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Renewing the renewable energy debate

Kim Fischer 24 August 2017 80

wind

Regardless of whether you think that using clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar is the “right” thing to do for our environment, within a few years it’s going to be the smart thing to do financially.

Renewable energy has become a hot topic for both Federal and ACT politicians. The Federal Government has directed the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to stop investing in rooftop solar and wind farms, with Joe Hockey chiming in to the debate with complaints about the aesthetics of the wind farm at Lake George.

Meanwhile, Bill Shorten has just announced that the Federal ALP will adopt a target of 50 per cent renewable energy for Australia by 2030.

Initiatives to increase renewable energy use often face scare campaigns about the high costs of adoption. However, these campaigns ignore the incredibly rapid improvements in renewable energy technology. Just in the last five years wind power generation costs have dropped by more than half, and solar generation costs have dropped by nearly 80 per cent.

Wind power generation costs are now almost identical to coal and in the best case scenarios, substantially cheaper. While rooftop solar installations still require a substantial feed-in tariff to be financially attractive, larger “utility-scale” solar installations are cost-competitive. With innovations like the 1.5MW solar power plant in a box, solar power today is a simple and scalable way for countries to increase their power generation capacity.

The second common objection to renewable power is that it cannot be a base load power source – that is, to provide continuous energy at low cost. However, wind farms spread over a large geographic area are actually a very consistent power supply because there is always wind somewhere. Solar power also works well because the sun shines brightest during peak periods of electricity usage. New technologies such as molten salt thermal storage are also proving to be an effective way to store excess solar power for delivery to properties at night.

The ACT Labor Government is leading the country with its goal of getting 90 per cent of Canberra’s power from renewable energy by 2020. The Government already purchases power from a number of solar and wind power sources, with the locally built utility-scale Royalla Solar Farm opening in September last year.

After a second Australia-wide auction to purchase additional wind energy, two-thirds of Canberra’s energy will come from wind and solar power sources. Even once 90 per cent of Canberra’s power comes from renewable sources, household power bills are only predicted to rise modestly, with household energy-efficiency initiatives helping to offset the impact of price rises.

When it comes to renewable energy, it is now clear that Tony Abbott and the Liberals are on the wrong side of history. Given that the cost of wind and solar power will continue to decrease, within 15-20 years the debate on whether renewable energy is a good idea or not will seem as old-fashioned as anyone who thought the introduction of universal health care was a bad idea.


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rubaiyat rubaiyat 7:47 am 27 Jul 15

All common sense and readily researchable.

There are however powerful forces behind the disinformation campaigns, which are especially effective with old conservative men with limited scientific education, whose financial interests are affected, which includes our present government and major media owners who love controlling those governments.

The problem is not with the science, which is well established by now, it is psychological, with no way you are ever going to change the mind of people who are never going to listen to any reasoned argument or proof.

We have to get get rid of the politicians who are so cynically causing the problems and keep hitting all the lies and massively funded disinformation on the head every time it pops up as it always does. Never with any hard facts just with endless references to ever more obscure faux references that make a load, ignorant and well funded minority sound more important than they really are.

dungfungus dungfungus 8:39 am 27 Jul 15

As you are aware, I am one of those old conservative men with limited scientific education (but probably more than most who don’t have a formal degree in one of the science areas).
I do not have any financial interests that are affected by whatever you are alluding to and I can assure you I am not well funded like the political parties that support the climate change industry.
Whatever way you present your case, there is no “reasoned argument or proof” that our climate is changing because of any reason other than climate, by nature, changes constantly.
Computer modelling is not proof of anything and this alone is what the climate change industry relies on.
I don’t warm to your disrespect of old people either – you should remember that people like me have observed the climate longer than people like you and we don’t see the changes that have been predicted by “experts” that have vested interests in the climate change industry.
Regarding “ignorant faux references”, here’s one you will love. The first electricity generating wind turbine was invented by an old mining engineer (Charles F. Brush).

dungfungus dungfungus 8:52 am 27 Jul 15

Given that you are aspiring to become a Labor MLA Kim, and your post supporting renewable energy comes so soon after the Federal Labor conference confirmed its policy of embracing renewables, how does the Labor Party plan to deal with the problems that were created when Spain and Italy made huge commitments to that industry?
https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/mafia-multinationals-milk-italys-green-072916631.html

rubaiyat rubaiyat 9:03 am 27 Jul 15

dungfungus said :

Given that you are aspiring to become a Labor MLA Kim, and your post supporting renewable energy comes so soon after the Federal Labor conference confirmed its policy of embracing renewables, how does the Labor Party plan to deal with the problems that were created when Spain and Italy made huge commitments to that industry?
https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/mafia-multinationals-milk-italys-green-072916631.html

More to the point, as you seem to be running for a position with the Conservative Parties or the Fossil Fuel Lobby, how do you propose to deal with the immense problems that will flow on from burning massive amounts of fossil fuels with their huge increase in C02 emissions?

If you are going to give us references to irrelevant or pseudo science references, that sweep the problem under the carpet, could you do us the favour of actually explaining what they have to do with the real issues.

rubaiyat rubaiyat 9:09 am 27 Jul 15

Interesting link.

I fail to see where it mentions Spain, and seeing the Mafia has its fingers in everything in Italy, right down to garbage collection, the problem is the usual Italian problem nothing to do with renewable energy as to suggest.

Particularly where the last reference to gas drilling (fracking?) has absolutely nothing to do with renewables.

dungfungus do you have any particular objection to the corruption surrounding coal extraction in this country which is far more relevant?

dungfungus dungfungus 9:40 am 27 Jul 15

rubaiyat said :

dungfungus said :

Given that you are aspiring to become a Labor MLA Kim, and your post supporting renewable energy comes so soon after the Federal Labor conference confirmed its policy of embracing renewables, how does the Labor Party plan to deal with the problems that were created when Spain and Italy made huge commitments to that industry?
https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/mafia-multinationals-milk-italys-green-072916631.html

More to the point, as you seem to be running for a position with the Conservative Parties or the Fossil Fuel Lobby, how do you propose to deal with the immense problems that will flow on from burning massive amounts of fossil fuels with their huge increase in C02 emissions?

If you are going to give us references to irrelevant or pseudo science references, that sweep the problem under the carpet, could you do us the favour of actually explaining what they have to do with the real issues.

Thanks for answering the question I specifically directed to the OP.
No, I am not nominating for the Conservative Parties or Fossil Fuel Lobby (I am a fossil already).
The world has been burning massive amounts of fossil fuels for centuries and there has been no change to the climate so what is the problem you see?

vintage123 vintage123 9:45 am 27 Jul 15

Interestingly the capital wind farm located on the doorstep of the ACT feeds absolutely zero into the ACT grid. It is fed directly into Sydney’s desalination plant.

The other point is that these huge projects are owned by overseas companies and investors. They are significantly subsidised by taxpayers, yet all of the profits go offshore.

Your articles mentions nothing about tidal and geo thermal technologies.

I am not against renewable energy, but let’s get some business 101 happening, by empowering australian innovation and business, especially if it includes generous subsidies which the tax payer has to pay for twice.

dungfungus dungfungus 9:50 am 27 Jul 15

rubaiyat said :

Interesting link.

I fail to see where it mentions Spain, and seeing the Mafia has its fingers in everything in Italy, right down to garbage collection, the problem is the usual Italian problem nothing to do with renewable energy as to suggest.

Particularly where the last reference to gas drilling (fracking?) has absolutely nothing to do with renewables.

dungfungus do you have any particular objection to the corruption surrounding coal extraction in this country which is far more relevant?

You could have checked it out yourself.
http://www.energytribune.com/5597/mafia-hits-eu-wind-subsidies#sthash.4Ztu6AGV.dpbs
Now, please tell me all about corruption involving coal extraction in Australia.
BTW, you can’t class the Maitland/Obeid/NSW Labor Government cases as corruption because the mines involved never went into production so no extraction occurred.

dungfungus dungfungus 9:55 am 27 Jul 15

vintage123 said :

Interestingly the capital wind farm located on the doorstep of the ACT feeds absolutely zero into the ACT grid. It is fed directly into Sydney’s desalination plant.

The other point is that these huge projects are owned by overseas companies and investors. They are significantly subsidised by taxpayers, yet all of the profits go offshore.

Your articles mentions nothing about tidal and geo thermal technologies.

I am not against renewable energy, but let’s get some business 101 happening, by empowering australian innovation and business, especially if it includes generous subsidies which the tax payer has to pay for twice.

Do you mean this desalination plant?
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-27/nsw-desalination-plant-deal-costing-customers-10-billion/4985168
This is what happens when Labor governments believe the warmist lobby.

vintage123 vintage123 10:40 am 27 Jul 15

dungfungus said :

vintage123 said :

Interestingly the capital wind farm located on the doorstep of the ACT feeds absolutely zero into the ACT grid. It is fed directly into Sydney’s desalination plant.

The other point is that these huge projects are owned by overseas companies and investors. They are significantly subsidised by taxpayers, yet all of the profits go offshore.

Your articles mentions nothing about tidal and geo thermal technologies.

I am not against renewable energy, but let’s get some business 101 happening, by empowering australian innovation and business, especially if it includes generous subsidies which the tax payer has to pay for twice.

Do you mean this desalination plant?
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-27/nsw-desalination-plant-deal-costing-customers-10-billion/4985168
This is what happens when Labor governments believe the warmist lobby.

Yep, that’s the one. Capitals tax payer funded power feeds directly to it, whilst it sits there and does sweet nothings whilst chewing up more tax payers money, waiting on additional tax payers money etc etc.

If I was a renewable power molecule I would be exhausted by the time I turned up for work, weighed down by monumental travel and triple tax subsidies……………..surely there’s a better way.

Grail Grail 11:15 am 27 Jul 15

That is not how electricity works :\

justsomeaussie justsomeaussie 11:52 am 27 Jul 15

Why not approach the climate argument a different way and remove the ideological baggage.

Since the overwhelming majority of climate scientists (scientists who study the climate) believe in man made global warming to deny their findings is to believe in a global conspiracy amongst scientists.

So if we looked at this from another angle what if the overwhelming majority of cancer scientists (scientists who study cancer) advised that compound X was cancer causing. If that happened we’d quickly see governments and communities move to remove it and we have many examples of exactly this.

Now in medicine we can all agree that there are huge financial incentives and motivations for people to push non scientific data for other motivations; think tobacco companies hiding cancer causing substances and many of the large pharmaceutical companies thinking of their own best interests.

So despite this situation Governments and people can see past it all and trust that our leading scientists are reporting information as close to factual as they know it.

And yet in the climate change debate we don’t see it. The detractors don’t trust the experts and refer consistently to non scientists and/or scientists who don’t study the climate or fringe outliers.

If we (the public) were to apply their level of scepticism to any other industry we’d still be in the dark ages.

Basically I have yet to find a climate change denier who also didn’t believe that any form of environmentalism is a form of socialism and who believes in global conspiracies.

Or more simply ask them “what evidence do they require to be wrong”.

chewy14 chewy14 12:04 pm 27 Jul 15

Grail said :

That is not how electricity works :\

C’mon, yes it is. It’s not like we have a national energy grid or anything.

I think vintage may be confused that the wind farm was built as an renewable energy offset to the electricity that would have been used by the desal plant if it was operating.

Maya123 Maya123 12:55 pm 27 Jul 15

justsomeaussie said :

Why not approach the climate argument a different way and remove the ideological baggage.

Since the overwhelming majority of climate scientists (scientists who study the climate) believe in man made global warming to deny their findings is to believe in a global conspiracy amongst scientists.

So if we looked at this from another angle what if the overwhelming majority of cancer scientists (scientists who study cancer) advised that compound X was cancer causing. If that happened we’d quickly see governments and communities move to remove it and we have many examples of exactly this.

Now in medicine we can all agree that there are huge financial incentives and motivations for people to push non scientific data for other motivations; think tobacco companies hiding cancer causing substances and many of the large pharmaceutical companies thinking of their own best interests.

So despite this situation Governments and people can see past it all and trust that our leading scientists are reporting information as close to factual as they know it.

And yet in the climate change debate we don’t see it. The detractors don’t trust the experts and refer consistently to non scientists and/or scientists who don’t study the climate or fringe outliers.

If we (the public) were to apply their level of scepticism to any other industry we’d still be in the dark ages.

Basically I have yet to find a climate change denier who also didn’t believe that any form of environmentalism is a form of socialism and who believes in global conspiracies.

Or more simply ask them “what evidence do they require to be wrong”.

Well put.

chewy14 chewy14 1:21 pm 27 Jul 15

justsomeaussie said :

Why not approach the climate argument a different way and remove the ideological baggage.

Since the overwhelming majority of climate scientists (scientists who study the climate) believe in man made global warming to deny their findings is to believe in a global conspiracy amongst scientists.

So if we looked at this from another angle what if the overwhelming majority of cancer scientists (scientists who study cancer) advised that compound X was cancer causing. If that happened we’d quickly see governments and communities move to remove it and we have many examples of exactly this.

Now in medicine we can all agree that there are huge financial incentives and motivations for people to push non scientific data for other motivations; think tobacco companies hiding cancer causing substances and many of the large pharmaceutical companies thinking of their own best interests.

So despite this situation Governments and people can see past it all and trust that our leading scientists are reporting information as close to factual as they know it.

And yet in the climate change debate we don’t see it. The detractors don’t trust the experts and refer consistently to non scientists and/or scientists who don’t study the climate or fringe outliers.

If we (the public) were to apply their level of scepticism to any other industry we’d still be in the dark ages.

Basically I have yet to find a climate change denier who also didn’t believe that any form of environmentalism is a form of socialism and who believes in global conspiracies.

Or more simply ask them “what evidence do they require to be wrong”.

There’s a few problems with this.

Firstly, you’re talking about extremely complex non linear systems when talking about climate and even the experts are never 100% on their predictions. They give ranges and probabilities for the effects of climate change which vary depending on the models being used.

With your example of cancer scientists, it would be like finding a product that everybody uses daily probably causes cancer. There’s no way that the product would be banned or removed from use as quickly as you suggest. There would be a very detailed comparison of the risks of the product versus the benefits flowing from it’s use before any decision was made on appropriate action.

Secondly, climate change is a global problem that will require a global solution. Anything we do here won’t make an overall difference if we can’t agree globally to solve the problem. Once again with your cancer example, it would be the equivalent of not using the cancer causing product in your own house even if it wouldn’t have an effect on the chance of getting cancer rate unless your neighbours ban it too. You’d be making your own life more difficult for very little benefit.

Note that when coming up with solutions we also have to deal with the potential problems and risks that are inherent in the solutions. For example, you need to weigh up the costs of the solutions and whether or not you might actually cause poverty and death by transitioning to a low carbon economy. How do we make a global solution fair for developing economies?

There are solutions out there but I don’t believe pretending it’s a simple problem with a simple solution is the way to go.

vintage123 vintage123 1:42 pm 27 Jul 15

chewy14 said :

Grail said :

That is not how electricity works :\

C’mon, yes it is. It’s not like we have a national energy grid or anything.

I think vintage may be confused that the wind farm was built as an renewable energy offset to the electricity that would have been used by the desal plant if it was operating.

I fairly certain there are no contracts between capital wind farm and the ACT. The contract mechanism is the only way the power is accessed. I could be wrong, but the contract still remains with the desal plant and even though the power is not used we are still paying for it. Any excess power on the national grid needs a contract to access. ACT have set up contracts with two victorian and one SA wind farm, however during that process capital wind farm was non competative and no agreement was sought.

I still believe that zero power from the capital wind farm goes to the ACT.

Southmouth Southmouth 1:55 pm 27 Jul 15

AEMO has recently released an interesting paper on emerging technologies. Available on their website. Once domestic battery technology is cheap enough to make financial sense to punters, then and only then will there be an alternative to coal. Solar is almost useless for supplying winter peak loads and cold cloudy or foggy days often have no wind or sun.

justsomeaussie justsomeaussie 1:56 pm 27 Jul 15

So you’ve failed to address anything and simply adopt the position of “this is very hard let’s not do anything”.

What I was addressing which I outlined in the first paragraph is the cognitive biases that come with discussing things like climate change because many many people bring baggage (both for and against) to the discussion.

So I made an attempt to draw an analogy that we don’t see the levels of distrust in scientists who study cancer as we do in climate change. For obvious reasons those with financial interests have done a very good job in promoting distrust in professionals who’ve spent their life studying one branch of society. As I pointed out we saw this in the past when cancer concerns were hidden from public view due to the financial interests pushing their own pseudoscience.

And yet for some reason there are all many of people who come out of the woodwork who are willing to provide their “informed” opinion on the science of anthropogenic climate change and yet if we asked them about gene therapy for example they’d likely bow out and refer to an expert. It’s nothing more than a dunning kruger effect where the uninformed consider themselves very knowledgeable without actually being in the field of study being discussed.

Simply put when you want to get your car fixed do you take it to your accountant or your mechanic? Your accountant may wax lyrical about how awesome his volvo is but you’d likely be better off taking advice of someone trained in the field and when 97% of mechanics recommend something it’s reasonable to assume there is some merit to it.

So again I ask the detractors “what evidence do you need to be wrong about man made climate change”. If you can’t answer this easily you are as dogmatic as someone who blows themselves up for religion.

I’ll answer on my side is that I’d need a majority of climate scientists to come out and admit that they got it all wrong and that man made climate change isn’t real. Since I’m not arrogant enough to say that I could understand PhD level climate science I’m happy to defer to those that do have expertise.

watto23 watto23 3:11 pm 27 Jul 15

dungfungus said :

The world has been burning massive amounts of fossil fuels for centuries and there has been no change to the climate so what is the problem you see?

What about the fact that burning fossil fuels is polluting the area. Digging up coal is an eyesore as well. IMO even if climate change isn’t man made, avoiding both of those is a really good idea. Also coal is a limited resource. We’ll run out of it one day. Now in your own words you are already a fossil, so its perfectly ok to keep digging up the coal and burning it until you pass on and let the next generation deal with the issues. Coal generated electricity can only go up in price in the long term. Just like other fossil fuels have gone up in price over the years, so will coal.

watto23 watto23 3:17 pm 27 Jul 15

Southmouth said :

AEMO has recently released an interesting paper on emerging technologies. Available on their website. Once domestic battery technology is cheap enough to make financial sense to punters, then and only then will there be an alternative to coal. Solar is almost useless for supplying winter peak loads and cold cloudy or foggy days often have no wind or sun.

Land based wind is currently around the same ballpark cost as burning coal. Of course the issue with wind is, if it ain’t windy there is no energy. Same for sun without sunlight and these arguments are used all the time in various moronic arguments. But even if we reduced our coal burning in half, it would be a significant step in the right direction.

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