No Cheers for 'Renewable' Energy

Peter Smith12 May, 2023 4 Min Read
Albo & Co.: snake oil for sale.

In the olden, golden days, electricity primarily flowed from the grid to the furthest reaches of the land. Not so now. The requirement now, akin to requiring that blood is pumped from our pinky toes to our heart, is that electricity flows from far-flung wind farms to the grid before being redirected. What is anatomically impossible is of course possible when it comes to inanimate things like national electricity networks. But you have to think it might be unwieldy and costly. Unless you’re a snake-oil salesman offering a cure for carbon dioxide poisoning. Then renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy, however intermittent and distant from the grid.

Hence the election pitch of Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese. Household electricity prices will fall by $275 a year he repeatedly promised. Since then, under his watch, electricity prices have not fallen but risen steeply with more rises on the way. Has this experience led to self-reflection? Not a bit.

Snake-oil salesmen can’t afford to entertain doubt. If their medicinal treatments make their customers sick, they dissemble and move quickly to the next town. Unfortunately we, in Australia, are stuck with continuing quackery from Albanese. He's going nowhere. And, in the unlikely event he reconsiders his ruinous plans, the Greens on whom he depends to get legislation through the Senate will use blackmail to bring him into line. Albanese has no escape route. Leaving the Al Capone gang on the pretext of being troubled by your conscience would be easier.

But I can’t pin it all on Albanese, even if I’d like to. The U.N. will tell you. Klaus Schwab’s mob, the World Economic Forum, will tell you. “Renewable Energy is the cheapest form of energy.” There is no end of official and non-official sources which will convey the “fact” that renewable energy is as cheap as chips. Then how come my electricity bills have risen so much, you might have the audacity to say? Politicians don’t miss a beat. They reach for their inner Kenny Craig, hypnotist extraordinaire. “Look into my eyes, look into my eyes, those soaring power bills which are leaving you out of pocket have nothing to do with renewable energy. When we snap our fingers you’ll blame it on the neglectful previous government and on Putin the terrible.”

Consider the Australian state of South Australia. It has self-righteously ridden itself of dirty coal power. Ergo, it has by far the highest electricity prices among the states. And it regularly needs to import electricity from states which still have coal power. What happens when they don’t? Get thee behind me, skepticism.

Meanwhile, how’s South Australia’s "big battery" shaping up? The Conversation is an online rag used by Australian academics, and assorted lefty associates, to publicize tendentious opinions. An article by the chief economist of CSIRO Energy, a governmental scientific research body, piqued my disdain. Its title, “Up to 90 percent of electricity from solar and wind the cheapest option by 2030.” Enormously appealing to the editors I would think. The same editors who effectively labelled climate skepticism a thought crime and banned it from their site in 2019. Here is a short extract of the article on the question of battery storage:

Battery costs have been falling steadily and tend to be most competitive for storage electricity for less than eight hours. South Australia’s big battery (officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve) is the most obvious example.

Notice the phrase, "less than eight hours." How many hours could that be? Seven? Six? The Hornsdale battery was the largest lithium-ion battery in the world when installed in 2017. Since then it has lost its place in the world rankings, but nevertheless was expanded in 2020. It can now provide 194 megawatt hours (MWh) of electric power. On average, South Australia used 1,457 MW of power each hour in 2019-20. On those figures, the expanded battery could power the state for less than nine minutes. And then, what’s often missed, it has to be charged up again. Too bad if one wind drought quickly follows another. Nine minutes becomes zero minutes.

Another "extremely big battery" is on the way curtesy of the power company AGL, which shut down the Liddell coal power station in the state of New South Wales (NSW) on April 28. The battery, to be installed on the Liddell site, will supply 2,000 MWh, it is claimed. Incidentally, so far as I can determine, this is bigger than the biggest storage battery in the world at Moss Landing, California, currently able to store 1,600 MWh; though plans are afoot, apparently, to add another 1,400 MWh. And, thought-crime query, what exactly is the cost of these gigantic batteries? Don’t mention the cost.

Perspective: When fully operational, the Liddell coal power station had the capacity to provide 2,000 megawatts continuously, not just for one paltry hour. The planned battery is inconsequential when matched against the closure of Liddell. Yet the two events are deceptively juxtaposed.

Whether it’s about soaring electricity costs, or about the feasibility of running the grid on intermittent wind and solar power, or about the severe limitations of energy storage, we are being lied to. The numbers speak for themselves. At question in my mind is whether climate cultists are all duplicitous. In other words, are they all knowingly lying? Perhaps not. Perhaps some of them are under a devilish spell cast en masse by some hypnotic personality. Greta Thunberg? Herr Schwab? António Guterres? That would account for their shameless promotion of crackpot ideas. It’s happened before.

After a career in economics, banking and payment-systems management, Peter Smith now blogs on the topics of the day. He writes for Quadrant, Australia’s leading conservative online site and magazine. He has written Bad Economics, of which, he notes, there is much.


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