The 20% Renewable Energy Target Needs to Go

UPDATE: The numbers listed in this guest blog post by Andy Semple are in error. The correct figures, as posted at are as follows:

  • Coal fired power station $78-91 per mWh (megawatt/hour)

  • Gas fired power station $97 per mWh

  • Wind power $150-214 per mWh

  • Solar power $400-473 per mWh

A Guest Post by Andy Semple:

Whilst the Carbon Tax is as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool, there is no doubt whatsoever that the bipartisan support for the 20% Renewable Energy Target (RET) is the real culprit in allowing the price of power to skyrocket. The RET is illogical and economically reckless. Why Abbott and his shadow cabinet think its worth staying committed to the 20% RET is just mind boggling.

Below are the statistics on the cost of power generation in 2010 from the Australian Government’s own Productivity Commission:

  • Coal fired power station $79 per kw/h (kilowatt/hour)

  • Gas fired power station $97 per kw/h – or 1.2 times the cost of coal power

  • Wind power $1,502 per kw/h – or 19 (nineteen) times the cost of coal power

  • Solar power $4,004 per kw/h – or 50 (fifty) times the cost of coal power

You don’t need to be Einstein to work out that the high cost of Wind and Solar is the reason the public are being screwed with high electricity prices. The Carbon Tax just adds further pain.

The Liberals would be wise to heed again the warning from their coalition partners, the Nationals. If it wasn’t for National Senators Joyce and Boswell, Australia would have an ETS, Rudd would still be PM and Malcolm Turnbull would still be opposition leader.

Queensland senator Ron Boswell told a meeting of the Coalition joint partyroom in Canberra that the RET would have a bigger impact on the aluminium industry than the carbon tax, and the Coalition had to acknowledge higher electricity costs associated with the target were a serious problem for manufacturing.

Further, “renewables” are a con:

  • The solar industry has grown to become one of the leading emitters of hexafluoroethane (C2F6), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). These three potent greenhouse gases, used by solar cell fabricators, make carbon dioxide (CO2) seem harmless.

  • The stark reality is that Solar is surprisingly inefficient when it’s dark and cloudy. Even these new Solar Thermal plants can only supply enough heat stored in the form of steam to allow power generation after dark for only an hour. Sure we use less energy at night then we do during the day, but when the Sun goes down do you really want the alternative to be infrequent wind energy to power the TV, refrigerator and the heater?

  • Each and every wind turbine has a magnet made of a metal called neodymium. There are 2,500 Kg of it in each of the behemoths. The mining and refining of neodymium is so dirty and toxic - involving repeated boiling in acid, with radioactive thorium as a waste product - that only one country does it - China.  This year it flexed its trade muscles and briefly stopped exporting neodymium from its inner Mongolian mines. Forget Middle East oil, how’s that for dangerous reliance on a volatile foreign supply.

  • Wind Turbines kill a massive amount of birds and bats. They also cause ill health effects on humans.

  • Wind Turbines blight the landscape.

  • Even the Productivity Commission spells out that mandated solar and wind won't knock out coal-fired power generation. All it does is displace cleaner but more expensive gas-fired generation, undercutting the fuel switch that has the most potential to cut Australia's emissions and needlessly raising electricity bills.

  • Wind power is intermittent and inefficient. Back in 1919 a smart German physicist named Albert Betz figured out that the most you can possibly get out of Wind Turbine is around 59% of the power in the wind. This is an unassailable bit of physics. Stop whining about it. I'm not going to prove it here but it is not hard to at least understand why we can never convert 100% of the wind's power. In other words, a perfect best-possible Wind Turbine would be able to convert almost 59% of the power in the wind into mechanical rotating power. But we can't achieve perfection. A given Wind Turbine has a "design point" that generally defines its peak efficiency at the wind speed for which the system is designed. At wind speeds above and below the design speed the efficiency is the same or less - maybe much less. If a turbine's best efficiency is 40% at a wind velocity of 10 meters per second it will be 40% only at that wind speed. At all other wind speeds it will be something worse. That wind turbine will generally operate at lower than its best efficiency, because wind speeds are never constant or average. When there is no wind, a turbine’s efficiency is zero.

Yes the Carbon Tax must be scrapped, but if Abbott is fair dinkum he needs to also scrap the 20% RET. One only needs to witness the financial disaster renewables have been inGermanySpainUK and the USA.

Originally posted at Andy's Rant and reproduced with permission.  

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