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Energy myths exposed: King Coal or King Solar?

In our Conversation article, King Coal dethroned, we suggested that renewable energy investment was now outstripping fossil fuel power investment. Many welcomed the news that the future was arriving sooner…

The ones on the left are on their way out. Richard Brand

In our Conversation article, King Coal dethroned, we suggested that renewable energy investment was now outstripping fossil fuel power investment.

Many welcomed the news that the future was arriving sooner than they had expected. A few responses suggested the data was not right. Others argued it couldn’t possibly be right as it conflicted with their whole understanding of how the energy system worked. It undermined their belief in the “unchallengeable” dominance of fossil fuel power and the “inadequacies” of renewables.

We would suggest that its time to see the mythologies about coal-fired power and renewables put to rest by good data so we can get on with the 21st century.

Let’s double-check those figures for Australia…

We gave two sets of data - one on Australia and one on global energy - both showing a dramatic increase in the market for renewables.

The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics’ (BREE) publication, Major Electricity Generation Projects, did indeed show that in 2011 electricity investment in projects totalling 2668 MW capacity was coal 17%, gas 36%, and wind 41%. BREE only considers commercial projects in excess of 30 MW, so small-scale generation such as roof-top solar or small solar farms are not included in the data.

A new report was released by the Australian PV Association (APVA) after our article was published. It reveals a total of 837 MW of PV was installed in Australia in 2011, capacity not considered in the BREE publication. Add 2668 MW from BREE to 837 MW from APVA and we find solar delivered an amazing 25% of new installed capacity in Australia in 2011. Revised proportions for the other generation is gas 29%, wind 33% and coal 14%. Renewables added a remarkable 58% of all electricity generation capacity in Australia in 2011.

King Coal is well and truly on the way out. What’s more, renewables now make up over half of all new power being generated in Australia.

There is a major challenge in Australia, and globally, to understand the rapidly changing scene of energy investment toward sustainable energy. The agencies responsible for reporting these metrics are not reporting the whole picture, because the conventional view of energy markets doesn’t consider you can generate a lot of electricity on homes.

…and for the rest of the world

The global data can also be confirmed, though it’s not quite as simple. A major source for the global data is Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) who first showed that in 2008 there had been a higher amount of investment in renewables than in fossil fuel. BNEF have done several revisions since and found a dramatic three-fold increase between 2004 and 2008 in renewables investment. There was a plateau for 2009 and then a further increase in 2010 and 2011 (see Figure 1). This is real data rigorously collected by BNEF.

Figure 1. BNEF data on renewable energy investments to 2011, compared with historic and projected (estimated) trends in fossil fuel generation investment; *Fossil dethroned numbers are estimated for 2010 and 2011 by us. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Newman & Wills

But how do you compare this to fossil fuel investment? The usual source is the International Energy Agency (IEA). BNEF have been using data from IEA to suggest that fossil fuel investment has shot back up to outstrip renewables, unaffected by the 2009 Global Financial Crisis (GFC), and actually surging in 2010 and 2011. This is presented as the IEA (estimated) line in Figure 1.

If the source of the data is pursued as we did, asking BNEF where this sudden turn back to fossil fuels came from, we discover that the recent data has not yet been collected – that the investment projections from BNEF are derived on the basis of 2008 IEA capacity growth projections.

The optimistic projections for fossil fuel power investment are proving to be wrong in several specific cases where real data are available. For example, the IEA forecast in 2008 that there would be 64 GW of coal power built by 2011. According to the US National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) the actual number was just 16 GW; this is an updated and slightly increased number from the 14 GW we reported in King Coal Dethroned.

Even if we consider a more modest scenario – the global investment market for traditional energy remained business-as-usual (BAU) while allowing a 2009 GFC dip, and discrete from the overall pool of monies available from funding institutions and unaffected by clean tech investment – we still won’t reach anything like the projections made by the IEA (see Fossil BAU – Figure 1).

In King Coal Dethroned we assumed the competitive pool of investment funds available for constructing electricity projects for the past five years has been around $300 billion globally. Thus we calculated fossil fuel in recent years as the difference after considering the renewables data. Our conclusion was that fossil investment is getting smaller and not larger as projected by the IEA.

We contend that the numbers for fossil fuel investment presented by BNEF based on the IEA numbers is grossly overstated.

We’re not using as much power

To support our case that the IEA projections will prove to grossly overestimate fossil fuel constructions, we would add the following evidence.

Electricity consumption has peaked around the world, including:

  • in all states of Australia, with the earliest falls in Victoria and New South Wales as a consequence of long-running programs in those states to help householders reduce electricity consumption

  • in Canada

  • in Scotland,

  • in Europe (allowing for a strong dip during the GFC)

  • globally, where it peaked around 2007/2008 and has fallen every year since then - even from coal – from IEA data.

A good proportion of falls in electricity consumption globally over the last few years can be attributed to improving energy efficiency across the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors. These are the result of successful regulatory intervention from governments wanting to reduce emissions.

If the world does not need as much electricity, why then would it suddenly start investing more than ever in fossil fuel electricity generation?

Businesses are changing the energy they invest in

The latest data released by REN21 on 11 June 2012 in their Renewables Global Status Report shows that around half the 208 GW of new electric capacity installed globally in 2011 was renewable.

This too runs counter to estimates that portray a scenario of larger investments in fossil fuel generation in the same year. While renewable projects continue to get cheaper, renewables cannot quite match dollar-for-dollar capacity costs of conventional energy generation – at least not quite yet.

So, we think our lower-end numbers are far more realistic, and that the pool of funds for investment in renewable and non-renewable energy projects are not independent. Businesses have been changing the forms of energy they invest their funds in. We won’t know the real data for 18 months but we would suggest that what we are seeing is what Michael Liebrich from BNEF calls a “… fundamental re-engineering of the world’s energy architecture around low carbon, more distributed, more secure solutions".

Renewables are becoming cheaper, more reliable and more widespread

Many of the responses that challenged our article, and media discussions of the findings, simply said it could not be right. Coal is always the cheapest and renewables are inherently more expensive and unreliable, so they will not work in our grids. Some often went further and blamed rising power costs on renewables.

We would suggest this is simply wrong. The following data support the contention that renewable energy is rapidly being deployed both globally and within Australia. It is not expensive, especially when compared to peak power (a key contributor to increasing power costs over the past decade):

  • Solar PV attracted more than half of all clean energy investments in 2011, fetching $128 billion — up 44% from 2010. Installations were up 54% to 29.7 GW.

  • In 2011, 27.7 GW of new PV capacity was installed globally, with Europe accounting for around three-quarters (20.9 GW) of all new capacity, with total global installed solar capacity reaching 70 GW.

  • German solar power plants produced a world record 22 gigawatts of electricity – equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity – through the midday hours of Friday and Saturday, and met nearly 50% of the nation’s midday electricity needs

  • According to the Australian PV Association, a total of 837 MW of PV were installed in Australia in 2011, more than twice the capacity added in 2010. Total installed capacity in Australia is now 1.4 GW.

  • The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) forecasts at least 5 GW of solar in Australia by 2020

  • On-shore wind reduced in cost globally by 14% and has now reached grid parity in many parts of Australia.

  • Solar PV has reduced in cost 78% since 2008 and 45% in the past year.

Indeed, in this last report, BNEF go on to explain “current PV costs and the associated market and technological shifts witnessed in the industry have not been fully noted by decision-makers. The perception persists that PV is prohibitively expensive, and still has not reached ‘competitiveness’”.

The new paradigm that helps to explain the “fundamental re-engineering of the world’s energy architecture” is that renewables, especially PV, are producing power right where it is needed. There is no elaborate distribution system needed; no poles and wires and sub-stations that push the power up in voltage to send it over long distances and then brings it down in voltage for the user. In electricity, network costs are the largest component accounting for 50-60% of the cost of electricity. Distribution costs have contributed almost 2/3 of price rises over recent years.

Last week the City of Sydney took the next step, introducing a power system to the CBD no longer dependent on coal from the Hunter Valley. Based on gas and renewables, the system will save 80% of the greenhouse gas in the present system and will be cheaper for businesses as it does not need the expensive distribution system.

Why wouldn’t you do this if new technologies allowed it?

These new sustainable energy systems are rapidly being adopted across the world. They will continue to demonstrate that the inevitable continued growth of coal, and the unfortunate cost and impracticality of renewables, are in reality just myths.

Join the conversation

118 Comments sorted by

  1. John Coochey

    Mr

    There is mass false logic in this article. Given the subsidies for so called renewables it is hardly surprising that some on the margins is being spent, the market for base load may at the moment be saturated so there is no need for more investment which by definition has to be in large lumps. If solar is dropping in price that is no doubt a good thing but that should surely encourage people to not invest at the moment and wait for the better technology. At a micro level I am not buying any solar panels for my camping fridge because they are getting better and cheaper and I can get buy in running it off the Patrol. This has obvious parallels with the broader economy. But once again if renewables are cheaper or are becoming cheaper and we can rebut President Ford’s comment that you cannot make solar energy overnight then where is the problem? Why do we need subsidies? Just wait and all problems will be resolved.

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    1. Anthony Muscio

      Systems Analysist and Designer

      In reply to John Coochey

      When you defer the purchase of something because it will be better and cheaper in the future, are you in full command of the cost benefit of your choice?. Do you understand net present value (today's dollar is worth more than tomorrows - including savings) and what opportunities to save costs do you forgo delaying your decision ?. You also are in the fortunate position to not need to take responsibility for the external costs of your continued use of petrol, so even if you have done a proper analysis of cost and benefits (looks more like a back of an envelope calculation) you have possibly missed the full story.

      Of course then there is a whole range of things we in our economically focused worldviews are not measuring thus they are ignored such as health, resilience, sustainability, community obligation ....

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    2. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Coochey

      Come on John, what about all the subsidies provided annually to the fossil fuel industries?

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to John Coochey

      By mentioning subsidies provided to renewable power projects, John Coochey raises a valid question: IF there were no subsidies for renewable energy projects, would there be so much investment therein?

      By the same token, if fossil fuel use was not subsidised by tax breaks, rebates and subsidies, how much fossil fuel use would there be?

      It would be an interesting experiment if governments provided no regulatory incentive or disincentive and no financial benefit or penalty to all energy projects, be they renewable power generation or fossil fuel use. [In Australia's case, this would be a handy source of funding for company tax cuts.]

      Thereafter, if governments remain concerned by the enviromental implications of fossil fuel use - I, for one, argue that they should be so concerned - then all they need to do is impose consumption taxes on that fossil fuel use, and use the revenue thus obtained to provide further tax cuts and other benefits.

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    4. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      What subsidies? This furphy raises its head every time to the point where it has become a truthoid (ie a statement repeated so often people assume it must be true). The so called subsidies are simply the normal tax arrangements that are available to companies which are making a profit to write off current investment and R&D which of course gets extra benefits an irrational invention of the Hawke Government. These tax concessions are available to all industries including remewables

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    5. Prof Ray Wills

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to David Arthur

      Thanks for the comments John, David

      As Peter and I have done in the article above, I will keep this based on data:

      As reported in the he International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook, fossil-fuel consumers worldwide received about six times more government subsidies than were given to the renewable-energy industry.
      State spending to cut retail prices of gasoline, coal and natural gas rose 36 percent to $409 billion as global energy costs increased. Aid for biofuels, wind power and solar…

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    6. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Anthony Muscio

      OK cut to the chase, when should I buy my solar panels given I have an existing and viable alternative which is a sunk cost (ie the alternator on my diesel truck- ready of biodiesel)

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    7. Anthony Muscio

      Systems Analysist and Designer

      In reply to John Coochey

      Most Solar energy needs for a household already have a payback period. That is they will pay for themselves and then some. As long as you don't need to buy land it is workable. Since the payback periods are well and truly within warranty and will reduce as electricity prices increase (Primary forced up to fund distribution systems) the payback period will only fall until highly competitive renewable energy becomes available.

      One of the best adoption cases is retires who can undertake a capital…

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    8. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Coochey

      What subsidies? Seems you are the only one who thinks fossil fuel subsidies are a furphy. Here's one of heaps of articles describing the subsidies in detail:
      sydneypeakoil.com/downloads/CR_2003_paper.pdf

      Even though it’ s based on figures from around 2002, it clearly shows subsidies running at around $8.3 billion/year. That's just for Australia.

      Meanwhile in the US, some of the same major oil and gas producers are bleeding that country dry:
      http://www.climatespectator.com.au/commentary/big-oils-bumper-subsidies
      “The report also concluded that:
      The oil and gas industry is a mature and highly profitable sector that is no longer in need of generous tax breaks or royalty free drilling. The $43.6 billion in tax subsidies that the industry is set to receive over the next decade will not help consumers with rising energy costs."

      You are in denial John. Do a little research and find out how out of touch with reality your thinking is on this matter.

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    9. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Anthony Muscio

      Actually the true measure is the internal rate of return, for example a short pay back period is irrelevant if the item then ceases to fuction

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    10. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Prof Ray Wills

      You miss my point, I have alternatives so do not have to invest, I assume that you are doing that deliberately. Given that you have done the research please explain to me how you imagine that in Australia more subsidies are given to coal than so called renewables and would this explain why what was the largest solar plant in Australia, WhiteCliffs has been turned off once the settlement was connected to the grid? The solar panels must have been less desirable on a marginal cost basis because the investment must have been treated as a sunk cost

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    11. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Prof Ray Wills

      Precisely my point on immediate needs we have no need for solar power which cannot provide base load certainly not at night, so if the price is dropping at the rate claimed why make major investment in obsolescent technology

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    12. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to John Coochey

      You mean the fossil fuel subsidies discussed widely in these articles?
      http://www.couriermail.com.au/business/coal-and-gas-paid-7b-in-subsidies/story-fn7kjcme-1226301312395
      http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/11/01/nsws-great-big-coal-subsidy-scandal/
      sydneypeakoil.com/downloads/CR_2003_paper.pdf

      I don't disagree that Greenpeace et al. have made some spurious links (some in that last paper I linked) of subsidies, but there are plenty of subsidies around for fossil fuels. The annoying part is that the new industry you are critical of for having targets and subsidies hasn't been on the receiving end of a hundred years of incentives. The replacements that people are flocking to work and a start up subsidy to get the industry founded (businesses of scale) should not be recriminated, as the old fossil fuels have benefited from the same in their day.

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    13. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Can someone actually produce some figures or at least sources of primary data I am getting tired of looking up press articles which do not have clear sources and certainly not links. Someone has even given Crikey as a source which is like quoting Mein Kampf to prove aryan superiority. I know it is post modernist but just because somebody writes down something you like does not make it true!

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    14. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Spot on Tim, some of the extremist claims made by Greenpeace and others doesn't help rational debate but neither does the sort of denialism demonstrated by John.

      I think it's weird that people criticise subsidies for any new technology, health, communications, energy etc while being (or choosing to be) oblivious to the subsidies they pay for existing industries. No doubt some people complain about the introduction of automobiles and how they would destroy harness and carriage makers as horses were phased out.

      I really can't understand why people have such an aversion to technologies that will result in cleaner air, healthier environments and eventually put us in the position of having almost unlimited, renewable energy sources.

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    15. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Coochey

      You're the one doubting the figures John, why don't you trawl through Treasury figures seeing as you don't trust anything the rest of us provide? You can't have it both ways.

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    16. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Why if you have an argument do you resort to the deliberately offensive term "denialist" I am simply asking for sources which no one seems to be able to supply. To put this in context let us look at some other truthoids, over a decade ago an ANU academic put out a paper saying the majority of victims of war were women and children, eventually giving the Red Cross as a source. I checked with them and eventually got a reply on headed notepaper saying they did not collect those figures but the majority…

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    17. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Coochey

      John, you are the one denying the existence of subsidies for fossil fuels, “What subsidies? This furphy… blah blah blah", your opening words to an earlier post, or have you forgotten?

      You shouldn't play the martyr card so frequently, it makes you look predictable and a little sad and most certainly, a denialist.

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    18. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to John Coochey

      John I didn't use the term denialist at all.

      You wanted proof of the subsidies, I gave you them. Now you are free to join the green technology push.

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    19. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to John Coochey

      The links I gave have all the details needed to find the original reports, even including authors and sources of raw data. This article even has sources of the raw data linked to.

      While I'm used to chasing down original references as a researcher, I find it odd that you immediately doubt one claim but accept another. By all means seek the source material, skepticism is far too rare these days, but be skeptical of both claims, not just one side's.

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    20. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      No they do not! All I have got so far is a couple of press articles. Do not publish the links until you have published the relevant data. What I am seeing is evidence that people have read nothing but the press comments they wish to see. Come on in less than two hundred works state the subsidies which are not available to all business enterprises in Australia

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    21. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to John Coochey

      Refugees? Abortion? Feminists? Mate, get a grip and stick to the issue...

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    22. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Ian Ashman

      The issue is not the subject matter but in the absence of primary data (which seldom includes press articles) proper understanding is impossible. This makes serious peer group review or any other review impossible and meaningless. This is what gave rise to Climategate when authors not only refused to release data but advocated destroying it rather than release it. A recent case was the Gergis paper claiming a rise in temperatures had occurred in Australia in the last thousand years (if a staggering 0.09 degrees, must cancel annual ski holiday in Hokkaido and sell skis while they are still worth something.) the author refused to reveal the raw data which appears to have included tree rings samples from Tasmania and NZ but when the McIntyre test of putting randomized data was done it gave the same result. The paper was suspended from publication and its current status seems uncertain. I note the author has withdrawn her CV from the web and also closed her blog

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    23. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to John Coochey

      What 'primary data' are you lacking John? The sources quoted so far looked pretty good to me! How can you be ignorant of the special deals done for fossil fuel companies? I can't claim the same deals, and nor can you! Are you after 'primary data' that might agree with your world-view, perhaps? (Nudge nudge, wink wink). Just keep waving your hands really wildly and shouting, "Look, big shiny thing over here..." and hope people don't notice your argument dying.

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    24. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Anthony I have already addressed your point and you are wrong I'm afraid.

      Yes Greenpeace and the like have distorted the figures, but fossil fuels are still subsidized. This is plainly obvious to everyone whenever price rises in electricity are discussed, as they mention the actual cost of electricity (and water for that matter) and how government keeps it cheaper.

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    25. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      "LOOK PRETTY GOOD TO ME" Have you actually read them? I have not been able so far to actually find a single primary source which checks out. This show the appalling level of scholarship we have today. If something is written down by someone, somewhere it becomes fact.

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    26. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      And the actual source of the assertions is where?

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    27. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      And the actual facts rather than the assertions are exactly where?

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    28. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      And the required figures are? And are actually at where?

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    29. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Tim Scanlon

      Tim, one of your links is to a Courier Mail article with blind, unsourced figures; the other is to Crikey which quotes an article which says a lack of parity between coal used in Australia to produce electricity and coal which is subject to international spot prices consitutes a subsidy to coal produced power.

      This is not right because the lack of parity reflects the difference between the demand internationally and locally. It is not a subsidy against the relative costs in Australia between…

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    30. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      You haven't bothered to look at the original references that those articles refer to, I dug one up in minutes and posted it above.

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    31. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      The first reference seems to be a paper by a Phd candidate on the first couple of pages it states
      "In the developed world, most energy subsidies are more than offset by special taxes on fossil fuels."
      Thank you for making my case

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    1. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Daryl Deal

      The provision of base load power also has huge benefits not merely convenience for example public safety of communications and hospital services not to mention huge consumer surpluses these can also be factored in (Sorry economics degrees)

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    2. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Daryl Deal

      Actually the article already is incorrect in its first sentence. An externality is a cost or BENEFIT ( emphasis added) not present in the supply or demand curve. To look simply at costs without benefits and to ignore such cost benefits of alternatives is obviously erraneous

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    3. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Daryl Deal

      AND a similar analysis of renewables showed?

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  2. John Newlands

    tree changer

    The claims in this article fail to see the forest for the trees. Wind and solar have grown considerably because of the Renewable Energy Target here and elsewhere backed by REC and FiT subsidies. The RET is not just a happy feelgood exercise it is penalised by draconian shortfall charges of $65 per Mwh imposed by the regulator ORER. In Godfather terms the govt made an offer that was too good too refuse.

    Ignoring clapped out small coal stations like Playford and Brix no large power stations have…

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  3. Eclipse Now

    Manager of Graphic Design firm

    Solar PV produces energy right where it's needed, hey? Cool! But what about night time? Overcast weather? Winter? Oh, so we still need that *intermittency* solving trans-continental HVDC super-grid after all hey? Plus a few thousand *extra* solar panels and wind farms and biogas places just in case the wind dies down across a broad area of Australia.... at night. When the sun's not shining on those panels. And then let's just add the cost of building a few super-sized SEAWATER hydro dams that we'll…

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    1. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      Spain has already demonstrated solar thermal plants can produce electricity 24 hours a day. I don't recall anybody stating categorically that one particular renewable source will provide all our future energy needs.

      It will be horses for courses and a mix of sources. And what's so bad about using energy more efficiently? I don't care if you want to pay more for your energy than you need to but it's insane to try and argue (if you are) that we aren't wasting energy.

      You're partially correct…

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    2. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Yes if you subsidize something it can always look good but Spain has twenty five per cent unemployment with youth unemployment double that and it's credit rating is one point above junk level. Join the dots

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    3. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Coochey

      Never mind that renewables are one of the few employment growth sectors in Spain or that subsidies exist for just about every industry in the EU? Renewables are not the cause of Spain's dismal economy but they may well be the driver of its recovery.

      You must be a riot at parties tripping over your bottom lip all the time.

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    4. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Yes Green makes jobs but costs more as Spain clearly illustrates It is called economic efficiency

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    5. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to John Coochey

      The good professors are right,"King Coal is well and truly on the way out." However, they forgot to add the sting in the tail; "King Coal is well and truly on the way out - to China."

      Australia is undergoing massive investment in coal mining infrastucture - an investment that dwarfs renewable spending. The coal that was going to be slowy burnt in our power generators is now being gouged out at ever increasing rates to fuel China and India's insatiable appetite for power.

      The net effect: Australian…

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    6. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to John Coochey

      Hey John Coochey

      Something is not well with the +/- voting system on the comments pertaining to; "Energy myths exposed: King Coal or King Solar."

      Voted + on your comments which had - Red Votes. No change to vote count.
      Voted - on your comments which had - Red Votes. Vote count went down 2 votes.

      Voted + on a contributor with + Blue votes. Vote went up 1 vote.
      Voted - on a contributor with + Blue votes. No change, vote count did not drop

      The voting system appears to penalise the opinions that do not agree with the article.I will refer this to the Editor.

      Thank you

      Gerard Dean
      Glen Iris

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    7. Peter Newman

      Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard
      The changes in China in both greater efficiency and more renewables are leading to reductions in the growth of coal use. Its going to impact on coal contracts eventually. The Dean's Law is in fact Jevon's Paradox from the 19th century. Its one of the reasons we need to switch technologies totally not just make efficient fossil fuel burners.

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    8. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Peter Newman

      Jevon's paradox ignores both improvements in standards of living and population increase both of which depend on per capita increase in energy use. In short there in no paradox.

      Alternatively wind and solar depend on both stable or reducing populations and decreasing standards of living.

      Incidentally, why haven't you looked at ultra-supercritical technology? China cerainly has.

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    9. Ray Wills

      Adjunct Professor, School of Earth and Environment at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard - 54% of the coal mined in Australia is exported and the majority of coal exported from Australia is not thermal coal for power generation, but coking coal destined for industrial process. While there is no doubt this is still a problem for greenhouse gas emissions, in speaking of energy generation, we need to know what it is we are assessing. See Graph 4 and Graph 5 on the RBA page http://www.rba.gov.au/publications/bulletin/2011/mar/1.html

      In 2010 developing nations passed the developed nations for total expenditure on renewable energy. 118 countries have now implemented RE targets with more than half in developing countries. China's investments in renewables have averaged around $US48 billion for the past four years - China's GDP is roughly 8 times larger than Australia means that if Australia matched China's spend on renewables on a GDP basis, Australia would be spending $US6 billion per year - Australia spent half that amount.

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    10. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Making your own "Laws"... not pretentious at all.

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    11. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard

      I see the voting here is part of the larger warmist conspiracy.

      I am sure there is a person sitting in the offices at The Conversation, monitoring the voting and deleting any positive votes for people with anti-AGW views.

      Strong, brave people like Marc Hendricxxx and Peter Lang; visionaries like John Coochey-Coo and Anthony Balls (sorry Cox)! All denied the rightful positive votes by the faceless men.

      And don't get me started on these conspirators' links to the Illuminati and the CIA!

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    12. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Ian Ashman

      The only votes I'm interested in will be the votes cast at the next Federal election.

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    13. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Peter Newman

      Thanks for replying Professor Newman,

      You are right, Jevon worked out my law a little earlier than I did, and without the benefit of the Jet A1 fuel analogy. He was a smart bloke.

      Your contention that we "switch technologies totally, not just make efficient fossil fuel burners." whilst noble, is doomed to fail because it breaks Messrs Jevon and Dean's laws.

      Next time you drive to Southern Cross, look out the window at the farmer harvesting 1000's of tonnes of wheat. Each tonne of wheat…

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    14. Mark Duffett

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      "...solar thermal plants can produce electricity 24 hours a day..."

      Which day? Any day? This is an oft-quoted factoid, but I've never seen any detailed data to back it up (and yes, I have looked). Is it 24/7/365, or more like 24/4/200? If the latter, is that really a wise use of capital? If you can have 24/7/365, but only by dropping output to 1% of nameplate capacity for extended periods, does that really count?

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    15. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Ian Ashman

      Ian

      Little me - pretentious!!!!!!!

      That's what my kids tell me too. They also tell me I am gay and should stay in my workshop and stop yelling at the TV news and not comment on blogs.

      Why do I do it? I do it because it is fun. And that brings me to Deans Third Law of Sustainability:

      "In the knowledge that air travel depletes the earths resources by consuming immense amounts of energy to produce the aluminium, electronics, pilot training, tyres, carbon fibre, airport infrastructure then continues to use ever greater tonnes of hydrocarbon JetA1 fuel, why do we keep flying? BECAUSE IT IS FUN"

      I will work on the wording, but you get the idea.

      Your ever so 'umble servant.

      Gerard Dean
      Glen Iris

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    16. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Ian Ashman

      Hey Ian

      A follow up on the strange voting behaviour on John Coochey's comments. This morning I clicked a few votes and the system worked well.

      Then I penned my, I would say masterful, response to you above (about my new laws) and read some more comments. I clicked to vote on another of John Coochey's comments and again, it would not let me add a positive vote, but would allow a negative vote.

      But do you know the good thing. I took a video with my Iphone just to make sure I wasnt going mad. (Again, my kids would agree with you if thought I was)

      So, the IT boffins at the Conversation have something to look at this morning.

      Again, your 'umble servant

      Gerard Dean
      Glum Iris

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    17. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      http://beyondzeroemissions.org/blog/spain-now-producing-24-hour-solar-power-110708

      While its new technology and not been in operation very long, it proves the technology works. With larger projects in the pipeline, 24 hour electricity generation from solar thermal is looking good.

      I suggest you look a little harder next time. Care to explain to us why you are so carping about new technologies that hold the promise of clean, renewable energy?

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    18. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Claims of 24 hour solar power are misleading; you cannot use power twice; you either collect and store it during the day or don't use it immediately as you collect, but store it and use it at night.

      In either case the power is split and is NEVER equal to the IC, or installed capacity.

      The point is these things are apparently ingenious but hardly original; concentrating solar was invented by Archimedes.

      What is relatively new is the storage facility, the molten salts, but even this idea was used during the 2nd WW.

      Solar technology is really old technology.

      This graph shows what concentrating solar installations can produce:

      http://papundits.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/concentrating-solar-diagram.jpg

      Basically, while they can produce power over the 24 hour period it works out at about 1/5 of the IC of the plant.

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    19. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      All the best getting your cognitive dissonance treated. I was referring to solar thermal power, not solar (PV) power. Try and understand the difference, I'm sure you can do it.

      I'm not pretending renewables are completely sorted out or entirely capable just yet of replacing coal, nuclear etc but I can see that given half a chance they will be able to drastically reduce the need for those forms of electricity generation.

      Nitpick or you like but just be aware, you are swimming against the tide.

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    20. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Concentrating solar is solar thermal power so I was talking about the same thing you were, only my comments were factual.

      "you are swimming against the tide."

      Oh, you want to talk about tidal power now, do you?

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    21. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      lol, taking videos of the screen to prove the deniers and being denied their rightful voting...I think you need to invent a law about this Gerard.

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    22. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Anthony, reread your post, you didn't mention anything about concentrating solar, you only posted a link of a dodgy looking diagram of unknown origin.

      You quoted, “Claims of 24-hour solar power…"

      I think you need to make sure you know what you are talking about before accusing others of misunderstanding.

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    23. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      "Anthony, reread your post, you didn't mention anything about concentrating solar"

      Are we on the same planet? Note these lines form my immediate post:

      "concentrating solar was invented by Archimedes."

      "This graph shows what concentrating solar installations can produce:"

      And the whole gist of my post was in response to your link to a concentrating solar power plant allegedly providing 24 hour power.

      What else would I be talking about?

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    24. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Your unsourced graph is supposed to prove what exactly?

      I don't really care if you want to deny the inevitable or attempt to ridicule renewables, investment in renewables is outstripping investment in old technology because it works and it's the future. Coal in particular is failing fast. Even HRL over in the Latrobe Valley is in its death throes and nobody in their right mind wants to invest in polluting coal no matter how much it's dressed up as the emperors new clothes.

      As I pointed out earlier, (large-scale) concentrated solar is just getting started but more projects are underway. Denying it can and does produce electricity 24 hours a day is just silly.

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    25. Mark Duffett

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      No need to point me to BZE, believe me, I've seen it all before https://theconversation.edu.au/what-australia-can-learn-from-the-worlds-best-de-carbonisation-policies-5805. In this particular instance, the link you indicated completely fails to address the point I made (which you seem to have comprehensively misread, as you did Anthony Cox).

      I absolutely have no objection to concentrated solar thermal eventually making a significant contribution. What I find objectionable, even dangerous, is it being sold as a potential backbone of an industrial economy that's ready to be rolled out at scale now.

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    26. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      The graph shows how much sunlight [averaged] will be converted into electricity by a concentrating solar installation; expressed as a capacity factor, power actually expressed, is that a 250 MW concentrating solar plant will produce power of 50 MW for about 15 hours per day; that's less then 20%.

      How about you or one of the authors of this misrepresenting article produce some counter facts?

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    27. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      Solar thermal plants are being constructed right now and will eventually make up a large part of the electricity supply of many countries. It's just one of the many renewables that will be used in various combinations. I'm not sure what your problem is. It's already been mentioned that these are new, developing technologies. They will eventually supersede coal. Why is that so hard to understand?

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    28. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Why? How big would a solar thermal power plant be to replace the 4 GWe of Fukushima Daichii? Please check, but when I did the numbers, the size would be about the same size as the 20km no-go zone. So where exactly will the Japanese, or the South Koreans or the English, going to put these plants?

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    29. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      They won't replace coal because they can't replace coal, not at any price Western nations are willing to pay. Let's do some history. Two Countries started a 20 year effort to get off fossil fuels. France went nuclear, Denmark went renewable. Denmark remains at 650g Co2 / kwh while France is at 90g Co2 / kwh.
      It's nuclear power or it's climate change.
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/03/24/np-or-cc/

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lF7n5tYtkFg

      PS: If some kid in a lab…

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    30. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      I'm not doubting your argument or your reasoning, but I'm not talking about only solar thermal being a replacement. There will be a mix of renewables and quite possibly nuclear may be in the mix, personally I hope that's not the case. The huge investments in renewables combined with advance is in relevant technologies point to coal being phased out.

      South Australia is already demonstrating that wind energy is more than capable of providing a substantial component of electricity needs. Coal fired generation now trails electricity produced by wind.

      http://ramblingsdc.net/Australia/WindSA.html#Wind_farm_generation_data
      Latest figures show wind is now providing just over 30% of South Australia's electricity demand.
      http://beyondzeroemissions.org/media/releases/south-australia-wind-power-figures-vindicate-radical-energy-plan-120531

      Once we start paying for the real cost of using coal, that will hasten its demise.

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    31. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair, it's good to be enthusiastic but you have to be realistic. California, the home of the best R&D researchers in the world has invested 10s of $billions for nearly 40 years, since 1976, on perfecting wind and solar. And after all that time California produces this much power from wind and solar:

      http://energyalmanac.ca.gov/electricity/total_system_power.html

      5%; and remember that is produced power; in this respect the capacity factor is misleading; it is misleading because it is an averaged…

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    32. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Then I should add once we start paying the *true* cost of wind, that will hasten its demise. This 'we'll use a mix' argument assumes *massive* overbuilding of capacity to ensure baseload supply. It's numberless magical thinking. "Oh, we get so much wind here in South Australia that we get 30% of our energy from wind"... but currently rely on a massive baseload coal-fired infrastructure to back that up. The problems start when you try to back wind up with NON-baseload (unreliable) renewables. Maybe…

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    33. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Anthony, I think I'm being realistic as well as enthusiastic.

      I'd be careful about citing links from the likes of Anthony Watts who has form misrepresenting the facts on almost anything to do with renewables. He is an apologist for the Heartland Institute among other things.

      I'm well aware of the history of renewables in California and elsewhere around the world, it's been in the interest of mine for at least 30 years. Developments in the last decade has seen changes not even the most optimistic supporters of renewables could envisage 20 years ago. Given the continuing and increasing investment in renewables and as the price per watt continues to decrease, the use will grow even faster.

      The inherent disadvantages of coal will become more and more apparent.

      Name the detrimental aspects of renewables if you wouldn't mind? While you're at it, compare them with the acknowledged detrimental aspects of coal, gas and nuclear.

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    34. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Detrimental effects of renewables, excluding nuclear and thorium?:

      intermittancy
      cost
      environmental effects: they are huge and when a solar or wind farm covers an area, usually square kilometers, there is room for nothing else, wildlife, people, other land-uses.
      environmental effects 2: noise, really nasty by-products of solar material production, especially silicon tetrachlorides
      environmental effects 3: renewables actually increase CO2 emissions because they require fossil back-up which…

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    35. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      Nice rant conveniently ignoring that peaking gas plants and Hydro make up any temporary shortfalls these days, coal plants still ramp up and down as overall demand changes, they never operate at 100% 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. You ignore the fact that the eastern seaboard has an integrated electricity grid stretching from Queensland to Tasmania, electricity is frequently shared between states and that a distributed system isn't reliant on a single source. Look what happened here in Victoria just last week when the Yallorn coal mine got flooded forcing the power station to reduce output to less than 20%, one unit was already off-line for maintenance. The shortfall was made up from New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania. 2 of those 3 states primarily Hydro and wind power. The baseload argument is becoming more irrelevant as time goes on.

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    36. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      “environmental effects: they are huge and when a solar or wind farm covers an area…"

      I have to wonder if you've ever seen a windfarm? Your alleged environmental effects are fraudulent. There is not a wind farm in Australia that prevents the original land-use from continuing. Some farmers in Germany (at least) grow crops between and under solar panels and find they help moderate microclimate for better growth. Essentially the solar panels are an adjunct to the business.

      So long as you ignore…

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    37. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      But you no doubt accept the climate work of James Hansen, right? So why not accept that, if anybody has, HE has thought deeply about the answer? This is what he says:
      ///Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in…

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    38. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      1. I made no claim that renewables would rapidly replace fossil fuels.
      2. I acknowledged in an earlier post that we may need to rely on nuclear power for some time into the future.
      3. Nobody has claimed that gas peaking plants would be running our grid.
      4. I have heard Barry Brook speak, he makes a lot of sense. He doesn't support the ongoing use of coal.

      If or when you feel like you can have a rational discussion without misrepresenting what others have said, I'll be happy to explore the options with you, meanwhile you keep pretending renewables don't work if it helps you sleep nights.

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    39. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Ultra Supercritical is NEW technology; it is being introduced into China; and it is the answer to dirty coal. Dirty coal still has problems with water contamination, competition with agriculture and fine dust pollutants.

      All these are solvable and the coal corps should be required to pay the money to do so.

      Wind and solar, however have insurmountable problems; they are intermittent. You cannot predict their power output from minute to minute let alone over any reasonable time; and even if you…

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    40. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Correction; the inherent limit for energy conversion of wind power subject to Betz's Law, when the wind delivery is optimum is 59.3%; and for solar it is 50% due to isotropism.

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    41. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair,
      So you admit renewables will not rapidly replace fossil fuels? Good! That's a step in the right direction. Because France demonstrates that even OLDER nukes could and DID replace fossil fuelled electricity within 20 years at an affordable cost. France now *exports* clean electricity to other countries becoming more dependent on 'unreliables'. So I agree with you there.

      What I DON'T understand is the way you contradict yourself. You admit you never claimed they would 'work' (replace fossil fuels quickly and conveniently) and yet sarcastically tell me to pretend renewables don't work? But ... you just admitted that? it's time for a mug of warm milk and an early night. You're contradicting yourself. It's time to have a nap and think more about your position in the morning.

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    42. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      PS: I never claimed that *you* said peaking gas would end up running the grid! But others have. "windies" and other pro-renewables experts have relied on the BZE paper to claim that natural gas peaking plants would only be used 5% of the time, but the more hard nosed work done by Barry Brook's energy experts shows it to be *much* higher. It's time for you to stop misrepresenting what *I've* been saying.
      http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/09/09/trainer-zca-2020-critique/

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    43. Mark Duffett

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Add to that that wind and solar are really resource intensive, something like 5-15 times more steel, concrete, rare earths etc per TWh than nuclear (the latter including fuel), full lifetime considered. If you add the sheer mass required by the various thermal storage technologies, you're looking at millions of tonnes of material on top of that. Some might be fine with all that mining, are you?

      Wind is also a significant contributor to bushfire risk:http://www.victorharbortimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/cant-fight-the-fire/1987235.aspx

      Drowned vegetation in hydro impoundments emits sustained significant methane (21 times more greenhouse-potent than CO2), see for example http://inpa.academia.edu/PhilipFearnside/Papers/1275576/Methane_emissions_from_hydroelectric_dams

      Even the most efficient biomass burning (noting that the vast current majority is very much not efficient) spews smoke, which has major negative health effects.

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    44. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      Anthony, this link corrects a few of your misconceptions:
      http://reneweconomy.com.au/2012/fourteen-wind-energy-myths-debunked-97695
      Wind generation is predictable and in any case, electricity isn't purchased minute to minute but in blocks which you would know if you were interested in the facts. You might have a point if the wind stop blowing everywhere across Australia but that is never the case, it's always blowing somewhere which is why distributed windfarms provide a good, reliable source of power. So long as public funds are spent on subsidising inefficient coal-fired electricity, your argument about public subsidies for renewables rings pretty hollow.

      I see you are a climate change denialist as well so I guess it's pointless trying to reason with you, you clearly know better than the researchers and scientists. Enjoy your double standards and have you get mugged by reality.

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    45. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      EN, clean electricity from nuclear power is an oxymoron.
      I said renewables won't replace polluting fossil fuels quickly but pointing out your refusal to acknowledge they work at all is hardly contradicting myself.

      I hope you are able to think more clearly after your nap.

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    46. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Duffett

      Congratulations Mark, I think you have managed to regurgitate almost every bit of discredited Landscape Guardian propaganda out there. Which guardians group you belong to?
      The latest wind turbines use very little rare earth materials. The claim about fires is laughable, it could be argued that because of the lightning protection built into modern wind turbines, they actually help prevent grass and forest fires. You're sounding desperate.

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    47. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      "climate change denialist" "double standards"

      No.

      "You might have a point if the wind stop blowing everywhere across Australia but that is never the case, it's always blowing somewhere"

      No.

      http://marvellousmelbourne.org/drupal/sites/default/files/Wind%20Farming%20in%20South%20East%20Australia.pdf

      The paper shows that if wind is not blowing at one place it is usually not blowing at another; it's called teleconnection.

      The analysis by Quirk and Miskelly shows that the much vaunted South Australian wind farms are unlikely to supply any meaningful power on a consistent basis.

      The graph of wind power output clearly shows the effect of teleconnection and the failure of SA wind farms:

      http://windfarmperformance.info/?date=2012-06-18

      Wind power is NOT purchased in blocks because it is intermittent; how can you purchase a block of wind power for next week when you don't know what CF will be available.

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    48. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Anthony Cox

      “Wind power is NOT purchased in blocks because it is intermittent; how can you purchase a block of wind power for next week when you don't know what CF will be available. "

      You have a habit of verbaling people. What I said was, “…electricity isn't purchased minute to minute but in blocks which you would know if you were interested in the facts."

      http://www.aemo.com.au/en/Electricity/NEM-Data

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    49. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Tell me Blair what % of the wind and solar CF is actually used as electricity?

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    50. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Blair said that wind is "always blowing somewhere which is why distributed windfarms provide a good, reliable source of power."
      How reassuring. So, what percentage of the wind is 'always blowing'? 10%? 20% Have you modelled this with actual data? So, what you are in effect saying is that it is a GOOD thing that we have to build wind farms 10 or 20 times over-capacity so that we catch at least SOME of the wind. How interesting!

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    51. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Given nukes produce abundant clean BASELOAD RELIABLE electricity that can be counted on when you need it WITHOUT Co2, what the heck are you talking about? Nuclear waste? Newsflash: it's not waste anymore! Or didn't you know that? GE have a plan for a GenIV reactor called the S-PRISM. Look it up. They're getting permission to build the prototype and once that's done, these babies can go on the PRODUCTION LINE! We're talking factory controlled, safety-standards industrialised mass-production of nukes…

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    52. Mark Duffett

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      Nice try, Blair, but which part of 'steel' 'concrete' 'etc' and 'millions of tonnes of thermal storage mass' did you not understand?

      Re wind turbine fire risk, "laughable"? Try telling that to the CFS crews that were there. While you're at it, try telling the Victor Harbor Times reporter that her story is 'discredited Landscape Guardian propaganda'. It happened, deal with it.

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  4. Patrick Anderson

    logged in via Facebook

    The creation of new electricity generating capacity is more relevant than dollar amount of investment. The following quote is from a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) report, released this week:

    - Renewable power, excluding large hydro-electric, accounted for 44% of all new generating capacity added worldwide in 2011 (up from 34% in 2010). This accounted for 31% of actual new power generated, due to lower capacity factors for solar and wind capacity.

    see: http://www.unep.org/newscentre

    REN21 Global Status report: http://www.ren21.net/

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  5. Paul Cm

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Thanks for the weekend energy read Ray & Peter, although I don’t agree with the interpretation of evidence, conclusions drawn and projections offered in your article.

    (For sake of time and relevance, I’ll keep my response to Australia’s case)

    I would imagine that the "dethroning" of coal would need to be a) more expensive, b) generating less, and c) no further capacity being built. This unfortunately is not the case.

    a) Economical viability:
    Total costs of electricity from coal is still…

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    1. Ray Wills

      Adjunct Professor, School of Earth and Environment at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Paul Cm

      Paul - you stated in an uncompromisingly dismissive fashion "I don’t agree with the interpretation of evidence, conclusions drawn and projections offered in your article."

      Our basic message was investment and generation from fossil fuels, especially coal, is declining, investment in renewables and generation from renewables is increasing, and we contend we appear to have passed a tipping point, hence fossil fuels, or more particularly coal, is dethroned.

      I will restate the data we presented…

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    2. Anthony Cox

      logged in via email @optusnet.com.au

      In reply to Ray Wills

      "According to theClean Energy Council's 2011 review renewables' share of Australian electricity generation had grown by almost one percentage point over the past year, up from 8.7 per cent to 9.64 per cent.

      Hydro is still far and away the biggest clean energy source in Australia, accounting for 67 per cent of the total, followed by wind power at 22 per cent.

      Rooftop solar technology accounts for only 2.3 per cent of all renewable power generated, or a little over 0.2 per cent of total generation…

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    3. Paul Cm

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Ray Wills

      Thanks for the reply, Ray.

      We'll have to agree to disagree on my interpretation of what "dethroning coal" is to that of yours and Graham Lloyds. Particularly at a time we are trying to reduce our CO2 emissions.

      My comment outlaid a few reasons why I believe it is premature to claim coal is dethroned, like you said I did come out sounding quite dismissive (and for that I apologize) but, I stand by my contention that coal should not be claimed to be dethroned based on $ of investment capital alone.

      We have a lot more to do before we can say that. But, thanks again for the article, exciting times ahead for energy and looking forward to reading more.

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    4. Paul Cm

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Ray Wills

      Ray, apologies for another late response but I've been waiting for a particular BREE report for further demonstration of my point: AETA 2012

      http://www.bree.gov.au/documents/publications/Australian-Energy-Technology-Assessment.pdf

      The report offers a more comprehensive pricing of technologies with additional market mechanisms and future projections.

      I hope the methodology and results in the report further your understanding of the complexities and realities existing now in energy price comparisons, and thereby my disagreement with your claims in your article.

      Cheers,
      Paul

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  6. Ian Ashman

    Manager

    Ray and Peter

    Excellent article, thanks.

    One of the barriers that is appearing more and more is the reluctance of grid operators to allow significant amounts of electricity to be fed back to their grids. CSIRO have just recently tackled them on this topic and basically shown that it is not a significant issue in most instances, given a little thought and a modicum of planning. See http://www.csiro.au/science/Solar-Intermittency-Report

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  7. Craig Somerton

    IT Professional

    Energy loss (heat and radiation) through long distance transmission is considerable, and one reason why we should be de-centralising power generation and establishing localised production, as per City of Sydney tri-gen plants.

    Millions of sun-exposed roofs (rooves?) in Australia could adapted to produce local PV power given sufficient impetus and foresight. We also have a situation where our peak demand falls at a time when solar radiation is peak (air conditioning in Summer), unlike most European…

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  8. Mark Harrigan

    PhD Physicist

    Thanks for this article folks - but it is such a vexed and partisan issue - usually with 3 camps - the fossile fuel advocates (with their cohort of pseudo-skeptic deniers), the nuclear advocates and the renewables advocates.

    And each camp tends to make their own case and overlook the downsides. Not to mention cherry picking cost/kWh produced, CO2 emssions per kWh produced and health/safetty impact per kWh produced to make their preference look the most favourable

    That there is increased investment…

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    1. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Hi Mark,
      Dr Barry Brook, head of climate at Adelaide University, as a great blog and forum that tries to precisely analyse the figures behind the questions you raise with Solar PV and all the other technologies you mentioned.

      http://bravenewclimate.com/

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      Hi Eclispe - I am familar with Barry's work and BNC (and am a subscriber) but Barry is a nuclear advocate and his blog tends to have a bias that way. I am not denying he does good work - but I do not think he can claim to be objective. The fact that he publishes work from Peter Lang who is a shrill ideologue is a case in point.

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    3. Eclipse Now

      Manager of Graphic Design firm

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Yeah, I hear you. Barry keeps banning Peter Lang and then letting him back. What gives? The guy is the worst kind of internet troll, and just outright ignores any data inconvenient to his world-view, demands everyone listen to his EXACT energy legislative framework for Australia, and then starts screaming paranoid accusations against Barry and the BNC Moderator and everyone else if they don't go along with his dictates for Australia. He keeps on screaming until Barry himself ends up banning Peter FOR LIFE. But then after 6 months he's back. I don't get it. If I were Barry and had seen the way Peter Lang behaved on his blog, accusing Barry of participating in pushing a Leftist agenda with his climate alarm-ism! (Peter's words!), would have had me deleting every article the guy had contributed and banning him for life. Barry's the head of climate at Adelaide Uni and yet took that crap from Peter? I just don't get it. Maybe he's just a bit more patient than I am.

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    4. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Eclipse Now

      And your exact point, once again, is? Then rebut his point if you disagree, if you can

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    5. Ian Ashman

      Manager

      In reply to John Coochey

      John, it is a sad, pathetic, silly game you are playing. People give you sources, give you answers and you play this dumb game of 'yeah and so what?". Grow up.

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  9. Luke Weston

    Physicist / electronic engineer

    Throughout this entire piece you keep quoting figures for installed nameplate power rating for wind farms or coal-fired power stations or whatever it is.

    But it's meaningless, misleading even, to do this.

    There's no point to saying "there's one gigawatt of installed coal burners here, and there's one gigawatt of installed wind turbines there". They are not the same thing. They are not equivalent and not comparable, because one has a very low capacity factor, and the other has a very high capacity factor and a very high degree of predictability and control over when its planned maintenance downtime will be.

    Quoting nameplate capacity numbers for wind energy, or coal energy or solar energy or nuclear energy or whatever, next to each other and directly comparing them is silly if you've got absolutely no mention of their capacity factors and/or the total quantity of energy they've delivered in any given year.

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    1. Ray Wills

      Adjunct Professor, School of Earth and Environment at University of Western Australia

      In reply to Luke Weston

      We have presented multiple measures of change and we have not relied on any single measure - we have reported on new dollar investment, new capacity, new electricity production, changes in investment decisions, and commentary on what appears gross overstatement of new investment in fossil generation based on estimates, not data ...

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  10. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    Luke Weston has already pointed out the "show stopper" problem with this article and your reply didn't address it. So let me try to make it more obvious.

    Suppose I invented a power source which could supply 1 gigawatt every full moon for 1 night ... and it was wondrously cheap and clean and just brilliantly cool and clever. And behold the market in its technological wisdom saw my invention, thought it good and predicted bucket loads of money would flow from it. So they lined up to throw me money…

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    1. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Your statements are misleading Geoff.

      Germany invested primarily into wind and hydro. Those two account for roughly 10% (although that was 2009 figures I think) of their energy production. In terms of the investment, the amount spent on all renewables is still a pittance in comparison to the total investment that has been made in fossil fuels.

      Calling a power plant a toy amount of power completely misses the point that any one power plant is a toy producer on the big scale of energy demands for a country.

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  11. Gil Hardwick

    anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

    Ray and Peter, your pointing out too that energy consumption has peaked through education is timely and I thank you for it.

    One of my major frustrations for many years now has been in criticising discussion on alternative forms of energy supply in the absence of coherent consumption audits.

    There is no special reason for our lifestyle to be profligate, in consuming gas or electricity or anything else. I tend to argue that a rewarding intellectual, social and practical life can be had figuring out ways to reduce our ecological footprint overall.

    It does not need to be arduous, nor require state sanctions forcing us to do it. It can be fun, and a source of great pleasure and satisfaction . . . like losing weight perhaps . . . . being fit and healthy.

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    1. Blair Donaldson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      Agreed Gil, it amazes me how much electricity is wasted unnecessarily, often by the same people who complain about increasing energy costs. It's not hard flicking off a few switches or using energy hungry appliances outside peak times, particularly when so many have timers.

      Sensible use of electricity combined with solar PV has eliminated our quarterly power bills. Even with reduced feed in tariffs now, I don't understand why more people don't make use of it.

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    2. Tim Scanlon

      Author and Scientist

      In reply to Blair Donaldson

      I've heard some interesting figures on this from my engineering friends. They reckon just upgrading power stations and lines would cut our energy usage and emissions dramatically.

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  12. Graham Palmer

    Industrial engineer

    The basic premise of the article provides a good discussion point, and I think it has some validity but the article is badly let down by the author's profound misunderstanding of the fundamentals of electricity systems.

    To provide two examples: the article states "There is no elaborate distribution system needed; no poles and wires and sub-stations that push the power up in voltage to send it over long distances and then brings it down in voltage for the user."

    Yet it has been well established…

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