A few weeks ago, one of my favourite writers and thinkers, journalist George Monbiot, shaped up in the pro-nuclear corner in a debate with none other than Greenpeace, perhaps the world’s pre-eminent environmental organisation.

In this post I provide a review of the debate and the key points raised by the speakers. The post will run in two parts, in the order of the speakers. Part one will cover Monbiot and Roger Levitt, part two will cover Malcolm Grimston and Doug Parr.

True to my purpose of developing a successful regional model for achieving decarbonisation, I apply some of the key points of the discussions to the specific challenge faced in South Australia. I hope the approach is instructive, useful, and somewhat generalisable to other regions. You will enjoy this post most if you have watched the debate or watch along as you read

I’ll start with the opening speaker, George Monbiot himself.

George Monbiot

If you are unfamiliar with Monbiot, I hope the video of this debate give you an idea of why I admire his work so much. What a blistering and uncompromising 7 minutes. My immediate reflection here is that Monbiot embodied a concerning phenomenon I am seeing more and more often: Those environmentalists who are prepared to see nuclear power deployed are the only ones that hold themselves, without compromise, to a realistic appraisal of the climate crisis. They are the ones for whom the penny seems to have dropped regarding the actual consequences of rise in temperature of two degrees or more and, even worse, the truly frightening increase in the likelihood of this occurring. The others, well… I moaned to my wife the other day that the quickest way to solve the climate crisis was to just mention nuclear power, because the second you do the crisis seems to disappear altogether!!!

"Nuclear power? What climate crisis?" Shiny, happy environmentalists

Well, bugger that, I’m with George. I’m not going to artificially downgrade my rating of the problem just because I don’t like the solution. Until observations indicate that we have more time, not less, with which to act, Decarbonise SA will continue aiming to help people actually understand and accept the reality of what our best scientific endeavours are telling us: that this century may be the last in which we inhabit a hospitable planet unless we get serious and decarbonise rapidly, starting now.

He also raises the very sound point about the overall increased demand for electricity in particular, as we seek to displace fossil fuels from things like transport. This is wholly relevant here. We are hugely car dependent in South Australia. This year I have provided consultation feedback on a low-emissions vehicles strategy, which is seeking to foster a supportive environment for uptake of electric vehicles (and other low-emission options, whatever they may be).

Nissan Leaf fully electric vehicle. I can’t wait, but I would rather not run it on coal

Over the same period that we installed the most wind energy in the country (i.e. from 2003) our emissions from electricity fell, but remain at over 8 million tCO2-e per year. That’s far higher than the 6.5 million tCO2-e that we emitted in 1990. So how are we supposed to also provide additional clean electricity for transport and actually get emissions rapidly moving the right direction without nuclear? When the wind isn’t blowing, it will be gas or coal that charges these cars. [An important edit has been made to this paragraph. In the course of researching part two of this post, I finally found the information to tell me in detail the electricity emissions in SA year to year from 2000 to 2011, covering the period of wind installation. Previously, I only had figures from the National Greenhouse Accounts comparing 1990 to 2010, which showed a huge increase. The introduction of wind has driven a reduction in total emissions from the electricity sector which is good news. This will be covered in detail in an upcoming post]

The only answers are monstrous and very expensive over-build of current renewable technologies to cover all of these loads, or a dramatic acceleration in the timeframe of something like hot dry rock geothermal. Now, if I was one of those selectively-deluded environmentalists who can turn the climate crisis either on or off depending on the conversation, those options might seem reasonable strategies. But I’m not, so they don’t.

Monbiot makes the harsh call that in energy “small is useless”. Well, South Australia is instructive in that regard. With only 1.65 million people, by March 2011 we had installed nearly the same amount of rooftop solar PV (19.8 MW) as NSW (21 MW), despite NSW having more than 7 million people. That took 14,700 home solar PV systems, with an average size of 1.35 kW (all figures from Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency). As you can see in the figure below, it has been an absolute explosion of activity in the last few years with a dramatic peak and collapse. This matches in a very straightforward way the retreat of Federal subsidies, and then various State governments trying to extricate themselves from feed-in tarrifs that they have concluded they cannot afford. So we know that if you subsidise solar PV to the point where it is a true no-brainer, Australians will respond, South Australians in particular. Australian governments will also respond, by killing the subsidies because the response was bigger than budgeted for…

So, we have had a red hot go at the “small” in South Australia. Has it been useless? Well, lets interrogate the figures a little more closely to find out. Firstly, with around 500,000 households in Adelaide (ABS says 465,000 in 2006) the explosion you see above, with a disproportionate share in SA, has meant a penetration of solar PV to around 3% of Adelaide households. Virtually all of that has happened over a period of 3 years, which is not bad I suppose. But clearly there is a long way to go. At that pace, which seems to have been generally regarded as breakneck, it would of course take 100 years to get one on every roof.

Clearly, as you see from the collapse of installations in the figure above, the underlying cost of the systems still has a long way to fall before a return to the “no-brainer” conditions that might deliver this 1% per year rate of installation. Anecdotally cost of this technology certainly is falling, so we should get there soon but we are not there yet.

Has it been good value? Consistent with the purpose of this blog we should compare to nuclear. Let’s assume an average cost of $7,500 per kW installed (MMA in their May 2010 report to the Australian Government assume $7,000 for 2010 and 3% price drop per year, so I think $7,500 for the last 3 or so years is about right). That would mean we have collectively dropped nearly $150 million so far for our 19.8 MW. Furthermore MMA suggest a capacity factor of not greater than 20% for solar PV. That’s for rooftop PV, but as we have seen in a previous post, even here in sunny Australia, the biggest and best solar has to offer remains a very, very expensive way of getting our power.

Global median price of nuclear is US$4,100 per kW installed. It can deliver at >90% capacity factor, but if replacing coal in our peaky grid would deliver at around 60%. I don’t want to labour the point unnecessarily but nuclear simply kills solar on the cost numbers. I absolutely get the appeal of solar PV; it sits quietly on the roof and generates, what’s not to like? But I am inclined to echo Monbiot when he says that if you are a PV supporter, “…don’t say a word to me about the cost of nuclear power”. It has, to date, been a very expensive decarbonising exercise.

So is small useless??? I feel I have backed myself into something of a corner. No it isn’t; I truly believe that everything helps, including all renewables deployed  in a sensible way. However if we want to decarbonise rapidly, then the evidence from South Australia to date suggests that small, decentralised, intermittant energy solutions cannot be the central plank of the strategy. I think PV has unduly caputured our imaginations for a little too long, and it is time we thought bigger. Try this…

Between 1990 and 2010, South Australia’s emissions from electricity grew nearly 40% to 9.1 million tons per annum. This covers the period of solar PV explosion, and the installation of over half of Australia’s wind generation capacity. I lack the data from around 2000 to give the picture more accurately. All we can say is that in the absence of these things the growth in emissions would have been even more grotesque than 40%.

If, at the same time as we started building wind (2003), we had built 500MW of nuclear power, by now we could have closed the Northern and Playford Power Stations, and be saving 5.37 million tons of greenhouse gas per year, over half our total from electricity. So if we want to decarbonise rapidly, small may not exactly be useless, but big is beautiful.

Ok, that’s enough from George. On to Roger Levitt, Independent Energy Consultant and first of the antis. For those of you who never knew the old, anti-nuclear Ben, Roger’s 7 minutes embodies some of it. It’s that view of the world that says “if only everyone would just…(insert great sustainability idea here) we wouldn’t even need it”.

I don’t have a particular problem with any of Roger’s proposed “solutions”. To the contrary, they all sound like smashing ideas for making England, and Australia, a more liveable place in all sorts of great ways. The benefits in social capital and other environmental issues like air pollution are all profound in this world view. Similarly, I don’t have much argument with many of the underlying drivers Roger identifies, and the moral bankruptcy that is evident in much of the way our economy functions that Roger is keen to point out. These things do, indeed, help to keep us locked on an unsustainable trajectory and need to be challenged.

However, Roger’s ideas basically embody 1) effective planning and design 2) More simplistic, frugal living.  I am quite at a loss to understand how the pursuit of investment in zero-carbon nuclear undermines them. Unless of course the likes of Roger view climate change as the lever that might finally make all this happen at scale. To this possibility I make two brief responses:

  1. It isn’t working. Neither effective planning and design nor frugal and simplistic living has experienced a supercharged acceleration on the back of climate change concerns. How much longer are we expected to wait?
  2. What if it works as well and as rapidly as we might ever possibly achieve, and fails to do the job? Is it worth the risk?

I’m going to run a bit of a visioning exercise for Adelaide to illustrate my concerns. For those not familiar with my home town:

  • It’s old by Australian standards, founded in 1836
  • About 1 million people and (very slowly) growing especially to the north and south
  • Small CBD/downtown area. Large area of very low density suburbs. Lots of ¼ acre blocks
  • Some ok public transport, but basically very car dependent. Nice and flat for bikes but pretty crappy system of lanes
  • CBD/downtown is ringed by a huge and beautiful area of preserved parklands
  • Our main arterial roads through the suburbs basically serve as a car-focussed catchment system to get people in and out of the CBD/downtown area. They have some nice shopping areas, but they are not liveable high streets in the best English mold or even that I enjoyed while living in Melbourne.
  • Adelaide looking east toward Mt Lofty Ranges. The parklands are clearly visible. The worst of the sprawl is off-shot, at the far northern and southern boundaries

Now, it is actually a smashing place to live, which is why I’m here. But it illustrates many of the sustainability concerns Roger is getting at. He and I are not the only ones who see it; there are a great many ideas and proposals to try to improve this situation. Here are some of the biggies:

  • Development of the Bowden Village: A high density, inner urban revitalisation of a crumby old industrial area. This actually looks like being a brilliant example of sustainable planning and design (disclosure: My wife and I own one of the original cottages down there, so I am hardly a disinterested observer). Hopefully it will be emulated elsewhere
  • Expansion/reintroduction of trams/ light rail. Our sole remaining tram line was recently extended from a no-mans-land stop at Victoria Square through the true heart of our CBD and down the political/hotel strip of North Terrace and on to Bowden to serve the new Village. Brilliant stuff. There are lots of ideas about what next: a city loop; taking a line to the University precinct at the other end of North Tce; taking a line up King William Rd to North Adelaide and beyond. I would love to see the lot of it.

    The terminus of the new tram extension at Bowden/ Hindmarsh. Adelaide Entertainment Centre in the background
  • Medium density build along arterial strips like Unley, Goodwood and Prospect Rds, and around the parkland borders to create a New York Central Park effect. Again, brilliant. Put the people close to the infrastructure. Make it walkable, bikeable, make public transport a no-brainer.
  • Moving new houses from compulsory 5 to 6 star energy rating. Nice

So, now let’s look ahead over a timeframe of, say, 20 years and assume all of the above is implemented, successfully at large scale and has the desired results. For the sake of argument let’s blue sky a few more commonly discussed ideas and pretend they happen too:

  • A major investment in the bicycle network
  • Doubling the frequency of our buses
  • Accelerating some of the existing Government programs for auditing large energy consuming businesses and funding certain capital investments to reduce consumption.
  • Some sort of system of energy efficiency audit and upgrade at point of sale for existing houses
  • Upgrading our woefully inefficient streetlighting (a big ticket item that I will cover in detail in a future post)

Right. I trust you agree that the sum total of these ideas this would represent a massive sustainability drive by Government. What would be the likely impact on our greenhouse gas emissions from electricity?

At best, a modest decrease, but probably an increase. Why? Because much of what you see there is predicated on higher densities in areas that, ultimately, only comprise quite a small fraction of the city. Given that we don’t really go for forced evictions from the suburbs in this part of the world, what we are talking about is a growing population. I’m ok with that, and before you kill me, consider this. An area of a million square kilometres with only 1.65 million people clearly has role in accepting more people until the globe can get population growth under control. We need to plan to minimise certain local impacts, but there is not much point claiming sustainability under a fortress mentality when the global atmospheric commons is going to pot.

The other suggestions you see above cannot be delivered instantly, far from it. For them to have an appreciable impact will be a generational initiative. Take, for example, the major conundrum of our existing inefficient housing stock. No doubt there is plenty of low hanging fruit there as Roger discusses. But in Australia we have seen the tragic results of a program to insulate rooves being rolled out more quickly that proper governance can accommodate; dodgy operators moved in and people actually lost their lives. Streetlights should be more straightforward but there are serious institutional barriers that need to be broken down. So the upshot is that while the changes outlined above would doubtless deliver greater services and some reduction  in GHG  per unit energy consumed in our economy, we need to remember that:

a)      The growth that underpins much of it all adds to the greenhouse bottom line.

b)      The incremental nature of the rest of it can simply only go so far, so fast

We would achieve in the next 20 years what we have achieved in the last: a growing greenhouse gas bottom line from electricity. That seems to be the thing that mysteriously eludes those in power when crafting climate change strategies: the bottom line is the metric that matters most.

So let’s do all of the above. The city will be a cooler, more happening, more exciting, more liveable place, and there is the potential for some of the inhabitants to lead relatively more sustainable lives than is typical of a western city. But I see no reason to pair this with a delusion that it gets us off the hook regarding investments in zero-carbon baseload, starting immediately. Because, to quote Roger himself as he reflects on the challenge of reducing transport energy:

” ..to flip our vicious circle into the virtuous one…we’ll need to give both the shops a hefty shove back into town, and the shoppers a hefty shove back on to the buses; neither of which they will want to do, and neither or which will be sensible or useful unless the other also happens.”

Well, quite. Is this type of vision impossible? No. Desirable? Yes. Worth staking the atmosphere on? Noooooooooooooooooooooo.

Ok, I’ve done Roger to death. For part two of the post, I will review Malcolm Grimston, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London and, of course, Doug Parr, Chief Scientist for Greenpeace. Stay tuned.


  1. It is a common problem for feed-in tariffs to pay more than necessary because of rapidly falling solar prices, leading to much more solar installations than planned for. The 7.4 gigawatt new capacity installed last year in Germany was definitely more than expected.
    The answer of canceling the program altogether might not be the best ever. There are smarter alternatives.
    You can put a cap on the program, like the early 100.000 roof program in Germany.
    You can have automatic adjustments every half years.
    The best answer is to double up the programs, never mind the costs. Those are still a bargain compared to the costs of runaway global meltdown.
    That is especially true if you indulge in the luxury of rejecting nuclear energy for reasons of irrational fear.

    1. The solar situation has been very, very messy in Australia. Some interesting ideas there. The cap is something that they have done, and people have charged, en masse, to be one of those that get in under it!!!

  2. South Australia – an area of one million square kilometres with “only” 1.65 million people.
    I shouldn’t have to point out that well over 50% of that area is so arid that it would qualify as desert.On that basis alone SA is already overpopulated as far as long term sustainability is concerned,as is Australia as a whole.

    The fact is that every extra head of population,no matter what clever technology is used,adds to the stress on our already overstressed environment.This doesn’t just apply to energy and the resulting pollution.Consider food,water and social problems directly related to overcrowding.I also point out that there are other species,plant and animal, (besides humans) living in SA and they deserve some living space as well.

    Population growth in SA will degrade the liveability which you apparently value but not above all else,apparently.

    1. Its true that, for now, I value climate stability above all else in environmental matters since it really trumps any other designs we might have on species preservation and the like. That doesn’t mean nothing else matters in decision making and it doesn’t mean liquidating other natural capital to solve the climate problem is ok. It’s why I love nuclear so much because it treads so lightly on the earth in every way for what it gives us in return.

      I don’t want to see in any way the denuding of the Mt Lofty Ranges for houses or continuation of the absurd low-density expansion to the south of Adelaide, which seems on track to make the drive to the Fleurieau Peninsula one long suburb.

      But Adelaide is so insanely low density that we could with relative ease accomodate a great many more people. Surely, in a world that is still growing, we have some obligation to do just that? With adequate planning this would lead to no loss and in fact and great enhancement, in my opinion, of the quality of life here. For the people that is…

      For the other species? It would, without doubt, increase pressure. I accept this as I see little other option, and again I would like to see people reside in the clearly developed sections of Adelaide to minimise that pressure. We are also still remediating a lot of crap legacy design that actually is delivering some significant environmental returns. For example, treatment of our sewage and containment of our stormwater is restoring some health to our Gulf. Our natural birth rate is negative. In other parts of the world it is still explosively high. They need to bring it down and we need to share the load in the meantime, otherwise it is simply other eco-systems, elsewhere in the world, that suffer and die, and we all lose in the end. At least, that’s the world according to Ben. There are a great many Adelaidians who prefer closed doors and closed minds, and enjoy the distance we maintain between ourselves and the rest of the world’s problems. I don’t really see much future in that.

  3. An interesting figure to contrast with 3% of homes with 1.35 kw PV would be the percentage and average size of air conditioners. I suspect it may be something like 70% and 2 kw. If SA can expect 45C temps most summers the mismatch will increase, noting that the ~900 MW of nameplate windpower is lucky to produce 80 MW in hot spells. Another looming energy need is desalination when the water supply again falls low. While the dam levels can be attributed to local rainfall the good flows in the River Murray are due in large part to tropical cyclones way up in Queensland. .

    There’s also the vexing question of finding 700 MW for the Olympic Dam expansion. Leigh Creek coal and Cooper Basin gas are in their twilight years. By normal standards SA has good uptake of both wind and solar yet it’s clearly not enough.

  4. In your run-down of factors affecting SA’s likely future emissions profile and electricity demand, you could also have mentioned the impending electrification of Adelaide’s heavy rail passenger network (http://www.infrastructure.sa.gov.au/electrification), migrating from diesel. It’s absolutely a Good Thing for several reasons not least of which are the environmental ones, but the bottom line remains that it’s one more thing adding to SA electricity consumption. Moreover, peak demand from the rail commuter network will be at times when the sun either isn’t shining or is doing so only weakly.

      1. Not to mention the Port Stanvac desalination plant, which will add another 500 GWh of demand annually. I understand this will supposedly come from nominally renewable sources, though you can bet that production won’t be dynamically adjusted to match renewables generation rates, so it’ll often be sucking fossil energy from the grid along with everything else.

        Just by the way, that Adelaide needs a desalination plant at all does tend to support Podargus’ position that SA has already overshot its carrying capacity. Even though increased population density as per your vision would probably result in lower per capita consumption as more backyard gardens are built over, it’s hard to see Adelaide’s water use coming back to a sustainable level without either reducing its population, or some pretty massive re-engineering.

  5. @ Mark Duffet, For sure. Adelaide has always had a pretty precarious position with regard to water security, being dependent on a river and being right at the very end of it. In this shifting climate, it is unsuprising that we have been one of the early places to feel the pressure. But far from the only: Perth, Melbourne, Sydney… same thing, SE QLD are all geared up but the broken drought has put it of being required. Is it sustainable? Well, how are we to apply that amorphous word to this particular situation? The ocean will not run dry. The energy needs to be clean, it currently isn’t. The ocean environment impacts are hopefully confined. To SA’s credit we do have some reasonable claim to leadership in the stormwater and water recycling stakes and that continues to develop. I have to return to the theme that we are one world and we are in this together. Of all the places in the world I have visited, which is not everywhere but a few, I know of nowhere that is better placed for more people, WITH SENSISBLE SUSTAINABILITY PLANNING, than Adelaide. You will note that that’s a relative concept; we live in a world that is beyond carrying capacity everywhere we turn. To me, Adelaide’s future as a more densly populated city is the best contribution we can make to a troubling global situation.

    1. Ben, I should declare an interest; IMHO the ‘nowhere better placed for more people’ mantle clearly belongs with Tasmania ;). However, I take your point that with sufficient clean energy there is nothing intrinsically wrong with desal per se.

      Note I wasn’t just thinking about stormwater recycling with my reference to ‘massive re-engineering’. I also had in mind installations such as the 20,000L rainwater tank in my dad’s suburban backyard (the ‘massive’ in this instance coming from the fact that you need lots of them to make a significant difference).

  6. Indeed. While there are some aspects of Adelaide that I miss dearly (SANFL, beautifully flat for cycling, a rail network…), always at the back of my mind is one of Barry Brook’s very early BNC posts (I think; can’t find it now) in which he pointed out that, as a first approximation, each degree of global equates to a poleward shift of well over a hundred kilometres in climate bands. Which means that within my lifetime, Adelaide could have the climate that Leigh Creek had when I was born.

  7. To add another limit to the expansion of Adelaide. Goyder’s Line is a very important factor in the secuirty of this State’s agriculture industry.
    Here is a wiki link to its article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goyder's_Line
    There is a map in it’s article that shows the extent of farmable land in SA. It’s not as far North as I thought it was. Add in climate Change and that line is set to shift.

    I saw this debate, and it was rather good. Monboit is a fantastic consise speaker. Maybe bringing him into SA for a discussion once things get rolling with the Decarbonise SA movement. A 62-8 in favour of supporting Nuclear in the Climate Change context for thsi deabte is very overwhelming. Including the mans questions at the end who was making that strenious link between Nuclear Power and deaths.

    1. There is a great lecture Barry arranged with Peter Hayman of SARDI, talking about Goyder’s line, and how climate change is pressuring it’s move, but the remarkable technological adapatability of Australian farmers provides a counterveiling pressure. It’s a really instructive look at how we cope. Will seek the link, believe it’s publicly available.

  8. The dinosaurs shifted polewards in hot times so they started the trend. We need a new country the size of France in the Southern Ocean at Lat 60S. Unfortunately I think Adelaide is doomed to become a large retirement village for post WW2 immigrants. It will get by on Federal programs like electric cars (whether people buy them or not) and military contracts based on 20th century thinking. With luck ETSA won’t put radio controllers on the aircons in those retirement homes.

    The advice to talented footballers who lose at gambling is stick to what you’re good at. Same goes for SA which is uranium central. Perhaps Adelaide is already too big for its nearby resources. My idea of an energy park at Ceduna (with NP, desal, enrichment and extensions) could lighten population pressure on the capitol. Make aircon free for residents.

  9. I just watched the debate and was staggered to discover that the speakers against the motion were so full of waffle and so short on reality. The Greenpeace representative made it clear (if we didn’t already know) that their main concern was to ban nuclear power not to mitigate climate change catastrophe. Fortunately the audience did not feel the same and the motion that nuclear energy should/must be used was won 63 to 9.

    1. So glad I am not the only one who had that incredulous response to the speakers against the motion. Without giving too much away you will enjoy part two of the post where I pretty much unload on Doug Parr for much the reasons you have said.

  10. Forget making a contribution to the global situation,Ben.We have more than enough problems on our hands here.Stay at home,mind your own business.That way we just might lead by example.

    And tell me,what is so enticing about more people beyond a certain viable population?
    It’s quality,not quantity,that matters.

    1. “That way we just might lead by example.” If they follow the example of Adelaide’s woeful population density then God help us all.

      “And tell me,what is so enticing about more people beyond a certain viable population?
      It’s quality,not quantity,that matters.”

      I think I am in furious agreement with you there. But the reality of population growth is that, barring collapse, it will resolve slowly over the course of a couple of generations, not rapidly, so there is a reality to accomodate. I think the quality comes in bringing people a little closer together than Adelaide does right now. So that you get community, people using the local parks, passive surveillance, independent stores that can serve a local market, that sort of thing. It is those qualities that Adelaide lacks at the moment in it’s general “quality of life” set up. That being the case, I think we can make Adelaide an even better city while giving a home to people who need it, do it well within the bounds of the city as it is currently laid out, and give them a clean, zero carbon power supply with which to live their lives. I think that is the right balance of caring for our local environment while contributing to pressing moral, human concerns that are trans-boundary and environmental concerns like climate change that are characterised by a commons. That, to me, sounds like an example worth following that might squeeze us through the sustainability funnel this century.

  11. Indeed,the McMansion on the McBlock in the McBurb is just one of many development problems.Not only do these sort of developments cause a great deal of environmental damage initially they are not sustainable because of their energy requirements for transportation seeing as how there is never any attempt to include electrified rail or light rail in the base infrastructure.
    Our dependence on oil is just one of the looming crises in Australia.

    The fact is that these burb creations are being driven by developers who are motivated solely by greed.They have the ear of governments,local state and federal,who are exclusively growth oriented.

    It is becoming increasingly obvious that the growth meme is going to fail.Whether it fails in a relatively managed and orderly fashion or in a catastrophic collapse is largely up to us,as citizens at a national level.The reason I say national level is because events in Australia are within our capacity to manage if we put our minds to it, are willing to make hard decisions and subsume our own personal interests to the national interest.

    Whereas events outside Australia are well beyond our control and the best we can do is to make well meaning noises in international forums.How well this works is evident in all the meaningless yapping that goes on at the likes of Copenhagen.I am not knocking foreign aid per se however it must be directed exclusively to increasing the well being of the common people in environmentally friendly ways and it MUST be tied to effective birth control measures.

    On population,again,I get rather tired of well meaning people who are divorced from reality (you have a female Greens Senator in SA who is notorious for this behaviour) advocating an increased intake of so called “refugees”. Some of these people may be trying to escape political persecution but most of them are just economically motivated migrants,legal or otherwise.
    Only a blind fool would think that this people movement is going to stabilize or reduce.Given all the pressures apparent in the global scene it will increase to monumental proportions.

    It is just not possible for Australia to accept even a tiny and meaningless proportion of this flood without catastrophic damage to our own nation.We have a duty to protect our own,first,foremost and always.

    Hard times are coming.Hard decisions must be made.Shut the door.

  12. Cutting population growth is no mysetery, it is basically a side effect of economic development. We can accelerate that side effect by placing extra focus on the education, development and empowerment of women which includes, as you say, access to birth control. Iran, at 1.9 births per woman, achieved in just over one generation, is an excellent example of the power of focussing on women.

    We then diverge on this subject and I doubt we will come back together. To imagine that Australians in our gross and profligate use of energy and resources and our endless whinging about cost of living have some right to turn our back on the truly poor in this world is beyond me. More to the point, over a long enough time frame it’s deluded. If the rest of the world goes down, it takes us with it.

    I am sympathetic to the complexities of the movement of people around the world that you allude to; I agree that the situation is not black and white. But there is more than enough clearly evident need in the refugee system to give us a moral obligation, in my opinion, to take people. BUT I regard this as rather futile in the long run if we do not re-double efforts at development focussed aid to remove the root causes of why people are displaced. That’s an area of complexity that I shan’t dwell on now.

    “We have a duty to protect our own,first,foremost and always”. My family has only met the definition of “our own” for perhaps 120 years. Plenty of my friends for less than that. Not long in the story of the world, and the story is far from finished.

  13. The only time in the whole debate that Roger Levitt really became energised was when he was arguing that the reason we should not pursue nuclear power was because (he believed) it’s deployment would proceed at the expense of renewables. In other words he was worrying that one zero carbon energy source might out compete another zero carbon energy source!

    It was at this point that I realised, as you did Ben, that this was not a man who was seeking to reduce CO2 emissions. He later made his position more explicit when he admitted to being a strong supporter of fossil fuel plants with CHP. I’d call his position – Anything but nuclear, the climate be damned.

          1. Why? Surely you’re not objecting to the statement that you can replace every MW of carbon intensive coal with dramatically less intensive renewable plus backup?

            If I build a 50MW PV system with diesel backup am I using more or less fossil fuel than a 50MW diesel-only system?

            1. Taking your example, apart from the fundamental engineering drawback of now having two nominal 50 MW systems instead of one, if you want to keep cranking out 50 MW you need to be running your fossil backup for upwards of 75% of the time. Moreover, the embodied emissions of PV as a proportion of energy delivered are not insignificant (http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn268.pdf). All up, I don’t think this does amount to ‘dramatically less’ emissions, and certainly not ‘decarbonisation’.

              And even with some exceedingly generous allowances for efficiency, you’d still need many hundreds of similar systems to power the country. In 10 years? Uh-uh.

        1. Uh huh… yeah… listen I have never made it explicit through any kind of comments policy but if you browse the site you will notice that the default culture is to actually think things through around here, both with my posts and the comments that follow. Questions, challenges, explorations are thoroughly, warmly welcomed. Half-baked ideas telling me why I am wrong, not so much.

          Your premise: 10 years at very best for nuclear. Your alternative: renewables, efficiency (problematic but we’ll leave that for now) and wait until EGS/HDR geothermal “is ready”. Care to put some rational on how you actually reckon you will beat your own deadline with those technologies? You may want to start with the post “Renewable Reality Checks…” for an update on how that HDR geothermal is going at the moment.

          1. “….you will notice that the default culture is to actually think things through around here, both with my posts and the comments that follow.”

            Patronising much? You don’t know anything about me (yet).

            You can’t argue that it’s not POSSIBLE to replace every retired MW with renewables plus backup, because clearly you CAN design such a system.

            The question you’re wishing to get to is COST, yes?

            1. You can’t argue that it’s not POSSIBLE to replace every retired MW with renewables plus backup, because clearly you CAN design such a system.

              Of course it’s possible, but so what? We are looking to decarbonise not recarbonise.

    1. Ok, here’s a do-over of this interaction. Zvyozdochka this entire blog is predicated on the fact that, once a trenchent opponent of nuclear power, I expended not inconsiderable time and effort exploring the prospects of rapid decarbonisation with renewables and energy efficiency only in order to meet the incredible chanllenge presented by climate change. I came to a series of dead ends, not because it ‘s what I wanted to find but because it can’t be done. Now, the purpose of this blog is to get something positive done, not to flap my gums, so I regret being unduly dismissive. However if you have a browse you will find over 50 posts, 4 radio interviews, an original animated video, a plan for the state in two parts, a decision making tree for energy, a powerpoint presentation on my journey from a nuclear opponent to nuclear proponent., about 5 published articles and a detailed bio and vision statement for the site both of which outline the fundamental problems I uncovered with the renewables/efficiency only approach. Perhaps you might appreciate that I took rather a dim view of having the premise of the site described as “laughable”, backed up by the alternative of “renewable plus efficiency then wait for geothermal” . But I should have made a better response.

      Cost, while critical, is far from the only problem I (and a great many others) see with the fundamental approach you have proposed. The others, in brief, are 1) Reliability. Whatever it is has to deliver for every one of the 8760 hours per year 2) Location of resource. Renewables are located far from both centres of demand and transmission infrastructure 3) Speed and scaling. It is simply not the case that massive volumes of renewables can be deployed as rapidly as the decarbonisation demands 4) Intermittancy. It demands either fossil back up or massive (and again very costly) overbuild to accomodate 5) Zero-carbon. I am not interested in half measures like high efficiency gas while we wait for HDR geothermal, or renewables with loads of fossil back up. If we build it, our system will demand we suck every last bit of use from it before we replace it, and that will be 50 years at least whether geothermal is ready or not.

      I seriously recommend John Morgan’s checklist for energy plan post over at Brave New Climate, which can be found under the Thinking Critically About Sutainable Energy series (TCASE).

      Against that all is nuclear, which ticks every single box except social and political acceptance, which are exactly the challenges I am working to overcome. My extensively researched opinion is that nuclear is very much the most rapid route to full decarbonisation of our electricity supply. Respectful challenges to that premise are very warmly welcomed for discussion here at the site, for that is what it’s for. I hope you keep coming back..

  14. Re Decarbonise SA on August 23,2011 at 10:23 AM –

    Australia has been occupied by humans for at least 40,000 years.The Aborigines,who numbered in the thousands,caused a lot of damage by the indiscriminate use of fire.This is still happening in areas of Northern Australia where they have control of the land.

    From the European invasion 200 years ago humans in Australia have been numbered in the millions and the damage has been massive and continuing.This is an aspect of exponential growth.

    The anthropocentric mindset,aka as greed and selfishness,has been the driver of this rape of the land.However,of late,the latte section of the rentier class has been claiming morality as a justification for continuing the present insane level of immigration.As many of this subset pretend adherance to environmental principles I think that they are not only guilty of profound stupidity but also hypocrisy.

    As always,hypocrisy is the last refuge of the scoundrel

    1. Getting personal there and it is not really appreciated. I think my position is quite well explained and justified. It differs from yours though we agree on so much of the natue of the challenges we face
      . If your solution is “shut the door” ok, stand by it. I take a different view. You can label it latte-set hypocrisy if you like, or you can explore the concept that there are different ways of viewing and addressing global challenges. Up to you but if you want to get nastier than the above then please just take a breather.

  15. @ Marion Brook

    “We are looking to decarbonise not recarbonise.” Eh? What is this, some kind of catch-phrase?

    20% of SA’s electricity was generated from Wind (SASDO 10/11 http://www.aemo.com.au/planning/SASDO2011/documents/findings.pdf). Is that decarbonised energy or not?

    @ Mark Duffett

    “the embodied emissions of PV as a proportion of energy delivered are not insignificant”

    If I have 1000kW/h from PV vs 1000kW/h from fossil fuel which emissions are significant? My point is, the question of g/CO2/KWh makes sense only in relation to an alternative as in the displacement/abatement of CO2..

    Your UK Parliament link was unhelpful. I prefer the more detailed LCA work of U-Mich’s own 33kW PV system; http://css.snre.umich.edu/css_doc/CSS05-09.pdf (A little dated, based on inefficient PV in a low solar insolation region). Total energy payback ~5.5 years, ~957g CO2 eq/kWh abated.

    Oh, and fully recyclable materials plus, if Sunpower do as they propose, PVs will generate electricity to generate PVs (~85% of primary energy is used creating silicon wafers).

    @ Ben Heard

    Thank you for your detailed answer. I see the journey you have been on. I don’t accept Nuclear as either a rapid or cost-effective alternative, especially for Australia.

    “I expended not inconsiderable time and effort exploring the prospects of rapid decarbonisation with….energy efficiency only (to come) to a series of dead ends”

    I find your efficiency comment somewhat hard to fathom. A very recent paper from the American Association of Energy Efficiency (Elliot, Gold, Hayes 2011) suggested some 20,000MW of efficiency available before 2025 in the 1.8-3.6c/kWh LCoE range in Pennsylvania alone as just ONE example. (Pennsylvania has the oldest coal plant due for replacement – decommission and implement efficiency).

    My own experience with a number of clients and their CHP projects is a ~60% reduction in carbon intensity with payback periods as low as 5 years. My employer’s order-book is FULL of projects awaiting review/audit for the next 3 years. There is not a more effective g CO2 eq/$ decarbonisation strategy.

    “1) Reliability. Whatever it is has to deliver for every one of the 8760 hours per year”

    I don’t believe any pragmatic renewable proponent is proposing an unreliable system. I’m not sure why this statement is necessary. Besides that, it moves into dangerous territory for proponents of NPPs, because you are necessarily suggesting an overbuild of NPPs to cater for one or more plant(s) being off line.

    In SA peak generation required was 3433MW. Are you seriously suggesting 4 (four) 1000MW NPPs can be built in 10 years at anything like the g CO2 eq/$ that efficiency/CHP and wind/PV/NG CCGT provides?

    “2) Location of resource. Renewables are located far from both centres of demand and transmission infrastructure”

    Some investment is required in interconnect and transmission for any new source of MWs, which in “debate” is often left to the LCoE values comparisons rather than trying to horrify people with one-time transmission costs.

    For example; If I build a 120MW CSP/storage with multi-stage CCGT backup plant outside of Kalgoorlie (where there is a 118MW open cycle peaking gas plant on the main interconnect system) is that far away from transmission? No. Could I build a few plants to 2000MW at low transmission cost? Yes.

    “3) Speed and scaling. It is simply not the case that massive volumes of renewables can be deployed as rapidly as the decarbonisation demands”

    How long has it taken SA to reach 20% wind power contribution (SASOD above)? No-time at all.

    This argument has been proven as rubbish. Wind, PV and even CSP projects are put up in no time at all. The 50MW PV/diesel project I mentioned will be completed in 14 months. You could order of magnitude (x10) the project and have it done in 2.5 years (with CCGT not diesel).

    “4) Intermittancy. It demands either fossil back up or massive (and again very costly) overbuild to accomodate”

    NPPs will require gas peaking equipment, or a massive overbuild beyond “base load”. In an intermittent network, the gas backup use maybe a different, and mostly predictable, pattern of use to that of peaking-only. The learning/design goal would be to all-but eliminate gas backup use. Sure, a NG backup would have to be overbuilt, but cost of equipment is very very cheap even in a situation where it sits around doing mostly nothing, which would be the goal of a highly diverse renewable system.

    Geothermal could then replace the NG backup, in time.

    BTW, did you know that Indonesia just gave loan approvals to fast track ~2,000MW of geothermal in 4 years, with plans to make that 10,000MW via the same loan apporval process? That’s more real MWs than their current NPP projects at a far lower cost. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/08/24/government-guarantees-geothermal-projects.html

    “5) Zero-carbon”

    From a pragmatic point-of-view, you will not see plant as recently build as Collie Power Station (http://www.verveenergy.com.au/mainContent/powerStations/Collie.html for example, the most recent Australia unit I’m aware of) retired earlier than 40 years. This is a distressing fact of life.

    Retiring that equipment early has a significant cost, replacing new MWs demand with renewables and massive efficiency efforts might just ensure no new ones are built and the oldest ones retired sooner at the least cost (esp efficiency efforts).

    BTW, one of the projects on our books is to work out ways to make some (much?) of the existing base load fossil fuel the peaking/backup equipment required so the investment is not lost.

    “nuclear, which ticks every single box except social and political acceptance”

    You left out the ugly duckling; cost.

    1. “We are looking to decarbonise not recarbonise.” Eh? What is this, some kind of catch-phrase? </blockquote?

      Well, it wasn't intentional at the time – it just seemed to roll off the keyboard – but you're right, it does make a very good catch phrase. It underlines the fact that 'replacing' a 500 MWe coal fired power plant with intermittent renewables and a new 500 MWe fossil fuel 'back-up' plant (like gas) is simply locking us into a new carbon emitting power plant for another 40 years. Replacing one obscenely polluting CO2 emitter with a lesser but still dangerously high CO2 emitter may reduce our emissions some, but not enough to stop climate change.

      And isn't CC what this is all about?

      One has to agree that, as a minimum, we need to be shutting down coal-fired stations and replacing them with non-carbon alternatives. Preventing new fossil fuel builds or preventing some new FF builds is a woefully inadequate half measure that can only lead to continued climate change. During the last ten years no FF plants have been closed in SA, however four FF plants have either come on-line or been substantially expanded (at least three of these are gas plants), with another gas generator just recently approved . Wind and gas may have slowed the rate at which SA’s emissions have grown but they have not lead to a reduction in emissions and, obviously, are not replacing FF’s (see link for numbers https://decarbonisesa.com/2011/05/16/let%E2%80%99s-get-this-party-started-decarbonising-sa-part-1/ ) For comparison, in ten years France replaced almost all it’s FF plants with 34 NPP’s. Surely if France can build 34 NPP’s in ten years SA can build 3.

      We must not accept one fossil fuel as an alternative for another or as a back-up for clean wind and solar. Wind and solar are zero carbon – they deserve a zero carbon back-up. Nuclear power is the only possible baseload alternative for South Australians right now.

      Please. If you care about the world we are creating, do not support new fossil fuel plants, in any form, with any amount of efficiency, where a non-carbon alternative is
      available. Gas, coal and oil plants are simply too dangerous and too damaging to

      I’ll end with a question. With what would you replace a 500 MWe coal fired power plant?

        1. I see your form of idealism and compare it to mine; I’d like to see fossil fuel switched off tomorrow and replaced with renewables. You’d like to see fossil fuel switched off tomorrow and replaced with nuclear.

          We both know the practical/pragmatic reality is that much of the existing infrastructure (massive $$$ already spent) will continue while one or other is ramped, can we agree on that?

          “SA can build 3”

          Of what size? How would you handle the peaking/backup requirements? (SA peak ~ 3400MW)

          “With what would you replace a 500 MWe coal fired power plant?”

          I would use massive efficiency efforts, geographically- and technically- diverse (wind, home PV, industrial-scale PV, CSP/storage, hydro, wave/tidal etc) renewables. I would then back it up with variations of on-demand combustion fuelled systems, but ultimately geothermal.

          1. One need change nothing about the current system except replace the current coal and gas base and intermediate load with nuclear, which performs in much the same manner. Of 9.1 million tCO2-e that is SA’s emissions from electricity, 8.7 million of that came from baseload. In the short term, there is really no point squabbling over that gas backup that does the peaking, our GHG problem is essentially a baseload one, and the wind is chiming in nicely with it’s zero carbon power when the wind is good enough to blow with penetration that is not so high that it has become unmanageable. The system can remain otherwise unchanged.

            “I would use massive efficiency efforts, geographically- and technically- diverse (wind, home PV, industrial-scale PV, CSP/storage, hydro, wave/tidal etc) renewables. I would then back it up with variations of on-demand combustion fuelled systems, but ultimately geothermal.”

            Now that, by comparison, is very, very complex, incredibly expensive, hinges on one tech that is experiencing real difficulties in even acquiring funding to continue the exploration of the resource, another tech (CSP with storage) that has only recently provided anything resembling reliable power at one location in the world and is massively expensive and resource intensive. Were this ever to be achieved, it certaintly would not be rapid.

          2. I would use massive efficiency efforts, geographically- and technically- diverse (wind, home PV, industrial-scale PV, CSP/storage, hydro, wave/tidal etc) renewables. I would then back it up with variations of on-demand combustion fuelled systems, but ultimately geothermal.

            No, I didn’t mean I wanted some vague, sweeping list of every alternative tech and energy conservation strategy in existence. I wanted to know, in megawatts installed, how much wind you would have to build. Would you account for it’s low capacity factor and build 1500 MWe? More? Less? Would it be dispersed? How much hydro would be available? Where would it come from? Spread across each home, how much PV would be needed? How would one ensure it got built? In other words, I was asking for actual, concrete numbers. For example, Since the capacity factor of a nuclear power plant is similar to or better than a coal plant I could, quite simply, replace the 500 MWe baseload coal fired power plant with a 500MWe nuclear power plant and in so doing, I would reduce the CO2 emissions previously attributable to the coal plant, to zero.

            So please, once again, with numbers, how would you replace a 500 MWe coal fired power plant with a zero carbon alternative? Also, can your strategy be repeated for the next plant and and the next and so on?

            1. “I was asking for actual, concrete numbers.”

              Fine. What does your NPP cost? Who is the builder? What is the build time? How is it going off-line handled? Nothing mythical, so that’s probably GEN III+. Concrete numbers remember.

            2. BTW, Marion, you never responded as to whether you thought the 20% of SA’s energy delivered via WIND was real or not? That’s 20% of kWh, not name-plate capacity and it’s also without really trying, in around 8 years and they’re adding MORE of it, quickly too.

            3. You seem to think these are difficult questions to answer. I think that is probably because you’ve never attempted to answer them concerning your own suggested suite of technologies/strategies. I think this, because in order to cost something you first have to know exactly what you want to buy and how much of it you need. This is the question I was asking you to answer. If you can tell us how much of which technologies you wish to build then providing a cost estimate will be a relatively simple exercise.
              (A clarification: When I asked for ‘concrete’ numbers I meant that numbers are concrete – as opposed to adjectives or phrases like ‘some’ or ‘lots of’, which are rather slippery. I would be happy enough with ballpark numerical estimates)

              For example I have chosen to replace the coal plant with an equivalent sized NPP, so now I know I need to find someone who constructs NPP’s for international clients – the South Koreans say – and then I can look at how much their most recent builds are costing – $5 billion per 1400 MWe plant – and derive an estimate – about $2 billion for 500 MWe plant (although probably a bit more since we would be losing some the the efficiencies of scale there. Still – ballpark).

              Now it’s your turn. What zero carbon technologies/strategies would you suggest to replace a 500 MWe coal-fired plant. If you can answer this, I’ll find the builder and do the cost estimates for you.

            4. I’ll read the report this weekend. I’m not anti-wind though, I just think we need nuclear power as well. I think I’ll find it encouraging.

              Note however, the 20% has not replaced a single coal plant or prevented new FF plants being built. Obviously wind alone is not enough. I think we’d both agree on that.

            5. “the 20% has not replaced a single coal plant or prevented new FF plants being built.”

              Isn’t that another way of saying “wind did nothing” “it was a waste of time”???

              The 20% contribution certainly prevented that demand being provided by something else. How is that statement not correct?

              What I’d like to find out, and no data seems to be published, is what % of the wind capacity had to be dumped and how frequently. What I’m suggesting there is; say for example there is a further 20% of annual kWh that is dumped. (At times the incidence of wind and demand are in the wrong directions; high winds, low demand, but we can’t displace the “baseload”). If you subtracted the “baseload” coal and replaced that with fast acting CCGT gas, you would have a much further net reduction of emissions, because you could then use the further wind contribution.

              If you look at system with baseload concept for long enough, you realise the whole idea of baseload is actually part of the problem.

            6. “$5 billion per 1400 MWe plant – and derive an estimate – about $2 billion for 500 MWe plant”

              Scaling a plant in the manner you suggest isn’t going to bring the price down in the way you would want, but OK.

              Also, where is this from? I mean are you using a DoE LCoE for example? Is it easier if we do? Or manufacturer claims? If it’s manufacturer claims, I have a quote on my desk from Areva (you know those guys??) for ~13.5c/kWh LCoE CLFR CSP w/storage.

            7. Zvyozdochka asks:

              Also, where is this from?

              Yeah, the numbers were from memory, still, I was close. The link below provides the correct figures. The reactors are being built by Korea Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) who won the contract to build NPP’s for the United Arab Emirates.


              In December 2009 ENEC announced that it had selected a bid from the KEPCO-led consortium* for four APR-1400 reactors, to be built at one site. The value of the contract for the construction, commissioning and fuel loads for four units is about US$20.4 billion, with a high percentage of the contract being offered under a fixed-price arrangement. The consortium also expects to earn another $20 billion by jointly operating the reactors for 60 years.  In March 2010 KEPCO awarded a $5.59 billion construction contract to Hyundai and Samsung for the first plants.

            8. Zvyozdochka August 27, 2011 at 9:39 am

              Isn’t that another way of saying “wind did nothing” “it was a waste of time”???

              You said it, not me! But no, I think it’ll show wind has managed to meet some of the growth in demand. After all imports have dropped and perhaps without it even more FF plants would have been built or expanded this decade.

              If you subtracted the “baseload” coal and replaced that with fast acting CCGT gas, you would have a much further net reduction of emissions, because you could then use the further wind contribution.

              You would have gas baseload for the next 40 plus years – and here we’ve come full circle…

              Marion Brook says:
              August 26, 2011 at 7:38 am

    1. We’ve been building wind turbines since 2003, it really has made no difference. That is almost 8 years now. From what I recall the rate of growth in wind turbine installation has been the highest in SA?

      Not to mention the the massive flux in solar systems on houses over the recent years (peaking in 2008/2009 i think), this was pretty much dealt with in one of the recent posts here or on BNC.

      It has CLEARLY been demonstrated over the last decade that renewables are not going to happen on the scale that it needs to happen.

      Regarding the Skitkowski prediction of various NPPs, i believe we can but the error down to political and social stigma rather than it actually being a viable/feasible solution.

      1. There is a two sided story to SA’s wind that I wil tell soon. In a nutshell, it demonstrates both postive impacts, but also serious limitations for stretching to deeper penetrations. Stay tuned for the post.

      2. “We’ve been building wind turbines since 2003, it really has made no difference.”

        You appear to be claiming that the 20% of SA’s energy that was generated by wind (ie real GWh, not share of nameplate capability) was wasted.

        1. Ah, I do love a bit of smug, keeps the threads interesting!

          I’m a bit busy at the moment to go you point by point, but as I mentioned before you could read around the site to get my more detailed take on a lot of these issues.

          Vis a vis wind, you will find that I have carefully and very deliberately maintained support for judicious use of renewables as part of a decarbonising strategy.

          You are dead right, the SA wind story is one of pretty quickly achieving 20% and a consequent drop in GHG. Overall it’s a good advert for pretty significant penetration of wind/renewables and the result so far is fully consistent with the goal of Decarbonise SA.

          But that’s far from the full story. It still leaves us with a balance of 8-9 million tco2e, much higher than it was 20 years ago. Clearly, there is a problem. It is very wrong to imagine that from here we can just promptly roll on to ever higher penetrations 30, 40, 50% up to full decarbonisation with renewables at anything like a pace that could be described as responsive to climate change. Following part 2 of the debate I will be posting on this in some detail.

  16. Ben,as this conversation has been getting increasingly heated on your part,I deliberately framed my last comment in general terms in order to give you a chance for a honourable exit.

    However,you have elected to take it personally. As the prosecutor said to the judge, “Your honour,in the light of the testimony of the previous witness,I rest my case”.

    By the way,Sustainable Population Australia – http://www.population.org.au – and the Stable Population Party of Australia – http://www.populationparty.com – both have branches in South Australia.I encourage you to visit these websites.Who knows,if you investigate further you may even find that some of the people in these organizations are receptive to the idea of nuclear power.

  17. I think you’d be surprised how many ‘arty’ people are receptive to nuclear. Perhaps they realise it takes an affluent economy to support orchestras and public galleries. The intransigents are Greenpeace types who have assumed the role of dour ecological puritans. They don’t seem to have actually asked people if they are prepared to accept less of everything.

    A question to dry geothermal enthusiasts; if the Earth’s interior heat comes from radioactive decay how come this is OK but not controlled fission on the surface? Note some wells are bringing radon gas to the surface.

    1. “They don’t seem to have actually asked people if they are prepared to accept less of everything.”

      Yes they have; by definition people prepared to tackle AGW are necessarily not prepared to leave the planet in worse shape, meaning changes to “business-as-usual”.

      There’s no reason to believe we cannot make our way-of-life much more sustainable.

      “if the Earth’s interior heat comes from radioactive decay how come this is OK but not controlled fission on the surface?”

      Probably for the same reason I don’t concern myself about the Sun or RTGs (unless someone cracks it open).

      With regards Radon; http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/113341/090107_web.pdf & found everywhere (to varying degress obviously), even in Natural Gas http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=8&po=5

  18. If 1.65m people use 3400 MW peak that’s 2061w apiece at some point. At least the Coober Pedy miners have the decency to live in caves and not use the aircon. The good people of SA (I was one myself) may have every intention of frugal energy use but they’re not quite there yet.

    I think extending the Moomba-Adelaide natgas pipe to Queensland coal seam gas will happen before nukes then somebody will complain about less gas for east coast export. It’s hard to see a new coal mine in SA or indeed any of the dozens of other mines unless the State gets a new power source. Keep hoping for unprecedented frugal energy use and geothermal.

    1. “Keep hoping for unprecedented frugal energy use and geothermal.”

      We shouldn’t have to hope for it, but the same sort of political gutlessness that results in a poor response to AGW exists at all levels of government unfortunately.

      For example, I would;

      1. Immediately require every new building/home to be near-as-damn-it Passivhaus.

      2. Immediately require every new house/being-purchased-private-home to have; insulation, solar hot water and PV installed (pays for itself over the course of a 15 year home-loan, ongoing payback from PV/insulation).

      3. For industry; ban the installation of open fired boilers, must be CHP instead (pays for itself in ~5.5years).

      4. A program of loans to re-fit open fired boilers with CHP (pays for itself).

      5. A program of building and street lighting re-fit to LED systems (pays for itself).

      6. Ban on new fossil-fueled MWs (apart from renewable backup).

      7. Hybridisation of trucking (the Hino/TNT program has been extremely succesful with restrictions on engine power and acceleration.

      8. Light rail.

      9. More freight from road-to-rail (pays for itself – but timeframes are huge).

      10. Implement acceleration restrictions on vehicles above 2t. Large 4wds to be speed restricted; if you have a Landcruiser you may drive at 85% of posted speed (helps road trauma too, discourages purchase).

      The g-CO2-e ambatement cost effectiveness of efficiency is not in dispute is it? Energy efficiency is also economically expansive as the sunk cost of fuel purchase is returned in circulation.

      1. All basically sound or indeed very good ideas, and overall I would like to see deep penetration of most of that. I’m just not interested I relying upon it when the climate is at stake. I will never, ever stand in the way of these ideas. Why not extend the same attitude to the proven solution of nuclear?

        1. “I will never, ever stand in the way of these ideas. Why not extend the same attitude to the proven solution of nuclear?”

          Because efficiency has two benefits; abatement and liberating spending into the economy away from the sunk cost of fuel. Nuclear has one (and likely electricity market only).

          1. Yes but mate, the primary goal is rapid decarbonisation to preserve a stable climate. At least, that’s the goal of this site. I also do not see how the two fail to co-exist. Efficiency makes meeting my goal cheaper and faster, I love it.

            1. In abatement terms, in the Australian market, right now, if I had funds available for an NPP or efficiency roll outs, I would spend it on efficiency immediately every time.

              You could GIVE everyone in Sydney/Melbourne a solar hot water system where you can retire every single electric HWS and close Hazelwood for ~20% the cost of an NPP*. The money NOT spent on electric bills (in effect, the direct revenue of Hazelwood) becomes discretionary spending again. I’d spend the rest on PV (at the same time as Solar-HWS) and be many many MWs ahead.

              * Back-of-the-envelope stuff after a few Little Creatures Pale Ales.

              (I’ll see if I can firm that up – someone round here has those numbers).

  19. “One need change nothing about the current system except replace the current coal and gas base and intermediate load with nuclear”

    So in other words, you ARE prepared to allow a particular pattern of gas use; yours suppliments the intermediates/peaks, mine suppliments the troughs (renewable shortfall). We’d be arguing about the QUANTUM of gas use, yes?

    (I have already conceeded that for the purposes of system design, you would need to backup every MW of renewable with standby plant; the trick is to limit/eliminate it’s USE).

    “very complex, incredibly expensive, hinges on one tech that is experiencing real difficulties in even acquiring funding to continue the exploration of the resource, another tech (CSP with storage) that has only recently provided anything resembling reliable power at one location in the world and is massively expensive and resource intensive”

    They sound like sweeping statements to me, of the kind that yourself (and BNC) I’m sure would be keen to avoid.

    Complex, yes, but certainly possible to model, cost and design.

    I dispute your CSP comments; it’s incredibly simple tech, extremely well unstood, lacking nothing but scale (changing) and will-power (changing). I’d take a bet, that it would be possible to build 1500MW of CSP w/storage (~CF 70%, yes plus backup) faster than a 1000MW NPP in Australia today if the starting gun were fired tomorrow.

    Can I confirm your “difficulties acquiring funding” comment refers to EGS/HDR?

    1. Limiting, eliminating its use means you still need to pay for it to sit there an do little or preferably nothing. Someone will have paid to build it and will require a return. So basing a system around the idea that every single MW requires back up is a really really bad idea. Super expensive and extra time consuming.

      1. If you design it properly, the “extra” equipment doesn’t actually need to sit around much. The units appear onsite with CSP.

        For example; if I have a CSP w/storage plant, the power block can be multi-shaft CCGT in extra units or larger ratings.

        In the example of 100MW CSP field might have 250MW of turbines, which is not a large % of captial cost, even if 6x 25MW units sit there doing next-to-nothing sometimes. Sometimes they’d be backing up wind (for example) and but re-heating the storage at the same time.

        (Take a look at the common equipment costs that appear on LCoE summaries).

    2. Both quantum of use and cost of overall system as per previous comment, the latter of which goes straight to the chance of it ever happening. With a goal of zero emissions, I see a 95% result from replacing the baseload as rather a good start. So indeed I am not major concerned about the current GHG contribution of the peaking gas that runs a few days per year.

      1. So in other words you’d leave the same patterns of fossil fuel intermediate/peaking use that exist now with nuclear? I just want to be clear on that.

        What I’m suggesting to you is that if you add up the per annum gas use for peaking vs the likely per annum gas use for shortfall (in a renewable system), our modelling shows them to be pretty similar as a first-of-a-kind build-out. The DIFFERENCE with a renewable model, is that with more knowledge, better distribution of sites/interconnects, the aim would be to ELIMINATE the shortfalls.

        1. Why are you comparing “per annum gas use for peaking vs the likely per annum gas use for shortfall (in a renewable system)”? Won’t your putative ‘renewable system’ need gas for peaking AS WELL AS for shortfalls?

        2. If it meant the most rapid path to decarbonisation, which it does, yes that’s right. But I would also like a more efficient, less peaky and volatile system overall, preferably with flattening or falling demand growth thanks to ideas like you have laid out. But nuclear does not preclude this outcome.

    3. Possible to model, cost and design??? DSA is looking for a strategy with a clear ability to deliver, fast. This is not a hypothetical puzzle we need to crack using only certain solutions, its an urgent problem that needs all solutions deployed as their respective advantages and disadvantages dictate.

      1. EGS = Enhanced/Engineered Geothermal Systems = HDR (same thing).

        Money for EGS/HDR is so bad, the unique drill rig that one company was using had to be sold! They have test wells producing steam now. There is not a massive technology problem.

        It’s totally deplorable and inexcusible.

            1. The Germans have ‘cracked’ (ha, good one) EGS/HDR? Yes, they have (AFAIK still) the only ‘commercial’ EGS/HDR plants in the world (I say ‘commercial’ in quotes because they’re heavily subsidised and, as you may be alluding, they’ve just ramped the feed-in tariff up still further). As such, they’re clearly world leaders in this technology. But despite having commenced over seven years ago, their EGS operations are still only generating megawatts in single figures. Despite the undeniably huge potential, plainly there are serious issues with scaling up. Presumably this is why the Germans have admitted they’ll have to build something like 20 GW of new fossil generating capacity as they crash out of nuclear. Despite also massively increasing their renewables investment (in geothermal as well as wind and solar), even they can’t see them being anything like adequate. That’s the proof of the pudding, right there.

  20. @ Mark Duffett

    I think perhaps you misunderstand the goal of the German Landau (and similar French Soultz) plant in terms of sizing. Both concepts are to develop a rapidly deployable kit-like EGS plant and dot them around the place.

    I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Landau plant, and it is mostly definitely producing power commercially (yes, they have a FITS for it, but it’s not very generous). They’re making money and proving up their concept. It should be a kit of equipment about the size of 5x 20-foot containers for ~10MW. Cheap too.

  21. I believe that most of Adelaide’s existing housing stock cannot achieve interior thermal comfort in 45C weather without compressive air conditioning. This is borne out by peak summer electrical demand which dwarfs the output from rooftop PV, The options would seem to be some combination of rebuilding the houses to a higher standard, putting 2.5kw of PV on 90% of houses (not 1.35 kw on 3% of houses) or increasing Adelaide’s centralised generation in summer. In money terms I suspect we are talking hundreds of billions, tens of billions and simple billions respectively.

    Alternatively the frail elderly could ‘man up’ and learn to cope with 45C temps. That’s until geothermal comes along to power those mothballed air conditioners. While we’re waiting we could also consider some other form of low carbon energy that can replace SA’s summer electricity imports.

    1. Please telephone your local councilman, state rep and federal member to demand efficiency (like I outlined above) be instituted tomorrow. Tell your friends to do it as well. Last time I was in Adelaide, it seemed to me maybe one out four houses had solar hot water. (There is even a low interest low program in SA for Solar-HWS – they probably pay for themselves).

      In the meantime; the answer to your question is staring you in the face and you’re so close, you even mention it. What is the price paid to generators for the peak kWh you mention in SA, or what do you think the cost of those summer peak kWhs is to system?

  22. John Newlands, you are correct that Adelaide’s existing housing stock is largely dependent on air conditioning to be livable in extreme summer conditions.This applies right across Australia with the exception of the South Island where you are.Then again,winter in your part of the world can be a trifle trying.

    In the past,our ancestors learned how to build abodes which did a fair job of moderating inside temperatures without expensive air conditioning and without even basic technology like insulation.
    In the pursuit of the almighty dollar we appear to have lost those techniques.This is apparent by the vast stretches of brick veneer monstrosities built to a universal method regardless of the climate.Whether that climate is tropical,subtropical or temperate continental it is always the same box.

    Even the basics like orientation of the dwelling to the North and provision of adequate eaves appropriate to the latitude have been ignored.

    This needs to change by the imposition of proper building and design codes but that still leaves the problem of the existing housing stock.Unfortunately,air conditioning,energy hungry as it is,appears to be the only solution.I doubt if a wider application of small domestic solar generators will do much for the problem.It will certainly destabilize the grid.

  23. @ Marion Brook

    OK, here’s what I would do. I’m not as familiar with SA’s grid as I could be. I don’t have the information I would need to refine this on best locations, or if they’re available. It’s also extremely rough. I’m doing MORE than simply replacing base load, and I tell you why at the end.

    Here’s a broad concept outline, let me know if you think it’s interesting and I will refine performance numbers, locations and try to get to the bottom of costs.


    1. Replace Northern 520MW coal with 630MW of CSP with storage (~70% CF).

    2. Replace Quarantine 210MW open cycle gas peaker with 250MW of Wind.

    3. Replace Dry Creek 156MW open cycle gas peaker with 175MW of tracking/concentrating PV.

    4. Have Natural Gas firing equiv capability to drive 520MW (as backup) at CSP plant using same power block as driven by CSP field(s).

    5. Add 210MW + 156MW of backup turbine capability to the CSP plant, with exhaust heat into CSP storage exchangers (proxy for combined cycle).

    Design Goals;

    1. The combination of plant directly replaces the MWs of fossil fuel closed. If modelling is similar to WA, fossil fuel use reduced to around 11% of original (with more tuning available).

    2. As opposed to replacing base load for base load (ie coal for NPP), this design should have an overall reduction in natural gas use (the NPP would still need the open cycle gas plant for peaking).

    3. The correlation of peak PV output and peak demand is typically ~90%.

    4. CSP plant with storage is generation and demand dispatch-able moment by moment (interesting result from that discussed below*).

    5. Lower winter performance from CSP likely matches lower winter demand patterns (this is the hard bit for the moment).

    6. Use of natural gas firing also reheats storage (for night demand) which would be because CSP is under performing, which is likely forecast into the next day also.

    7. Construction in 4 years.

    8. Protection from energy price inflation for consumers of this electricity.


    1. Ownership – to get the greatest abatement effect, the plants must be run in a co-operative manner, not for revenue as a priority (eg, if CSP output is reduced because wind can contribute, no CSP revenue concern should be involved in the decision).

    2. Location – I don’t know enough about SA, I can take some guesses based on insolation and gas pipelines.

    3. Contracts for gas – given the design goal is to use as little as possible (none in fact for large periods of time), gas supply contracts are difficult negotiations. This is the road block we have right now for the WA projects we’re working up (it’s one of the reasons our PV w/diesel plant uses diesel instead unfortunately).

    4. Sticker shock – yes, the upfront capital cost will be high.


    ~19.5c kWh for CSP w/storage plus extra turbines (Areva CLFR). Wind ~14c kWh (Hallet 4). PV ~22c/kWh (Blythe).

    To dramatically bring down the cost of CSP, we work the site costs over 99 years. A good CSP site, is a good CSP site into the future. Foundations/preparations built can be re-used for many many iterations of plant.

    * CSP dispatch

    One of the outcomes of the modelling we have been doing when a CSP w/storage plant is present is the ability to utilise larger variable contributions from other sources.

    For example; one of the objections to greater penetrations of wind is often the mythical “grid destabilisation” argument. One part being that sometimes there is TOO MUCH wind contribution and that it has to be dumped.

    With a CSP w/storage plant present, it’s energy collection can be diverted to storage OR use of storage slowed to allow the the greater contribution from wind when available.

    With the current wind forecasting models, there is strong ability to optimise CSP thermal storage or drain periods. In other words, a CSP w/storage plant can follow load AND generation.

    1. @Zvyozdochka https://decarbonisesa.com/2011/08/21/monbiot-vs-greenpeace-reflections-for-decarbonising-sa/#comment-1080

      1. Replace Northern 520MW coal with 630MW of CSP with storage (~70% CF).

      Where is the performance data that demonstrates a 70% capacity factor (CF) for concentrating solar power (CSP) with storage? The highest capacity factor I’ve seen for a CSP with storage is the Andasol-1-3 in spain with 7.5 hrs storage and a 41% CF. (E.g. see: http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/46824/impact-csp-and-pv-solar-feed-tariffs-spain
      Under the heading: Description of an Operating 50 MW CSP Plant With Storage in Southern Spain)

      What kind of storage do you envisage? 7.5 hrs might just get us through a summers night but not a winter one and even in summer if the next day is at all overcast we would be stuffed. This is not a replacement.

      <i.4. Have Natural Gas firing equiv capability to drive 520MW (as backup) at CSP plant using same power block as driven by CSP field(s).

      Ah. O.K. So that is how you will do it. You’re replacing the hugely polluting baseload Northern 520MW coal plant with another 520MW slightly less polluting FF plant which will remain operational for forty years. The CSP plant will take off some more emissions but you must be aware that it will not eliminate them. If maximum emission reduction is the goal then nuclear power is better. Replace Northern with a 520MW nuclear power plant and reduce CO2 emissionions from electricity generation to zero.

      2. Replace Quarantine 210MW open cycle gas peaker with 250MW of Wind.

      Onshore wind has a capacity factor of about 30%. When the wind isn’t blowing, or is blowing too little, there will be be insufficient power. The wind does not follow demand and will not always be blowing when peak demand occurs. We could not close Quarantine once this/these wind plants were built. This is not a replacement.

      3. Replace Dry Creek 156MW open cycle gas peaker with 175MW of tracking/concentrating PV.
      What would happen in winter, particulary during the after-work peak around 5-6 o’clock when the sun is setting? Dry Creek gas plant would need to remain operational in order to cover for the winter/cloudy-day PV shortfall. This is not a replacement.

      5. Add 210MW + 156MW of backup turbine capability to the CSP plant, with exhaust heat into CSP storage exchangers (proxy for combined cycle).
      I don’t entirely understand how this would help with the limited storage currently demonstrated for CSP. What kind of storage are you expecting to use?

      But what I really don’t understand is, if you’d “like to see fossil fuel switched off tomorrow and replaced with renewables”, why do you support such a large portion of gas – 520 MW installed capacity is well over half the installed capacity of the system you are trying to replace? You can be sure, if we build it, we will use it, so why build it? It makes me wonder, what is your higher priority, being anti-nuclear or solving climate change?

      1. “Where is the performance data that demonstrates a 70% capacity factor (CF) for concentrating solar power (CSP) with storage?”

        The data is from Areva Renewable (high temperature versions of the Ausra CLFR CSP) for a current project we have been modelling. Are Areva an untrustworthy company?


        I recommend the video as it gives a good overview of the simplicity of the product, the highly modular plant which is designed to be transported, with minimal site foundations (which we propose to reuse into the future).

        “What kind of storage do you envisage?”

        14 hrs and ~20% larger field for Kalgoorlie (similar latitude to good insolation parts of SA, probably doesn’t need the field increase in SA however). Kalgoorlie also has a major natural gas supply pipe already and major transmission lines. The storage is oversized partly because it is also intended to accept waste heat from gas turbine operation.

        “This is not replacement. …… The CSP plant will take off some more emissions but you must be aware that it will not eliminate them.”

        Absolutely, I am aware. I have not claimed one-for-one replacement for this design element.

        “Replace Northern with a 520MW nuclear power plant and reduce CO2 emissionions from electricity generation to zero.”

        As one-for-one replacement, yes I accept that. A one-for-one nuclear-for-coal DOES NOT address the peak demand use of gas. That is the reason we go on with the other parts of our plan.

        “Onshore wind has a capacity factor of about 30%.”

        I’m using the SASDOS report (and DoE) figure of ~35% (similar to WA anyway).

        “We could not close Quarantine once this/these wind plants were built. This is not a replacement.”

        Again, I do not claim replacement via this one design element. It’s an integrated system.

        “What would happen in winter, particulary during the after-work peak around 5-6 o’clock when the sun is setting?”

        I might ask the same question in summer with your nuclear replacement of Northern? How much gas is being used to facilitate the peak? In your model, you use exactly the same amount of gas over the course of a year. You have peaks to deal with, I have shortfalls.

        Looking at the energy demand patterns over the course of a year, the daily drops in demand (very roughly) match the solar plant drops in performance. There is a high correlation of load to temperature. The question is to “fill” the shortfalls, and then to reduce the occurrence of those shortfalls.

        We would use the Amonix tracking concentrating PV which have excellent cloudy performance. We have a project being installed in India (and shortly in WA).

        “Add 210MW + 156MW of backup turbine capability to the CSP plant, with exhaust heat into CSP storage exchangers (proxy for combined cycle).
        I don’t entirely understand how this would help with the limited storage currently demonstrated for CSP.”

        The 210MW + 156MW gas plant isn’t utilising the storage, it uses gas directly during shortfall or backup. When it absolutely must run the reject/waste heat is used to top up the storage because that also largely coincides with periods of lower CSP/CPV performance.

        On the modelling we have done (admittedly for a WA project – this is very similar, but scaled up obviously); our system 630MW CSP, plus 250MW Wind, plus 175MW CPV results in 11%-15% of the fossil use of Northern (520MW coal) plus Quarantine (210MW gas) plus Dry Creek (156MW gas).

        “But what I really don’t understand is, if you’d “like to see fossil fuel switched off tomorrow and replaced with renewables”, why do you support such a large portion of gas – 520 MW installed capacity is well over half the installed capacity of the system you are trying to replace?”

        My ideals and the reality (like yours) clash. You can’t get an NPP and I can’t get to 100% renewable (without geothermal) and in the meantime we have fossil fuelled system to de-construct. So I don’t let the “perfect” be the enemy of the good; 11%-15% of the previous emissions for retiring 520MW+210MW+156MW capability is pretty damn good, plus MORE flexible or extensive use of previously lost peak wind contribution.

        With more and more tuning (knowledge of the required balancing), it’s possible such a system might hardly use the gas equipment, but that is the aim. The cheap gas turbine equipment will be just sitting around mostly. We’ve been investigating moving the OCGT (and then being modified) to the CSP site to leverage some of the money that will necessarily be paid out to owners/operators of these plants to close them early. Sources likes interconnects, hydro/pumped-storage, geothermal, biochar, biogas from sewerage/rubbish streams, wave, tidal etc further reduce the need for gas backup/use.

        We could start tomorrow with support from the ACF, The Greens probably even the LNP. Just like an NPP however, someone is going to get an awful sticker shock and someone still needs to break up the long-run fossil-based energy supply contracts. All projects can construct in parallel with the CSP plant taking the longest at 4.2 years (Areva via local fabrication). First power could commence as early as spring 2013 (CPV component).

        For our client’s project, we’ve used 10 years worth of insolation and wind data in 30 minute intervals to model how much fossil fuel would be replaced. Needless to say this doesn’t directly translate to SA and our plant sizes are smaller for the moment using existing wind facilities they own. We’ve had detailed modelling from Alstom for turbine fuel consumption and emissions performance, plus input for thermal optimisation/flows.

        We’re aiming for ~20c/kWh LCoE which is not where we want to be just yet, as it’s still on the way down although we have contracts in place for the power, most of the financing is done. These plant will be going ahead. The CPV part has been given the go ahead.

        What LCoE price do you have for your scaled down NPP? I calculate around the same (granting the scaling assumption).

        Of course, the components of all our plant are fully recyclable. I’d like to understand how you propose to cost decommissioning/waste storage.

        (Apologies to all concerned, Ben especially). Over and out.

            1. Please don’t take it personally after so much work put into your comment. Very suddenly trying to buy a new house, nightmare, not much brain to spare right now. Hope you can wait.

        1. I’m sorry it took so long to answer you. I’m afraid I’m not really the argumentative type and ongoing, polarised debates just frustrate me. This will be my last post on this subject.

          The 5 MWe CSP in that video does not have 14hrs storage and there was no mention of a 70% capacity factor. Until you can come up with some data to support your claim I can only assume such a unit has not yet been built or tested.

          This is how I see your plan. You’ve retained the original peaking gas plants, swapped the old coal plant for a new gas plant and created a newer, longer lasting 886 MWe of fossil fueled system in place of the original, middle aged, 886 MWe fossil fueled system. This is clearly re-carbonisation. Next to this you then suggest we build a 1055 MWe renewable system which has as it’s main component two technologies (CSP with a capacity factor of 70% and 14hrs storage – presumably molten salt) which you are unable to show has ever been demonstrated. How can you ask us to gamble our future on unproven technologies? This is not a mature, considered response to the dangers of climate change, it’s wishful thinking.

          I recommend this piece by Ben Heard. It proposes an actual, zero emissions, replacement strategy for about 80% SA’s of FF plants, eliminating more than 90% of it’s CO2 emissions from electricity. Certainly the last 10% of emissions from the peaking plants can be reduced further with renewables, though probably not eliminated without a cost effective, long range, storage option.


          So SA’s fossil fuel generation is 78% for baseload. The three largest emitters (Northern, Playford and Torrens Island) contribute 7 million of the 9 million tCO2-e of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation. This drives home an important message for me. Politically and socially we have a challenge. Technically though, decarbonising SA is not that hard. Three decisive infrastructure commitments and the job on electricity is nearly 80% done.

          1. I’d be happy to try to address other parts, but I guess it is getting a bit circular, but for the moment;

            “you ask us to gamble our future on unproven technologies”

            Our client is looking at this as a commercial operation, not gambling anything. They will be paid a price to deliver power which includes a payment for them to contractually deliver.

            They have no concerns about the maturity of the technology as it’s so very simple. It isn’t nuclear engineering, it’s hot water engineering; we’re ordering components off the shelf for the most part. I think the most difficult question is the longevity of the plant; for want of a better description I guess we’re taking a “risk” there.

            “Certainly the last 10% of emissions from the peaking plants can be reduced further with renewables, though probably not eliminated without a cost effective, long range, storage option.”

            Which is the whole point I make in defense of our plan. We model our design down to 11%-15% of previous fossil fuelled 886MW emissions, with more scope to tune it down further.

            Put both on the table today in WA and which one will go ahead? I know the answer;


            1. O.K. I’ll bite.

              I don’t believe a CSP with 14hrs storage could have an annual capacity factor of 70%. Even in summer 9 hrs of the storage would be used up over-night – in winter it would be more like 12hrs. Within two to five hours of a single cloudy day you’ve got no electricity generation, no storage to draw on and no ability to recharge storage for the following evening/cloudy days. Days of cloud are not unusual, even in summer there are clouds in the sky. I am very sceptical about your claims, which is why I asked for some concrete data.

              But unproven tech aside. What you are saying when you propose this doubled up system (with 85% redundancy?! That really is a little naïve.) is that there will be times when absolutely none of the 1055 MWe renewable system will be available and that during those times we must rely solely on fossil fuels. Why fall back on fossil fuels when it’s just not necessary! If we replace SA baseload with nuclear power then when the renewables are not available during peak periods, 80% of our electricity can continue to be provided by zero emission power plants. When renewables are not available during low demand periods 100% of our electricity can continue to be provided by zero emission power plants.

              Using my above plan – replacing base and intermediate load with nuclear power and using renewables to cut the last 10% of emissions – then if we deployed wind, solar PV and your CSP with 14hrs storage and 70% CF as you suggest, then by your own calculations, emissions from my plan would be reduced to 1.5% – 1.1% of the original system. For all intents and purposes that is a zero emissions electricity plan.

              Realistically though, if we wanted to cut the last 10% of emissions we would probably want to build enough nuclear plants to cover peak load and then use the redundant energy for off peak desalination and charging electric vehicles. Now we are well on our way to full decarbonisation!

              Put both on the table today in WA and which one will go ahead? I know the answer;

              Right now, we can’t put either plan on the table. Yours is… in development? And thus not yet available (if ever), while mine is available but banned.

              The anti-nuclear position exists, in part, because dishonest folk, such as yourself, continue to mislead the public into believing baseload renewables are available right now at commercial scale. They are not, therefore, nuclear power is necessary.

              You still need to show me a pilot plant that demonstrates a CSP with 14hrs storage and 70% CF.

  24. Damn, always the way, I forgot to add;

    One of things we have been looking at is the opportunity to move/re-use some of the varied open-cycle equipment. Is it possible/economical to move Quarantine/Dry Creek’s equipment to the CSP site? It would make the capital lower and possibly make greater use of the early closure funds.

    Lastly, this has been one of pieces of advice to Government; stop giving contractual certainty to private operators of new fossil fuel plant. It’s one of the largest road blocks to deconstructing the grid as it stands. For example; I’m aware of a 100MW plant that is planned where 70% of the output is contracted for 25 years. It’s criminal.

    That’s why we say that Government should get back in the power generation business.

  25. @ Marion Brook

    “During the last ten years no FF plants have been closed in SA, however four FF plants have either come on-line or been substantially expanded (at least three of these are gas plants), with another gas generator just recently approved . Wind and gas may have slowed the rate at which SA’s (generation) emissions have grown but they have not lead to a reduction in emissions…”

    Your statement is false, unless I’m hopelessly misreading the SASDOS report, gross Mt-CO2-e in SA have declined ~20% in 5 years even with ~2% growth in demand. That’s a pretty good effort.

    How much have power prices risen for you guys?

  26. Last one.(Haha).

    An Australian NPP would result in a greater flow on funds overseas (ie Samsung). An Australian renewable program (esp low-tech CSP) would result in relatively higher retained Australian spending. CSP is highly likely to be economically more expansive than nuclear.

    1. Not sure about that. While currency draining at first an Australian NPP could be the start of something big, to quote the song. Completing just one nuke would be a step along the learning ladder. I’d couple it with dedicated desalination and leave adjoining space for new industries such as uranium enrichment. Like a magnet all kinds of support industries would move nearby from housing, schools and restaurants to maybe even aquaculture. The lowest paid workers will drive Mercs. Urban greenies can look on in horror.

      However if it takes 10 years for the first NPP that is too long for the panic merchants. We’ll probably be back in El Nino weather patterns by 2014 and the economy will be lacklustre. I suspect we’ll probably do nothing except film TV ads on how great geothermal will be someday. Meanwhile we can watch Spain and the US throw big bucks at CSP and wonder if they’ll ever get it right.

  27. Wheelbarrow@Wheelbarrow,35 comments on this thread.

    It appears you are a man of few words,you just like to say them a lot.
    Such a pity that you are making little sense either.

    1. No worries Sparky. (Make this 36).

      I guess I’m lucky that in my work I’m actually doing stuff that results in carbon reduction while these guys are sitting around dreaming about Nuclear Power in Australia (still going nowhere really fast).

      1. Good of you to voluntarily ride out on the same moral high horse you rode in on, with a bit of snide immaturity as a goodbye.

        All the best with your work though, which sounds like a great contribution.

    2. I’m quite comfortable with a lot of comments from individuals, provided relevance and courtesy are maintained. I haven’t been able to read everything from Zy in detail but it looks like that basic criteria were being met, even it it was a little repetitive, until that unfortunate last post. Considering he had a debate going on three fronts, not surprised his comments mounted up.

      Frustration is understood but please refrain from the snark in future

  28. @ Marion Brook

    Well “dishonest” is a bit rough…..

    Technical questions to one side for the moment, perhaps you could comment on our methodology;

    1. We started with a 10 year chart of 30-min demand for WA.

    2. We used the WA Office of Energy demand forecasts and remapped the above data as if it were 2011-2020 demand.

    3. We created an imaginary CSP w/storage plant and tested various 30-min insolation peak to minimum performance scenarios. These were Case A, B and C which varied on field size and storage config.

    4. The various CSP energy 30-min contribution curves were then subtracted from the demand.

    5. We subtracted the contribution of wind, and proposed wind using 10 years of 30-min supply data.

    6. We subtracted the contribution of solar PV and proposed solar PV using 10 years worth of 30-min insolation data for north-north-east of Geraldton.

    7. The remaining shortfalls are the likely gas-based fossil contribution and already include cloudy days.

    8. We re-ran scenarios shifting the daily demand patterns forward/back 24-48hrs and insolation forward/back 24-48hrs to create demand/supply mismatches.

    Once it was obvious the basic approach results in extremely infrequent use of the gas, we then further refined the case with likely improved thermal efficiency available running the OCGT gas equipment into the storage system (like CCGT).

    There is further refinement available via “supply shifting” CSP use when MORE wind contribution was available. For example; on occasions in late afternoon mid winter, wind is operating at a very high contribution. We configured the CSP system output to drop at those periods, leaving the storage heat or slowing it’s depletion and allowing more offset of fossil fuel use at periods for the next day.

    The result was around 9% of fossil fuel use with the MOST expensive CSP field layout. The least expensive CSP field layout but more storage resulted in around 11% at a huge cost reduction.

    Our latest task is to solve the question of what is the ideal relative size combination of CSP, PV and wind for WA.

    1. 3. We created an imaginary CSP w/storage plant…

      Here is an interesting quote from a report on CSP in India:

      CSP technology is conceptually simple and appealing. It is also relatively easy to build basic prototypes. The risks include that the growing interest in the field attracts new players at all levels, who may be naive in their approach and overly optimistic of the actual performance they will achieve. The level of effort and investment required to make a safe, high performance prototype compared to a basic amateur level one is immense. Similar increased orders of magnitude of effort are required to make the subsequent steps of first demonstration, first commercial plant and finally proven technology. The final goal of bankable proven technology usually takes investments in the billions of dollars and effort over decades. This is well known to those players who are operating commercial plants and rarely fully appreciated by new entrants. New entrants can be very vocal in promoting their ideas and lobbying government for
      support. Risks associated with new entrants need to be considered and carefully managed.” http://www.solarpaces.org/Library/docs/CSP_in_India_Final_Compressed.pdf Section 6.7, pages 88-89.

      I put it to you that this applies to your “imaginary” CSP with 14 hrs storage. Since it is not even at the prototype stage, we are, at best, looking at “effort over decades” to move this from an ‘idea’ to being an established alternative to fossil fuel generation.

      Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see this particular idea come to fruition, but you must acknowledge that it is neither a presently available alternative nor is it likely to become one any time soon. Without this piece of technology your plan is little more than a gas plan.

      1. I was a contributor to that report (not an author).

        I maintain that the scepticism of CSP (hot-water-engineering) is over blown, there is plenty of performance data and operating experience and I was disappointed to see that overly cautionary paragraph.

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