Doctor and activist

Notice: Undefined index: hide_archive_titles in /home/chesterf/public_html/wp-content/themes/modern-business/includes/theme-functions.php on line 233

Tag: Energy

Interested in Clean Air?

19 March 2021

NSW has a draft Clean Air Strategy and have invited comment.My contribution will be to help solve the climate crisis by introducing electric cars as a major policy initiative. If they were principally charged using renewable energy they could lessen emission from transport, lessen emission from coal fired power and also even the demand for power by plugging in to homes in the peak period and discharging their batteries. The average home battery has less than 10kWh. The new Nissans about to be released have 40kWh. If they were programmed to charge when power is cheap and renewable, and discharge when power is expensive they would be a very major power store, when the fossil fuel lobby (not to mention the Federal Govt.) is talking about needing (fracked) gas for peak load reliability.

Continue Reading

Insurance for Farmers with Coal Seam Gas

6 March 2021

I have minimal faith in insurers. Many years ago, one of my friends was killed falling down a crevasse hiking on a NZ glacier. A meticulous person, he had checked his AMP insurance before he left- the only exemptions were scuba diving and private flying. The company told his widow with her 6 month old baby that it was a dangerous sport and he was not covered and the broker he checked with had no right to say that he was covered. They offered her half. She was of substance, hung on and they settled on the steps of the Supreme Court rather than go on with their unwinnable case.Another friend had his house burn down, and was only given the depreciated value rather than the replacement, which was about half; small print as usual- do you feel like fighting Goliath?An acquaintance, who was a merchant banker with a lot of money got a nasty brain tumour and needed expensive chemotherapy. The gap between his Top Cover health insurance and what the bills were was so great that he left St Vincent’s Hospital and readmitted himself to Westmead as a Medicare patient. (Sadly the medical outcome was as expected).Every day I see people injured in Workers Comp or motor vehicle accidents have their treatments denied by insurers on grounds that could only be called spurious. In my practice’s statistics IAG (NRMA) refuse a higher percentage of treatments than any other insurer.It is, of course, impossible to say that fracking for Coal Seam Gas is safe. It involves breaking the rock strata to let the gas come up. Presumably these fractures will also let the water move to a lower level and be less available to the surface. And chemicals are pumped in so that the water may not be fit to drink, and there is no natural mechanism to purify it. Now unsurprisingly the insurers do not want to cover the farmers. For once I am on their side. Fracking is simply not safe. The gas companies will get their gas and move on-the farmers may have land that is useless, or at best less productive than it was before. Because of the nature of the law, farmers only own the surface of the land- mining rights are a separate thing, which is why the government can give companies the right to do what they like below the surface. The government needs to stop this- it should not be left up to the farmers. What a neat piece of nonsense that they are now supposedly protected from Public Liability claims- it might protect them if they are defendants, but it is far more likely that they will be plaintiffs!

Continue Reading

Australia as a Compliant Colony getting Fracked.

21 May 2020

Here is an old but relevant article of how a British gas company got approval to sell gas to China, and pay no tax.

It happened at exactly the time that Rudd was rolled for asking for a resources rent tax.

The CEO, Catherine Tanna was given a seat on the Board of the Reserve Bank.

I wrote to her in disgust on another matter, when I left EnergyAustralia, the Chinese consortium who bought the privatised Sydney County Council electricity customers, because they pay no tax. To my surprise, she wrote back saying that she was looking after her shareholders, (naturally not mentioning that they are all on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange).

Here is an excellently researched article from the Michael West Website on how Prince Andrew as a UK Trade Ambassador, the Qld Liberal Government of Campbell Newman, and the Federal Labor Government, with Wayne Swan as Treasurer all dudded the Australian people. Now we have Qld Labor, and LNP Federally, but it makes no difference. Tanna is still on the Reserve Bank board, fracking still goes ahead, these folk still pay no tax and Australian gas prices are still sky high.

If we do not change, the luck will run out. We cannot trust our politicians. We need Swiss style Direct Democracy Now, with referenda able to be initiated by anyone, and a part-time, advisory Parliament with no career politicians. Yes, it will need major constitutional change, but tinkering with the Lib/Lab duo will not make a difference. A bigger change is needed, so we had better get on with it.

Continue Reading

Government Steals Clean Energy Finance for Fossil Fuel Development

4 May 2020 Angus Taylor, the Energy Minister has announced a $300 million new hydrogen project, but has not specified that it be powered by renewable energy and he wants to use gas to produce the hydrogen. There is fine rhetoric about trying to get the cost of hydrogen to $2 a kg, but the […]

Continue Reading

Libs Energy Scheme October 2017 Analysis 21/10/17

The Liberal/National Energy Plan is simply a lifeline to non-renewable energy that will keep electricity prices high.
It is getting praise from the Guardian, perhaps because it is a policy at all, and from Bloomberg , presumably because it is a solution that empowers retailers and gives a financial solution to a technical problems that leaves lots of fat for the key players, lots of bills for the consumer and slowed progress on climate change.
Why Have Prices Been so High?
The existing dysfunctional system is responsible for the current high prices due principally to:
1. The regulator permitted agencies to ‘gold plate’ the network of poles and wires so that electricity could be transmitted anywhere on the national grid. They were able to borrow money and build, which is what engineers like to do. The most likely trend with renewables was towards having more ‘embedded generation’ where electricity came from more diversified and smaller sources with fewer large power plants. So resource allocation to the network effectively favoured big existing generators and gobbled up the resources that could have been used for smaller more flexible generation. It also raised prices.
2. A National Electricity Market was created where bids were put in to supply power to the grid at 5 minute intervals, the assumption being that a market would drive prices down. In fact, vertically integrated big companies gamed the system, withholding power so that the price went up at key periods. The system was made ‘fair’ for that every suppliers was paid the latest (highest) price, and suppliers who had put in low bids earlier were not disadvantaged! The public and businesses consuming the power were gouged.
What is the New Scheme?
The new scheme mandates that electricity comes from a variety of sources, ‘reliable’ fossil fuel power, and renewables, which are assumed to be unreliable. The mix of sources changes over time, hence there can be a move to renewables as they as defined as more ‘reliable’. The scheme was devised by the existing companies, particularly the thermal players, which is probably why it has so few critics. But it will lock in the cost and pricing structures which are the cause of the problem.
The problem is that the government has confused reliability and despatchability (?deliberately). Reliability is measure of whether a power source will be working over a specified time period. Despatchability is whether power can be put into the system. Coal fired power is reliable as ‘base load’ in that it can have a relatively constant output. But it is slow to vary that output, so it cannot despatch power quickly in response to a fall elsewhere, and as such is not ‘reliable’ when needed to despatch a greater quantity quickly. Coal is much more expensive than renewables and the plants have to be kept going at a minimum of about 35% capacity to be able to increase, which does not happen quickly anyway. Keeping the coal plants as a ‘system spinning reserve’ effectively puts a base price on energy of about $85 per MWh, i.e. the typical wholesale price of power from a thermal plant. This makes this plan a government mandated, long term price fixing agreement.
Characteristics of Renewables
Renewable energy power systems and hydro have different characteristics. Hydro is despatchable if you have sufficient water. Australia’s lack of water means that all of our large hydro stations do not operate continuously. They are mainly used to handle short and medium length load peaks as they can respond quickly to load changes. Naturally if the water is pumped up when there is spare power they act as batteries. Hence the interest in ‘Pumped Hydro’, which just needs 2 reservoirs, one higher than the other.
Wind and Photo-Voltaic (PV) systems are not fully despatchable as their output is dependent on wind strength and sunlight. They can respond quickly to load changes. With a grid and a lot of different sites wind can be reasonably reliable overall.
A solar thermal plant uses a heliostat field of several hundred hectares of reflectors to concentrate sunlight onto a boiler mounted in a tower to heat a transfer medium, typically sodium carbonate to about 400 deg.C. The molten salt is pumped into a storage tank and then pumped through a heat exchanger to generate steam which drives a steam turbine. One such plant is planned for the head of Spencers Gulf in SA. Here the energy is stored as heat and the molten salt can be drawn from the hot tank to generate steam on demand i.e. the plant’s capacity is despatchable.
The availability of renewables in Australia is much better than the Liberals would have us believe and the ability to forecast wind in the medium term is now very good. Hence their availability is quite high.
Relative Costs
In terms of the economics, a wind farm costs about M$2.00 per MW to install. A 1MW unit running at 40% capacity factor, which is less than most wind sites can achieve, will generate about 3,500MWh pa at $85 per MWh this will be $300,000. Assuming capital costs of approximately $85,000 with service and maintenance of $84,000 this leaves a surplus of $207,000- a very good financial result especially when you compare this to a thermal plant which will cost about M$30 per MW to build and take 10 years in the building compared to about 3 years for a wind farm.
So what is the politics of this plan?
Because the electricity price will be set by the needs of the old fossil fuel plants the coal owners happy will be happy. It will also keep the renewable generators happy as the high price will give them a massive profit margin. It will keep Labor happy, as they can make a magnanimous gesture of bipartisanship in the short term and when they come in there will be lots of renewables built to get the huge profit levels that have been there for the taking.
The people who will not be happy will be the industries that will go broke because unnecessarily high power prices made them uncompetitive, and the long-suffering domestic consumers.
The alternative, a national bold move to all renewable power has been suggested by the research group, Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE). They have pointed out that Australia has a huge natural advantage in renewable energy because of this abundance of both solar and wind, but as the whole world moves to solar, we can only get the advantage of cheap power and the experience and equipment to export if we move quickly and decisively, which is exactly what we are not doing and what this expensive plan actively retards.
Need for Action
It seems that just as the US cannot go forward because of its gun lobby, Australia is in the same position with its coal industry. We need to demand action now, before this plan is implemented.
The South Australian Blackout
As a post script it is worth looking at the cause of the South Australian blackout. SA was getting about 40% of its electricity from wind, which had been very reliable. It was supplemented by two cables from the East, one of which was down for maintenance. The other source was a French-owned gas plant, which had a ‘pay whether you use it or not contract’ for natural gas. One of the gas exporters from SA had independently sold more gas than they could produce and were in a situation that they needed gas. As the wind was so reliable, the gas plant not generating but was taking gas it could not use and losing money. The solution for the gas plant was to sell the gas to the distressed exporter. Thus when the wind blew too hard, the link to the East blew over at the time the gas plant has no gas and the wind turbines had shut down as the wind was too strong. This was an unfortunate set of coincidences, but hardly a reason to return to coal. But it has been used to talk up unreliability of renewables and get this plan up. Politics!

Continue Reading

Energy Plan- why it is bad, and why there is not much protest.

19 October 2017

No one quite understands the new energy policy, (National Energy Guarantee -NEG) which is why there is not much protest. But I suspect it is very silly. Here is why.

The National Electricity Market worked because suppliers put in bids for a price on 5min supplies. But big producers could withhold creating a shortage, then put in a late bid at a high price. That segment would then go out at that highest price with every supplier getting the higher price. Logically then,the cheaper producers simply made more money. I have heard that a wind turbine in a good location could be paid off in 18 months, and that the price will settle at about $87 a megawatt hr.

The new plan puts big stress on reliability, so the solar and wind people are disadvantaged, but can still make a lot of money. The coal technology is still not much use, as they cannot compete with renewables when the sun shines and the wind blows, and they cannot ramp up supply quickly. They are, as everyone keeps saying, better for base (=constant) load. Added to this they are obsolete as the pipes in the boilers get stress fractures after a certain time and maintenance becomes uneconomic.

Gas is good at turning on and off quickly, but as we know, gas contracts for export has left us short, so Malcolm will create some problems there.

So a system that has been rorted by a few inside players who get supernormal profits will be given a licence to continue. The price of electricity will not fall much, and the consumer will continue to be gouged, with vulnerable industries simply going broke to allow the energy players to get profits that they really should not have. But there is not much protest because either people do not understand what is happening, or they are beneficiaries of a little understood rort that will continue because they have cleverly used fear of blackouts to get a cushy system.

And I suspect Labor will support it, as it has support from the energy industry, and they can claim bipartisanship, and they have been too lazy to get a better plan.

See also the Post ‘A Response to the Libs’ Energy Plan 19/10/17′

Continue Reading