ARTICLES & POSTS

Feb 2024

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. Key findings include:

  • People want a government that maintains decent living standards and makes decisions guided by the population’s wellbeing, above other concerns;
  • Australians have an unwavering commitment to democracy as a vehicle for ensuring fair and equal treatment for all, including the most vulnerable in our society;
  • People expect their government to maintain the capability to deliver public services directly, as opposed to outsourcing services to the private sector.
  • Despite cost of living pressures and the impact of the pandemic, younger voters have a more optimistic picture of government – they are less likely to say politicians don’t represent their interests, more likely to have faith in parliaments to tackle challenges, and less likely to say our politics is fixated on the short term.

 

Check out the full report, 2024 Purpose of Government Pulse, here

Optimising Generation And Energy Storage In The Transition To Net Zero Power Networks, Jun 2023

The work I presented at the World Renewable Energy Congress last December has now been published in the journal Renewable Energy and Environmental Sustainability. The main findings are:

  1. The combination of high insolation and reducing cost of small-scale solar PV systems in Western Australia has led to declining midday network loads, which will likely become negative before 2030 at some times of day and year.
  2. Take-up of private solar continues to be underestimated by AEMO.
  3. By 2050 behind-the-meter generation will likely supply around 50% of the total annual projected demand of 54,000 GWh pa.
  4. Given the diurnal and seasonal shape of the resulting network load and projected renewable generation costs, onshore wind energy will be the most cost optimal generation source, supplemented by smaller capacity offshore wind, wave and solar PV facilities.
  5. Network storage in the form of batteries and pumped hydro will be required, but significant curtailment will still be necessary to optimally match supply with demand.
  6. Peaking plants (OCGTs) will be required to minimise the required capacity of storage. By 2040-50, as the cost of electrolysers reduces, these could be powered by hydrogen produced at the same facilities with excess renewable generation.
  7. Network generation and storage costs per MWh of network load into the future are likely to be similar to, or lower than existing costs with the range of technologies considered in this study.

 

For those interested to read more, the paper is available here

Dec 2022

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

 
 

Dec 2022

I presented at the World Renewable Energy Congress at Murdoch Uni this week. 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).  Read the article on SA Network

The graph below is what the network load might look like on a summer day by 2030. No place for coal , indeed any baseload. Onshore wind with offshore wind and/or wave with storage and peaking plants will be the least cost option. We can also use the excess renewables to produce green hydrogen to fuel the peaking plants, making the whole network 100% renewable.

Dec 2023

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).

The current gas crisis and the debate about new coal mines intersect in an interesting way. Consider the following arguments.

Gas
As one of the world’s largest producers of natural gas it is outrageous that we are being priced gouged domestically because of a global supply crunch. We should have a domestic gas reservation policy in all states – as WA has. Our industry and households need cheap gas.

Conversely – why should any country have special access to resources that just happen to exist in their country? Natural resources should be owned by the global population and prices should everywhere reflect global supplies. Higher prices everywhere will drive down demand, reducing emissions and accelerating the transition to renewables.

Coal
The world is facing a climate crisis and every country should do everything it can to reduce and then halt the use of coal. Exporting coal is just exporting emissions. There should be no new coal mines.

Conversely – natural resources should be owned by the global population and supply should not be constrained by a particular country’s domestic policies, as this will adversely affect people in poor countries. Each country needs to have control of its own transition away from fossil fuels.

What do you think, and how would you address the alternative argument?

A rational view of economics

Abstract

The coronavirus pandemic has had tremendous impact on the economies of the whole world, whether or not each country has had a health crisis. During this time 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, both now and in the future. Enduring wellbeing is the essential goal of sustainability. In this article I unpack the economy to demonstrate how it functions, and how it could be better aligned to this central goal.

For the full article click here

PREVIOUS ARTICLES

Beyond the Death Spiral

Abstract

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.

For the full report click here

Coal fired power – twin elephants in the room

Abstract
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 recent 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.
However there are two other practical realities that will prevent the Prime Minister’s wish from coming true: the impact of private solar PV on baseload power, and the dwindling global stocks of fossil fuels.

For the full article click here

The holy grail of trend growth

Abstract

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.

For the full article click here