Unbalanced Reporting on Solar Power: Peter Lang

Peter Lang sent a complaint to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) about last night’s 7:30 Report on solar power.  Here is a slightly reworded versions with hyperlinks added:

“The ABC 7:30 report has improved greatly since Leigh Sales and Chris Uhlmann took over from Kerry O’Brien.  However, there have been lapses.  Last night’s 7:30 report on solar power was atrociously biased.  ABC has been strongly biased towards renewable energy for over 20 years.  Last night’s program was unbalanced, lacked objectivity and presented wrong and misleading information.

They interviewed two of the extreme renewable energy proponents in Australia (Matthew Wright and Tristan Edis) but did not provide balance by getting a competent person to explain the cost of renewable energy and what the costs do to the price of electricity (and therefore to Australia’s economy).

Matthew Wright was the lead author of the Beyond Zero Emissions report which claims Australia could have zero carbon emissions from energy by 2020.  I’ll tell readers some more about that below.

Tristan Edis is the editor of “ClimateSpectator”.  He is a strongly biased proponent of renewable energy and of changing the electricity system to suit the needs of renewable energy advocates – including the changing the transmission system and the electricity companies which must remain profitable in order to provide a reliable electricity supply.

But no one was interviewed who could explain the costs.  So below I’ll explain the costs of Matthew Wright’s plan for Zero Carbon Emissions by 2020.  I’ll also explain the cost of Dr Mark Diesendorf’s (uncosted) plan for all eastern Australia’s electricity to be provided by renewable energy.

Tristan Ellis has frequently posted articles by Dr Mark Diesendorf on Climate Spectator, but he has refused to post an op-ed explaining the costs of Mark Diesendorf’s proposals.  Perhaps ABC would be prepared follow up last night’s 7:30 report with a report explaining the costs properly and without pro renewable bias.

Matthew Wright is the lead author of the Zero Carbon Australia by 2020 report.  The report has been critiqued and discredited by many people including by Martin Nicholson and Peter Lang:

The Matthew Wright analysis assumes that Australia’s domestic air transport would cease, people would move by train, bus and some electric cars by 2020.  Electric trains would run all over our grain growing areas collecting wheat stalks and transporting them to the solar power stations to burn them to produce heat for when the sun doesn’t shine enough.  There are many other highly optimistic to completely unrealistic assumptions underpinning his analysis.   Here are the conclusions from our critique are:

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

Matthew Wright was sent a copy of our critique and invited to post a reply and/or to participate in online discussion and/or debate. He did not reply to any of the offers and invitations.

Tristan Edis, editor of Climate Spectator, frequently posts articles by Dr Mark Diesendorf, Matthew Wright and other renewable energy advocates.  But he was not prepared to post a critique of Dr Mark Diesendorf’s articles.  Below is a critique I offered.  It provides some insight into the costs of proposals like those presented on ABC 7:30 last night.  I suggest, these costs should be made clear to your viewers for proper balance to the highly biased program on solar power presented last night.

Summary of: Renewable electricity for Australia – the cost

Researchers at the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets (CEEM), University of NSW, did a desk top study called “Simulations of Scenarios with 100% Renewable Electricity in the Australian National Electricity Market” (Elliston et al., 2011).

The authors claim their study demonstrates that renewable energy could supply 100% of the Australian National Electricity Market’s electricity and meet the demand with acceptable reliability.

However, they did not estimate the costs of the system they simulated.  I have critiqued the paper and made a crude estimate of the cost of the scenario simulated and three variants of it

Using costs derived from the Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (DRET, 2011), the costs are estimated to be: $568 billion capital cost, $336/MWh cost of electricity and $290/tonne CO2 abatement cost.

That is, the wholesale cost of electricity for the simulated system would be seven times more than now, with an abatement cost that is 13 times the starting price of the Australian carbon tax and 30 times the European carbon price.  (This cost of electricity does not include the costs for the existing electricity network).

Although it ignores costings, the study is a useful contribution.  It demonstrates that, even with highly optimistic assumptions, renewable energy cannot realistically provide 100% of Australia’s electricity generation.  Their scenario does not have sufficient capacity to meet peak winter demand, has no capacity reserve and is dependent on a technology – ‘gas turbines running on biofuels’ – that exist only at small scale and at high cost.


An Excel file is provided which you can download, change the inputs and do your own sensitivity analyses.”

[end of complaint submitted to ABC (text slightly modified and hyperlinks inserted)]


A version of this text was first posted by Peter as an O/T comment.  Earlier today I moved it quickly to this spot.  The above text has changed since then as Peter asked I post the above formatted version with inserted hyperlinks.   Jen at 9.22 pm on Wednesday.


53 Responses to Unbalanced Reporting on Solar Power: Peter Lang

  1. Peter Lang March 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Further to the above, both critiques (of Matthew Wright’s ZCA202 plan, and Mark Diesendorf’s 100% renewable electric NEM) provide cost estimates for powering all or most of Australia’s electricity with renewable energy. However, it so happens that any amount of renewable energy is expensive and raises the cost of electricity.

    The more renewable energy we add to the grid the more expensive electricity becomes.

    Put it another way, no amount of renewable energy can be added to the grid without raising the cost of electricity.

    Furthermore, renewable energy does not reduce CO2 emissions by much.

    This is what the ABC 7:30 pm report should have made clear – but didn’t!

  2. Peter Lang March 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    Letter to the Australian:

    “Campbell Newman orders end of waste on renewable energy (28/3, p1). This is wise, given the costs and lack of effectiveness of renewable energy.

    Researchers at the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets, University of NSW, did a desk top study called “Simulations of Scenarios with 100% Renewable Electricity in the Australian National Electricity Market”

    Using costs derived from the Federal Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, the estimated costs of their proposal are: $568 billion capital cost, $336/MWh cost of electricity and $290/tonne CO2 abatement cost.

    That is, the wholesale cost of electricity for their system would be seven times more than now, with an abatement cost that is 13 times the starting price of the Australian carbon tax and 30 times the European carbon price. (This cost of electricity does not include the costs for the existing electricity network).

    Ref.:: “100% renewable electricity for Australia – the cost”

  3. Neville March 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    So let’s calculate a monthly cost of this mickey mouse energy. If you are paying about $100 a month today for electricity that means that you would be paying $700 a month using solar or wind or bird droppings or whatever.

    Geezzz that should go over well out there in the electorate, just what the ordinary people want I bet.

    I want what China and India get when they buy our coal. I want real baseload reliable energy not useless, clueless, unreliable, super expensive wind or solar .

    These people are barking mad and the ABC are a disgrace for not asking the hard questions that would be asked if they held a proper debate.

  4. John Sayers March 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Yes, the Beyond Zero Emissions paper is a joke.

    They mention 7MW wind turbines which don’t exist (5MW is the largest built so far).

    They also mention 250MW solar thermal power stations that run 24/7, yet the largest so far is 50MW and runs for 17 hours.

    They mention burning wheat stubble yet a good farmer bales it for stock feed or ploughs it back in to up the organic structure of the soil. The biomass experiment burning sugar cane bagasse at the Condong and Broadwater mills was a complete disaster and they’ve closed them down. More importantly burning biomass gives off CO2 anyway so they might as well burn coal.

    How these people are allowed to continue spouting all this BS totally baffles me.

  5. spangled drongo March 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm #


    ZCA came to our town and told us it could all be done for $8 a week. During question time I mentioned your audit figures and that was the last question I was allowed to ask.

  6. jennifer March 28, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    Just reposted the above text as Peter sent me a tidier version with hyperlink. Jen

  7. Neville March 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    Martin Ferguson is making a lot of sense. Just a pity he has such a group of useless numbskulls in the rest of the party.


  8. Doug Proctor March 29, 2012 at 1:59 am #

    The disconnect between interested parties in the costs of solutions – 500%! – is an example of why I am commonly dumbfounded in the warmist-skeptic wars. I’ve been involved in enough speculative projects and businesses to know that cost-benefit analyses are determined by simple mathematical formulae. Assumptions go in, the calculators crunch, and results come out.

    The only way that such determinedly different results can be expressed is the publicly dominant party – generally representing the “best” interests of those controlling the funds – refuses to put their numbers beside their detractors. In this case, if some article could come out, paid or not, which places them side by side, one could see where the bust is. If the detractors are being excessively negative, of course, that negativity shows. But if, as I believe, the proponents are being naive or misleading or hiding an assumption (like a $500/bll oil projection) of material value, that will come out.

    The fundamental disconnects baffle me. It is as if various parties WANT to continue the war, continue the back-and-forth of CAGW. It is as if what is really at stake is something else, that CAGW is a battle tactic, not the conflict itself. Like governmental control without nationalisation or electoral consent, a totalitarianism verging on the theocratic by other means.

    Gawd, I hate sounding like a conspiracist, which I’m not, for the reason that I don’t believe that our governments are smart enough to conspire much above having our wives claim it was them, not us, driving too fast.

  9. Don Aitkin March 29, 2012 at 6:44 am #

    An excellent piece. I have been a great supporter of the ABC, but it is increasingly clear to me that it possesses a self-recruiting culture within which certain things are taken for granted, because they are the positions that all educated, intelligent, progressive, pleasant people like those who work in the ABC accept as true. People who don’t have this outlook must be deluded, have vested interests, or be deniers of something. People without the right outlook do not get jobs.

    In consequence, some matters (like ‘climate change’, for example) are simply ‘settled’, so that debates about them are no longer newsworthy. So ‘boat-people’ are always ‘asylum-seekers’, though there is good argument that nearly all such people are best described as ‘economic refugees’. Great fusses are made about endangered species, but it is fatuous to suppose that the information we have about the mouthless moth or the nutless gnat is comprehensive. We simply do not have the knowledge, and never will have. ABC television news reported on the Durban meeting about climate change last year as though this meeting might actually produce an outcome. Yet it had been known for months that nothing would happen there, apart from a great increase in Durban’s local economy from the 15,000 gathered for the event. No one reflected on whether or not the carbon dioxide emissions of the 15,000 were at odds with the proclaimed purpose of the gathering. Durban was made a serious piece of news, without any questioning, and I could find no balance in that.

    So with renewable energy. So with the visuals of cooling tower steam presented as though it is carbon dioxide. So with the attack on Jennifer Marohassy for daring to suggest that the Murray mouth has been an estuary until the barrages were erected.

    In my view the ABC is in serious trouble, but believes that its Code of Practice and its Editorial Policies protect it from criticism. They are neither the problem, nor the solution. The ABC needs a vigorous opposition inside the organisation, where these issues are argued about over lunch and morning tea, and the organisation can be seen to be open to questioning, not sealed against it. I think it will take a change of government to produce such a shift in culture, and even then it will be very difficult. The Howard government did not do much in eleven years.

  10. Neville March 29, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    Very interesting to see Don post here because I have read a few of his columns over the last 12 months and agree with a lot of his ideas.

    But Don I can’t understand how you can say that these people at the ABC or elsewhere are intelligent, educated and pleasant. Progressive as in US liberal, yes I’ll conceed that to you every day.

    How much intelligence do you need to understand simple kindy maths? How educated then are you when you can’t build on simple maths and work out for yourself that the mitigation of AGW is a total fraud and con?

    Please have a look at the REAL numbers and work it out for yourself. As I’ve said before the ABC is more of a national disgrace than a national broadcaster.


  11. Neville March 29, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    BTW great idea from Jo Nova to celebrate science, great ideas and great inventions. Much better than sitting in the dark or wandering around like fools holding BURNING candles.

    Don’t forget how recent in human history all our mod cons began, the car ,the phone, use of electricity etc and now instant personal communication via the internet and instant retrieval of information as well.
    How lucky we are, when you think that life expectancy in 1900 in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada etc was only about 47 years. Today the poorest of the world’s 6 billion people can expect to live to that age.

  12. Colin Davidson March 29, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    Excellent post Peter!

    In response to Don Aitken, there is actually a simple and sure way of removing bias at the ABC.

    Remove the ABC!

    I suspect that is what will happen if their act is not cleaned up internally.

  13. will gray March 29, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    I am in in infrequent contact with an engineer-Ive known him for 25 yrs. He says he has a set-up that can produce FREE power to any home- as long as its ground based. Meaning wont work in high rise.
    What interest is there in this nationally?-none. If this system were to go commercial it would cost lots of jobs and destroy most of the fuels industry overnight.
    No-one in there right mind would contemplate doing such a thing.

  14. Don Aitkin March 29, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    for Neville: What I wrote was irony: ‘the positions that all educated, intelligent, progressive, pleasant people like those who work in the ABC accept as true’. That is how they feel about themselves. That is why they are perplexed when they are criticised: ‘don’t all reasonable people agree with us?’

  15. Neville March 29, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Don I now see the error of my ways.

    Will I’d be interested to find out more about your friend’s free power idea.

  16. Johnathan Wilkes March 29, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    No disrespect to will gray or his friend, believe me there is no such thing as “FREE” power.
    Even if it would be very cheap to produce there would be profit in it for some enterprising company.

    The mantra that “nobody is interested because” and name any reason, is just nonsense.
    At the very worst a totalitarian government with scarce fuel supply would adopt it, and pay for it.
    We read about these wonderful ideas all the time and nothing comes of it.
    Wonder why?

  17. John Sayers March 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    They’ve done it again. Driving home today I listened to The World Today on ABC Radio.

    Scientists says it’s time to act:

    Australian delegates to an international conference on global sustainability delivered a warning today that the earth is reaching a point where it’s changing beyond our control.

    Almost 3,000 scientists have been in London for the conference to discuss the relatively new field of earth system science.

    It’s an attempt to look at the planet as one complex system, rather than a series of separate systems.

    As David Mark reports the scientists are now becoming more militant in their message, warning there is no excuse not to act.

    But According to Donna Laframboise on her website:


    This is being billed as the “largest gathering of global change and sustainability scientists prior to the Rio+20 Earth Summit” (italics added). But as we can see, many of the individuals involved aren’t scientists at all. They’re politicians and bureaucrats. They’re communications managers and musicians. Most of all, they’re political activists.

    And our old friend Will Steffen is at it again – he’s worse than Tim Flannery!

    DAVID MARK: Professor Will Steffen’s director of the ANU Climate Change Institute. He presented a series of slides looking at the climate and human impacts on ecosystems.

    WILL STEFFEN: If you liken that this a building report or a health report it’s not very good, because it’s saying that things are moving outside the normal range that we’ve experienced in over the last 12,000 years or so since humans have developed agriculture and civilisation.

    And so it’s giving us some warning bells that we need to do something about this. So the first part of the State of the Planet report is that our score card doesn’t look too good at the moment; too many things are moving up very fast outside of the normal range in which we’ve developed our society.

    DAVID MARK: He says while the climate has changed in the past, the temperatures rises we’re seeing now are something altogether different.

    WILL STEFFEN: And you see that two things stand out: one is at the upper end of that red curve we’re much higher than anything we’ve seen over the last 2,000 years and probably the last 6,000 or 7,000 years.

    And that rate of change is very rapid so, again, if you were a doctor you’re telling your patient you’ve got some really irregular heartbeat, or whatever, this looks very strange, it’s not normal.

    And I think we scientists would say this is an unusual type of temperature change. We haven’t seen this in the past and we actually know the physics behind it – this is due to the extra greenhouse gases.

    DAVID MARK: Dr Steffen highlights other problems facing the planet such as the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the leaking of methane from the permafrost.

    He says the earth is moving into a new state – it’s changing beyond our control.

    WILL STEFFEN: So basically the bottom line message is we’re moving out of the very stable state of the earth system that we’ve really developed our civilisations in.

    So there’s much more at stake than just a bit of warming and maybe a bit more heavy rainfall in parts of Australia. The whole system itself is showing signs that it might be destabilising.

    And so this really in a way sets the stage for the solutions that Mark’s talking about, that we do have some pressures on the planet but we are understanding the science better and the basic message is there are risks there and there is a sense of urgency to get some of these solutions in place.

  18. spangled drongo March 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Don, more opinions from the “educated, intelligent, progressive, pleasant people”:

    ELEANOR HALL: “Australian delegates to an international conference on global sustainability delivered a warning today that the earth is reaching a point where it’s changing beyond our control.

    Almost 3,000 scientists have been in London for the conference to discuss the relatively new field of earth system science.

    It’s an attempt to look at the planet as one complex system, rather than a series of separate systems.”

    And this story was from CSIRO and ANU scientists and though alarmist, is reasonably sane compared to the rant from green groups that followed.

    But of course that’s “our” ABC’s idea of “balance”.

  19. Bob Fernley-Jones March 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

    Going from the improvements in format over the original post I guess that Peter Lang came across the same problem that I have had when using the official complaints procedure, because it employs a message system that only allows plain text. (No bolding, italics, block quotes, hyperlinks, insertion of figures etc)
    There is a solution, although the CRU (Complaints Rejection Unit) AKA Audience and Consumer Affairs (A&CA) have scolded me for repeatedly doing it. That is to use the official system using just a few words to lodge it with a compulsory tracking ID and response, and then refer to an Email to A&CA for full details. (within which rich text and even photos etc can be logically sequenced).
    The top Email address within the A&CA is:
    Corporate_Affairs10@abc.net.au (There is a hidden underscore _ between Corporate and Affairs)
    If you are really cross you could copy the MD (the Editor-in-Chief), whom will probably only ask for feedback from A&CA, but heck why not!
    I’ve noticed that Senator Eric Abetz has been far from shy from interrogating Mark Scott in Senate Committees. His Email address is:
    The Official complaint plain text submission thingy is here:

  20. Debbie March 29, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    I know this is a ‘bleeding obvious’ question but….
    “Australian delegates to an international conference on global sustainability delivered a warning today that the earth is reaching a point where it’s changing beyond our control.
    and my question…..
    When was the earth ever at a point where it wasn’t beyond our control????
    Just asking 🙂

  21. John Bromhead March 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    I had to laugh at a comment by Martin Ferguson at 14.0 minutes into the Tuesday’s 7:30. (http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/916524)

    ABC Reporter Lisa Whitehead (voiceover): Energy Minister Martin Ferguson says the projects are commercially complex and the grant scheme is about lessening the risk for companies building big solar plants

    Minister Ferguson: “… that’s what we’re about. Its not about the operation of the retail market, its about testing technology, grid, base load power, you can’t buy this off the shelf …”

    No base load power with Solar Dawn or the Moree Solar Farm.

    Solar Dawn is exactly what the program said it was a solar thermal gas hybrid plant. No heat storage.

  22. Bob_FJ March 29, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    Sorry, Further my comment at 2:27 pm above, the Email address of the Editor-in-chief is:

  23. cementafriend March 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    @Will Sayers, I would love to get Will Steffen into court where he is subject to the Evidence Act.
    I think it will be quickly found that he has no understanding of the engineering subjects of thermodynamics, heat & mass transfer, fluid dynamics, reaction kinetics, process control, capital cost estimation etc or he will find himself in jail for perjury. He had better not come to Queensland where there is a Professional Engineers Act. Maybe now that engineer Campbell Newman is premier someone will push the Board of Professional Engineers to fine and even jail unregistered people who provide advice with engineering content to Queensland. I would like to see Tim Flannery as Climate Commissioner referred to the Board.

  24. John Sayers March 29, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    wow – so Campbell Newman is an engineer! no wonder he is doing what he is doing 😉 Thanks for that info.

  25. Johnathan Wilkes March 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm #

    John Sayers
    I take it you are not an Australian or at least not a Queenslander?
    His resume was posted for all to see.
    Many think that he is a “wet” conservative but I think whatever he is, he cannot be worse than whom he replaced.

    He did his stint in the army as well, some ten years or so, been in business etc. ran a fairly large city council, had far more experience in the real world than his predecessor.

    there is always hope

  26. John Sayers March 29, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    Yes Duntroon, I’ve since looked him up.

    I don’t watch a lot of television, in fact I hardly watch it at all.

    I live 40kms from the Queensland border with NSW.

  27. Johnathan Wilkes March 29, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    My apologies John, we don’t even have a television set to speak of unless you count the computer.
    I only know of the details because I have carefully followed the election process on the internet.

  28. Derek Smith March 29, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    Don, ABC’s Counterpoint program on Monday afternoons does a pretty good job of presenting opposing views on a number of topics, e.g. Jen’s interview last Monday. Curiously, they are never mentioned by anyone else at our ABC. Must be their version of the ‘wacky uncle’

  29. John Sayers March 29, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    You are right Derek, no one else mentions them.

    No one mentions Andrew Bolt’s show either.

  30. Tony Price March 30, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    All one need do is ask where the money to pay the wages for all the “green jobs” will come from. Irrespective of the vast investment (to say nothing of junking existing, valuable power stations), those wages must be included in the running costs of so-called “renewable energy”. It automatically follows that we’d pay much more for energy than now.

    These idiots (I use the word advisedly and with aforethought) chant “molten salt storage”, “compressed air storage”, “battery storage”, “pumped hydro”, “backup gas-powered stations”. None of these have been tried, tested, or in most cases even costed. It seems that it’s fine to pump CO2 (CCS) or compressed air underground, neither of which has been tried on any large scale, but disastrous to pump water and sand (used for decades without any ill-effect) to retrieve oil and gas.

    I’ve seen many websites promoting tidal power which don’t mention the “inconvenient truth” of two tides a day, and something they are unaware of the consequent “slack water” which occurs four times a day. The nearest they get to acknowledging there’s a large fly in the ointment is calling their favourite renewable “predictable”. Indeed, we’d just have to consult the tide tables to know when we’d be getting our scheduled “Earth Hours” – four times a day, every day. In the case of solar, “Earth hour” becomes “Earth night”,and in the case of wind, we’d just stick a wet finger in the air and light a candle.

    Denmark relies on its neighbours to even out the troughs in its “sustainable energy”, and plans to increase that reliance in the future, something they have omitted to tell those neighbours. My dictionary defines “sustainable” as “Capable of being sustained”. The only thing being sustained is a high level of belief in the impossible, or at the very least the extremely expensive and unreliable.

    A few words of realism for the “rose-tinted spectacle” brigade:

    Solar: Night, clouds, snow, seasons (sun-angle), dust, degradation, land area
    Wind: Variability, blocking high, birds, bats, noise, lifetime, maintenance, cut-off speed, aesthetic appeal
    Tidal: Tides, slack water, corrosion
    All: Rated versus actual output, transmission and integration costs

  31. Peter Lang March 30, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Thank you to the many contributors for all your responses.

    Bob Fernley-Jones, thank you for your suggested approach for submitting complaints to the ABC and for the email addresses to the ABC. I’ll use that approach in future and may resubmit my complaint (in the thread above) today.

    spangled drongo, thank you for your comment about BZE’s ZCA2020 Plan and how BZE avoids answering difficult questions about its report. This has been a pattern. They have behaved a bit lie the scientists who promoted their “science” of “cold fusion” through the press instead of through the normal scientific processes. But the BZE authors have been much worse – for example on “The Conversation” where Matthew Wright said he did not need to answer questions because the credibility of his organisation was sufficent to show his analysis is correct (or words to that effect) https://theconversation.edu.au/on-arctic-sea-ice-melt-and-coal-mine-canaries-5967.

  32. Peter Lang March 30, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    I provoided the wrong link in my previous comment. The correct link to Mathew Wrights comments about credibility, and my replies, are here:

  33. Peter Lang March 30, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    Tony Price,

    You make lots of points I could expand on. Here is one:

    “These … chant “molten salt storage”, “compressed air storage”, “battery storage”, “pumped hydro”, “backup gas-powered stations”. None of these have been tried, tested, or in most cases even costed.

    Here is a crude estimate for a limit scenario (used to “book end” an analysis) in which all of eastern Australia’s electricity demand (using the 2007 NEM demand per hour) is provided by solar power with pumped hydro or NaS batteries for energy storage. See the cost estimates for both and the land area that would be innundated with pumped hydro to provide all the NEMS electricity demand

    “Solar Power Realities – supply, demand, storage and costs”

  34. Tony Price March 30, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    To Peter Lang (March 30th, 2012 at 11:15 am)

    I’ve flashed through that pdf you linked to (thanks), and it looks like the author has identified a number of problems with “storage systems” I hadn’t thought of, and haven’t seen anywhere else (surprised?). He seems to know his stuff, and to have done his homework. I’ll read it slowly and carefully later. Plenty of substance there to stimulate “the little grey cells”.

    I should state my overall position on “renewables” (can you “renew” the wind or the Sun?). I’m not actually against any of these methods of production or storage in principle. It’s the proposed scale and the inherent problems and variability I concentrate on. I see that their proponents either ignore those, if they consider them dismiss them as unimportant, or simply chant the mantra and try to drown out not only critics but supporters who are realistic about costs and using untried technology on a vast scale.

    Solar and wind would (not could) provide power for dispersed and poor communities in third world countries, and remote villages and farms everywhere. Those people would welcome even unreliable and variable sources. Batteries can be charged for lighting and limited heating in individual houses at low cost. Water can be pumped from wells while the sun shines or the wind blows.

    These sources will never provide base load in developed countries however. In theory they can, but the cost rapidly becomes prohibitive, and proponents often conveniently forget that any system has to provide both grid power AND power for storage for much of the time. When I was at school I learned it got dark after sunset, there was less light in the winter, and coastal regions often switch from onshore to offshore summer breezes with zero wind between. I’m a realist, not an out-and-out opponent.

  35. Peter Lang March 30, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    Tony Price,

    I agree with you it is the cost of renewables (and storage) that is the problem. The paper you looked at goes through the issues of intermittency in detail for solar PV and explains the amount of overbuild required to compensate (although addmitedly it is a linit analysis – no one would seriously suggest trying to run Australia with PV alone).

    This paper http://bravenewclimate.com/2012/02/09/100-renewable-electricity-for-australia-the-cost/ provides an estimate of the cost for a 100% renewable electric NEM – capital costs, cost of electricity, and CO2 abatement cost.

  36. Tony Price March 31, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    To Peter Lang

    I didn’t realise the author I was discussing in positive terms was YOU! I had the pdf open while I typed my reply. I’m going to read as much of your stuff as I can find, and try to summarise it for those who “switch off” when they see graphs and percentages and tables. Full marks on your in-depth (I hate that term!) studies. I feel a whole spate of blog comments forming in my brain, and will sally forth to tilt at the windmills of the “renewable” sycophants. I have an asbestos skin (renews itself every few weeks, I’m told).

    signed Don Quixote de la Realism

  37. Peter Lang March 31, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Tony Price,

    Thank you for that. Fantastic. It would be great if you can turn my stuff into something people find interesting, relevant and easily digestable.

    There is a list of many of my paper here:

    Plus these that are not included on that list:
    and some others

  38. Tony Price March 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Peter Lang

    I’ll do my best – thanks for the links, I think all but one are already bookmarked. I’ll apply to your words and figures the same scrutiny I give to everything I read with a view to educating myself. I’m sure you’d expect nothing less. I’ve long subscribed to the original meaning and intent of the Royal Society’s motto “nullius in verba” – take no-one’s word for it. I do find your analyses immediately expose the superficial nature of the “studies” which gloss over potential problems of viability, scale and cost. I’ve long wanted to get my teeth into the entire subject, but have so far suffered from the “giant chocolate bar” problem – where to start. It might be said this post and what I’ve read so far has inspired me to get thinking and typing.

    I have to say I hate wind turbines – remote and lonely places (we have a few left in the UK, believe it or not) I’ve stood and marvelled at, are now mostly despoiled with near or distant views of bird-shredders. In unguarded moments I find myself beginning to contemplate something akin to vandalism. Properly channelled,that energy can better be used to expose the flaws and fallacies of large-scale “renewable” schemes.

    A bit more (dog) latin – “Nil illegitimi carborundum” – don’t let the b******s grind you down”.

  39. Peter Lang March 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    Tony Price,

    Yes, I agree. Take no one’s word. Feel free to raise issues, question or disagree with anything I’ve written and we can discuss.

    Did you see this recent, comprehensive report on cost of wind farms in UK:

  40. Tony Price March 31, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    Peter Lang:

    Yes, I’ve seen and read (most) it, but not yet digested its content. I added it to my collection a week or two ago. From my initial reading of several of your analyses, nothing jumps out at me that looks wrong or exaggerated, unlike the blogs and websites discussing “renewables”. The very words there speak more than their authors intended., yet neither the authors nor the commenters seem aware of quite what they’re claiming.

    One grand scheme was for filling in, grassing over, and converting all of Pennsylvania’s open-cast coal mines to photo-electric solar, site by site. Most of the discussion involved solar panel types and efficiencies (techno-nerds?). Winter wasn’t even mentioned, all the figures seeming to assume summer, the insolation graph showed July only, and rated panel output was used throughout. The scheme was detailed, but glossed over or underestimated costs for the actual filling in (omitted entirely) and transmission lines and likely panel life amongst others. Transmission lines for the estimated eight gas-fired stations to provide backup weren’t included, nor was anything allowed for control centres to handle load balancing. I though of registering and sticking a few realism spanners in the works, but thought better of it. Pearls before swine, and all that.

    Have you noticed that where “pumped hydro” is mentioned, rarely is the actual availability of something we realists call “hills, valleys and rivers” considered? “You just run the turbines in reverse” they say. Give me a lunatic anyday, occasionally they make total sense.

  41. phil sawyer April 1, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    So how much would it actually cost to buy out Hazelwood, for example, and replace it with wind farms, as is proposed for Victoria?

    Hazelwood might cost $2b to purchase. Its output is 1470mw. Say 1500mw for simplicty of arithmetic. A standard 3mw tower costs about $8m. That would be 500 towers for nominal capacity of 1500mw. Given that the average output of these devices is roughly only 1/4 of the nameplate capacity, a total of at least 2000 towers would be needed to produce the same amount of power over a full year as Hazelwood currently does. And 2000 turbines at $8m each works out to $16billion! That’s right. And require the construction of 40 windfarms with 50 turbines each, scattered across Victoria.

    And since the wind farms will spend half their time supplying less than their average output ( by definition), the system will need backup from open cycle gas turbines to ensure more continuous power. Even 1000 MW of suitable gas backup would cost at least another $1billion or so. Then there is the cost of grid connection for the 40 dispersed windfarms. Another $1b would be required here too.

    Thus the total cost of replacing Hazelwood with wind and gas would be $18illion! And given that Hazelwood produces around 16m tonnes of CO2 annually, the cost of the emissions abatement works out at over $1000/tonne of CO2, even before the emissions of the gas plant are considered!

    The folly of the whole $18billion Hazelwood replacement exercise can best be appreciated by considering the fact that an efficient closed cycle gas plant replacement for Hazelwood, which might cost 3 billion dollars, would not only produce appreciably less CO2 than Hazelwood, but produce no more than the inefficient open cycle one would, operating part time as backup for when the wind doesn’t blow.

  42. Peter Lang April 1, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Tony Price,

    I agreew with all your points. It is very frustrating. It’s amazing how many people swallow the nonsense. I saw a poll yesterday that found that 81% of people in the USA generally support solar power.

  43. Peter Lang April 1, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

    Phil Sawyer,

    Thank you for your comment. I agree with the thrust of what you are saying and it is great to see others doing thse calculations of costs and benefit too.

    The capital cost and abatement ccost you estimated for replacement of Hazelwood is higher than I calculated, summarised in Table 4 here:

    “Replacing Hazelwood coal-fired power station – Critique of Environment Victoria report.”

    Comparing the costs of replacing Hazelwood with wind and gas versus with combined cycle gas turbines, Table 4 shows the wind and gas option is 3.5 times higher capital cost, 2 times higher cost of electricity, three times higher CO2 abatement cost and little difference in the amount of CO2 avoided.

  44. phil sawyer April 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    Thanks for noticing my back-of-an-envelope calculations.
    Whilst I am an unreconstructed CAGW sceptic, I appreciate the BNC site, which is at least rigourous in it’s analysis of the renewables propositions. Roll on nuclear energy! At least it wouldn’t trash our economy.

  45. Peter Lang April 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    Phil Sawyer,

    I agree with you on CAGW.

    However, I want to correct any mis-understandign people may get about my position on nuclear. I only support nuclear if it will be allowed to be cheaper than coal. A lotr would have to happen to allow that to be the case in Australia. I am for least cost electricity (with externalities properly included to the extent it is practical to do so and there is an overall net benefit to doing so). Cheap electricity has enormous benefits for society, and many people forget that.

    I said more on this in a comment here http://bravenewclimate.com/2012/03/17/economist-nuclear-view-impractical/#comment-154432 if readers are interested.

  46. Tony Price April 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Peter Lang said:

    I said more on this in a comment here http://bravenewclimate.com/2012/03/17/economist-nuclear-view-impractical/#comment-154432 if readers are interested.

    This reader was interested. I’ve followed nuclear development since I was a young kid in the 50s, and have visited two stations on business. I was most impressed by their seeming quiet efficiency, with few staff evident, and with no visible emissions of anything, just a how thrumming hum near the turbine hall. I was asked if I’d like to see inside, and was handed a hard hat & ear-muffs, and left to my own devices! No such freedoms nowadays, with “elf’nsafety” and security rules everywhere. The noise was not just loud, it was physical – you felt it from head to toe. I stood just inside the door for several minutes, absorbing the experience. The feeling of controlled power was almost overwhelming. I was impressed, which is something of an understatement.

    Using chemical energy is like cutting down a tree to burn for heat, whereas the energy contained in the atoms of the tiniest twig could heat your home for a week,or even longer (must do the maths someday!).

  47. Peter Lang April 2, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    Tony Price,

    Wow, that must have been an experience you’ve carried with you for a while.

    You mentioned “I must do the maths one day”. Here is a bit of trivia you may find useful in discussions:

    – 1 t of nuclear fuel (when used in current technology reactors) has as much useable energy as 20,000 tones of coal;

    – therefore, 1 ship of uranium carries as much energy as 20,000 ships of coal (roughly)

    – what would you prefer; 20,000 ships of coal passing through the Great Barrier Reef or 1 ship of coal out of Darwin?

    – 1 t of nuclear fuel (used in Gen IV reactors) has as much useable energy as 2 million tonnes of coal (i.e. 100 times more energy per tonne of uranium, and 100 times less shipments for the same energy content, and uranium ore effectively unlimited).

  48. Johnathan Wilkes April 2, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    Peter Lang
    energy content, and uranium ore effectively unlimited

    And yet, people reject nuclear for no logical reason other than an irrational fear.
    And the very same people embrace CC AGW without a whimper

    Most of them have absolutely no idea about the science behind either of them.
    Amazing isn’t it?

  49. Peter Lang April 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Johnathan Wilkes,

    Yes. I agree.

  50. Peter Lang April 2, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    Johnathan Wilkes,

    Here are a couple more bits of info to give out at the Bar-B-Q.

    A golf ball sized sphere of uranium contains sufficent extractable energy when used in a Gen IV reactor to provide all a person’s energy needs for their whole life at the current rate of concusmption of a US citizen. That is, all the energy for all their energy needs, including for manufacturing all the goods we use throughout our whole life.

    The UK is now looking at building a PRISIM nuclear power plant (Gen IV). It will run on UK’s existing stockpile of nuclear waste. UK has sufficent nuclear waste and depleted uranium to provide all UK’s electricity at current consumption levels for 500 years.

    Even Monbiot supports it: http://www.monbiot.com/2012/02/02/nuclear-vs-nuclear-vs-nuclear/

  51. Tony Price April 2, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    Peter Lang:

    Thanks for the figures – I’ve got similar stashed away somewhere in my two-gigabyte-sized folder of pdfs and other documents. The sub-folders multiply as I struggle to keep some kind of rational order in there. Needless to say it’s backed up on two external disks.

    I’ve had a stab at “The wind is always blowing somewhere”, but through telling the story of a mythical country to the west of Europe, one with plenty of wind. You might recognise that country, I couldn’t possibly comment. Further posts will get down to the factual and numerical nitty-gritty, but I must be allowed to indulge myself occasionally!


  52. Tony Price April 3, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    Tony Price,

    Yes, your article gets a lot of points across. And thanks for the H/T.

  53. Peter Lang April 3, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Tony Price,

    Yes, your article gets a lot of points across. And thanks for the H/T.

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