Tuesday 16th of July 2024

NO nuke power stations please....

Wind, solar and pumped hydro energy storage can provide all the electrical energy we need, on demand, cheaply, quickly, with minimal carbon emissions. This is the message that will cut through the energy confusion. The clean energy debate is hampered by widespread lack of awareness of off-river pumped hydro energy storage. It is the third leg of the clean energy tripod. It uses mature technologies and there are abundant suitable sites.


The cut-through message: wind, solar and pumped hydro are all we need, and cheaper    By Geoff Davies


If we debate nuclear energy, we’re falling into Peter Dutton’s trap. If we debate carbon capture and storage (CCS), we’re falling into the fossil fuel industry’s trap. They are expensive fantasies, easily dismissed. If we debate offsets, we’re falling into Labor’s trap: offsets are obviously unreliable and only distract from the real changes we need to make.

Nuclear, CCS and offsets distract us from the path that will quickly reduce our need for fossil fuels, or for giant, centralised energy generation. We need to dismiss them briefly, then focus on the great opportunity the punters need to know about.

Wind and solar are the cheapest ways to generate electricity. Off-river pumped hydro (ORPH) is the cleanest and cheapest way to store electrical energy. It can store much larger amounts of energy than batteries and thus can regenerate electricity for longer periods. This makes it the cheapest in terms of energy stored.

Together wind, solar and ORPH can smooth over the fluctuations in both demand for and supply of electricity. If we continue to build them we can electrify everything, as Saul Griffith urges, thus decarbonising much of our industry and transport. Within a decade we can make major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions – real reductions, not accounting tricks.

Off-river pumped hydro requires two storage ponds, one high and one low, a pipe or pipes to connect them, and a pump/turbine. When electricity is abundant water is pumped from the lower to the higher pond. When electricity is needed water is run back down through the turbine to regenerate electricity. There need be no tunnels. No watercourse is disrupted. There are no toxic chemicals. All the components involve mature technology. Estimates of cost are lessthan chemical batteries.

Storage ponds would be far less complex and expensive than on-river reservoirs. For comparison, there are many irrigation storage ponds in the cotton belt of northern NSW. They commonly have an earthen wall perhaps 4 m high enclosing a pond hundreds of metres across. For example a pond roughly 700 m across would have a capacity of 1-2 Gl (giga-litres).

With a fall of, say, 300 m from an upper pond to a lower pond, a 2-Gl pond could supply 400 MW (megawatts) of electricity for around 3-4 hours. This compares with the projected peak capacity of around 2 GW (gigawatts) for Snowy 2.0. So five or so of these medium-scale storages could match the output of Snowy 2.0.

ORPH ponds might have more robust concrete walls rather than earthen walls, but being relatively flat allows walls to be low, and low walls are much less expensive. Such systems could start operating sooner and for much lower cost.

Snowy 2.0 is not the best way to go about pumped hydro, and it distracts from the full potential of ORPH. Snowy 2.0 is not off-river. Like all of snowy hydro, it is on-river, with very large dams interrupting natural flows. It requires 17 km of giant tunnels, is slow to build with many delays already, very expensive with major cost-overruns already, polluting of a national park, too far from big cities and requiring expensive new grid connections..

There are several ORPH projects existing or underway, mainly state-sponsored, but you rarely hear about them in mainstream political discussion. A couple of examples are the Shoalhaven scheme near Nowra and the Kidston projectin Queensland, each around 250 MW peak regeneration capacity.

Topographic surveys by researchers at the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University have identified hundreds of potentially suitable locations, many of them close to potential grid connections. A moderate number of medium-scale installations could stabilise the grid and cover extended periods of low generation. Such a system would not be hostage to limited supplies of exotic minerals, which would be freed up for use in batteries where they were really needed.

For stationary energy storage, ORPH should do the heavy lifting, literally. Batteries can supplement and complement, providing for smaller installations and for high-speed response if and when needed. ORPH would remove the need for gas peaking plants to cover occasional high-demand periods, as it can start generating within minutes.

Energy storage allows generation capacity to be used more efficiently, as high-demand periods can be covered with stored energy. Without storage, conventional fossil fuel plants must have a capacity to cover high-demand periods, and much of this capacity is idle during low demand periods. With storage, generation capacity can be lower, closer to average demand. Since both demand and supply (by wind and solar) are variable, the notion of ‘base-load power’ has little relevance.

Aging fossil-fuel plants will need replacing anyway and wind, solar and ORPH will be the most cost-effective replacements. That’s even before the big bonus benefits of eliminating carbon emissions and local toxic pollutants and stimulating our transition to fully clean energy and industry. We would quickly become an example to the world.

A completely clean, stable and abundant electricity supply is thus feasible using existing, mature technologies and costing less than fossil or nuclear options. Some further details with sources can be found here and a slide presentation by Andrew Blakers here.

We need to cut through all the distraction and confusion put about by the fossil fuel and nuclear obstructors and get this simple message to voters and candidates. With fossil or nuclear we pay extra to trash the planet. With wind, solar and ORPH we can save money and save the world at the same time.

With such clear and multiple advantages, the obstructors’ messages will lose traction.





opposition to opposition....

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton took a big gamble this week on the Coalition's nuclear power policy.

While the Coalition believes it's a vote winner, it appears some of their Queensland colleagues fear the plan could be radioactive ahead of a state election.

It's been widely observed Opposition Leader David Crisafulli is taking a small-target approach in a bid to get the Queensland LNP elected to government — which recent polls suggest he's on track to achieve.

On nuclear power he's been emphatic that it's not part of the Queensland LNP's energy policy it will take to the election, nor will it support nuclear power if the party wins office.

"My position has been very consistent, for a very long time and it is not part of our plan," Mr Crisafulli said at a press conference in Cairns this week.

When asked by the media if his opinion would change if both the state LNP and Coalition were elected to government, he replied: 

"No, my position has been consistent. It remains and will remain consistent."

Mr Crisafulli has also previously ruled out repealing laws banning nuclear power if the party wins office in October.

The stance has ruffled feathers within party ranks, seemingly exposing divisions between the federal and state teams.

A federal LNP source said Mr Crisafulli's position wasn't "helpful" for the Coalition.

They said Mr Crisafulli was "terrified" of doing something that could cost him the state election.

"The bottom line with Queensland is that they like strength, they don't like the small-target strategy," the source said.






a charlatan...


Peter Dutton: climate denialist – peddler of danger   By Paul Keating  

Peter Dutton is a charlatan – an inveterate climate change denialist.

A denialist now seeking to camouflage his long held denialism in an industrial fantasy – resort to the most dangerous and expensive energy source on the face of the earth – nuclear power.

In advocating this, Dutton continues his party’s manic denialism, first articulated by Tony Abbott over a decade ago – turning his back on the most debated, most discussed problem of the Industrial Age – carbon and carbon sequestration.

Dutton, like Abbott, will do everything he can to de-legitimise renewables and stand in the way of their use as the remedy nature has given us to underwrite our life on earth.

Only the most wicked and cynical of individuals would foist such a blight on an earnest community like Australia. A community which fundamentally believes in truth and decency and which relies on its political system to advance those ideals. Dutton, in his low rent opportunism, mocks the decency and earnestness which recognises that carbon must be abated and with all urgency.

As bad as that, by his blatant opposition to renewables, Dutton calls into question and deprecates all the government has done to provide Australian business with a reliable and dependable framework for investment in renewables – the one thing, however late in the piece, the country needs to rely upon to lift the carbon menace off its back.

No person interested in public policy – regardless of their affiliations or beliefs, should consider, let alone endorse Dutton’s backwardness, his unreal world view that the most lethal technology of another age is a contemporary substitute for nature’s own remedy.

Dutton’s policy, of its essence, is that human-induced climate change is a fraudulent concept propagated by environmentalists and left-leaning fellow travellers – a concept he believes should be deplored and opposed.







kean as matt.....

Matt Kean was heading home on the train one Friday afternoon five weeks ago when his mobile phone lit up with an unexpected call from federal Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen.

Kean, the former Liberal NSW treasurer and energy minister, was in a crowded carriage on Sydney’s north shore line and unprepared for what Bowen was about to suggest: a new job at the peak agency setting climate change targets for the country.

Bowen had to wait for Kean to hop off the train at the next stop and find some privacy at the far end of Chatswood Station before they could talk undisturbed about a role that would outrage federal Liberals and Nationals, who believe one of their own has joined the enemy.

With his direct criticism of nuclear energy on Monday, Kean has infuriated the federal Coalition even though his public remarks were entirely in keeping with his policy support for wind and solar when he was energy minister and treasurer in the previous NSW government.


The conversation on May 17 did not seal Kean’s appointment as chair of the Climate Change Authority, the key federal body that offers independent advice to the federal government. Bowen told him, however, that he thought Kean would be the best person for the job.

The call came at an ideal time for Kean because, he says, he had already decided to end his time as a NSW backbencher and seek new posts in the private sector. He kept the decision to himself, however, and only broke the news last Tuesday before delivering his valedictory to state parliament on Friday.

Federal cabinet signed off on the appointment on Monday morning and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese clearly sees it as a coup. Bowen has helped recruit a senior Liberal and a public critic of nuclear power in a way that reminds voters of the gulf within the Coalition on energy and climate.

Some Liberals and Nationals smell a rat and are accusing Kean of disloyalty. Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has called Kean’s decision treachery. Kean says it is a natural step after his work as minister to get more renewables into the electricity grid.