Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Malcolm Turnbull’s desperate Snow job – as he pushes a hydro power renewable energy solution

Turnbull’s desperation … is driven by the knowledge that his government will carry the can if the spiralling problems are not addressed. He also knows his options on electricity are limited by the powerful reactionary rump within his government.

Among other things, it [the Snowy pumped hydro scheme]  would make the government’s flirtation with funding a new “clean” coal plant – still being spruiked this week by Resources Minister Matt Canavan – much harder to justify……

plenty of questions remain unanswered. It is not clear how long the Snowy plan will take to get up – Turnbull says within four years, but the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has said this sort of project could take up to seven. It is not clear what it would cost, or who will pay for it. A feasibility study is yet to be completed. Its impact on the environment has not yet been assessed. We don’t know if its viability in a projected future climate with reduced river flows has been considered.

Is Malcolm Turnbull’s Snowy Hydro 2.0 a breakthrough, a distraction or both?, The Age, 18 Mar Adam Morton  “…. Depending on who you listen to, Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed $2 billion expansion of the Snowy Hydro Scheme is a bold piece of nation-building by a Prime Minister who had found his mojo, or a cynically timed thought-bubble that is years away at best……

“I am a nation-building Prime Minister and this is a nation-building project,” he said ……

After a couple of decades of leaving decisions about building new power plants to the private sector, governments of all stripes believe the market is not working. Weatherill says this explicitly. Turnbull and Frydenberg don’t put it that way, but you don’t heavy gas companies and propose to expand the Snowy Hydro Scheme by 50 per cent if you think energy systems are looking after themselves.

The disruption underway in the electricity grid – from an overwhelming reliance on coal to clean generation – is immense. The push for a pure market-based carbon price reflecting the cost of greenhouse gas emissions will continue, but experience shows the political reality will be messier.

And the electricity system is already being interfered with. There is a national renewable energy target of 23 per cent by 2020. There was a carbon price to help drive the change, but it was abolished. ACT and Victoria either have or are introducing incentives to deliver more wind and solar. There are a range of subsidies for various energy technologies across the country.

But the biggest – and, to date, vaguest – intervention in the electricity market is the Paris climate agreement signed by the Turnbull government in December 2015…….

getting a policy through the Coalition party room will be difficult at best. Despite advice it would limit price rises, an emissions intensity scheme was ruled out in December within 36 hours of Frydenberg publicly raising it. The hard right, mostly made up of science contrarians, has an aversion to anything that could be described as carbon trading.

Until a policy is resolved, investment in new electricity plants is limited to the renewable target – only meant to be an add-on to the scrapped carbon price – and the federal and state governments’ new-found enthusiasm for using taxpayers’ money to pay for generation…….

Turnbull’s desperation is not as overt, but is driven by the knowledge that his government will carry the can if the spiralling problems are not addressed. He also knows his options on electricity are limited by the powerful reactionary rump within his government.

He has won kudos for leading on gas, but the commitment from producers has been vague. Analysts have warned manufacturers, which need affordable gas or face going under, are unlikely to see prices comes down or supply increase unless more is done. The Prime Minister may yet have to make good on his threat to use his constitutional powers to force a change.

His hydro battery plan is a different story. It has the vision thing. The government is doing something. And it is potentially huge in scale.

While some have accused Turnbull of policy on the run, the proposal – for 27 kilometres of new tunnels, pumps and generators – has been around since the 1980s.

It would involve using excess electricity at times of low demand to pump water up hills. It would be stored and released at times of need to flow back down through turbines, generating electricity.

Among other things, it would make the government’s flirtation with funding a new “clean” coal plant – still being spruiked this week by Resources Minister Matt Canavan – much harder to justify……

plenty of questions remain unanswered. It is not clear how long the Snowy plan will take to get up – Turnbull says within four years, but the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has said this sort of project could take up to seven. It is not clear what it would cost, or who will pay for it. A feasibility study is yet to be completed. Its impact on the environment has not yet been assessed. We don’t know if its viability in a projected future climate with reduced river flows has been considered.

NSW and Victoria, which own 58 and 29 per cent of the scheme respectively, only found out about the proposal shortly before it was announced. They are broadly supportive, but are withholding their final position until more is known.

It is also not clear what the electricity market it will feed into will look like. Households are now investing in their own battery systems to store power generated by their rooftop solar panels. That has the potential to ease the huge surge in demand for electricity at peak times – the same problem the Snowy is planned to address.

No matter how worthwhile, the Snowy 2.0 is also not a substitute for a national energy policy to drive private investment in new power plants.

The wait for that continues. http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/is-malcolm-turnbulls-snowy-hydro-20-a-breakthrough-a-distraction-or-both-20170316-gv078w.html

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March 18, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, energy, politics

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