A popular discussion point for the 100 % renewables set over the last three or four years, particular in Australia it seems, has been the declaration that the need for baseload power is a “myth“.

It goes something like this. We don’t actually need a system based on electricity generators that can supply electricity 24/7, 365 along with peaking plant and enough back-up for when things goes wrong (“contingency events” being the lingo). That’s baseload, and that’s so passé.

The most important thing is to have enough electricity generators with supply that is “dispatchable”, meaning the power can be sent out in response to demand. With enough different types of dispatchable supply in the mix, supply can meet demand at all times. The dispatchable supplies can be wound up or wound down to accommodate the non-dispatchable suppliers. To put that last bit in lay terms, when the wind is blowing and/or the sun is shining on PV panels, we can turn the other stuff down (or off). When the wind is not blowing and/or the sun is not shining, we can turn the other stuff up. Ergo, “baseload” is a myth.

From there, it is possible (and in some circles it seems, encouraged) to get a little conspiratorial about baseload. “Baseload” is really just a ruse to maintain centralised power generation. Consumers are lulled into providing load for electricity by cheap over-night prices.

So that’s the baseload myth. Its chief purveyor in Australia is probably Dr Mark Diesendorf of the University of New South Wales (though honourable mention goes to Prof Ian Lowe). You may have enjoyed Mark and I having a bit of argy-bargy on these matters on the recent episode of “Awaken” on NITV. It’s largely the work of Mark and his team that I will be referring to from here, from their first in a series of related papers, Simulations of scenarios with 100% renewable electricity in the Australian National Electricity Market. I’ll be saying EDM (Elliston, Diesendorf, MacGill) for short.

So… is baseload a myth? Or is the myth of baseload a myth?

I’m going to start with those key terms: “baseload” and “dispatchable”.

I agree: the most valuable characteristic for an electricity generator (forgetting greenhouse emissions for a moment) is reliable dispatchability. The ability to respond to demand in the grid is absolutely essential. The inclusion, to date, of supplies in Australia that do not respond to demand (such as wind and solar PV) succeeds on the back of an established, large, mature system of generators that can and do.

Here’s the thing though: what would you do with a generator that was so “dispatchable”, it could dispatch power at close to its full rated capacity for almost 24/7, 365 (barring planned or unplanned outages)? Even those not particularly familiar with energy systems would agree, the smart thing to do would be to run it in exactly that way to contribute to meeting demand in a modern society where, daft conspiracy notions aside, there is a demand for electricity every second of every year.

That’s something we call “baseload”.

To illustrate, here’s an example of electricity demand from Victoria for a day this month, brought to my attention by The Actinide Age (whom you should read, by the way).

AMENDMENT: Not so fast Mr Heard. This is actually supply from Victoria to the National Electricity Market (NEM), as well-spotted by @BurkeKB, not demand within Victoria. Demand in Victoria is currently hitting lows of about 3,800 MW daily, as shown by AEMO.  The Victorian plants, being the cheapest baseload supplier, run full-tilt to supply the NEM, which is what is seen below. To see the baseload contribution from black coal to the NEM for example, go to Empower.me and look at the profiles from NSW and QLD.  Back to the article, now with a couple of amendments, and thanks to @BurkeKB. End aside.

So, that big slab of brown you see is Victoria’s  contribution to the baseload of the National Electricity Market, as in, the minimum load that was demanded for that 24 hour period. It is all being provided by brown coal, and merged with the black coal from NSW and QLD and the brown coal and gas from SA, the emissions for the NEM  are among the highest in the world per unit electricity. It is beyond obvious that baseload, as a concept for designing and managing electricity supply in Australia, is and will remain utterly relevant. The only problem with the graph above is that the baseload supplier is brown coal. Were that a zero-carbon source of any kind, we ought not care. It should also be beyond obvious that if you have power generators that can provide that big horizontal slab of demand every day, it would be economically stupid not to build a system around running them at all times, and let other generators deliver the intermediate and peak load above it.

The baseload myth argues that what I have just said is utter rubbish. We don’t need those generators providing that big horizontal line of demand. We can use dispatchability to do the job with a combination of dispatchable generators and non-dispatchable generators. Well, let’s see that what looks like. Below is a week of supply in winter as published by EDM. This is how EDM make supply meet demand for a week in winter  for the NEM, based upon actual demand from 2010 and simulated supply from renewables based on meteorological data, combined with an assumed “copper plate” network (meaning, the authors have assumed unconstrained transmission of electricity across the entire National Electricity Market. This, of course, is not the case at all). As far as methodologies go, is a perfectly sensible one to explore this challenge, provided one remains aware of the limitations.

For me, the figure above makes pretty ordinary modern art, but scares the pants off me in terms of trying to respond urgently to the decarbonisation challenge. Let’s look at some key characteristics.

Firstly, the “baseload” for this week in winter is about 18,500 MW- 19,000 MW. That’s the minimum level of electricity demand for this seven-day period. That’s not a myth, it’s a matter of public record. That demand could be met by about 19,000 MW of any technology with that ultimate level of dispatchability I discussed above.

Secondly, the yellow in the graph is the concentrating solar thermal, or CST. This is the principal technology upon which the much hyped “dispatchability, not baseload is what matters” line is based. Yes, CST is dispatchable. You can see it is sitting to the right of the blue in the graph each day, which is non-dispatchable solar PV. So the solar resource caught by the CST is held and dispatched later in the day to match the evening peak. Then, it goes away, because there is no more energy than that in winter time. So yeeeeeeeeeessss… it’s dispatchable. It’s also unable to dispatch for any more than a few hours per day in mid-winter (without being dramatically expanded in size).

Thirdly we see the mountain-like profile in green, which is electricity from wind. This, like PV, is non-dispatchable, so when it’s coming, everything else has to make way. In the course of seven days, supply varies from over 15,000 MW on June 28 to near-zero across the entire NEM at about midday on July 1. This is nothing whatsoever to do with demand, and everything to do with the weather. In this “baseload myth” world, Australia needs to design and manage an electricity supply system to accommodate that level of change not as an unforeseen contingency, but as a part of regular operations.

Finally, we see the light-brown on top. Such an appropriate shading, as this would approximate the colour of the smoke from combusting the biomass that is required to back-up almost the entire system. This “baseload myth” system builds in 24,000 MW of biomass generating capacity. The essential purpose is to provide cover for the darkest, stillest weeks in winter. Note the night of July 1, where biomass and nearly Australia’s entire hydro capacity is providing almost all demand in the NEM. The additional reality is that it provides 14 % of the total annual supply in the simulation. EDM may have wanted to minimise it because, as they acknowledge, biomass is not desirable from a sustainability perspective. But I’m afraid 14 % is not small beer. We also have no idea what level of back-up may be required in any other year, like, for example, a year of terrible drought where the hydro capacity is low.

The other reality is that these generators could, in principal, perform in exactly the same way as the coal generators shown in the Victorian example if we wanted them to do so. So to be clear, EDM have not designed a system without baseload. They have designed a system where 24,000 MW of baseload-capable generators are deployed to the minimum extent possible… on purpose. So, as shown in the image below, for a week in January, that 24,000 MW is virtually idle.

And to think people accuse the environmental set of being economically irresponsible…

Let me say this: having now reviewed 15 studies, globally, of systems for purportedly supplying 100 % renewable electricity and energy, the work from EDM is among the best. The methodology makes sense and lets us draw relevant and useful conclusions, and the paper is written in a way that makes it very easy to understand the proposed system (at least, compared to much of the other literature). I have no problem with the work. I take serious issue with the dramatic over-reaching that Diesendorf, in particular, does with the findings.

One of the inescapable conclusions from the global literature is that the studies serve to reinforce, not undermine, the relevance of baseload. The studies maximise hydro where available, exploit CST where available, and time and again must draw on substantial biomass, all in the name of supply meeting demand, all in an attempt to replicate, as closely as possible, that horizontal line we see in the first figure.

But Australia’s electricity system isn’t a puzzle waiting to be solved. It should not be treated like an academic hobby. It does not need to be torn down and re-built according to radically different rules, using only some types of energy. The system gives Australia what it needs, which is lots of reliable electricity, at a scandalous price in terms of our greenhouse gas emissions. We need to take the greenhouse emissions out. That’s it. Nothing more complicated than that. The less complicated the better, because that will dramatically improve our chance of success.

What the “baseload myth” demonstrates is one of the great flaws in our electricity discussions: the belief that demonstrating we could run on renewables-only is equivalent to establishing that we should. This perspective is foolish in the extreme, elevating an obsession with certain technologies, and an irrational dislike of one in particular, above an urgent need for decarbonisation. Even the relative outsider to electricity supply can see that a straight replacement of the horizontal line of supply shown in the first figure with something zero-carbon is the lowest risk, highest certainty, lowest disruption path to getting the job done. Imagine a grid that had done exactly that for over 13 million people…

Like what you see here? Please subscribe to the blog, Like Decarbonise SA on Facebook and follow @BenThinkClimate on Twitter. Read more about the potential for nuclear power in Australia at Zero Carbon Options

38 comments

  1. Baseload is the scone and the rest is the jam and cream. It seems logical to make the recurring minimum demand as low carbon, reliable and price stable as possible. I live in logging and hydro country and I can tell you these energy sources are not as reliable as some might think. I regard suggestions we could make them the linch pin of energy policy somewhat deranged. A large dam near me is down 35m in water level heading into summer.

    If 18 GW is the minimum needed for the NEM that suggest 15 or so nuclear plants, a suggestion I believe that was also made in The Actinide Age. WIth a rising gas price it seems likely that coal plants will be run inefficiently to firm intermittent generation and help meet peaks. Not a problem in 2014 make all the CO2 you want.

  2. Thanks Ben for this analysis. Personally, I have never argued that it wasn’t possible to run a country on only renewable energy. It’s just economic suicide. We all know that AEMO did a study of this back in March last year and came to the same conclusion. Yes it’s possible but according to AEMO, the total capital cost estimate (hypothetical) are greater than $219 and $332 billion dollars, depending on scenario.

    We could provide the 24 GW of baseload nuclear for less that $100 billion. Why would we pay at least twice as much for a 100% renewable solution?

    I strongly recommend your readers to watch Robert Bryce’s lecture titled ‘More Energy Please: How Increasing Energy Use Promotes a Richer Freer World.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crefcQpwA5w. It is one of the most erudite lectures I have ever heard on the topic.

    1. It is also arguably climate suicide since showing it to be perhaps technically achievable says nothing about the prospects of actually making it happen which, given the extraordinary challenges politically, economically and from a planning sense, are practically zero.

      It’s an insane basis for responding to climate change.

    2. I am also wondering about ancillary services. Looking at the summer week especially, there are periods where two-thirds to three-quarters of the generation is being supplied by asynchronous generation (PV and wind). I would like to understand whether power quality can be retained in those situations, as this is not addressed by EDM in that simulations paper.

    3. 1) Robert Bryce’s lecture is top notch. His, 2011 book: Power Hungry is also excellent at debunking green myths.
      2) I hope to use his chapter 9 as the basis for a blog on the deficiencies of wind, especially as I live in the UK. The last 2 weeks have seen two average wind days (both Sundays) in a 14 day null wind spell.
      3) The Guardian ran an article recently denouncing too much baseload in the Australia. Now I know the origin of this mumbo jumbo.
      “For example, the current dynamics in the eastern Australia power market are dire. The market
      is egregiously oversupplied with baseload power, according to data from AGL.”
      – Alex Turnbull
      http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/09/the-government-can-reduce-emissions-without-reinstating-a-carbon-tax-this-is-how

      1. That would be the same AGL that recently purchased Bayswater (2640 MW) and Liddell Power Station (2000 MW), which are both coal fired and hence baseload capable.

  3. I have a feeling its people not understanding what others mean when “baseload plant” is used. It’s like nuclear advocates make this a central point of how a Nuclear plant operates and those against went out of their way to disprove the baseload operation forgetting that baseload isn’t a plant but a concept.

    The minimum allowable level of generation, the troughs on a demand profile, is the baseload. If that is solar thermal and biomass for example that is baseload.

    Diesendorf didn’t prove that baseload isn’t necessary, he just filled it with a bunch of biomass. All that needs to be done to that graph profile (in article) is to put the brown at the bottom and the rest on top. Then you’ll get your rectangle of baseload.

    Baseload, Intermadiate load, and Peaking load are all parts of the supply profile of a network. Any engineer that works at one of the grid operators will point out they aren’t bustable concepts.

    It would be interesting if they modelled the current fragmented State by State network we have now. As it stands, yes the NEM is the largest interconnected network in the world (geographically), but it is fragmented into separate grids in each state. Any of the NEM analytical tools highlight the different regions. Those inter-connectors are the major hole in the 100% renewable studies, they can only do as much as they are rated to do. The NEM is connected, but only loosely.

  4. “Baseload” output need not track horizontally. It can and does vary with time. Each coal fired unit of typically 500MW is quite capable of load-following by ramping up and down at, say, 20 to 40 MW/minute. A dozen units doing this, plus a bit of hydro can and do follow the system loads very well. That is precisely how most power networks ran before the gas turbine era, which in NSW means pre-1980, although with smaller generating plant than 500MW.

    Baseload nuclear power in France is used to follow loads. There is nothing new about this – they have been doing this since the 1970’s and in fact every nuclear power plant is capable of load following. They have to be, in order to be started from cold or taken out of service via a planned shutdown.

    Nuclear power discussions have been somewhat distracted by the concept that because (a) the fuel is very cheap and (b) it costs pretty much the same to run a unit at 100% as it does at 50%, that all nuclear power plants must be run flat out at all times. This is not a given.

    The simple, existing, market rules which apply to all so-called baseload power plant are adequate for nuclear plant. Price becomes the signal, as through the NEM, for ramping down the most expensive in-service energy source whether nuclear or coal or lignite fired. The engineering is not the problem – it is politics, plus misuse of the concept of baseload generation.

    Baseload units CAN provide base load. Intermittent sources such as SPV and Solar Thermal, even with storage, CANNOT be relied upon to do so. That is why they are not called baseload.

    The greatest distortion in the NEM is not due to baseload generators. It is the uncommercial preferencing of undispatchable, unreliable and frequently more expensive intermittent power sources over all others.

    Some private PV in NSW still receives payment via a feed-in tariff (FiT) of $600/MwH for power sent to the grid, yet the average wholesale price for power from other sources in the NEM has averaged $50 or $60/MWh for the past 3 or 4 years. The NEM’s Number Two problem is to find a fairer way to schedule power sources and for those which are not easily schedulable, to ensure that their output is at least not commercially advantaged.

    The Number One problem, of course, is the schedulable, reliable, safe, etc, low carbon energy source which is the elephant in the room.

    If not for political interference, normal commercial considerations and the NEM would work together to make nuclear power generation a no-brainer. It is only through political action that this can be fixed.

  5. The wilful ignorance of what baseload is is up there with the continued citation of refuted literature that asserts lifetime emissions from nuclear power are really high, or the dread of radiotoxicity in light of the glaring examples of Gôiainia, the Taiwan apartments, the Hiroshima survivors, residents of Ramsar, virtually every radiotherapy patient…

    The hodgepodge of intermittent generation is baseload. Its just incredibly expensive, technically challenging, frankly unnecessarily complicated baseload. But it needs to be there everyday to meet minimum demand. Sure, manage the demand down if it makes the simulations easier, but you still have a block of baseload.

    There’s a type of academic who desperately needs to visit foundries, processing plants or what few manufacturers remain, and see what baseload is powering.

  6. Demand management is another idea which has become popular in the past half decade among Renewables afficionados. However, they didn’t invent the idea or the term – DM has been around for as long as power generation has existed.

    Australia’s largest switchable (manageable) loads are and were the disappearing aluminium and other refineries, who benefited from very low tariffs for many reasons, one of which was the ability of their retail supplier to request, at a price, load decreases for short periods, typically 30 to 60 minutes. Taken together, they amounted to a couple of thousand MW but are currently declining due to closures of refineries in NSW and elsewhere.

    If the choice is between blackouts of whole suburbs or rotating load reduction by major users, then it is evident which is preferable. For starters, consider patients who depend on breathing or other apparatus to stay alive, or the many businesses large and small that use little electricity but depend on it to keep their doors open – almost every retailer, accountant, government office, bank and doctor for starters.

    Any argument based solely on base load generation is flawed, in that it addresses only a single part of the multifaceted problem called system security.

    “There is more than one way to peel a banana..” To combat the threat of climate change, Mark D needs to consider every one of them.

  7. The 100% renewables crowd should look at some official statistics then think of a plausible mechanism for turning small percentages into large percentages. See Table 8 of
    http://www.bree.gov.au/sites/bree.gov.au/files/files//publications/aes/2014-australian-energy-statistics.pdf
    which shows wind power at 2.9% of Australian electricity production in 2012-2013 with solar PV at 1.5%. To hear the proponents talk you’d think wind and solar combined must be well over 50% not a measly 4.4% or a third or so of the 13.1% renewable electricity mostly hydro and biomass.

    To me it seems like a collective delusion if not innumeracy has overcome certain political alignments, sections of academia and popular blogs. Yet they hold the moral high ground so that critics are vilified. All the signs point to many more years of this.

    1. The overwhelming response to this is that renewables (yes, this is always a euphemism for PV and wind) are bring held back, opposed by the coal companies or by the government or *something*. If only the government would properly support renewables! Despite their priority on the grid… Well, this has always smacked of avoiding responsibility for how intrinsically unsuitable they are for providing the majority of reliable electricity. Easier to blame The Man.

      After all, there’s no frickin LAW against them. The relevant minister wouldn’t be breaching any legislation if he approved any of them, where appropriate.

      1. I saw a statistic that AGL is the biggest owner of wind farms in Australia. The “being held back” line seems to be a lazy response to taking a considered look into why the development isn’t meeting expectations.

        1. Another power co that speaks with a forked tongue is Alinta Energy. Their CEO said renewable energy must stand on its own merits without subsidies. Their submission to the review suggested cutting the RET short. Then in the next breath they say they are keen on solar thermal for Pt Augusta which appears to be unviable without very generous subsidies
          http://alintaenergy.com.au/about-us/news

            1. It’s a shame Pt Augusta and Alinta are keen to do something when others aren’t. In my opinion it is the wrong place as well as the wrong technology. The top of Spencer Gulf is a warm hypersaline tidal creek therefore unsuited to new ocean cooled thermal plant or desalination. That’s despite the existing Northern coal fired power station and the Sundrop Farms seawater greenhouses. Given fast arriving gas prices and slow arriving SMRs a seawater cooled EC6 at Pt Stanvac south of Adelaide would give much better value for money for SA as a whole.

  8. Echoes from the parallel universe. This Guardian article shows that many people are trapped in a thought sphere which cannot be penetrated by fresh ideas
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/21/ret-uncertainty-threatens-further-blow-to-south-australian-industry
    Indeed it looks as though SA will do it tough with the closure of car manufacturing and a big reduction in defence contracting. Not so sure about renewable energy being the salvation. According to Figure 2-2 of AEMO’s 2014 South Australian Fuel and Technology Report 52% of SA electricity is generated by gas. That factoid was omitted from the Guardian article as was the fact that SA Cooper Basin gas will go into export LNG in 2015 probably doubling the price.

    Another omitted factoid is that SA may have a third of the world’s easily mined uranium. The state’s biggest ever project was to have been the expansion of Olympic Dam mine, That expansion has been deferred indefinitely partly due to lack of power and water. All this other stuff is apparently irrelevant to the Guardian. As a well known text says …to the pure all things are pure.

    EC6 for Pt Stanvac

  9. Hi Ben, I sent your Myth article to a college of mine and he came back with these negative comments below – can please counter comment on this please.

    “That’s all well and good, but they whinge that the power spot price goes negative already.
    What’s going to happen when everyone has solar on their roofs? And they will because it’s the cheapest consumer power.
    So the base load is then going to need to be dispatchable, or we need storage. One of those two things needs to happen because solar will happen.
    So who’s going to put in storage? Or is base load going to go the way of the unicorn?”

    Cheers Colin

    1. Colin, I have to agree with your colleague in one respect. If, as he speculates, rooftop solar becomes popular, baseload (i.e. the valleys in demand) will trend lower.

      So that means current electrical supply rates will become inequitable. Yes the rooftop solar owner will reduce overall electrical payments but will still be relying on the grid for that peak power when the solar fuel isn’t present. Thus the grid supply infrastructure must remain. Who pays for that? Well the ratepayer of course – those ratepayers who can’t afford rooftop solar or don’t have anywhere to put it. Without increasing consumption one iota, ratepayers who don’t install rooftop solar pay for the grid infrastructure that rooftop solar users continue to rely on!

      Now as your colleague suggests, this problem could go away (i.e. the rooftop solar user could disconnect from the grid completely) if there were any good (i.e. affordable) rooftop solar storage systems available. Batteries come to mind of course but there’s nothing yet that can affordable allow rooftop solar users to disconnect from the grid.

      The only pragmatic solution that I can think of is to make a fundamental change to rate structures. The fixed cost of installed grid infrastructure that must remain in place for peak demand must be reflected in the ratepayers’ monthly bills. Meters would have to record peak demand (in addition to average demand) and monthly bills would have two main components; the peak demand charge as well as the current average demand charge. At that point, the rooftop solar customer might be able to justify the cost of that expensive storage,

  10. If it was that simple, Colin, then the discussion would be over already.

    Unless your friend is not relying on a connection to the grid, the comparison must be (Solar plus grid capital, maintenance and operation, plus the retailer’s energy cost) on the one hand. If your friend is not relying on the grid, then he should disconnect and carry on doing whatever works for him,

    The spot price will never be negative when he (or anybody else) wants to add load. That’s why it is negative. That is also why negative wholesale market prices are statistically infrequent and very short lived events.

    When “everybody has solar on their roofs”, as you mentioned, domestic customers who live in flats/apartments, most renters, those who have recently changed house or soon will do so and therefore have not put panels on the roofs will still need to get their power from somewhere.

    …As will commerce and industry and transport.

    …As will also those who need reliability above that which is available from solar panels, such as hospitals and manufacturers using continuous processes and domestic folk with life support equipment, of which there are at least a few in most suburbs.

    …As will your friend and everybody else who has “panels on the roofs”, for the 75% of the time that the sun isn’t shining.

    Subtract those domestic users who have seriously good on site storage or alternative power sources (small diesel? 2-stroke petrol?), but do not forget to include these well prepared individuals’ capital and operating costs for the batteries and standby generators in your calculations.

    In closing, if off-grid 24/7/365 power was indeed economically competitive for households, then there would be a hundred businesses in every major town competing to supply it to you and at lower annual cost than you and I are currently paying for conventional grid-based electricity. That is the ultimate proof.

  11. Joining WA and NT to the eastern electricity grid the NEM would have major effects for SA. So far the thinking is similar regulations not physical connection
    http://www.businessspectator.com.au/news/2014/9/23/policy-politics/harper-review-calls-nem-expansion
    The 275 kv transmission ends at Pt Augusta. From there it is 1,450 km to Norseman and the WA grid. WA has far more gas than eastern Australia and a relaxed attitude to nuclear judging by the speedy Kintyre deposit development. As with the NT a logical transmission corridor is the rail line. However pylon supported HVDC line must cost at least $1m per km and based on Basslink the converter stations at least $1 per watt.

    WA could get a nuke and SA politicians could get low carbon dispatchable power (nuclear baseload, gas peaking) without feeling they’ve comprised their green cred. The main problem apart from cost could be lack of redundancy.

  12. “What’s going to happen when everyone has solar on their roofs? And they will because it’s the cheapest consumer power.”

    When “everyone” here *realistically* means some homeowners with disposable income (but only for their residence, not investment properties) and a fraction of businesses, suitably incentivised.

    Most businesses and virtually all industrial sites won’t bother with installing panels. They are the employers: cost/benefit is key to success, return and growth. They need constant electrical supply anyway… And that’s baseload.

  13. On further googling it becomes apparent that SA is facing not one but several key deadlines before 2020, notably
    2015- main gas supply can be diverted to export LNG so the piped gas price may double
    2017- car and component makers close with up to 13,000 jobs lost
    2019 – nonrenewal of contract to make diesel submarines, maybe 2,000 jobs lost
    There is another 2019 deadline namely the cleanup of the former Pt Stanvac oil refinery site owned by Exxon Mobil, an energy company. They’ve done some demolition and asbestos removal but areas of soil remain contaminated by benzene. The Uni of SA say they have microbes that will remediate that soil. One corner of the site is now occupied by a 270 ML/d desalination plant said to be somehow exclusively powered by green energy though connected to the predominantly gas fired local grid. Over 200 ha/500 ac is apparently still available for development. The site is slightly elevated therefore tsunami resistant and in fact some energy recovery is done via a mini hydro on the desalination brine outlet water.

    Therefore SA has 4 major dramas between now and 2020 none of which involve its potentially huge uranium industry. You’d think they’d work something out. So far the best they’ve come up with is counselling for those losing their jobs.

  14. John N is presumably aware of Newcastle’s post-BHP trajectory, but I will recap.

    When BHP closed its iron and steel facilities, Newcastle faced a wipeout. It subsequently experienced a mid-range earthquake which flattened large parts of two shopping communities (CBD and Hamilton), plus a heap of other commercial and residential buildings.

    A couple of decades later, a cleaner, optimistic and productive Newcastle has arisen. Many new CBD projects have been completed and there are many more to come.

    The wheels didn’t fall off. The sky didn’t fall. A lot of changes are difficult to explain, because gradual change over a decade can turn anything around.

    On the plus side commercially, the harbour now handles twice as much coal, which is probably only temporary and is certainly not environmentally sustainable.

    My take on all this? Things will look worse than they are. Mistakes will be made. Opportunities (eg that Pt Stanvac land) will blossom and bring more opportunities, many of which are unknowable today.

    I would hope for the nuclear industry to grow up and start looking after its PR and providing a public face. Until that happens, the best efforts efforts of all of Ben, Barry Brooks and the rest of us will not be sufficient to turn the tide of expensive greenwash, such as claims that the desal plant is 100% green energy.

  15. Wonthaggi Vic is another gentrified coal town coincidentally with a desal plant. As with Queenstown Tas up the road a ways from me I wonder if the coffee shops and art galleries will stay when primary industry leaves. If SA is economically gutted by the departure of manufacturing I think they must turn to something else which is logically more phases (than uranium mining) of the nuclear fuel cycle. A 190 MW capacity upgrade has been approved for SA-Vic transmission the idea being that when it is windy SA exports wind power so the Vics can reach their RET quota and other times SA imports Vic brown coal power. The latter takes over some of the role of decreasingly affordable gas.

    I think SA should export rather than import dispatchable power particularly of the high emitting kind. However when SA manufacturing nosedives reduced demand may mean the interstate upgrade is not carried out. I think Pt Stanvac may suit NPP given 58% of SA people support nuclear just not the ruling politicians. Some may already see signs of an Adelaide exodus so perhaps the land may not be needed for gentrification.

  16. I came across this link while reading about WA’s capacity market
    https://www.synergy.net.au/for_business/large_business/electricity_market.xhtml
    I think it helps show where Australia’s dispatchable energy resources are
    – offshore northwest WA and NT where the best remaining gas lies
    – central SA has the most uranium
    – eastern Vic has centuries of brown coal
    – alpine zones of Tas, Vic & NSW have most of the hydro
    – central and coastal NSW and Qld have most of the black coal.

    From the map it can be seen how dry rock geothermal projects like Habanero in the northwest corner of SA had the misfortune to be miles away from any transmission. My thought is to leave the black and brown coal in the ground, use the remaining gas sparingly and use hydro and NP along with wind and solar make up the difference.

  17. Speaking of coal… Hate to go back to the original Mythos, but Ben mentions something about
    “…we see the light-brown on top. Such an appropriate shading, as this would approximate the colour of the smoke from combusting the biomass that is required to back-up almost the entire system.”
    So what is the colour of the hard coal that will co-fire the biomass, and how much will be required? Or have you a mechanism for biomass to efficiently fire a large power boiler all by itself? Serious question, I don’t know myself. Here in U.S. the NREL Renewable electricity Futures 2012 study proposes 15% generation from biomass, 2% from natural gas, and 3% from coal in its 90% reduction scenario, and I was wondering just how much of that coal is actually required. We’ve plenty of gas, seems they wouldn’t have included coal without good reason.

    1. From what I can see biomass co-firing is partly a greenwash to get get subsidies and hoodwink the public. An example near me is a paper mill that is supposed to run on black liquor but actually uses boiler coal, energy intensive caustic soda and constant deliveries of timber by diesel powered trucks. Similar criticisms have been made eg of the Drax coal/biomass station in the UK. In Australia bagasse from sugar cane is used in cogeneration along with sawmill waste. Again the crucial input by diesel. In nature the ‘trash’ returns to the soil so the fields or forest now require new nutrients. I suspect 10% of CO2 from every ‘biomass’ operation is from fossil fuel. When gas gets expensive wood pellets may suit direct heat applications but won’t need subsidies.

      Correction upthread Habanero http://vimeo.com/69616371 is in the northeast of SA.

    1. The systen responds with the regulated level of back -up capacity, which is based on quantifying the loss of load probability of each individual generator and ensuring the back up margin is adequate to the regulated reliability level.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s