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10/12/2018 — Alternative Energy
Issues for Australian renewables
By Ross Louthean

New Zealand politicians, energy company leaders and various lobby and environmental groups may brandish the quest to become totally renewable energy self-sufficient.

But the one thing they either skirt or ignore is the fact that the country doesn’t have a sustainable energy system when the rainfall fails or the wind turbines are stalled by lack of wind or wild stormy conditions.

New Zealand’s consistent power comes from geothermal energy that, like coal-fired power stations in Australia operate through all climate conditions.

That need for back-up in NZ still comes from the Huntly gas and coal-fired power station which in October made sure the lights didn’t go out when hydro storage was low or wind farms performed poorly.

The swaption arrangements other energy companies had with Genesis Energy for Huntly’s back-up power is not an issue raised by the myopic Ardern Government obsessed with climate change in a country where pollution is barely an issue.

The distance New Zealand has to travel to get to a higher renewable energy status is not large, but the question is what excess of capital is required for this. In Australia, that scenario is different as the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in federal opposition and in its governing States of Victoria and Queensland, are pushing the barrow of targeting 50% renewable energy.

To achieve this they will add to their mountains of debt and will drive industry elsewhere, possibly offshore, including New Zealand.

The quest for renewables in Australia has lifted power costs in some States alarmingly, as left wing groups push for wind farms that are heavily subsidised.

South Australia, which recently removed its ALP Government, now has some of the most costly power in the world, and in the ALP era literally blew up its big coal-fired power station in Port Augusta only to see the wind farms underperform in storms and energy-sapping heatwaves. The answer provided by the outgoing ALP Government was to spend millions on a battery back-up system, which has also shown to under-perform.

Tilt Renewables has the big Snowtown wind farm, and received from the Andrews ALP Government in Victoria a financial prop to build the Dundonnell wind farm there.

There are debt bombs in State coffers in Queensland, Victoria and, to a lesser degree in South Australia, and part of that problem comes from subsidised renewable moves.

Last week The Australian newspaper reported that French energy company Neoen, which collaborated with Tesla to build the batteries in SA for the power grid, warned Australia must proceed with caution in transitioning power to renewables.

Neoen reportedly echoed a concern raised by the International Energy Agency (IEA) about more caution being required in Australia on moving into renewables.

“Not all projects are equal and not all power producers are equal,” Neoen’s global chief Xavier Barbaro told The Australian.

The IEA said Australia must strike a sensible compromise and ensure fossil-fuel generation is mixed with clean energy and battery storage to deliver reliable electricity to consumers.

The newspaper said about 3,400 MW of solar power was expected to be installed this year in Australia, according to the Clean Energy Regulator. This was reportedly more than the capacity of Victoria’s Loy Yang coal-fired plant.

The rush to install about 25 million solar panels has raised concerns within the power sector as one of the issues seen was reliability and the ability of inexperienced contractors to deliver.

The Australian said coal in Australia still provides the heavy lifting in Australia and accounts for 70% of the market.

Despite the anti-coal push in Australia which is also seeing kindergarten aged children brandishing placards at rallies, the weaning of Australia off coal will imperil government income, as export coal is the country’s dominant earner. That takes in coking coal which is essential for global steelmaking.

*Sources: theaustralian.com.au; nzresources.com

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