back to article Ditching renewables will punch Aussies in the wallet – Bloomberg

The Australian government's plan to scrap its Renewable Energy Target (RET), pitched as a way to cut power bills down under, will drive up electricity prices. That's according to an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF). Bloomberg NEF believes that while the short-term (2015 to 2020) cost of the RET to consumers is AU …

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  1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    If renewables can compete on price ...

    ... why are we subsidising them?

    1. NumptyScrub

      Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

      Exactly, if they already represent a commercially viable energy production method, then market forces would suggest that providers would be jumping on them without subsidies. Or that there is some giant conspiracy preventing their adoption for some (fiscal) reason, which would mean we still wouldn't be subsidising them.

      quote from the article: "The reasoning is simple: the RET as it stands today has attracted investments that would add more than 14 gigawatts of power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources to the grid by 2020. Once in place, that eco-friendly generation would drive down wholesale prices, which should slash what consumers pay."

      So, how has that panned out in other countries who are subsidising renewables? I don't recall any reductions in energy prices in the UK, more the opposite, as the consumers foot the bill for the current feed-in tariffs. I also can't recall any official promise that prices will get cheaper the more renewables we have, although that might just be my terrible memory ^^;

      1. breakfast

        Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

        In fairness, Australia has at least one very high output power source that the UK is missing for approximately 355 days of the year. That gives them a resource that should be a lot more predictable and easier to utilise than our wind or tides.

        In places I've visited, once you get a little out of town, a lot of people aren't connected up to any grids, they just have small solar setups to power their homes. You wouldn't be able to do welding with it, but for lights and laptops it seems to work pretty well.

        1. Mike 140

          Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

          If their suncatcher is producing power, why do they need a light on?

      2. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

        In Spain, it is cheaper to use PV electricity than grid.. that is why IT HAS BEEN MADE ILLEGAL in practice. You have to indemnify the grid for giving away electricity to the grid...

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

        Ah, the joy of short term thinking and selective costing.

        Non-renewables seem to price on short term costs, because the long term costs are left to someone else, such as damaged landscapes and waters (increasinlgy further from the consumer), air pollution and CO2 production.

        New technologies pay well in the short term rather seldom. That's why there is the term, long-term investment. If they do, it's by being very expensive until increased custom makes it possible to cut prices. Computers, for instance, are just getting to the price level at which even fairly poor people can have something decent, after several decades. Mobile phones still tend to depend upon provider subsidies to make them affordable to most people, despite the wonderful increase in capabiltiy and relative price drop for that.

        As it is, even in Northern latitiudes, quite a few private households and small businesses are gaining from solar panels (now much cheaper than just a decase ago).

        Of course, there is a lot tied up in existing, fossil-fuelled systems, as with so many other things, the possessors will fight to keep their place and their profit (which it seems is decreasing for a system that, in some places, such as N. America, has always struggled to match demand at all times), whatever the damage or long-term prospects.

        Come into the future and apply intelligence and imagination to killing the albatross of non-renewables, rather than some quaint clinging to the hope that usage will become cleaner and new sources always found that do not risk expensive damage to get them.

        The foolishness is to bury one's head in the sand and, for short term convenience, not use the time to develop alternatives now. For a "technical" site, it is astonishing how conservative the contributors seem to be. But then, people are still clinging to XP.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

          " killing the albatross of non-renewables"

          Another trougher, at a guess, who realises the taxpayer is fed up filling his pockets with subsidies for completely inferior and inadequate technology.

          The only albatross in the energy business is the expensive and unreliable renewables, apart from hydro. This site is "technical", yes, which means people can work out the price of energy. Appeals to Gaia or scare stories don't work so well here. It's pretty simple, really.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

            No, the "troughers" are those slurping at the illusion of cheap, sustainable fossil fuels. The hard but technically and philosophically long term choice is to do some proper engineering, research and development to escape from that. Sticking with versions of totally non-renewable energy sources is the short term, easy and lucrative answer, until we are forced to pay the long term bill.

            Technical people should not be afraid of a hard problem. Sadly, technical people are all too often conservative and unable to work out costs and benefits, as often illustrated here by the casual dismissal of the new, other professionals and anything not fitting their own prejudices and experience.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

              "Sadly, technical people are all too often conservative and unable to work out costs and benefits"

              Are you at the right forum? Insulting the readers here is not helping your argument. We actually have worked out the costs and benefits of renewables and drawn our conclusions. It is not a price worth paying.

              Add in the opportunity cost of pissing away taxpayers money on dead-end technology like wind, instead of exportable commodities like LNG, and the cost benefit looks even worse.

        2. Flatpackhamster

          Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

          Dear Mr Anonymous,

          Why don't you tell us how windmills and suncatchers are made? Are they made, perhaps, from fairy dust? From old coathangers and lost socks? Or from rare earths, which are acid leached from whole mountains in China, where the acid then leaches happily in to the groundwater for hundreds of miles around? What about the steel and copper needed for them? Do they come from ethically farmed maize, or environmentally damaging mining and smelting techinques.

          Everything has a cost of production. Your Toyota Pious might make you feel good but you poisoned a lake in China to drive it. The difference between renewable and fossil/nuclear cost of production is that the cost of the latter is offset by the vast buckets of power it provides. Renewables have a huge cost of production but then produce teeny tiny dribbles of power compared to fossil/nuclear.

          1. James Micallef Silver badge

            Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

            Whether solar, wind etc generators are more or less polluting than fossil fuels is a bit of a red herring. The bottom line is that fossils are non-renewable. Yes, we can keep on discovering new sources such as shale but that is just kicking the can down the road. Whether it is within 50 years or 200 makes a difference to me personally but in the general scheme of things does not change a lot.

            Of course we COULD manage to crack fusion before fossil fuels run out, but it's been 20 years away for teh past 70 years and I don't see that changing any time soon, and waiting on fusion to be ready is too much of a gamble. What happens if we haven't cracked fusion when the oil starts to run out.

            If anyone thinks energy is expensive with renewables, how expensive do you think it will be when oil is running out? Globally it makes much more sense to invest in renewables and have prices that are slightly higher but long-term stable instead of having low prices now that will skyrocket later.

            Of course there are some particular instances where it doesn't make sense. UK isn't any good for solar and wind tech isn't very good anyway because of intermittency. Solar in Australia on the other hand is a no-brainer: Sparsely populated, huge open areas of land, plenty of sunshine... Australia could probably go 80-90% solar within 20 years, and maybe could start exporting power instead of importing oil

      4. cyberelf

        Re: If renewables can compete on price ...

        German Renewable Energy Output Increases, April 2014

  2. Steve Todd
    Stop

    What about all the conventional capacity needed

    To fill in due to the intermittent nature of renewables? Plus all the renewable schemes I've seen to date cost MORE than conventional power, even if you ignore the cost of conventional backup capacity.

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: What about all the conventional capacity needed

      A roof installed PV system costs 2€/Wp NOW, with a 1 axis solar tracking.

      With 8 sun hours sun a day (and with rain you get at least 55% max power) and paying 0.16€ /KW/h

      you run even at about 2 years of a system that can live with almost no maintenance for 25/35 years .

      That way you can get rid of peak consumption hours, and scale back power generation AND transmission lines.

      No need for subsidies.

      I just made a relatively easy excel to prove it.

      Suppose 2€/Wp, 8 sun hours/day (using 1 axis tracker, center of Spain. (Actual average hours are more, quoted prices are a bit lower for 4Kw installations). It includes all cabling, int. solid state inverters, etc.

      Suppose we have 2000€ in the bank.

      We can either install a small cap pv plant in our petrol station or we can keep paying the electricity bills, and keep gaining interests in those 2000€

      Interest rate:0,0385 (spanish bond, 15 years.). I use it as an opportunity cost value.

      Energy price: 0.16 Kw/h (includind all subsidies, mostly con combined cicle, nuclear and electic network) or 0,08, wihout subsidies.

      We suppose that electric prices go up just 0.025, or 2,5%, yearly.

      If you do the math, you will see that in 12,5 years you break even for the "full" price, and you need almost 28 years if there were no subsidies. As the tracker would need some repairs after 15 years, I would say PV and grid electricity cost about the same for small installations.

      For big ones, the numbers change: they pay way less for Kw/h, but it will also cost them about 60% to install PV, and remember that they pay that tariff because their power CAN be legally cut off the grid.

      And that is considering just a 2.5% cost increase every year..

      I can provide the excel/ods is someone is extremely bored.

      ¿Can we get rid of coal/natgas with grid connected pv? NO. We can reduce our power generation and leccy transport needs, PV is competitive, TODAY.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What about all the conventional capacity needed

        Aitor 1, how do you store all that power you are gathering so that you will have power and lights at night?

        The other thing, why should other people pay a subsidy to you for your electricity, especially when no matter how much you produce the power company has to have the equivalent on standby to take over when you are not producing that power.

      2. SpiderPig

        Re: What about all the conventional capacity needed

        OK, then how come the Spanish SOlar farm is having issues? Solar today is viable only because it and other forms of renewables are heavily subsidised by politicians who want to be seen doing something rather than just staring at the wall thinking about what to do.

        Germany certainly went backwards at a million miles an hour when they had their massively political knee jerk reaction to Fukishima and chose to utilise coal. Their polution counts have gone back to where they were 20 years ago.

        Why didn't they choose to go further into renewables if they are so competitive??

      3. Fluffy Bunny
        Devil

        Re: What about all the conventional capacity needed

        " get rid of peak consumption hours, and scale back power generation"

        There is a real problem here. Solar only produces power in the day. By the time people have gotten home from work, it is producing next to nothing. You still have this big peak of power generation from 6PM, when people want to cook their food, warm their house, have showers, etc. That can only come from reliable (conventional) power sources.

        Yes, you do save on the coal and oil (what idiot powers electricity generation from oil? - and yet some do) during the peak PV generating period - 10 AM to 2 PM. But the cost is immense.

      4. Steve Todd

        Re: What about all the conventional capacity needed

        @Aitor, given your own numbers a 4Kw installation would cost €8,000 to install. That money could have been earning interest (or, more likely, you have to pay interest to borrow it) so you can safely ignore the increasing cost per year as that is offset. If you can manage ENTIRELY on the power of your PV system then the average household would take 15 years to pay that back, ignoring maintenance and storage costs (you're dreaming if you think the system will sit there and need no work for over 15 years). If you can't store all of that power, can only sell the surplus at wholesale prices and need to draw from the grid at night then the time goes up significantly.

  3. Barely registers

    14GW of renewables capacity....

    equals how much actual reliable baseline load?

    I actually want to know - references gratefully received, ta.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Junk modelling

    There are a few things that make this Bloomberg modelling completely worthless. The main one is that it assumes renewables costs go up - which is fair enough, they will rise without subsidies. But Bloomberg do not model a switch to cheaper energy sources, they assume consumers will continue to pay through the nose for renewables, and not develop cheaper alternatives.

    (The report is sponsored by the renewables industry, who sponsor Bloomberg NEF. Shale gas is not mentioned once.) Here's what they won't tell you, from the other part of Bloomberg. The one that isn't sponsored by the renewables lobby:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-16/shale-s-next-big-play-draws-magnum-to-australia-s-cooper-basin.html

    "Australia has the seventh-biggest potential shale gas resources and sixth-biggest shale oil resources in the world, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated last June. The Cooper, with existing gas processing and transportation infrastructure, may be the nation’s first commercial source of shale oil and gas, according to the EIA’s report.

    Producers globally are seeking to emulate the U.S., where horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has unlocked oil and gas supplies trapped in shale rock formations.

    Australia “is primed to become the next big play” in the fracking market, ahead of China and Argentina, Boston-based Lux Research said in a Jan. 14 report on its website."

    That is worth reading in full. So really, it's the renewables lobby that is punching Aussies in the wallet", and the sooner Aussies ditch it, the better off they will be.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Junk modelling

      Fracking? Really? That short term answer with the risks and uncertainties as we attempt to use yet another finite resource at any cost?

      Perhaps Bloomberg employs some real experts paid to take a longer term view than most of us can manage.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Junk modelling

        ... just the sort of evidence-free cliches I expect from a renewables lobbyist who knows the gravy train is about to crash.

        If the US EIA (which employs geologists, not hacks) is correct and Australia has the 7th largest known shale gas and 6th largest shale oil reserves in the world, then the Australia will switch to gas very quickly indeed. It will be exporting the LNG to Asia and keeping the oil for itself, most likely.

        http://www.eia.gov/analysis/studies/worldshalegas/

        The jobs this will create will far out number the artificial jobs which depend on renewable subsidies. Any politician who stands between Australians and cheap energy quickly will find themselves out of a job. Ask Julia Gillard.

        The game's up and the green lobby knows it. Only a few thickos left on board now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Junk modelling

          Which post were you not reading and then downvoting?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Junk modelling

          So all the geologists and others pointing out the negative side are no good and those supporting the commercial imperatives of the wealthy are fantastic. Good.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Junk modelling (Absolutely correct! Bloomberg is ALWAYS suspect)

      There's your problem right there, Bloomberg "news" is ALWAYS tainted by the owners viewpoints.

      When the news is also lobbying, you have a problem.

      It's subtle but very true. There is a anti oil, anti common sense, commie green slant to all their reporting. Billionaires who own news outlets get to choose what is reported and what it says. Dollars to doughnuts, Bloomberg news will (or has) report that soda's larger than 16 ounces will kill you faster than two 8 ouncers.

      Look elsewhere for objective news outlets...........

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Junk modelling (Absolutely correct! Bloomberg is ALWAYS suspect)

        "anti oil, anti common sense, commie green slant"

        "commie"? You must be a 1060s US throwback. Anything not agreeing with your version of "right wing" or "capitalist" thinking is "commie". You just betrayed your ignorance and lack of real argument. Oh dear Mr. McArthy, back in your grave please.

        Show me your evidence that non-renewables are economic in the long term, that they will forever be reliable and there and that it is acceptable to sit on your arse and do nothing.

        1. SpiderPig

          Re: Junk modelling (Absolutely correct! Bloomberg is ALWAYS suspect)

          Non-renwables such as nuclear ARE economic in the long term. The issues with renewables is they are unable to provide 24/7 energy requirements, that is not to say they are redundant, quite the contrary they all make up part of the overall solution BUT there needs to be that continuous base load energy supply.

          If you wanted to supply Sydney alone with power from wind you would need to cover 97,000 sq km's with wind turbines to provide the RESIDENTIAL energy that Sydney consumed in 2013. The costs of building these turbines are prohibitive and then you have to add the cost of transmission as well as additional generating capacity to allow for energy loss from the transmission system.

          IF nuclear was used then you would only need a couple of square kilometers of space.

          Then the question is what nuclear fuel do you utilise? Forget Uranium as it is too expensive and limited in supply, Thorium is the answer and Australia has the largest easily accessible Thorium reserves on the planet and those reserves are basically unlimited as the whole planet is made of the stuff.

          Until Governments actually move into the 21st century and support the growth of Nuclear we will always take the easy cheap path and mine and burn coal.

    3. SpiderPig

      Fracking???

      Not here in Australia, there is way too much resistance from the public into this.

      Also look at the US experience, they are now seeing seismic events happening in States that were stable in this regard until fracking was allowed in those areas.

      Coal Seam Gas in another battlefield as the farmers and rural townspeople are quite rightly scared of what this will do to the water table and the massive artesian water system we have here. The water in that is prehistoric and a lot of landowners rely on that as their only source. Contaminating that would be unthinkable and who do we hang if it happens?

      The Gas lobby here used the bullshit story that if we don't find more gas then we'll be paying through the nose for it, well we will still pay through the nose for it due to Global demand and the local pricing will be set by those global prices.

  5. Winkypop Silver badge
    FAIL

    Idiot Liberals

    The current pack of Tea Party try-hards in power are science and climate change denialists.

    There's hardly a decent brain between them.

    They will set Australia back decades.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: "Idiot Liberals"

    Sorry to say but there are few if any "liberals" in the Tea Party. Here or in OZ.

    There is no such thing as "Climate Change" because it's called Weather and it's been that way for a very long time. Try watching the way the Jet Streams (North and South) change position and corellate that to what you experience. Between Solar influx, Volcanic activity and Jet Stream position; the effect is just weather people like you think is the end of the world when it has been happening cyclically forever. YOU just have not lived long enough. Save us from the "alarmists" please. They cause as much or more damage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Idiot Liberals"

      Liberal = conservative in australia

      A little bit of research wouldn't hurt you naval gazing yank

  7. silent_count

    According to Wikipedia, Australia produces about 12% of the world's uranium. We also have a geologically stable country with a vast, largely uninhabited interior which would serve as an ideal place to store nuclear waste.

    So can anyone tell me why we're taxing people to subsidise 'renewables' which don't work rather than running the country off nuclear power which does?

  8. veti Silver badge
    Boffin

    It's really not hard:

    Every change in policy costs money. Whose money? Well, whoever's paying it, of course. In this case, that would be electricity consumers.

    Think of the economy as like a supertanker. No, wait, more a swarm of ants. Okay, so picture a swarm of supertankers. Anyway, the point is that it's a huge thing, incredibly unresponsive and notoriously hard to control, subject to several million different pressures and uncontrollable variables, which you have to try to ignore and pretend that your helm is the only thing that matters. At present, the swarm is sailing blithely across the Indian Ocean in the direction of Africa.

    But up ahead, as everyone knows, there's Peak Coal (that's Africa, in this analogy). And you're going to have to turn the swarm to get it around the Cape.

    If you wait until you can actually see the African coast up ahead, that's going to be too late, and thousands upon thousands of tankers in your fleet are going to end up stranded on the shores of Madagascar and Mozambique. On the other hand, if you try to turn too early, you lose the benefit of the South Equatorial current and end up fighting against the Antarctic Circumpolar. Some of your captains think you should turn now and make directly for the Cape, others think you should hold your course a while longer.

    Your predecessor as fleet commodore has given the order for some of the fleet to start turning south. Just some, at this stage - about one-sixth of the fleet, as a pilot to see how the currents actually affect progress, and see what they can learn about navigational conditions down there. It seemed sensible at the time.

    And now the new commodore wants to cancel that "pilot" and have those ships rejoin the main swarm. That's - stupid. Unless the 'pilot' ships are in real, serious, imminently dangerous trouble, it's just wasting time and fuel for the hell of it, to say nothing of the near-inevitability that some of your fleet will collide with each other in the confusion.

    1. Fluffy Bunny
      Boffin

      Re: It's really not hard:

      Nice analogy, but there are several problems with it:

      1. The previous commodore didn't tell one sixth of the fleet to abandon the helpful ocean current and start swimming in shark-infested waters - he told the whole fleet to do it.

      2. There isn't a continent the size of Africa in the way - it's just a rumour, unconfirmed by actual evidence.

      3. We aren't in imminent danger of colliding with Africa - if it will happen, it will happen in 20 million years.

      4. It turns out colliding with Afric isn't such a catastrophic thing - it will simply make a mountain range to the north of Australia, which will provide ample snowfields for winter sports.

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: It's really not hard:

        Let me correct ir for you:

        2. There isn't a continent the size of Africa in the way - it's just a rumour, unconfirmed by actual evidence.

        ->

        2.The scientists inform you that there is a continent there, but as it is an inconvient continent, you refuse to acknowledge it exists.

        Similar for 3 & 4.

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