We really need to talk about scale.

Gullen co-located wind and solar farm, care of Beijing Jingneng Clean Energy

In Australia we’re seeing no deceleration in additions of solar- and wind-based capacity, which is steadily displacing fossil fuelled generation on our grids.

Rooftop solar aside — since it serves a rather unique role, with its own emergent challenges — what we have seen in recent years is a small handful of impressively large projects come online each year, while considerably more are built at the 100 megawatt (or lower) scale. The latter tend to be constructed fast, and integrate into the market with little issue, contributing to the largest renewable electricity share ever in Australia. …

‘It was becoming clear that nuclear energy would never be the same and that the industry needed a different approach.’

Credit: GE Hitachi

For the last few years, GE Hitachi have been quietly working away at a reactor design that might blow its competitors out the water — including natural gas.

Jon Ball, Executive Vice President at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, last year talked about the birth of GE’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor back in February 2017:

The team explained their idea. They had started by evaluating Generation IV technologies to drive a cost-competitive solution, but they learned that customers wanted a technology that was licensable and ready in the near-term, prior to 2030. Considering this input, the three innovators shifted to determine…

This is the brief, simple story of two major clean energy projects, and how one exposes the double standards suffered by the other.

Source: Construction News

The projects are the recently-announced artificial wind energy island for the North Sea off Denmark’s coast, and the second pair of modern EPR nuclear units planned for the existing Sizewell site in Suffolk, England.

Both projects:
- are 3 gigawatts or more of nameplate capacity
- use existing technology
- will produce substantial volumes of practically zero-emissions electricity that’s safe for our climate
- have practically no land-use impacts.

Additionally, they’ll both:
- take more than a decade to start up
- benefit from government support.

There’s no hint that these are points against Denmark’s ambitious offshore wind development. Yet…

The latest edition of a cost study from the IEA and the OECD NEA examines how the value to the overall supply system affects the costs of different electrical energy sources.

The result of IEA’s value adjusted LCOE metric show… that the system value of variable renewables such as wind and solar decreases as their share in the power supply increases.

This conclusion won’t be surprising to studious practitioners of energy economics, who will nevertheless realise the general value of displacing considerable amounts of fossil fuel consumption through adding affordable renewable capacity to emissions-intensive power grids.

The surprise, to some, is more likely to be the result of a wide survey of contemporary nuclear project costs. Remember, capital intensive energy technologies that feature low operating costs are particularly sensitive to…

It’s regularly said that Australia’s overall contribution to the climate challenge is small. However, this elides the unique situation the country occupies geographically and culturally, as a developed western nation somewhat surrounded by Asian and African economies that are still rapidly developing. The leadership that Australia can potentially demonstrate regarding high quality of life with sustainably low climate impacts could underpin its twenty-first century legacy.

Australia isn’t there yet. The Renewable Energy Target has been met, and replaced with political divisions instead of new, comprehensive policy. Individual states have 2050 Net Zero Carbon ambitions, but the details are generally as…

For goodness’ sake, consider what a 2050 Net Zero target would mean.

In the absence of holistic energy/climate policy, Australia’s federal government has launched a technology investment roadmap. Despite “aiming to steer the nation’s transition to reducing carbon emissions”, one thing it doesn’t do is commit to net zero emissions by 2050 (such as promised by the opposition).

I was immediately reminded of a visualisation employed by Professor Roger Pielke Jr to put what would be needed into some sort of context.

We’re going to do something similar for Australia. First, we need to clearly state our assumptions:

Those demanding we limit our options to renewable-energy-only have tacitly diminished the bulk of AEMO’s Integrated System Plan.

To briefly remind ourselves about what the ISP is, the Australian Energy Council wrote:

Recommendation 5.1 of the Finkel Review was for AEMO to prepare an ISP “to facilitate the efficient development and connection of renewable energy zones across the National Electricity Market”. The ISP effectively replaces the National Transmission Network Development Plan (NTNDP) which performed a similar, “independent, strategic view of the efficient development of the NEM transmission grid over a 20-year planning horizon”. Unlike the restricted focus of state-based transmission planners, the ISP (as the NTNDP did before it) seeks to assess the NEM’s needs holistically.

The ISP…

Source: Vattenfall

So we have this existential crisis, this looming climate disruption which threatens the habitability of Earth for humans and our fellow species.

We also need to expand access to modern energy supplies across the world to end energy poverty and promote prosperity.

So it’s fortunate we have various alternatives to fossil fuels that don’t emit greenhouse gases when we use them — zero carbon, if you like.

But calling any sort of nuclear energy zero carbon will invariably attract a protest. Mining, milling, fuel fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste management¹ are all listed off as aspects of the full lifecycle which consume energy, often from fossil fuels (mining equipment, grid electricity, etc).

Obviously, many if not most of…

Will Greens voters get tired of being given only part of the story?

One of the favourite games in political commentary is pointing out an opponent’s inconsistencies. While serving as a check on honesty and integrity, most often it’s not much more than momentary entertainment or aggravation, with no lasting consequence.

But sometimes an inconsistency can have substantial long term consequences. So when it shows up, it’s not a game anymore, and the spotlight has to be shone upon it.

Fundamental misunderstandings about energy storage seem to be ubiquitous now.

In mid-2016 a report by Morgan Stanley was promoted in Australia, predicting an explosive uptake in battery storage. Installations were to happen four times faster than expected, most likely reaching a million by 2020, with a high-end scenario of two million. The recently reported total is actually 73,000.

Oscar Archer

Eco-modernism, clean energy abundance and enhanced opportunity for future generations.

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