The land that is the Renewable Crash Test Dummy is holding its breath.
This time last year, the Australian energy market turned into a kind of Hunger Games spectacle with daily feeding-fest at dinner time where prices were so burning hot that unhedged smaller retailers begged their own customers to leave them and then the whole market was suspended. The bonfire was so big we’re still paying for it, and retail electricity prices are set to rise another 25% in a few weeks.
So it’s no surprise that as the cold weather arrives downunder, everyone involved in energy is “on edge”. Suddenly Australian corporate leaders are telling it like it is — the Alinta Gas chief says there is just no way we can build enough renewables in time — he can’t even “see a way” of building enough renewables to compensate for the coal units that are being closed.
The man who used to run the Snowy Hydro Scheme agrees (and then some) — saying we need to build a “Snowy” every year, and we are being lied to (his words) and it will take not 8 years, but 80 years to get there. The head of EnergyAustralia says shutting down the Liddell coal plant means the system is “exposed”. These are people at the top (or formerly) of our biggest energy companies.
Legend says that if you displeased the King of Siam, he would give you a white elephant. These rare and protected elephants were incredibly expensive to keep. So a “White Elephant” came to mean a possession that is useless, troublesome, expensive to maintain and difficult to dispose of – like a Sacred Cow, but much bigger.
Matthew Warren in the AFR (August 16, 2020) was highly critical of the electricity market manager’s proposed spending on new transmission lines. The proposals involve a centrally planned network with over $17 billion of new transmission lines plus a further $10 billion for the Snowy pumped storage scheme. This spending is designed to shore-up the inherently inefficient and high cost wind and solar generators that regulatory subsidies have made possible. Continue reading “Australia Following California to a High Cost Unreliable Electricity Supply System”
Canberra breeds many white elephants, but now they are breeding a gigantic new breed of pachyderm in Australia’s Snowy Mountains – a Green Elephant. Grandly named “Snowy 2.0 Hydro-Electric”, it has the compulsory green skin, but it is just another big white elephant under a thick layer of green paint.
Snowy 2.0 plans a hugely expensive complex of dams, tunnels, pumps, pipes, generators, roads and powerlines. Water will be pumped up-hill using grid power in times of low demand, and then released when needed to recover some of that energy. To call it “hydro-electric” is a fraud – it will not store one extra litre of water and will be a net consumer of electric power. It is a giant electric storage battery to be recharged using grid power.
The lack of critical comment on the recently announced Snowy Mk 2 in the mainstream media is seriously disappointing, but perhaps understandable since it is not generally understood.
The attraction of Snowy Mk 2 rides on the back of the iconic name of the truly heroic 1940s to 1970s Snowy Mountains Scheme that, with the St Lawrence Seaway in North America, was one of the world’s great civil engineering projects of the 20th century. Snowy Mk 2 is an opportunistic plan to use that iconic name to gain public support for an expensive project to make the Government’s flawed renewable energy policies workable. It has none of the nation-building qualities of its original namesake.
The Snowy Mountains Scheme.
The original Snowy Mountains Scheme was predicated on diverting some of the easterly flowing water from the Snowy Mountains that went into the Tasman Sea to the dry western plains for irrigation. The diverted water was to be distributed on the basis of five thirteenths to each of NSW and Victoria and three thirteenths to South Australia, and was to be provided free. The scheme was to be financed at least in part by electricity generation.