No room for nuclear power, unless the Coalition switches off your solar

Why? Because the world has changed. The greening of the electricity grid means we need far more flexibility. Solar and wind can do the heavy lifting and are something we can quickly switch on and off to fill the gaps. The only way to make nuclear power work in Australia is to switch off cheap renewable energy to make space for nuclear in 10-15 years. And you’d have to somehow make coal financially viable now. Even if nuclear power was cheap, which it isn’t, it would have to be the least appropriate energy source going around.

July 2024

AEMO Actual vs Forecast

AEMO Solar Forecast

 AEMO’s annual SOO report is out and so it’s time for my annual review of their forecasts of behind-the-meter solar PV against my 2014 model. As explained in previous posts the problem with their continual under-estimation of private solar growth is its impact on projections of minimum demand on the SWIS, and its implications. Here I illustrated how underestimated network loads might become negative.

June 2024

Australia's Global Green House Emissions

Australia’s 2030 Paris target

The Paris Agreement is a commitment to keep temperature rise ‘well below’ 2°C by 2100. But this will be determined by cumulative emissions not annual emissions, hence any delay will be make temperatures higher and climate change worse. The coalition has now announced that they will ditch the 2030 target but keep the Net Zero by 2050 target. Here I consider what that their trajectory would look like if achieved.

June 2024

The nuclear debate – again

The coalition’s recent declaration of support for nuclear energy is strange given the history of debate and false starts. In 2007, a Howard government study showed nuclear power would not be cost competitive, even with coal. And it is not just the cost; Australia lacks the required regulatory structure; nuclear power plants are massive, highly complex projects taking years to build even if we had the engineering capacity. There is simply no way nuclear could contribute to Australia’s required trajectory to meet a Net Zero by 2050. And then there is the question of nuclear waste. In this article I explore these and other challenges to building a nuclear industry in Australia.

May 2024

2024 Purpose of Government Pulse

I am pleased to report that I have joined the   research committee of the Centre for Policy Development. Influencing policy on the suite of sustainability problems we face (including but not limited to climate change, resource depletion, biodiversity) is more important than ever. CPD have just released their Purpose of Government Pulse report.

Feb 2024

Optimising generation and energy storage in the transition to net zero power networks

The work I presented at the World Renewable Energy Congress in December 2023 has been published in the journal Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability.

Jun 2023

Latest atmospheric CO2 concentration data from NOAA

When you are pondering whether the world is doing enough to combat climate change during COP27 discussions you might consider the latest atmospheric CO2 concentration data from NOAA. Looks like continuing exponential growth to me. Remember that it is this variable (a stock) that controls climate impacts and it won’t reduce until CO2 emissions/year are less than CO2 removals/year (flows).

Dec 2023

The dynamics of climate hazard

We know from the science that the hazards associated with climate change will only increase as temperatures rise and will increase the frequency of extreme heatwaves, bushfires, and extreme rainfall events. Many locations are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise / coastal erosion, flood events, bushfires, drought, extreme heat and the human impact and economic losses associated with all those hazards.

Apr 2022

Household solar and storage: It’s time to rethink the energy system

An article on this work published today in Renew Economy for those interested.

Dec 2022

SA network sets a new mark for negative demand

At the World Renewable Energy Congress in December 2022 I presented an update of my model of the WA electricity system (SWIS for those in the game). As I have been saying for some years the market operator (AEMO) continues to underestimate the amount of rooftop solar and so thinks we have more time before network loads go negative (as they did in SA earlier this year). 

Dec 2022

IPCC 6th Assessment Report: Trajectory for Australia

The IPCC Assessment Report 6 contains a new set of potential scenarios for future climate change at the global scale, based on the latest modelling. Of these scenarios only one is projected to keep global surface temperatures below 2.0°C above preindustrial level. Applying those emissions reductions to the Australian and Western Australian context, I identify in broad terms what policies will need to deliver by 2050.

Aug 2021

A Rational View of Economics

The coronavirus pandemic has had tremendous impact on the economies of the whole world. But our focus has been on the consequences for peoples’ livelihood and wellbeing – rather than the loss of profits of affected firms. This tells us something fundamental about the purpose of the economy, which is to support the wellbeing of citizens. Enduring wellbeing is the essential goal of sustainability. In this article I unpack the economy to demonstrate how it functions, and how to better aligned to this central goal.

May 2020

Why emissions reductions are urgent

It is not well understood, either in the general public or the parliaments, how difficult it will be to avoid the worst effects of climate change if we delay emissions reductions. The impacts of climate change are a consequence of the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases (a stock) not emissions per year (a flow). Even if we eliminated all emissions today, CO2 concentrations will remain high for millennia (Clark et al. 2016).

Aug 2018

Beyond the Death Spiral

Model based projections for the rapid uptake of rooftop solar photovoltaics in Western Australia indicate that private capacity will be so large that the centralised network based electricity system will become disrupted in the 2020s. By 2050 private systems may produce around 85- 90% of projected electricity demands. In the interim period it may be more economically viable to avoid introducing large scale renewable energy to the network while planning for a completely renewable system by 2050 when rooftop solar approaches saturation levels.

Mar 2017

 
 

Coal fired power – twin elephants in the room

Ever since the South Australia blackout, debate has raged about the role of coal vs renewables in meeting Australia’s future electricity generation needs. The debate was ramped up significantly by the Prime Minister’s call for new generation coal to underpin future baseload power. The reaction to this suggestion by energy market experts has been swift – the cost of future coal will not stack up against the alternatives, and it would undermine our commitment to reduce emissions. But there are two other practical realities that will prevent this from coming true: the impact of private solar PV on baseload power, and the dwindling global stocks of fossil fuels.

Feb 2017

The holy grail of trend growth

The core objective of Australia’s economic policy is growth. The world has seen unprecedented GDP growth over the last half century and Australia has been a beneficiary of this. But how realistic is it that GDP can grow year on year, apparently forever? In this article the question is addressed by examining recent and projected trends in population and GDP at the global scale, in Australia and in China. If population growth rates continue to decline, then global GDP growth rates must also continue to steadily fall over the long term as poorer countries become richer, and GDP per capita converges. Achieving a steady-state economy and improving how income is distributed is a more important and achievable objective than hoping and praying GDP goes up forever.

May 2016