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.
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.