In Oz, Another Green Scheme Perishes
Another staggeringly expensive green scheme is in its death throes in the land of drought and flooding rains. Snowy 2.0 is an Australian (government owned) pumped hydro project designed to fill in when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Politics began it; reality will end it. Ostensibly, it’s meant to deliver 2GW of power for up to 175 hours. Even if that were true, which it’s not, it hardly stacks up against the imminent closure (end of April) of the Liddell coal power station. That station can produce 2GW of power continuously all year round. But, even on its own terms, Snowy 2.0 is seriously over-hyped.
For example, the lower reservoir (“Talbingo”) from which the water is pumped is only two-thirds the size of the upper reservoir (“Tantangara”). Once the upper reservoir is drained it can only be filled two-thirds its capacity, and thus can deliver only two-thirds of the power claimed. Duh! An obvious point about which those in charge are obtusely oblivious. For other technical reasons, as an engineer explains, the actual deliverable power will be far less than that; apparently, down at times to as little as 40GWh.
When it was politically divined in 2017 by former, self-proclaimed, “nation-building” prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, it was to be completed by 2021 at a cost of two billion Australian dollars. Some optimists now say it will be finished in 2027 at a cost of $10 billion. Some realists say much later and $20 billion. It’s academic. As sure as eggs is eggs, it’ll never be finished.
Longstanding CEO Paul Broad quit last August. One of its major construction contractors went bankrupt. The three boring machines on site are making glacial progress. One, which should by now be 9 kilometres into its the 17 kilometre journey, is bogged down after just 200 metres. At this rate it will take 70 years to finish the job. Hapless Chris Bowen, federal minister for Climate Change and Energy, says that the project “won’t be canned.” A kiss of death, if ever there is one.
And, if all that isn’t trouble enough, environmentalists don’t like swathes of parkland being cleared for new transmission lines to connect it up. To boot, the National Parks Association of NSW is worried about noxious pests being spread throughout the local river system:Save the trout!
Scientific experts have warned that if the massive Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro development goes ahead it will spread noxious pests, weeds and diseases throughout the alpine river system… causing catastrophic damage to aquatic environments, commercial fish farms and recreational fishing.
Finally, workers on site are being fed steak au maggot, which neither they nor their union are savouring. Evidently, and unaccountably, insect eating has not yet caught on outside of Hollywood. Advice to Mr. Bowen. Take a leaf out of the playbook of Trump-blaming Dems. Act quickly to can the project while Turnbull can still be blamed with a straight face.
A twofold takeaway. Subsidized into being via an ideological-cum-political agenda based on shonky science, green-energy projects are perforce unhinged from commercial realities. Second, throwing money at something doesn’t necessarily get it done. It’s a species of money illusion (mistaking money for physical assets and goods) to think it will. Just maybe geology won’t lend itself to successful tunnelling for Snowy 2.0; at least within our lifetimes. Many a political promise and grand scheme succumb to money illusion.
One of the promises of the incoming government in Australia was that a registered nurse would be present 24x7 in every aged-care home. Real life intervenes. No amount of money conjures up nurses overnight. Another quixotic political promise bites the dust.