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Why the federal government has failed at solar

The newly appointed CEO of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, the venture capital fund manager Ivor Frischknecht, will have plenty on his desk when he turns up for his first day at work in Melbourne next month. And the largest of a multitude of proposals will be the $1.2 billion Solar Dawn project in Queensland, closely followed by a handful of other rejected and unsuccessful Solar Flagships ideas.

The Solar Dawn consortium was putting on a brave face on Monday after it failed to get a power purchase agreement and the state government used the opportunity to pull its $75 million share of the funding. Effectively, though, as a flagships project it is already dead. The federal government has passed the dossier to ARENA, and the PR campaign being launched by Solar Dawn is about trying to ensure it sits at the head of the queue when Frischknecht and his colleagues assess how they will disburse the $3.2 billion at their disposal.

The Queensland decision allowed Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson to take the moral high ground and chastise the Campbel Newman government for “letting slip” the opportunity to be a world leader in the development of solar thermal. But Ferguson should read his own words carefully, because no party is more responsible for letting slip opportunities on leadership in the solar field than the federal government itself. It will go to the 2013 election with not a single panel or heliostat installed from its $1.5 billion Solar Flagships program, despite more than 50 projects worth some $80 billion jostling for a bite of the action when it was first announced in 2009.

That’s a shocking indictment on the government. Just one project, AGL’s 150MW solar PV facility at Broken Hill and Nyngan, will be built with flagships funding, but it will have to take its place in the queue of AGL projects and that company’s need for renewable energy certificates (pretty much defeating the point of the whole flagships exercise) and will not begin construction for another two years. The tragedy is that the government’s inability to create an effective scheme has tarnished the image of large-scale solar projects — when it has been clear to all that either smaller-scale projects, or differing mechanisms such as reverse auctions, could have produced a much different result. Hopefully, ARENA has absorbed those lessons.

Hark, a solar PPA is signed

Given that the Solar Dawn project — and the Moree Solar project before it — failed to get power purchase agreements from any utilities or energy retailers, we thought it would be useful to show that PPAs for solar do actually exist. Well, there is at least one that we know of, apart from the internal one written by two AGL subsidiaries for the flagships PV project. We can’t show the actual document, because that was commercial in confidence.

The details of the PPA to take power from Silex’s 600kW concentrated solar PV testing facility were not revealed, but we do understand that it was somewhere between Silex’s estimates of its current levelised cost of energy (15c-20c/kWh), and where it thinks it will be in a few years (around 10c/kWh). Which is information enough to tell us that Diamond has at least recognised the daytime value of the solar power and paid beyond the normal wholesale market average.

Diamond Energy chief Tony Sennitt told RenewEconomy after the signing that such a deal would not have been worth the trouble for a large retailer, but Diamond now has a growing portfolio of green-only PPAs that it uses to service its customer base of several thousand businesses. “It’s meaningful for our business, but for (larger utilities) it would be just a hassle,” he said. Still, progress all the same.

Will the government get the message on solar PV?

The federal government is still trying to get its mind around the impact and potential of solar PV, and failing miserably. In a revealing interview with the AFR on the weekend, Climate Change Minister Greg Combet said: “What is important in the transformation of the energy sector is large-scale renewable energy,” and then suggested that the small-scale renewable scheme could be wound up, an issue he took up later when describing the abatement costs of solar PV subsidies as more than $400/tonne.

There’s a couple of problems here. First of all, it ignores the forecasts of the Australian Energy Market Operator, which predicts that that rooftop solar in Australia could be producing 28,000 gigawatt hours of electricity by 2031, not far short of the 41,000 gigawatt hours to be produced by large-scale renewables by that date. Private forecasts, suggest that level within a decade. And the significance is that most households would care little about where the grid-connected electricity comes from by that time, because it is the rooftop solar that will be delivering their own cost savings, even without subsidies at that time. In turn, that is delivering abatement at a “negative cost” — unlocking some $30 billion in emissions-reducing technology, and delivering energy savings to households.

It is strange that the politicians on either side have failed to seize the importance of this. The public certainly have, which is why inquiries to solar installers are at record levels. And what was the top-ranking story on News Ltd’s Adelaide Now website on the day that the carbon tax was introduced? A story about how solar could reduce energy costs by half. An heroic prediction maybe, but it’s captured the interest of the public, if not the political class. It’s seems an obvious message to sell for the Clean Energy Future.

Why Japan is the land of the rising sun

The world’s third biggest economy is tipped to emerge as the world’s third biggest solar PV market, courtesy of the generous feed-in tariffs (40 yen/kWh) announced by the government last month. Solar PV is one of the three pillars of Japan’s new energy policy, along with gas and energy efficiency. It aims to have 28GW of solar PV installed by 2020 (from 1.3GW at the end of 2011), which means its market size will rise at least five fold to a run-rate of at least 4GW a year in the next 18 months.

Deutsche Bank made some interesting observations about why solar will appeal in Japan. First, there is the strong anti-nuclear sentiment among consumers. Secondly, there is the attractive returns for non-residential solar systems. Japan’s balance of system costs are currently rated at about $3.50/watt, but this is tipped to fall sharply to as low as $1.90/W within 18 months.

That will be delivering internal rates of returns for solar PV investors of at least 15%, Deutsche Bank estimates. This could occur even with a 20% reduction in the FiTs. This compares to bond yields in the low single digits. The main impediments to the market? Finding enough land and electrical engineers to meet demand. Still, Softbank this week announced it will build Japan’s largest solar PV plant to date, a 111MW facility in Hokkaido. It will be built a full year before Australia’s first plant of similar scale is completed.

*This article was first published at RenewEconomy

45
  • 1
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    (Japan) is tipped to emerge as the world’s third biggest solar PV market, courtesy of the generous feed-in tariffs (40 yen/kWh) announced by the government last month.”

    Exactly. Massive subsidies. Driven by a country traumatised by nuclear disaster, a country with close to zero fossil fuels…

    The same subsidies which are being rolled back rapidly in Australia and the rest of the world.

    Parkinson floats in an economic and technological fantasy world…

  • 2
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    And note that AGL was one of the handful of companies advertising this week in favour of the carbon tax: AGL and most of the others (such as Vestas) are beneficiaries of renewables subsidies. Solar will go nowhere, as even Parkinson realises, but billions could yet be wasted on redundant, harmful wind turbines…

  • 3
    GeeWizz
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Solar is only going to work if the Feed In Tarriff is significantly higher than cost of electricity.

    That either means increasing coal power prices or subsidising solar

  • 4
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    There, surely, is no need to distinguish between Solar PV and Solar Thermal.
    Unless someone from Ffrank’s fantasy land is pushing Lunar PV then we can safely assume that the
    photons in the PV installations are in fact coming from the SUN!
    So please, just PV, or to help the upcoming generations who have to learn new things Photo Voltaics.
    This a mindless descent into unnecessary jargon.” Solar” PV, Why? Beyond cretinous!

  • 5
    macadamia man
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    The world’s third biggest economy is tipped to emerge as the world’s third biggest solar PV market, courtesy of the generous feed-in tariffs (40 yen/kWh) announced by the government last month. “

    This would be be a more useful sentence if it had been converted to Australian dollars. Thirty seconds with my desktop abacus gives just over A 48c / Kwh. That’s even better than the 44c / Kwh figure stripped from new home solar PV installers by the incoming coal-friendly Queensland administration just last week.

    Clearly the slow-burn climate disaster of favouring coal generated energy has produced less impact in Queensland than Fukushima has in Japan.

  • 6
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Twisting his logic and avoiding the facts, as usual, Giles has again forecast a rosy future for small scale PV. This is despite his own examples indicating that the inbuilt carbon avoidance price for PV in the Japanese example he provided demonstrate conclusively that the Japanese are set to waste a monumental amount of money chasing a dream.

    Giles hates engineering talk, such as return on investment and comparison prices for various alternatives, so remind readers that the two most significant figures are:
    1. The LCOE, or Levellised Cost Of Electricity. This is the internationally accepted method of calculating comparisons for various energy options. PV is generally stone motherless last against its competitors, whether renewable or not.
    2. The abatement cost per tonne of CO2-e. Comparison of the $400 per tonne figure quoted above with the newly applicable carbon cost of $23 indicates that there is a very long road to travel before the gap can be bridged via PV.

    It’s long past time that the community demanded that all low carbon energy options be considered, because PV will not and cannot get us across the line affordably.

    It’s akin to using a pushbike to help power a train and then claiming that less deisel has been used. Hypothetical? Yes. Practical? Not on your Nelly.

  • 7
    gapot
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    The federal government should never get involved in trying to pick winners in any field. Every time they do they waste huge amounts of money which should be invested in infrastructure. They tried to save KODAK in Victoria only to find that film production was last century tech. I cant think of any federal funded project being worth while apart from their vote buying schemes.

  • 8
    Jim McDonald
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    As a matter of policy, solar energy has to be encouraged both domestically and in large scale commercial projects. The growing success of incentives for household PV systems has created problems in diminishing demand for energy from coal-fired generating bodies through reducing income and the increasing feed-in tariff commitments. Campbell Newman’s announcement to reducefeed-in payments by 82% for capacity produced by households can be seen as an outright cynical commercial exercise by the Queensland Government. But it is also an ideological stance undermining the renewable energy sector in Queensland by withdrawing any certainty that might have existed for investment in post-carbon solutions in the State .

  • 9
    kd
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Oh Frank Frank Frank,

    Let me spell it out for you. Generous feed in tarifs create demand. Demand creates economy of scale. Economy of scale reduces prices. Reducing prices lessens the need for subsidy.

    The situation in Australia right now is that domestic PV is viable with SSRECs or whatever they’re called will pay itself back within 10 years (probably quicker). With a fair feed in tarrif (the full retail price seems fair to my mind) that’s going to be quicker still. Economies of scale causing reduced prices for hardware and installation are the major driver of small scale PV right now.

    It’s not like fossil fuel interests aren’t heavily subsidised (and I guess their externailities are being paid for more now then it was but only a bit), so give the subsidy bleating irellevance a rest.

  • 10
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    KD, KD, KD:

    Wrong, wrong, wrong.

  • 11
    Gocomsys
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    KD Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 5:34 pm |

    Generous feed in tarifs create demand. Demand creates economy of scale. Economy of scale

    reduces prices. Reducing prices lessens the need for subsidy.

    Carbon pricing has commenced. It is understandably pretty difficult for Frank and John to comprehend the constructive influence this will have over time. Ross Garnaut on Lateline the other day provided a great summary.

    KD, KD, KD:

    Right, right, right.

  • 12
    Gocomsys
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I find it interesting that every comment by Frank is inevitably dismissive of someone or something. These posters will almost always fail in the creative quest of positive forward projection. Ultimately his conclusions end up with the status quo afte the motto “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” or “she’ll be right mate”. Tunnel vision per excellence and lack of imagination indeed.
    Let me convey my compliments for well formulated posts who unfortunately achieve nothing productive at all at the end.
    Reminiscent of someone with the display name of “freecountry” some time ago! Beautifully constructed posts and virtually no substance or usefulness at all.

    Oh Frank Frank Frank.

  • 13
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Posters could cut JB a break and address his call for all low carbon energy options to be considered.
    One PV problem saw press reports that grid operators were finding their capacity to accept increased PV input was being overwhelmed and to overcome this with appropriate technology would incurr costs which must necessarilly reduce the price which could be paid for said PV energy.
    Read it twice, or even more, if you do not understand the first time it is read, a bit of intellectual stamina is worth developing, you will find the costs reducing with practice.
    I was astounded to realise that the 80% of incoming solar radiation in the form of heat is being routinely ignored, four times the energy available to the most efficient PV which while developed for use in Space was, after all first developed as a detector for much amplified radar (way back) reflections and not for power at all.
    Domestic PV panels were always overpriced in the market compared to their production costs because an impressionable but essentially innumerate class of fashionable consumers were prepared
    to bear high costs for the sake of “fashion”.
    God forbid that these characters ever engage a professional advisor who actually understands energy.
    Well do you punks? Solicitors, Accountants routinely consulted but when it comes to engineering or even basic physics everyone is suddenly equal?
    Oh wankers, wankers, wankers.

  • 14
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    KD/geo: ” Generous feed in tarifs create demand. Demand creates economy of scale. Economy of scale reduces prices. Reducing prices lessens the need for subsidy”

    Such embarrassing naivete: imagining that prayer-wheel repetition of an elementary economic mantra illuminates the clogged, opaque mess that is energy policy today, trapped as it is in the inanities of the climate cult, the Gillard bog, Monty Python’s flying carbon tax, the glassy stare of Mad Monk, raucous “renewable energy” carpet-baggers, a frenzied fossil fuel boom, declining power demand, global recession, a straining property bubble, the primal screams of an unconsummated Jones, the slobbering of Jurassic mining monsters tearing at media carcasses…

    Well frack me dead, guys, if only I realised that solar panels would save the day…

  • 15
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Goco: “I find it interesting that every comment by Frank is inevitably dismissive of someone or something”

    You have a point. My role here is to expose the pretensions and absurdities of the climate cult and its derivatives. Until this suppurating, suffocating mass is removed, none of you will be remotely interested in “positive forward projections”, as you clumsily put it.

    As I’ve often said here, a decade of the naked priest will force the Left and the Greens to reinvent themselves.

    Call back then.

  • 16
    Lord Barry Bonkton
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Frank Wizz , i have a 1.9 kw with a 3kw inverter and it tells me its totally knocked my Av. useage 7 .49 kw/hr and are waiting for my 1st bill or cheque ? My bill is around $170.00 - 190 a quarter .I have had a solar hot water system for 15 years +. I am getting 44cents from the govt. and 6 cents from Energex ( Wires and poles ). At that rate , will own 3-4 yrs and then FREE POWER and Free Hot Water. Solar power is made many in Peak zones , so peak prices should be payed. Solar is just taking some of Coals Cream and they don’t like it.

  • 17
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Lord Bazza: can’t imagine why you’d think I’m against solar per se. Solar hot water has been around for many years- efficient.
    I’ve been tempted often to cash in on the feed-in subsidies and put panels on our roof, but that would be ripping off everyone else- at 44 cents or even a lot less. And we all know these feed-in tariffs are being slashed everywhere…

    When the subsidies are eliminated, I’ll probably go solar- mainly because we can’t stand utility companies…having said that, we use little power because it’s bottled gas for cooking here and wood ‘n jumpers for heating…

  • 18
    Harry1951
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    John Bennetts: why is KD wrong, wrong, wrong. Just saying so does not really convince me for some reason. Please support your assertions with argument, references and/or logic. Alternatively, refrain from commenting.

  • 19
    John Bennetts
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    @ Harry 1951.

    Self evident, my dear.

    Wrong #1: Increased scale may reduce average price, but as I said above, PV is many times more expensive on a lifetime basis than some other low carbon options.

    Wrong#2: The assumption that feed-in tariffs are appropriate, even though they are several times the value of the energy content of the PV power, is false and unfair to all other users of electricity, who are forced to pay for this huge subsidy. Unfair behaviour, in Oz-speak, is never acceptable, solar PV or not. This is so, even before adjusting downwards to account for the unreliability of this energy source and the cost of the duplication which is needed in order to provide a stable grid for all customers - including the lucky, preferentially treated spongers who receive the benefit of the feed-in tariffs.

    Wrong #3: Claims that fossil fuels are heavily subsidised are frequently heard. However, these are not substantiated by those who make these claims and are unsupportable when exposed to analysis. PV, in particular, is very highly subsidised.

    In general, these subsidies include government subsidies such as the failed Solar Flagships or the promised Renewable Energy Agency - a multi-billion gift to political correctness and poll-driven decision making. They also include hidden multi-billion dollar subsidies via mandated “renewable” targets and FiT’s, both of which would be better spent on education, so that fewer Australians would be sucked into believing that this money didn’t com e from their own pockets.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    I really shouldn’t have to spell this argument out. Educated and rational readers would deduce this for themselves, as is evident from many comments thus far on this thread.

    What I do not see on this thread is rational support for opinion which opposes mine.

    Further reading? Try the following, especially the bits where the real cost of Germany’s power policies are discussed.

    See, for example, http://www.coolibahconsulting.com.au/archive/news/june12news.html

    Comments at that address cover many aspects of energy policy. Keith Orchison, Coolibah’s owner, is one of Australia’s best informed and most thoughtful observers of energy issues. While I occasioanlly disagree with him about details, I strongly recommend that those who are interested in the Australian energy debate subscribe to his infrequent newsletters (monthly?) and consider carefully what he is saying.

    Harry 1951 would benefit from spending a bit of time reading and listening. Harry, I know that you would like me to refrain from commenting, but one difference between you and me is that I actually know what I am talking about. I am able to support my opinion. You, on the other hand, have come here with a demand that I be no longer heard.

    I hope that H1951 comes back when he has something relevant to add to the conversation. That may be some time off.

  • 20
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Wednesday, 4 July 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Frank, the “Climate Cultists” are beyond reason, it is like watching a re-run of the “Children’s Crusade”.
    Almost single-handedly delivering the next election to the DLP Stooge.
    They can’t be blamed because like children they can be deemed to be below the age of reason.
    See the above poster, argument, references and/or logic won’t work on those who refrain from thinking as their alternative to the “Horror of the World Wreckers”.
    These absolute bystanders are innocent of any hard earned understanding of the planet they want to save.
    Just find some “Baddies”, make sure your are on the other side, problem solved!
    Easy!

  • 21
    Gocomsys
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    Frank,

    a decade of the naked priest will force the Left and the Greens to reinvent themselves.

    We had over a decade of the “naked priests” mentor. “Naked priest” - Well done, pat on the back and a Koala stamp if I can put it like that in my clumsy way.
    Just imagine where we could have been if we had reacted earlier. Ooops sorry, you couldn’t or wouldn’t! You again proved my points raised earlier! QED. Presentation over substance.

    Oh Frank, Frank, Frank.

    As a nation we simply couldn’t afford another decade of inaction. Luckily a progressive government with the help of the Greens and Independents finally broke the impasse and introduced a price on carbon. We better make damn sure that this “fixed price ETS” isn’t scuttled by the, what did you so cleverly call him, ah yes the “naked priest” or would you prefer the “mad monk”? You said:

    we use little power because it’s bottled gas for cooking here and wood ‘n jumpers for heating…

    YOU are all right then, that’s terrific. The WORLD isn’t all right but that is not really your concern under these circumstances, is it? The “global picture”? Not relevant, eh!

    Oh Frank, Frank, Frank. You are not helping, mate, “sounding adjacaded” is not enough!

  • 22
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Wank, Wank, Wank. You are not helping the planet mates, being a self-opinionated ignoramus is not enough!
    “Horror movie right there on my TV,…..It’s the six-thirty News,..and it’s ssscaring me right out of my brain”.
    The SkyHooks explain the irrational voter of another thread.
    As for the MSM, and the naked priest so for Climate Change “Alarmists”.
    Now, now calma, calma. No need to get hysterical and paranoid when being alarmed and alert to
    “enthusiasm” contradictions from your very own “Side” of the “Great Big New Debate” that is AGW.
    So the so-called “Climate Cultists” are not using the principles of propaganda to save the Planet?
    Clue, single-issue conservationist extremism doesn’t “do” democracy, they operate on a “Campaign”
    basis very much like Martial Law where the “Crisis requires the suspension of civil norms like debate, democracy and the rule of law. (look it up you lazy — -s, that’s what the internet is for).
    The climate cultists extremism is picked up and matched by the “shocking me right out of my brain” Jocks. “Enthusiasms” (internet, internet ignoramuses!) were much criticised by the enlightenment
    philosophers because those so infected were beyond reason having “collectively”taken leave of their senses.
    Probably why, for some posters of the “no rational debate please, can’t you see we’re trying to save the planet here”, there is no point in reading this post.
    Just ignore the debate. That is what ignoramuses do, Right as in Eco — -ism?

  • 23
    Gocomsys
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Why would a government introduce a price on pollution if according to common wisdom they face electoral annihilation because of it? Why take that risk unless there are compelling reasons. Answer?

  • 24
    Gocomsys
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Hi Hamis,
    I thought the climate change debate was over.

  • 25
    MJPC
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I find it amusing whenever Solar comes up there is the usual bleating about subsidies and how it doesn’t work.
    Let’s talk about subsidies, and the coal industries. From July 1 there is a change in the ATO’s Fuel tax credits scheme. Up until June 30 Industry (including Mining, but also civil construction) could claim back 19c per litre for diesel used in site vehicles.
    From July 1 the subsiby has risen to 31c per litre, an increase of 12c a litre. Thats not a bad e0fy present from the ATO!
    For the anti climate change brigade, anti-alternate energy tea party lites I have solar panel and I am in credit on electricity, and will be when subsidies are removed or lowered because I have also lowered my electricty consumption. There are others who use electricity wastefully, and should pay for their lack of understanding of the importance of a clean environment.

  • 26
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Jeez, it’s minus three this morning and I’ve got to deal with a skipload of overnight comments on the Thread that will not Die…Still, I’m a volunteer martyr so no point whinging…

    Goco: Climate change debate over? Even the cabal itself (Mann, Jones et al) admits this is not so. They’re feverishly constructing defensive hypotheses now to explain the plateauing of global temps since 1999. And no one has a clue where temps will go next- hence the plethora of competing scenarios, ranging from global freezing to…

    Regional predictions: the single most deadly blow struck by the climate cult against itself. The story keeps changing to suit the weather. (Both sides shamelessly invoke weather as a proxy for climate-the cult has two sides, remember)
    Australia is a world leader, led by Australia’s most complete fool, Tim Flannery. Flannery made numerous foolish predictions- they are justly famous, and already in the rubbish bin of history. He is the chief “climate commissioner”, a role similar to King Canute. He was promoted after his predictions were drowned.

    But there’s far more of the medieval Fool in Flannery than permadrought: read his tracts and books. My favourite is “Now or Never” (2008), in which he spruiks his own geothermal company-and Australian geothermal generally- imagining a “great city” (“Geothermia” ) in the Cooper Basin desert, conveniently adjacent to his company’s drill-holes…Anything environmentally crazier than a “great city” in the desert? But the real killer is the absurdity of geothermal at 5km depths. Hundreds of millions of dollars later, hardly a hole has been drilled. But Flannery’s Choice, Geodynamics, did pour big bucks into the sand. Result was total, eminently predictable failure. Check it out. Read the analysts reports.

  • 27
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Goco: and you’ll never read a single word about geothermal (or Flannery) on Crikey…

  • 28
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Goco: “As a nation we simply couldn’t afford another decade of inaction. Luckily a progressive government with the help of the Greens and Independents finally broke the impasse and introduced a price on carbon.”

    A neat summary of how progressive politics has been betrayed. Not often one reads something sad on Crikey- but that quote is depressing…an instance of how the good faith and goodwill of millions has been traduced.

    How did we get into this mess?

    (i) the apocalyptic predictions of the climate cult. Confusion between the solidity of the basic science (greenhouse) and the speculative nature of the extrapolations made.

    (ii) Panic driven by Flannerys, Andersons and Lovelocks worldwide led to a blind rush to implement “climate” policies. Unready/useless/marginal renewable technologies were subsidised heavily. Monster desal plants built in swamps…

    (iii) The Greens (my party) saw this drama as the short-cut to environmental Nirvana: capitalism had finally gorged itself to death. All energy and effort were directed to a single aim- cutting capitalism’s carbon throat. The real environment was neglected. Political capital was squandered. The Greens lost credibility.

    (iv) Observational science undermined the computer models which drove the hysteria. The neat (if short) correlation between CO2 and global temps broke down after 1999.

    (v) A profoundly sick, corporatist Labour party, scarcely more progessive than its opponent, cobbles together a deal with the tiny but messianic Greens- but the carbon tax is anathema to many Labour MPs and directly contradicts the economic interests of its electoral base. Hence the absurdities: ex-Trot and union leader Paul Howes promote the carbon tax- which is aimed at his own industrial workers; ex-coal engineer and unionist Combet, MP for a coal seat, spruiks both the “fantastic future” of coal and the carbon tax.

    (vi) The voters realise that this farrago is ridiculous. The ALP is mortally wounded. The Greens begin their long decline. The naked priest and his Medusa’s Raft (look it up) of Howard survivors fall into power…

    (vii) None of this has anything to do with narcissistic/unconsummated shockjocks. The endless patronising insults about “selfish” “stupid” voters we see on Crikey just underline the bankruptcy of “progressive” politics- and that fragment of the urban middle class which currently defines it.

  • 29
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Goco: we’ve never seen a single piece on Crikey discussing the Lovelock Apology.

    Three months ago, the Archbishop of Armageddon retracted his apocalyptic beliefs. These matched Prof. Kevin Anderson’s- extinction begins in 30 or 40 years.

    He now agrees with me: global warming is probably a problem, but not imminent.

  • 30
    khtagh
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately we were never going to take up solar large here, because the coal industry has always had sway in Canberra the main sector pushing solar in Australia now are the mums & dads that can & want to either make a difference for their kids or save $’s.

    I generate my own & will soon have a far greater generation than my needs. Although being south kills sun in the winter, the wind makes up for it. It funny how geography colours ones view of things, Iceland runs 100% geothermal FOREVER.

    Fact drill a hold a few klms down pump in water get out steam, cost of hole 6 million/hole energy out 500klw/unit cost- once, longevity-forever emissions -zero base load power (what Pratt’s rave about).

    For all those that are now pounding your keyboard saying impractical etc etc I’ll guarantee you if someone told you there was an unlimited supply of oil XXX klms down you would find a way, but your biggest problem would be by 10klms down you would be melting your drills etc. see the problem/solution.

    How dumb are we slave to the oil era. Instead of giving it the kick we embrace it, even though we know it is finite, past peek, its a bit like we are all on heroine & we all need to wake up & kick the habit before we are all in depicted the lineage of man as junkie in the street of time staring into space with dead eyes with our last thought of, what have we done….

    I have no kids & I have no claim in the future, but anyone with kids should really look at themselves & then tell their kids what they think. But remember no matter how old they are now they will grow up & then they will control you.

    Remember vengeance is a dish best served cold, so make sure you order a good dish, as it’s too late when its under your nose, history is a long time. We are all making our place in it right now.

  • 31
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    KHTAGH: “Iceland runs 100% geothermal FOREVER.

    Fact : drill a hold a few klms down pump in water get out steam, cost of hole 6 million/hole energy out 500klw/unit cost- once, longevity-forever emissions -zero base load power (what Pratt’s rave about).”

    That’s exactly the “fact” that led to a billion public and private dollars being wasted on deep geothermal in Australia. It sounds so elegant and simple.

    The technical problems at 4 to 5 km depth are horrendous. That’s what Geodynamics discovered. Check it out. For a start the geology has to be right to store water in higher strata…Shallow geothermal might have a chance, but the 5km is at the absolute limit of drilling technology at the moment.

    Don’t you think we’d all be like Iceland if it were feasible? Look at NZ- I’ve been to the geothermal powerstation there (built 1958). NZ is stuffed with geothermal and has few fossil fuel resources. Lots of hydro. 10% of NZ power is geothermal. Being anti-dam and ( long before the climate cult), I wondered then why geothermal wasn’t developed to produce all NZ power…relative cost is of course the answer. But now they are slowly expanding, but the warning is the easier sites have now been exploited…

  • 32
    MJPC
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    KHTAGH, excellent points all!
    As one scientist commented “The stone age didn’t end because they ran out of rocks!”

    One physicists comments worth considering in the whole energy problem:

    http://www.oilendgame.com/pdfs/WtOEg_ExecSummary.pdf

    What the climate deniers and fellow travellers do not seem to consider is that all resources are finite, oil also. Recent comments in the media about peak oil has not been reached did not seem to address “at what cost to the environment the continued unabated use of carbon?”

    Economists just don’t have a clue regarding the fragility of the Earth, nor how far it is to get to the next habitable planet (even if we knew where it was). I see in the paper today calls in China to end the one child policy due to economic reasons. Thankfully some reason in a normally unreasonable regime when the head of the family planning Commission stated that China may not be able to relax its family planning policy due to the country’s limited natural resources. Of course they are using every other countries s what happens when they run out is anyone’s guess.

  • 33
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Frank’s 8.47am post, inspired genius. needs to be prosletysed, promulgated, spread beyond this thread whatever. “and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.
    Definitely beyond debate!

  • 34
    khtagh
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    billion public and private dollars umm & how much has been spent looking for oil? Deep sea drilling etc, oh by the way I think you will find they have got to 12klms down so far. Maybe not in ausie land, but elsewhere.:-

    On Russia’s Kola Peninsula, near the Norwegian border at about the same latitude as Prudhoe Bay, the Soviets have been drilling a well since 1970. It is now over 40,000 feet deep, making it the deepest hole on earth (the previous record holder was the Bertha Rogers well in Oklahoma — a gas well stopped at 32,000 feet when it struck molten sulfur).

    Geodynamics achievements so far:-

    Drilled 5 of the deepest, hottest EGS wells globally
    Discovered and enhanced the most productive granite fracture system in the world
    Created extensive (~4km2) enhanced permeability reservoir
    Habanero Pilot Plant (1 MWe) ready for commissioning following near term appraisal activities

    Doesn’t sound like an horrendous result to me. sounds more like serious competition for the coal industry to me.

  • 35
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    KHTAGH: “Doesn’t sound like a horrendous result to me”

    you’re quoting directly from Geodynamics company reports- fine, but you should say so.

    This company (like all speculative mining and similar companies) spins like a top.

    I’ve long criticised Crikey for never allowing a single critical article on the climate cult to be published- and that applies to ‘renewables’ also. Renewable energy fantasist Giles Parkinson is given endless space on Crikey- but now I’ve discovered a piece by him that did not appear on Crikey, and I’m going to quote it- because it tells some of dismaying truth about Geodynamics : (dated 25th feb 2011). Note that the share price was $1.75 in 2008, 15 cents in March 2012 and is now 12 cents:

    The future of hot dry rock geothermal energy – the cutting edge technology touted as having the potential to to power Australia many times over – is clouded after one of the major shareholders in the country’s flagship project effectively wrote off its entire investment.

    Origin Energy announced on Thursday that it was writing off $196 million spent on the so-called Innamincka Deeps project, a bold bid by Geodynamics to unlock the energy held in super-heated rocks some 5km beneath the surface in the Cooper Basin. Origin has also written off a further $9 million from its direct investment in Geodynamics, whose share price has slumped in the past 12 months.”

    (In 2012, Geodynamics flogged off its drilling rigs for a song, having paid $100 million for them a few years ago)

    Parky continues: “That set back their timeline by more than a year, and led to an expensive solution to reinforce the casings for such wells. But further problems emerged when the company tested its ability to fracture the super-heated granite at the Jolokia well late last year, where it conducted a “hydraulic fracture stimulation” (essentially injecting water to create multiple cracks in the granite and create a path for steam to escape and be harnessed for energy) at a depth of 4.9km, deeper than anyone had attempted before.

    Although this confirmed the extent of the heat resource, estimated by the company at up to 6,500MW, the nature of the fractures was different to that of Habanero, so much so that some suggested it had thrown its geological modeling up in the air and created a huge amount of sub-service uncertainty. Crucially, the question of cost and technology remained unresolved.

    The so-called shallows may prove to be more accessible, but it is doubtful that they will offer anywhere near the production capacity anticipated of the deeps. Drilling the Innamincka shallows had originally been portrayed as a sort of “bridging project” that could bring in earlier revenue from a resource of up to 200MW and add to the economic case for the Cooper Basin. But it now may prove to be the main, but smaller, game. King did not rule out that the shallows could be used as the source of energy for the REDP-funded demonstration plant.”

    So- the technical problems are indeed horrendous. Now Geodynamics, out of cash almost, has got another $90m from the govt to plod on…

    watch that hole…

  • 36
    khtagh
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    So one failure, toss the whole idea out & burn more oil/coal/tar sand. how many oil drills went down that didn’t get oil? but they didn’t do the” spit the dummy, take my bat & ball & got off in a huff”. That really solves the problem doesn’t it.

  • 37
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Thursday, 5 July 2012 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Frank’s 8.47 am post, especially the middle, single sentence, paragraph is a masterpiece of satire.
    Or did I just imagine it? What a great imagination, included: The Gillard Bog; The Glassy Stare of the The Mad Monk; The Groaning Housing Bubble and much, much more.
    Must have been dreaming!

  • 38
    Bill Parker
    Posted Friday, 6 July 2012 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    It is a pity that with subject of this magnitude and seriousness that we descend – always –it seems to me, into a meandering slanging match that serves no purpose for me. I learn very little and stop reading, even though I know there are writers here that know their stuff.

    For a bit of solid information, the ASI has produced two substantial reports recently one on CSP the other on intermittency.

    http://www.australiansolarinstitute.com.au/reports/.aspx

  • 39
    Gocomsys
    Posted Friday, 6 July 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Headline: “Why the federal government has failed at solar”. WRONG!
    Should have read: “Why the federal government adjusted solar policy ahead of the ETS”

    BILL PARKER Posted Friday, 6 July 2012 at 10:15 am
    Appreciated the link. Interesting reading especially in light of the introduction of the (initially fixed term) ETS. More accurate information is now being circulated and attitudes are already changing.
    Great!

  • 40
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Friday, 6 July 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Found it Frank Campbell’s 8.47 pm July 4 post. Wins best post on thread competition>

  • 41
    The Old Bill
    Posted Saturday, 7 July 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I am a little bit lost with all of the posts above. I have had a small solar system for many years, still almost as effective as when it was first installed and it produces approximately half my electricity. Even without a subsidy, ( as was the case when first installed,) it has still made me more money than if the cost price was sitting in the bank. Economies of scale, PVs, CSPs, ASIs, climate change denial, what has any of that got to do with it? Stick solar on your roof in Australia and even if you paid over $10,000 like me and had no subsidy to start with - YOU WILL MAKE OR SAVE MONEY

  • 42
    Owen Gary
    Posted Saturday, 7 July 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    @Frank Campbell

    I recall a few years back the coal sequestration (farce) getting a 45 million grant from the government & the Geothermal operation in Innaminka SA only getting 5 million. I do not ever recall them getting billions of dollars.

    As for the geothermal technology it is sound & is in operation on many sites around the world. To date how many “Coal Sequestration (carbon capture sites” are actually in operation???
    When you compare a feed in tariff for Solar which provides free energy & no pollution, how can a feed in tariff possibly be more expensive than:-

    *Mining the coal
    *Transporting it to the power stations.
    *Maintaining & running a power station.

    Once the tariffs end & more people take up solar you will see a dynamic shift in this industry. Of the electricity I produce from my solar 55% is sent back to the grid, whats not to like about it??

  • 43
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Saturday, 7 July 2012 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

    Own Gary:
    CCS is indeed a farce.

    Deep geothermal scarcely exists anywhere- for the reasons I mentioned above. The Cooper Basin is deep geothermal- 4kms.
    Shallow geothermal has better technical and economic potential.

    Geodynamics alone has squandered over $200m of public and private money in the last few years. It is currently chewing its way through $90m of govt. money at the moment- the $90m it was allocated in 2009.

  • 44
    Gocomsys
    Posted Sunday, 8 July 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I am looking forward to the day when reliable information without obfuscation becomes freely accessible to the wider public. Going by articles in the media and some comments above I am afraid there is a while to go yet!

  • 45
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Monday, 9 July 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Goo Goo wants to be spoon fed, any takers?
    Does seriously require a look at continuing adult education as a necessary cure for obsfucation.
    That’s not obfuscation is it?
    What would a free market in obfuscation free information look like, no seriously, who would pay for it, who would have the capacity to pay in effort as well as money?
    You’ve kicked a hornets’ nest there Gocomys.
    Apparently there are software programs which can analyse texts even to the point of determining, by comparison, who the unknown author might be.
    The service which Gocomys demands might be delivered by a similar means.
    But would probably find its demand in education. All the other opinionating an obfuscating smart alecks wouldn’t want any of it.
    American text books and British text books, when compared, show that the American authors are better at communicating their subject, probably because they cater to many migrant students who do not have english as their native tongue.
    English academics operate an exclusionary system, using obsfucation and opinion perhaps to keep the undeserving poor out of the information loop. The Scottish universities, having catered for foreign students for several centuries have a different approach to providing reliable information.

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