#AEMO

Lessons from Deutschland on why renewables are a bad idea – period

 New wind park projects face a significant amount of red tape. And then there...

The normally left of centre leaning Der Spiegel has put together two decent hit job articles on the failure of the energy transition in Germany. This is what happens when misguided altruism turns on itself and ends up costing a bomb for little result. Australia, are you listening? Germany has already done beta testing on renewables and as a culture is not renowned for doing half-baked jobs. Yet Merkel can add this to the list of failures.

Part 1 – Germany Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future

“But the sweeping idea has become bogged down in the details of German reality. The so-called Energiewende, the shift away from nuclear in favour of renewables, the greatest political project undertaken here since Germany’s reunification, is facing failure. In the eight years since Fukushima, none of Germany’s leaders in Berlin have fully thrown themselves into the project, not least the chancellor. Lawmakers have introduced laws, decrees and guidelines, but there is nobody to coordinate the Energiewende, much less speed it up. And all of them are terrified of resistance from the voters, whenever a wind turbine needs to be erected or a new high-voltage transmission line needs to be laid out.”

Germany’s Federal Court of Auditors is even more forthright about the failures. The shift to renewables, the federal auditors say, has cost at least 160 billion euros in the last five years. Meanwhile, the expenditures “are in extreme disproportion to the results,” Federal Court of Auditors President Kay Scheller said last fall, although his assessment went largely unheard in the political arena. Scheller is even concerned that voters could soon lose all faith in the government because of this massive failure.

There is also such an irony when these mad green schemes encounter scourge from animal rights groups. Former Green’s leader Bob Brown knows the feeling,

“The bird of prey [red kite], with its elegantly forked tail, enjoys strict protection in Germany…Red kites are migratory, returning from the south in the spring, but they don’t return reliably every year. The mayor would have been happy if the bird had shown up quickly so its flight patterns could be analyzed and plans for the wind park adjusted accordingly. It would have been expensive, but at least construction of the project could finally get underway.

But if the bird doesn’t return, the project must be suspended. Spies has to wait a minimum of five years to see if the creature has plans for the nest after all. Which means the wind park could finally be built in 2024, fully 12 years after the project got underway.”

Part 2 – German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future

An additional factor exacerbating the renewables crisis is the fact that two decades after the enactment of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), 20-year guaranteed feed-in tariffs will begin expiring next year for the first wind, solar and biomass facilities. Some of those who installed solar panels back then — often farmers and homeowners — are still receiving 50 cents for every kilowatt-hour they feed into the grid. Today, larger facilities receive just 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The state has redistributed gigantic sums of money, with the EEG directing more than 25 billion euros each year to the operators of renewable energy facilities. But without the subsidies, operating wind turbines and solar parks will hardly be worth it anymore. As is so often the case with such subsidies: They trigger an artificial boom that burns fast and leaves nothing but scorched earth in their wake.

As Australia continues to expand the renewables portion of our power grid, the lessons from the Germans couldn’t be clearer – market distortions and misguided investments only lead to marginal results on the back of massive investment to stop something that can’t be controlled. German taxpayers have been swindled and Aussies are sleepwalking down the same path.

Why doesn’t Atlassian lead the charge if it is such a great idea?

Coal.png

Atlassian Co-Founder Mike Cannon-Brookes (MCB) has put forward a vision that is so compelling for Australia to junk its $70bn coal industry, it is a real wonder why he has not decided to deploy the tech giant’s own capital to seize those obvious riches? He believes coal will be worth zero in 15-25 years. If it is such a dead industry, can he explain why China’s coal-fired power (great infographics here) has grown from 200GW in 2000 to over 900GW today? Or India that has grown from 61GW to 221GW of coal-fired power gen? Why would Adani persevere in the face of 8 years of government and regulatory roadblocks in Queensland if coal wasn’t on the menu for India’s future?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) notes the following on coal,

Coal power generation increased 3% in 2018 (similar to the 2017 increase), and for the first time crossed the 10 000 TWh mark. Coal remains firmly in place as the largest source of power at 38% of overall generation. Growth was mainly in Asia, particularly in China and India.

Note in the following map, yellow and red are levels of intensity and in operation. Grey is that idled or shut down.

Coal Fired Power.png

Global wind and solar installations account for about the same as China’s current coal-fired power capacity.

MCB’s idea that we should export the sun and wind is utterly fanciful. The amount of transmission loss over distances in Australia would be massive. Our own energy market operator, AEMO, noted that energy transmission losses for those wind and solar farms located furthest from the main load hubs, in north Queensland, western NSW and some in Victoria could suffer marginal loss factors (MLF) of up to 22%.

To think our closest neighbours – New Zealand, Papua New Guinea & East Timor – are at least 200km away from our extremities. At least 500km to major city centres like Port Moresby. That is assuming our ecomentalist Department of Environment would fast track approval for Cape York and the Daintree Forest to be logged and turned into a wind and solar park to then run some cable to Port Moresby. The problem with MLF is that if Port Moresby demanded 1MW of energy, then it would need to pay for more than it needed to anticipate the MLF which would grow the further the demand was from the main load hubs that could supply it.

To add to the problem, Australia’s ridiculously high power prices would be completely unattractive to the likes of Papua New Guinea. They would be better off ignoring Australia’s transmission and self-supply. That is exactly what it is doing. PNG currently get 30% of its power from hydro, 40% from gas and 24% from oil. Note it has signed a memorandum of agreement to install, you guessed it, a 60MW coal-fired power station in Lae. Energy security is on the menu.

MCB has suggested we set up local manufacturing to harness all of our local resources. Once again, a great idea on paper, but in practice, our prowess in low-cost manufacturing has a terrible track record. The now defunct auto industry is exhibit A on that plan.

As is so often the case for celebrity billionaires, thought bubbles are often free to them but costly to others. Tesla shareholders know that feeling. Who could forget JCB’s retweet of Greta Thunberg at the time of the election, imploring Australians to “not f*ck it up“??

MCB may drive a Tesla and have plans to make Atlassian 100% powered by renewables by 2025 but for the sake of shareholders it best he sticks to his core business unless he plans to divert capital to diversify Atlassian and harness this green future. Perhaps he should put Greta Thunberg on the Atlassian board as an executive director on renewable exports?