. I should declare that I would prefer that nuclear be a last resort only if and unless it becomes clear (and this will take some years) that renewables will not be able to deliver reliable, safe and cost competitive energy.

      All new technologies require development time to drive down cost and usually subsidies until the technology matures.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      That might not be totally true David according to Wiki which rates SA retail prices just behind Germany and Denmark and likely to move to Number One.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_South_Australia
      It would be interesting to see why the wholesale prices are lower too and for instance has there been government support for which it seems the funding has somehow been moved across to the retail customers, electricity consumers paying one way or another.

      Also we should not confuse nameplate rating with supply for with a 200 or 500 MW turbine driven generator, 200 or 500 is what you are putting out and minus what is used in the power station itself will go into the grid whereas with a load factor of some 38% it could be that wind/solar being 30% of installed capacity, actual % of power supplied over a year would only be around 12%.

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    6. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Glenn Tamblyn

      There's idealistic concepts Glenn and what is really feasible.
      " The issues is a transition problem. At low penetration renewables are just a small addition to the mix. At high penetration they become the system and are viable. But in the intermediate penetration levels, the disruption they cause to the system is a large cost. "
      The technology does not yet exist for the planet's power needs to be supplied by renewables and you might just want to consider what type of storage system you would envisage…

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    7. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg,

      you can only make a valid comparison with other states in the Australian NEM. Across the NEM the wholesale and retail prices are now pretty similar between states and South Australia has only a weak level of interconnection to moderate pricing. The 3 bigger states are dominated by brown or black coal generation from long established generators which should be very low cost.
      As for the load factor etc.; South Asutralia has roughly 25% of its total annual electrical energy production now coming from wind and would have at least a few % more from PV as it has the highest penetration in Australia. This is not about capacity factor. There have been occasions in the last year where wind was supplying 90% of demand in South Australia.

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    8. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to David Jones

      "There have been occasions in the last year where wind was supplying 90% of demand in South Australia."

      Sure it supplies 90% of demand sometimes at 4 in the morning, even 100%. But if they increase wind generation capacity any further then it will mean that some power will have to be wasted when available generation exceeds demand. The economic value of this additional capacity will not be as great because some of it is wasted. This gets worse the more wind generation capacity there is.

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    9. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Curtailment has been covered in this thread before. It is perfectly normal for turbines to be feathered in high winds (this protects them from overload) or at times of low demand; this is reflected in their annual generation figures and is therefore already accounted for in their quoted capacity factor. "Discarding" or "wasting" this small amount of the energy potentially generated from intermittent renewables is perfectly acceptable when demand is very low (electricity is at its lowest price anyway…

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    10. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Yes Chris, that is true to a certain extent, but you can make the same argument for all forms of generation; if you turn them down below 100% of available output, there is some waste of invested capital. Without storage, accommodating high levels of wind beyond about 30% will become harder. In SA's case, the interconnectors with Victoria will allow some export, but it might be better for SA to consider grid scale PV rather than wind for new capacity as that would be better correlated with load.

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    1. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Glen Wright

      Glen - the reason no one talks about the health costs of coal production is because the coal plants were moved out of the big cities, where they did cause problems, many years ago.. you'll find that particulate pollution in most western cities - with the very notable exception of cities in China has been declining for many years.. With that in mind, go and look at the report you cite.. It details all the stuff that can happen but didn't say anything about any increases in particulate pollution (which is different from CO2). In other words its activist material. . the costs of increasing CO2 have been kicked around quite a bit, and immediately run into the problem of the time value of money..

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      any health problems in latrobe city in gippsland ?

      and did it just move the problem out of cities? or are they now much cleaner?

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,

      As a Latrobe Valley resident I can assure you there are significant health impacts associated with the large scale burning of brown coal.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Would that it were that simple, Mark.

      There's quite a good overview article here at Sceptical Science:
      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2011/10/13/332882/economics-coal-fired-power-plants-air-pollution-damages/

      This includes the recent Muller, Mendelsohn and Nordhaus analysis that found a significant net negative impact on the economy from coal generation - and that's without accounting for the suffering caused.

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, if you're going to continue to throw around your favourite little slur 'activist', I trust you'll understand if I regularly remind you that you are advocating dysactivism?

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    6. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      That's taking a very narrow view Mark.

      ATSE have taken health cost estimates of coal combustion from Europe and normalised them to the Australian setting. I suggest you get familiar with it. It's a major cost.

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    7. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Ben - always good to keep a perspective.. as I noted particulate pollution has decreased in major cities (exception of china) for years.. you'll find that the ATSE projections are theoretical, assumed deaths with little or no connection with actual deaths. My suggestion is that you take a look at the ABS stats, look at deaths due to respiratory illnesses, to take an example, and try to work out some connection with energy generation. You'll find you can't..

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    8. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen - good points.. clarification.. most of the output of the power plants is now CO2.. they certainly did inject a lot of mercury and sulphur into the atmosphere and there was a lot of talk about acid rain in the 1980s.. much of that has been cleaned up.. also cities themselves have changed. You'll recall that people use to have wood and coal fires in their homes - lot of particulate pollution - also the burning of leaves was quite common.. that's all long gone.. car exhausts are much cleaner.. dunno if ther is extra CO2 in the atmosphere in La Trobe but it may not matter much..

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    9. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry - I'm sure you've managed to convince yourself of that but you require the studies that stand up to scrutiny and also a physical mechanism. an explanation as to why the extra CO2 affects your health.

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    10. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, perhaps YOU can't use ABS stats to do this, but that's probably because you aren't an epidemiologist (are you?) and also because you need additional data not generally collected by ABS. But epidemiologists have no trouble at all making such links. Here's a sample study from Japan.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21325732

      There's a huge body of science connecting disease with air pollution. Air pollution doesn't only come from power plants of course, so attribution by source is complex but not impossible.

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    11. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix - congratulations you've managed to point to something of which I was not aware or was not trivial, obvious or ridiculous. Good stuff.. keep it up.
      I'm sure our worth economists meant well with their study but this is a response I sent to another poster..
      Just to go over the point one more time, and I am tired of repeating myself, particulate pollution has been declining in the major cities for many years now for a host of reasons.. ergo deaths have been declining not increasing. these theoretical deaths which you are complaining about remain theoretical and far, far, far outweighed by those of personal circumstances (accidents, over eating, smoking, committing suicide ect). I have seen studies attributing a part of a death to individual car exhausts, but they remain meaningless, as even the authors would agree.. .. The stark fact is that those deaths are also declining..

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    12. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,

      Don't insult me about "convincing myself" please. The LV power stations still emit significant quantities of Nox and Sox gases as well as fine particulates not captured by electrostatic precipitators.

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    13. Wil B

      B.Sc, GDipAppSci, MEnvSc, Environmental Planner

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Given that the Latrobe Valley is a concentrated area that has been burning lots and lots of coal for over 50 years, it would surely be relatively easy to use basic epidemiological techniques to discover any respiratory or other illnesses that are more prevalent there than in comparable non-coal locations elsewhere in Australia.

      Since I'm unaware of any reported studies, and you would have to expect that they have been undertaken, I'm prepared to believe that in the Victorian context at least, illnesses caused by coal-fired power generation are insignificant. Unless anyone has some better data?

      Far less dangerous than the heat stress deaths caused by climate change caused by their operation!

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    14. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry, there's a certain point where trying to argue with Mark just becomes pointless.

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    15. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark,

      Your progression of logic is to tell me that the work from ATSE, is worthless, but that I or you should "take a look at some stats". Mark, that's argumentatively very, very weak. Population health impacts from diffuse pollution are never going to be straight line affairs. It appears that almost no epidemiological work has been done in Australia on this issue whatsoever.

      But what the hey, let's look at some stats from the National Pollution Inventory. All road and rail freight in the nation, combined, release about 15,000 kg of PM 2.5 per year. Both sectors will be in for tighter regulation to continue improvements in air quality because this is known to be good for human health. Even at low levels, PM 2.5 is bad for us.

      Electricity generation released 15 million kg. Coal mining? Over 5 million kg.

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    16. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Wil B

      From what I know, it has never been undertaken. Let me know if you find it. This is one reason ATSE drew on international work to provide an local estimate.

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    17. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, I think it is time to provide a source. Has the work been done to support your point of view? Or is is supported by the absence of work?

      It's good, really good, to see urban air quality increasing. It's a very different thing to say that there is nothing further to be achieved here.

      I can find nothing in the Australian setting on health impacts from coal generation in the relevant regions, but loads internationally. What about you? So far you are all opinion, no information.

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    18. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Never done it before Felix but I am getting that sense. Here is the health impacts of PM 2.5 http://www.npi.gov.au/substances/particulate-matter/health.html

      Here are the sources, point and diffuse, nationally. Top two make for interesting reading.http://www.npi.gov.au/npidata/action/load/emission-by-source-result/criteria/year/2011/destination/ALL/substance/92/source-type/ALL/subthreshold-data/Yes/substance-name/Particulate%2BMatter%2B2.5%2Bum

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  11. Svargo Freitag

    Manager

    It is disappointing and smacks of bias that an article on the hidden cost of energy fails to quantify (or even mention) the hidden cost of subsidies. The mining industry does not pay any tax on fuel, thus saving billions. Just about every other business has to pay this tax, including solar and wind. Can someone please quantify this and other subsidies to the fossil fuel industry (adding to about 9 or 10 $b/year) on the price of energy produced from these sources.

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    1. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Svargo Freitag

      Svargo - "The mining industry does not pay any tax on fuel.." I think you're referring to the tax concession mining companies get on diesel because they don't use the roads (no they don't - they truck to rail heads).. its a tax concession, for which they have a case, not a subsidy. If we used that terminology then you and I are being subsidised by the Federal govt whenever we get any of our hard-earned dollars back from the tax office.. the other "subsidies" are a product of the rich green imagination..

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    2. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      The entire industry is rife with cost distortions.

      In Victoria the Latrobe Valley generators pay a coal royalty to the state of $0.07 per tonne. Now that may not actually constitute a subsidy but it is not placing much value on the coal or the damage done to the landscape. It also does nothing to place a cost on the water supplied to these generators, the use of which could have averted the building of the Wonthaggi Desal plant at a cost of $5 billion.
      In NSW the state is prepared to subsidise coal supply to generators to the extent of building and running a coal mine (Cobbora) at a huge discount to prevailing coal prices. The actual price to be charged remains a secret (as far as I can determine) but the available clues suggest a price well south of $55 per tonne against a current FOB Newcastle price of $100 per tonne.

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Billions of dollars each year header from the Aus Gov to Fossil Fuel industries in the form of Tax rebates or concessions is a problem Mark

      We are giving Billions of dollars each year to an industry we are meant to be trying to phase out

      This is a problem no matter how you slice it or what you call it

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    4. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to David Jones

      David - dunno about the stuff you cite as the coal actually connected to electrical generators may be different, but essentially you're talking about the electricity industry, not the coal or fossil fuel industry, and that's been under substantial government control until recent years.. State governments have always messed with power prices and taken profits from the industry to balance budgets.. its a different game altogether.. ..I was under the impression that Vic had deregulated its industry, but whatever.. how old are your sources on that one??

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    5. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, yes I am talking specifically about the electricity industry as it relates to the original article. Victoria did deregulate but there are still distortions like the (secret) subsidised electricity pricing for aluminium smelters. The coal royalty information is from http://environmentvictoria.org.au/newsite/sites/default/files/useruploads/Coal%20Economics%20Report%20EcoLarge.pdf
      Re the NSW situation, just goggle Cobbora. If you can find out the real price that will be charged for this coal…

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  12. david leitch
    david leitch is a Friend of The Conversation.

    research analyst

    There are a number of factual and conceptual errors in this article in an Australian context. Disclosure I am a professional utilities analyst.

    1. Wind fams do not have zero variable cost. In fact their measured variable cost is around $20 mwh which amazingly is actually higher than coal in Australia ignoring carbon cost.

    2. The arguments around solar and grid costs are quite complex. Solar is best thought of IMHO from an economic view as distributed energy. The reason it can compete with centralized generation is it avoids distribution costs which are around 50% of the final price in Australia. However unless you add battery storage which is economic but which is not yet popular you still need the grid, but a different grid to the one we have today.

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to david leitch

      >"The reason [solar PV] can compete with centralized generation is it avoids distribution costs which are around 50% of the final price in Australia. However unless you add battery storage which is economic but which is not yet popular you still need the grid, ..."

      These two sentences seem to be incompatible. If solar, without battery storage, requires the grid, then it must share the grid costs. Furthermore, it is not dispatchable so it provides power surges that must be handled by the grid…

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    2. Martin Nicholson

      Energy researcher and author

      In reply to david leitch

      David we never said that wind had zero variable cost (I assume you mean short run marginal cost). We said they can no longer be bid at rock bottom levels if we add the system level cost to the SRMC.

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    3. david leitch
      david leitch is a Friend of The Conversation.

      research analyst

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      "These renewable sources require no fuel, and so have very low operating costs. This allows them to enter the market at low prices (or even negative prices if production subsidies or generation mandates are in place)."

      "so not zero but very low was the phrase used. ". As infigen points out it's disclosed operating cost is over $22 mwh. As we know the operating or more correctly from a dispatch no dispatch pov variable cost is no higher than $15 ex carbon even for black coal.

      Never mind…

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      Thank you for the clarification, it is always appreciated when Authors or contributors respond to feedback - just be weary of the trolls

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    2. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      I missed it, is it the irony of commenting back to someone that could classify myself as a troll or was it a mis-spelling or something

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      Fair point in principle in your second paragraph, but does the article really adequately acknowledge that there are some significant gaps which, though not possible to define precisely (i.e. monetise) are certainly not zero.

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    4. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      Even a cursory reading of the executive summary from the OECD report makes it clear that the agenda is promotion of nuclear energy. From the summary:
      “The present study, overseen by the Working Party on Nuclear Energy Economics (WPNE) of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)”
      Martin, you state, “The system costs that OECD calculated for each country are real “. They are not real. They are a fiction based on an assumption that there is no existing generation available to provide backup. Not only…

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    5. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      Ahhh I'm an idiot, I get it now, I just did a search of the difference

      Wary: "watchful; being on one's guard against danger"

      Weary: "Having one's interest, forbearance, or indulgence worn out"

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    6. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      "As Greg North has said, fast ramping of spinning reserve comes with a cost to plant life."

      Yet even at today's high penetrations of solar generation in Germany, the net effect of many extra gigawatts of solar power on a sunny spring day is to *reduce* the requirement of existing peaking generators to ramp. The conventional dispatchable generation runs at close to its baseload level, 24 hours of the day. It's only on days without significant sunshine that the peaking-capable generators must…

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    7. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Jonathon - sorry, but I think you've got the wrong end of the stick with most of that.. although I'm sure its correct about the sunny spring days the problem is that they still have to keep all the peaking generators going offline.. the problem with PV and solar is that its only day time (so how come 24 hours a day.. the dam you mention wouldn't have that much capacity?) and even during the day it would be prone to sudden drop outs due to clouds.. During winter the PV panels are under snow so that they have to have full conventional plant coverage, when the demand is higher. so not only do you have to have the same number of plants, but you have to keep running them at close to the same levels.. granted there is less use, but fuel is in fact a small part of the cost of running such plants.. and they have to be run up and down more, increasing the wear on them.. sorry, the original figure is probably correct..

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    8. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      It is not in any way a problem with solar generation, that peaking generators are required to meet demand at times when the sun isn't shining (or, granted, when there's snow on the solar panels).

      If that's a problem at all, it's a problem with demand, which already pays for it, handsomely.

      There is no additional cost for "spinning reserve" to a form of generation which only reduces the size of the demand peaks. The cost is in lost profits on sunny days to the owners of the peaking generators, which they are free to recoup from the market when it's snowing.

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    9. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, you need to do some more reading on how renewables based systems work.

      This fiction of the cloud based dropout is rubbish. Germany is a big place and the PV generation is spread across the full area in millions of installations. If you read some of the numerous research papers on spatial diversity of PV generation you would understand that as a whole system, it varies quite slowly. The biggest impact is the morning and evening ramps which are unavoidable.

      If you do some more reading on Germany's wind and solar resources you will discover that they are anti-correlated. In winter, wind generation is much greater than in summer and obviously vice-versa for solar. This is a lovely thing. So if every solar panel in Germany is covered in snow, they still have strong wind generation available.

      It just reinforces the irrelevance of this report.

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  13. Gary Murphy

    Independent Thinker

    I see - so when you count the extra system costs of wind (as estimated by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency) and ignore the externalities of nuclear - nuclear turns out to be about 5c/kWh cheaper.

    But that is not counting the risk insurance costs of nuclear; the long term waste management costs of nuclear; the decommissioning costs of nuclear. (did I miss any?)

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    1. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Actually, you missed nothing, as those costs are built in to the price of electricity from a NPP and are pretty much sod all of the overall price.

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    2. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Nope - the LCOE costs referred to are from the BREE AETA report and they DO NOT include any of those costs.

      And I did miss one - water usage. Oh - they can be air cooled - but that is more expensive...

      And another one. I imagine land values near a nuclear reactor would go into meltdown (sorry). The owners of such land will insist in being compensated.

      Sod all of the overall price? How much does it cost to store nuclear waste for 10,000 years +? Have any estimates been made?

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    3. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      You did not refer to that report or those cost estimates.

      When nuclear power is sold, the operators are recovering costs for insurance, waste management, and decommissioning. The cost is in the order of a few $ per MW.

      NPPs can be cooled with all the same techniques of other thermal electricity generation. They are unremarkable in that respect.

      Land values? Will you apply this premise to wind farms?

      Gary, 10,000 years ago humans first began cultivating barely and wheat in Mesopotamia. I wonder what the next 10,000 years have in store? I will concede, estimate costs over that timeframe would be quite an exercise...

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    4. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Ben Heard

      "You did not refer to that report or those cost estimates."

      The article uses those estimates. That is what I was referring to.

      "The cost is in the order of a few $ per MW."

      That is what the utilities are required to pay the govt to take responsibility for these things. I doubt it is representative of the real costs of them (as evidenced by the fact that the private sector will not take responsibility for them).

      Wind farms actually increase the value of the farms they are on. They do not affect the value of nearby farmland (unless you think WTS affects cows). But really I was alluding to the virtual impossibility of finding somewhere to site a new NPP.

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  14. Peter Lang

    Retired geologist and engineer

    10 GW of wind farms with gas back up would abate about 5.5 Mt CO2 per year at 100% effective or 3.9 Mt CO2 at a more realistic 70% effective.

    10 GW of nuclear would abate about 7.1 Gt CO2 per year

    The cost of electricity from 10 GW of wind with gas back up would be about $135/MWh and from nuclear about $98/MWh (including the grid level system costs).

    The CO2 abatement cost from wind with gas back-up would be about $107/t CO2 at 100% effective or $152/t CO2 at a more realistic 70% effective. The CO2 abatement cost with nuclear would be about $67/t CO2.

    That is, the nuclear abates more CO2, its electricity is cheaper and the CO2 abatement cost is cheaper (about half that of wind with gas back up).

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    1. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Peter Lang

      So, taking Peter Lang's numbers at face value, it would cost less than double the cost of nuclear for wind to have the same CO2 abatement and entirely avoid the issue of nuclear waste managment over the next few thousand years. By the time retail markups are added and so one the consumer will see rather less than a double cost.
      Great. Let's do wind then.

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    2. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Sorry, but that's an emotional response, it's not rational. Your comment shows you are not concerned about the management of the far more toxic chemical wastes from the other technologies, or the land and water issues, or the quantities of mining and shipping and transport required, etc.

      But I do accept it is this sort of irrational, emotive response that is blocking the world from having a rational, 'no regrets' way to reduce global GHG emissions.

      Your comment is important and valuable because it demonstrates very clearly what is retarding progress.

      The nuclear phobia created by 50 years of anti-nuclear protesting is what has got us to this position.

      The people who hold and continue to spread these irrational beliefs are retarding progress.

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    3. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Correction to the first two paragraphs:

      "10 GW of wind farms with gas back up would abate about 55 Mt CO2 per year at 100% effective or 39 Mt CO2 at a more realistic 70% effective.

      10 GW of nuclear would abate about 71 Mt CO2 per year

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  15. Murray Holdom

    Student

    Barry,

    I would be very happy if the grid costs were associated along with the true costs of CO2 emissions.

    Referring to figure 1.

    - Emissions of CO2 for coal generation is roughly 1 tonne / Mwh
    - You seem to have used the current australian carbon price of $23 / tonne as a measure of emissions impacts
    - The true costs of CO2 emissions are a lot higher
    - Coal fired generation currently receives huge direct government compensation for the carbon price, which are not included in the figure

    If the true grid costs were applied along with the true environmental costs, there would be one further push: energy storage

    It seems reasonable that using energy generation, which doesn't emit vast quantities of pollution, in its most efficient way is a smart way to go.

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    1. Murray Holdom

      Student

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      Martin, my point exactly. BREE is the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics. Carbon dioxide emissions, themselves, do not directly impact upon resource extraction and energy usage. Pollution is an environmental and social problem caused by resource and energy usage. It should be the department of the environment and the health department, or related bureaus, that decide the costs of pollution.

      Environmental and health departments don't have to decide the costs of a carbon price as this is distinct…

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    2. Martin Nicholson

      Energy researcher and author

      In reply to Murray Holdom

      BREE use carbon costs from Treasury. They escalate each year from 2012 out to 2050. The 2012 cost is $23. Figure 1 is for 2012 so yes the carbon cost is $23.

      In the BREE report look at Figure 2.2.1 and Figures 4.1 to 4.40 for carbon costs for each technology.

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    3. Murray Holdom

      Student

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      Thank you for leading me to those figures. I must admit to having skipped through them. I should probably do further research on subjects before responding.

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  16. Mark Lawson

    senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

    Useful contribution to the debate. the green energy industry is always pointing to per unit costs and ignoring the considerable costs of having renewables on the network..

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      While to coal industry chronically ignores the enormous and fairly well documented externalities (let alone the vast costs of unabated emissions!) and the nuclear industry are wonderfully vague about full construction costs and embodied emissions, waste storage, decommissioning and insurance and other risks from system failure.

      What's sauce for the goose...

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    2. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      South Australia are already at roughly 30%. Where are they hiding alll of the "considerable costs"?

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    3. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      When the Chiba oil refinery exploded after the quake and tsunami in Japan, it burned for 12 days spreading a carcinogenic plume over a vast area. Has anybody been demanding that those carcinogenic compounds be cleaned up? Has anybody even bothered to calculate the extra lung cancers and other health impacts? Why not? Why are people frantic about radiation as a cause of cancer but allow their children to eat BBQ'd sausages? Or allow them to stand beside roads with constant passing diesel truck traffic?

      If you evaluate nuclear risks the same way you evaluate other risks ... by comparing and proportioning maximum action to the biggest risks, then nuclear risks should fade back into proportion to be dealt with appropriately.

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    4. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to David Jones

      David,

      South Australia is part of the NEM, the largest grid in the world I believe. It is a minnow with two interconnectors to the major grid that were in place before wind really took off here. We now look set to build a third to facilitate the export of more wind. In the whole NEM, wind and solar in total are providing for all intents and purposes sweet bugger all right now. The numbers referenced in the article consider penetrations of 10% and 30% penetration of the various technologies in countries ranging from 5 million-300 million people.

      You seem determined to dismiss this whole piece based on oversimplifiactions

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Did I ever suggest that nuclear was the only thing that had risks involved? Did I suggest that they should somehow be evaluated by different standards? You're simply having an argument with yourself.

      Indeed, I've already pointed out on several occasions that the net damage from coal, for example, exceeds the benefit. All I said was that if you want to count the full costs of renewables, as Mark was arguing, you also need to count the full costs of conventional and nuclear which, inter alia, includes the damage from meltdowns. unless you want to pretend that Chernobyl and Fukushima have not lead to costs, damage and health impacts?

      All you're doing is making a strawman pseudo-argument.

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    6. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to David Jones

      the 30 per cent is for short periods in one state .. its 3 per cent overall for the connected network of the eastern seaboard, and 3 per cent is not much problem.. would probably even save carbon and costs at that level as you don't need to change the network much.. SA can get away with it because it can draw energy from the much larger networks of its neighbours and export the stuff..

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    7. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Ben Heard

      I am determined to dismiss the whole report BECAUSE of the simplifications (and deliberate distortions) in the report.

      The report arrives at cost impacts based on treatment of individual technologies in isolation. This is just irrelevant for renewables. At low levels of penetration they work with an existing grid and there are many studies that show that the real cost of backup, grid reinforcement etc. is negligible. At much higher penetration they work as a system of complimentary technologies…

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    8. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      >"At much higher penetration they work as a system of complimentary technologies which must be looked at as a whole system in combination with demand. At very high levels of penetration they need significant storage - there is no way around that but it is not covered in this study."

      That is all true. And the costs are high and unacceptable. To achieve the 2010 NEM demand with low emisisons, the costs of a mainly renewables system or mainly nuclear system, are as follows:

      Capital cost: renewables three times more than nuclear
      Cost of electricity: renewables twice nuclear
      CO2 abatement cost: three times nuclear

      The CO2 emissions from the mostly renewables system would be about twice the emissions from the mostly nuclear system would be about twice

      See Figures 5 and 6 here

      There is obviously no advantage of renewables over nuclear on any rational basis.

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    9. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      The 30% is NOT for short periods, it is an annual average! Over short periods wind has on occasions last year provided almost all of SA's electricity load.
      Keep in mind also that SA has no stored hydro capacity what so ever, yet it manages to integrate more than 2 GW of wind generation into a local demand which had a maximum of 2956 MW last summer.
      Yes, there are interconnectors to Victoria but they are very much smaller than the installed wind generation capacity. Having interconnection to neighbouring grids is a very important part of a viable renewables grid. The interconnectors do not need to be huge to provide this service. Remember that these interconnectors to Victoria existed before the bulk of the wind capacity in SA was built. They are not a cost that can be attributed to the wind generation, its just that with the wind in place they are being used more effectively.

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    10. David Jones

      Engineer

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter,
      I have read various of your analyses at different times and I have very strong reservations about many of your assumptions. I don't want to start a new debate about the relative costs of these technologies (that is not what this article is about) but I will say that the UK government are about to enter into an agreement with EDF to develop 2 new reactors at Hinkley Point. For these new reactors to be built on an existing reactor site, in the country with the worlds oldest commercial nuclear industry, the developers are demanding a government guarantee of between 100 and 140 pounds (not dollars) per MWh for up to 40 years. I am not clear on whether this is a guaranteed minimum or an effectively fixed price (commentators provide conflicting information). In anyone's terms this is not cheap power and it is a very significant contrast to the BREE data. This is not some desktop projection - it is a contract to build.

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    11. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to David Jones

      UK government placed demands on the bidders and this is the cost of of those demands. While renewable energy is mandated and subsidised - as it is in UK, much of EU and Australia - and while we have the anti-nukes making the ventures a high risk financially, the cost will remain high in such jurisdictions.

      On the other hand equivalent nuclear power plants are being built in many other countries much cheaper than the AETA figures. The AETA 2012 figures are based on the four AP1000 plants being…

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    12. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Peter Lang

      "There is near zero probability renewables can achieve anything like that."

      The US built 60GW of wind power in 12 years. 60GW of wind power generates 180TWh/yr which is 90% of NEM supply.

      Renewable capacity can be built quickly and it can do the job. And it is not significantly more expensive than nuclear (or even fossil fuels).

      "Ask yourself: Who is responsible for retarding progress?"

      Well - those who constantly bag the only politically viable solution. (And those that spend half their time arguing that global warming isn't serious enough to warrant any mitigation)

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    13. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to David Jones

      Wow... points to David! Would have thought and AFR journo would take a little more care than that... oh well.

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    14. Ben Heard

      Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

      In reply to David Jones

      I make that a pretty tight response in relation to a reading of the SA situation David. But, as you agree it is the NEM that provides the buffer via interconnection.

      It's your determination to junk the OECD study and this article by pointing to SA that I take issue with. That's just not an adequate response.

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    15. Jonathan Maddox
      Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Software Engineer

      In reply to Ben Heard

      While the interstate connections are indeed valuable to South Australia's ability to easily integrate large amounts of wind power, far more relevant is the fact that SA's largest dispatchable generators (those in the immediate vicinity of Adelaide, where most of the load is) are rapidly variable gas-fired plant (comprising both older and less efficient gas-fired steam turbines, and some newer CCGT and OCGT).

      I think that this, along with the German experience, certainly does provide an ample demonstration…

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  17. Jonathan Maddox
    Jonathan Maddox is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Software Engineer

    The executive summary linked from Prof. Brook's article implies that no market mechanism exists for the operators of dispatchable generation to recoup their costs when their capacity factor is reduced. Yet the standard model for electricity spot markets lets operators bid as high as they please to supply power capacity which no-one else can provide. Let them charge an appropriately grand premium for peaking services on sunless days and cold still nights.

    Of course dispatchable plant operators…

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  18. John Newlands

    tree changer

    Some odds and ends
    1) thought I'd check if SA power prices were really that much higher than other states. I think they are. AGL SA's summer base rate is 34c per kwh whereas in Qld Ergon's base rate is 22c. Google it.

    2) from memory the diesel rebate for mine trucks is 18c out of 38c excise per litre i.e. they still pay 20c.

    3) I think negative prices for wind power in the US and Europe would disappear if there were no renewables mandates. In effect they are handing back some of the subsidy to stay in business. Economists call this dissipation of rent. Here I also suspect high spot prices (eg $12,000 per Mwh) for hydro and open cycle gas would be less if wind was not mandated, with an average saving to consumers.

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    1. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to John Newlands

      John - as I point out earlier, and as does another poster.. SA gets away with high wind penetration for periods because its part of a much larger network the NEM..on the NEM wind contributes 3 per cent and its not expanding very fast at all..

      Yes, lets drop renewables mandate and see if wind survives..

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  19. Doug Rankin

    Plasterer

    An argument I often get into with “environmentalists” is that for renewable energy to work you need a minimum of a national electricity grid and actually a global one. HVDC lines do make this possible. Which in effect is what your article was about. To build HVDC power lines between states (and arguably continents) capable of carrying 100% maximum load is going to be very expensive.

    I personally think we should be building something along these lines and I think we have to be looking to a global electricity market, medium term. Due somewhat to improving efficiency of fossil fuel fired power plants or nuclear (they are inefficient at low-load and horrendously inefficient at 100% load) but also long-term it would make renewable energy much more effective.

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    1. Simon Dalley

      Applications Engineer at Nuclear fusion

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      Very intersting article. The solar panels plus batteries/inverters give the islanders a reliable 24-hour source of electricity without needing to run diesel generators (provided they don't have too many overcast days in a row). But have you tried running the numbers the article contains?

      By all means check the calculations, but I make it 114W average electrical supply per person. A great deal better than nothing at all, but less than a tenth of Australia's electicity consumption average of 1268W per person in 2009.

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  20. Paul Cm

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Good points Barry, but I understand from the AEMO study scope/outline that the deliverables will be primarily technological, and specifically grid penetration rather than costs? Nevertheless, those outcomes married to studies like AETA2012 will go a long way (but by no means all the way) in realising a modern Australian energy system will all the desirables.

    (*rant warning*)

    Studies like the AEMO 100%RE, BREE ATEA2012 and CSIRO ET2012 are exactly what are needed to take even a small step in…

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Paul Moonie,

      That's an excellent comment. It is spot on.

      I'd give one word of caution about the Greens instigated, DCCEE, AEMO study of 100% renewables, however. It is politically instigated and there is influence at every level to make renewables appear more viable than they are.

      The subcontracted studies that provide some of the inputs are hopelessly biased. Two example are:

      1. The CSIRO report on Australia's biomass capacity. They ignored logistic constraints!

      2. The desk study of the potentially available pumped hydro energy storage capacity. Clearly done without input from anyone who knows anything about pumped hydro. Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) or many other engineering consultancy groups with hydro engineering experience could have done a much more useful and reliable study for the same cost.

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    2. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Paul Cm

      I wonder if the AEMO study will use realistic capacity factors and life expectancy for PV.

      How will they allow for the fact that PV installed on roof tops is seldom optimally oriented and often becomes shaded over time as buildings are built and or trees cause shading. And they are seldom cleaned.

      How will they allow for the fact that the PV installation have a short average life expectancy - houses are modified, knocked down, etc. and the original installation is not replaced. And some become disconnected and not reconnected.

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    3. Paul Cm

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Hi Peter,

      I need to admit that I know bugger all about pumped hydro and biomass other than cursory glances of reports and papers discussed in the area. But, I do find some of your advocacy on certain issues of energy helpful in the grand scheme of things, so after the AEMO report comes out I'd be welcome any serious conflicts you have with it if you could detail them.

      On the solar issues you raise, I haven't read the details of the assumptions and preliminary inputs for the study but should have time over the weekend and perhaps try to answer some of the concerns you mentioned.

      Cheers,
      Paul

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    4. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Some chooks are coming home to roost. Last week's news from World Nuclear Association:
      Grid congestion in a small part of China.

      http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-03-22/datang-renewables-profit-falls-on-intensified-grid-congestion
      Part quote: China’s electricity grids are unable to absorb the influx of wind power, forcing the government to tighten approvals on new projects and slow the development of the industry. Installations of wind turbines in China fell 18 percent to 15.9 gigawatts last year from 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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    5. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Paul Moonie,

      Did you look at the average capacity factor and average life of the solar panels that have actually been installed on Australia's residential roof tops over the past 20 years or so?

      I expect average capacity factor would be less than 14% and average life expectancy will turn out to be somewhere between 10 to 15 years, not the 20-25 years that proponents use in their analyses to try to justify the economics.

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    6. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Before demanding it of others, do you have any evidence to be so pessimistic about the life of solar panels? I know of a lot that were installed 5 years ago without any failures so far. I have a friend with some 20 year old panels doing just fine. Another friend did her PhD in some particular aspect of solar cell physics and was in the manufacturing industry for a while. Among other things they looked at panels that had been operating in the field for decades and she had no such pessimism. Could it be the 'unreliables' you consistently disparage are remarkably robust? Maybe it would help if you thought of solar as just another kind of nuclear, just a bit further away.

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    7. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Before making your silly comments, do you think it would be wise to background yourself on the preceding comments?

      >"I have a friend with some 20 year old panels doing just fine."

      So what? What is the relevance of such a comment? I have a friend with a 60 year old tractor that is still working fine. But how is that relevant to the average age of tractors.

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    8. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Jonathan Maddox

      You've completely missed the point. I suggest you background yourself on the preceding comments.

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    1. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Jane Rawson

      Thanks Jane - there always seem to be a hidden pea-and-thimble trick being perpetrated every time Barry and the rest of the nuclear circus put on a show,

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    2. Martin Nicholson

      Energy researcher and author

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, no pea-and-thimble trick here. Read Jenny Riesz piece and my comment. This is all solid analysis.

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    3. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Martin Nicholson

      Agreed. Some of the anti-nuclear arguments that were invented in the late 60s are still being trotted out as if they were fresh. Some have been discredited so many times that one wonders how much the anti nuclear activists have really studied beyond posters and the back of the dunny doors at Uni.

      The topic qualifies as a poster child to explain the expression 'no brainer.'

      We have not even touched on the design and operational performance of nukes for marine propulsion. It is quite possible…

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    4. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Gary Murphy,
      I gave my calculations in a blog last night, but it appears to have been snipped.
      In that blog, or anywhere in this thread, I have never mentioned low level nuclear waste. My calculations referred to a graph labelled high level nuclear waste. You have told a deliberate lie and there is no excuse for that.
      I stand by my calculations.
      1. It was quite clear that I was using a base of radioactivity of high level waste that had been encapsulated in glass or Synroc, thus diluted.
      2. When…

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    5. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      I was researching nuclear waste radioactivity and everything I came across was in excess of 10,000 years. The only place I found 50-500 years was in reference to Low Level Waste. I therefore assumed that was what you were referring to.

      How exactly does encasing waste in glass or Synroc dilute the waste? Or do you mean it contains some of the radiation?

      The waste itself is highly radioactive for a period of at least 10,000 years. It has to be monitored and occasionally repackaged for that amount of time.

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    6. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Gary Murphy,
      So your apology for calling me a liar is where?
      You made the mistakes, not me.

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    7. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Gary, can you please explain why it matters how long the waste is radioactive when it can be used as fuel in fast reactors, after which time its dead easy to store the little that is left?

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    8. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff Russell,

      Another even more important question I've wondered for a long time is why are those people who keep asking about radioactive waste not concerned about the life of toxic chemical wastes, their toxicity and their quantities?

      Why do they focus on radioactive waste and not on other wastes?

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    9. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Just because it can - doesn't mean it will. If these Gen IV reactors turn out to be more expensive than conventional nukes and the generators are not compelled to take responsibility for the totality of the nuclear waste storage (not just paying a token amount to the govt for them to take responsibility) they will not be built.

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    10. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      I apologise for misunderstanding what you wrote.

      Now is it possible you can stop avoiding the issue and answer my legitimate questions about your assertions?

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    11. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Peter Lang

      "... why are those people who keep asking about radioactive waste not concerned about the life of toxic chemical wastes ..."

      Oh - they are Peter. Its those hated Greenies remember?

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    12. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      You are concerned and arguing about relatively minuscule quantities of radioactive waste that have been safely managed for 60 years (negligible fatalities or health effects) and that decay over time, yet you are not doing the equivalent level of research into the quantities, toxicity, life expectancy and long term consequences of toxic chemicals for the alternative technologies.

      Pardon me for believing you are biased, an anti-nuke activist, and doomsayer. And irrational as well.

      If I have misjudged you, you can demonstrate it by showing the results of your objective, properly balanced and unbiased research into the quantities, toxicity, life expectancy, and long term health effects of toxic materials released to the environment from the alternative sources of energy.

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    13. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Peter Lang

      I'm not an epedemiologist Peter (I can't even spell it).

      I am just going by what the nuclear organisations are saying themselves - that High Level Waste has to be managed for at least a few thousand years.

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    14. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Get some balance and objectivity. You challenge others to answer your questions. Try answering mine. If you do, you will see how ridiculous is your alarmism about nuclear waste - unless of course you are not interested in any sort of rational or objective analysis.

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    15. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Gary Murphy,
      Thank you for your apology.
      Unfortunately, I was unable to find any material among your writing that qualified as "legitimate questions about your assertions." It is evident that you know very little about the topic and I am disinclined to spend time with people needing remedial comprehension training.

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    16. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      LOL

      He gets caught out claiming that High Level Waste only needs to be stored for 50-500 years when the nuclear industry itself admits it needs to be stored for at least 10,000 years.

      And when he is challenged on it he:
      1) Plays the victim.
      2) Claims the dog ate his homework.
      3) Avoids the question by insulting my intelligence.

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    17. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Please Gary: It's nice to see you accept the nuclear industry as an authority on nuclear power. Excellent.

      Now, please. How long do you have to store wood dust before it isn't carcinogenic? Wood dust is a carcinogen, for ever. Ditto steak, sausages, alcohol and tobacco. According to Prof Graham Giles (Cancer Council), about half of Australia's 14,000 new bowel cancers each year are attributable to people eating more than one red meat meal per week. You only have to store nuclear waste until there's plenty of fast reactors ... about 10-15 years. Which is easy.

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    18. Gary Murphy

      Independent Thinker

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      "You only have to store nuclear waste until there's plenty of fast reactors ... about 10-15 years."

      What does this mean?

      If you are talking about Gen IV reactors I can only elaborate on my previous point. If the fast reactors are more expensive than conventional reactors and the utilities only have to pay $2/MWh for waste disposal - then the fast reactors will not be built. They will just continue building conventional reactors and building up waste.

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    19. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Gary Murphy

      Oh heck Gary, ask a question again then.
      You need to look at the dates on the material you quote. One graph central to the argument, from mid 90s, was some years before the mining of rich uranium deposits like McArthur River in Canada, 15% U3O8. This alone raises the bar on that graph because McArthur River was mined without harm to people. If you can handle the mining of 15% ore, you can handle the disposal of 15% waste, to express it in shorthand - but you get what I mean. My guess would be that the horizontal bar on the graph labelled as radioactivity of original ore, would represent a grade of about 0.3% U3O8, typical of earlier mining grades of the 980s. Indeed, IIRC, the original comparison concept came from Petr Beckmann's book "The Health hazards of Not Going Nuclear" (1976).
      Why are you so interested in rejecting knowledge that has been common in the industry for years? We used to call this 'whiteanting' and ignore it.

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  21. Dug Edwud

    Mr

    Barry Brook is one of the least credible commentators on energy, constantly parroting pro-nuke, anti-clean energy propaganda.

    He's always eager to analyse the supposed hidden costs of renewables, but remains curiously silent on the vast, hidden costs of nukes. And the situation is reversed when he talks about the benefits.

    >> Zero Carbon Australia Energy Plan. A ten year roadmap for 100% renewable energy. Baseload energy supplied by renewable sources. Affordable at $8 per household per week. http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/zero-carbon-australia-2020

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    1. Peter Lang

      Retired geologist and engineer

      In reply to Dug Edwud

      Aren't you being rather hypocritical?

      And fancy quoting the completely discredited "Zero Carbon Australia Energy Plan. A ten year roadmap for 100% renewable energy. Baseload energy supplied by renewable sources. Affordable at $8 per household per week."

      Why didn't you mention any of the many critiques of this 'plan'? here is one (I participated in): http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/08/12/zca2020-critique/

      >"7. Conclusions
      We have reviewed the “Zero Carbon Australia – Stationary Energy…

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    2. Dug Edwud

      Mr

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Some pro-nuke ideologues claim they "debunked" the Zero Carbon Australia Energy Plan. They didn't.

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    3. Alex Cannara

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Dug Edwud

      And the coal industry is very happy with such a counter-factual plan, debunked or not.
      ;]

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    4. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Dug Edwud

      "Renewable energy now cheaper than new fossil fuels in Australia" http://about.bnef.com/press-releases/renewable-energy-now-cheaper-than-new-fossil-fuels-in-australia/ :

      "BNEF’s analysts conclude that by 2020, large-scale solar PV will also be cheaper than coal and gas, when carbon prices are factored in."

      Assuming there is a carbon price.

      Of course, Australia won't have a carbon price for much longer. So that will need to be resurrected before the above happens.

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    5. Alex Cannara

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      And, there's no need for "large-scale" solar 'farms', given the available sunlit structures throughout Australia and the world.

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    6. Dug Edwud

      Mr

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Yes, the sociopaths in the fossil industry will fight any attempt to have their toxic product priced to reflect its massive external costs.

      But this will not stop the coming clean energy revolution, only slow it down a little.

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    7. Alex Cannara

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Dug Edwud

      And I say charge the buggers for the Oxygen their 1.5 trillion tons of CO2 emissions couldn't have occurred without!

      After all, NASA has to buy its oxygen to launch,
      ;]

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    8. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Dug Edwud

      "this will not stop the coming clean energy revolution"

      OK so we can sit back, relax, and just wait for it to happen.

      Sounds great.

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    9. Alex Cannara

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Right, like not contributing to a retirement account -- great until the day after retirement. ;]

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  22. Ken Fabian

    Mr

    The political hole nuclear is in won't change until there is full acceptance of the reality and seriousness of the climate problem. Deep unwillingness to face the climate problem head on continues to be nuclear's biggest impediment in Australia and that is not a consequence of anti-nuclear activism aligned with green politics but a direct consequence of the alignment of mainstream politics with the interests of the fossil fuel sector.

    Proponents of nuclear who align themselves with anti-environmentalist…

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      So after all the turning over of old ideas as new, we are left with the original results that large scale, nuclear is cheaper - and will remain that way - than renewables. It produces more reliably. Its down time is more by plan than by crisis caused by the whims of weather. It delivers cleaner power in the a.c. sense. It does not have a problem with waste disposal. It does not have a poor accident record. It has 50 years of operational experience. It has fuel for many centuries ahead. It has even better design variations coming on stream. What's the objection, apart from invented activist myth?

      Remember, more people get bitten by snakes through trying to kill them than by walking away from them.

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    2. Ken Fabian

      Mr

      In reply to Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Objection no.1 - fossil fuels without carbon pricing are cheaper than nuclear. Take away the climate problem - and pretending away the climate problem is fundamental to the energy policies of that portion of Australia's political mainstream that supposedly stand as nuclear's strongest supporters - and the incentive to ditch fossil fuels isn't there. They don't want nuclear. They maybe want renewables even less but they don't want nuclear and without acceptance of the climate complication they won't…

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    3. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Ken Fabian

      Ken Fabian,
      Almost any country with the money and the will can acquire uranium for whatever purpose it plans. It is extractable from sea water. It is enrichable. It can be used in bombs. So what to you do? Do you try to keep hold of it among a few superpowers or do you let countries go clandestine? There is no answer. You can't blame the peaceful users of uranium power for God putting uranium in sea water. Likewise, you can extracts thorium into fissile material from numerous places on earth.
      I…

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  23. Peter Lang

    Retired geologist and engineer

    UK energy & CO2 policy: Cristopher Booker, Daily Telegraph, 23 Mar 2013

    QUOTE
    As the snow of the coldest March since 1963 continues to fall, we learn that we have barely 48 hours’ worth of stored gas left to keep us warm, and that the head of our second-largest electricity company, SSE, has warned that our generating capacity has fallen so low that we can expect power cuts to begin at any time. It seems the perfect storm is upon us.
    The grotesque mishandling of Britain’s energy policy by the…

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    1. Geoffrey Harold Sherrington

      Boss

      In reply to Peter Lang

      Peter,
      You mention progress in Britain (and also lack of progress). Expanding from World Nuclear Association newsletters this week ending 24 March 2013,

      Planning consent to build a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset has been granted.
      This is the last major consent EdF Energy needs to build Britain's first new nuclear power plant in 25
      years, it having already secured Generic Design Approval for the Areva EPR reactor design, three
      permits from the Environment Agency, and…

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