Has South Australia chosen “renewables-plus-storage over gas”?
In response to the IEA explicitly calling for climate-crucial global support for nuclear energy — joining the IPCC, the Clean Energy Ministerial, the UNECE, and countless other organisations — Stanford’s Mark Jacobson (yes that Mark Jacobson) invoked storage to support renewable energy sources as all that was needed to ignore such wisdom.
If this response seems to lack something in innovation, that’s because we hear it all the time. We’re told renewable energy and storage will fill in for a closing nuclear power station, then what we see instead is gas-fired capacity. It’s been true in the past and it will be so in the future.
But here’s a question: why not promise any of these super-competitive “renewables-plus-storage” will replace big chunks of fossil fuels? How about in, say, Florida? Plenty of work to do there.
In South Australia (where I, myself, pay for electricity, #AMA) we have a pair of grid-scale batteries, the Hornsdale Power Reserve and the Dalrymple project. Neither of these installations do what Jacobson is implying: replace dispatchable gas capacity, let alone fill in the gaps such that supply from renewable sources would be equivalent to scheduled firm, bulk electrical energy supply. This article describes what the “Tesla Big Battery” does. You can watch it doing it here.
There are more storage projects in the pipeline for the state, but as the federal government funding authority explains (emphasis added):
The battery will provide new dispatchable generation in South Australia to help meet peak demand.
Great, awesome, storage charged with renewable energy will, at some point in the future, cover our demand peaks, right? Well, South Australia is also seeing over half a gigawatt of gas-fired capacity being built (here and here) so Jacobson’s wrong about that, too.
Nuclear energy is still prohibited in South Australia and despite a top-level inquiry recommending its potential inclusion, renewable sources (no doubt supported by storage) will need to do the emissions-free work into the near future. Whether or not Jacobson and his remaining supporters can admit it, they’ll be doing this alongside gas.
Oscar Archer holds a PhD in chemistry and has been analysing energy issues for over 13 years, focusing on nuclear technology for 4, with a background in manufacturing and QA. By day he works in energy efficiency research & development. He helps out at Adelaide-based Bright New World as Senior Advisor (we want your support!)and writes for The Fourth Generation. Find him @OskaArcher on Twitter.