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Billionaire tweets signal end of the road for fossil fuel dinosaurs

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Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk has long predicted the imminent end of the fossil fuel era. But it took a couple of tweets between him and another billionaire, Australia’s Mike Cannon-Brookes, on Friday to highlight just how close this is.

Australia’s fossil fuel “elite” – the industry, the politicians, the regulators and the media – have been kidding themselves that new battery storage technologies are “decades” away from being competitive with coal and gas.

Mira-Loma-Substation-Tesla-Battery-Storage-Facility

Tesla’s 80MWh Mira Loma substation battery storage facility in California was commissioned and up and running within 90 days.

It’s what Australia’s energy ministers were told by the Australian Energy Market Operator at a COAG meeting last year, and US energy giant AES was stunned to find the same levels of ignorance when it spoke to ministers and regulators as recently as last November.

As we reported last Thursday, Tesla announced that the inflection point wasn’t 20 years away. It was 100 days away. That, at least, was the time it would take to build a 100MW battery storage facility in South Australia, once planning approval and a contract had been signed.

muskOn Friday, when challenged by Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder of Australian software company Atlasssian, if this was just an idle boast, Musk responded – by tweeting – that he would build it for free if it couldn’t be completed within 100 days.

He even offered a “discount price” of $US250/kWh, effectively halving the price of battery storage – for the second time in 12 months.

Depending on how that 100MW is configured, either with two hours of storage or four, that equates to a price of $US50 million for a 200MWh facility or $US100 million for a 400MWh facility. In other words, it is cheaper than gas and can be built in a fraction of the time.

Musk’s Twitter exchange with Cannon-Brookes triggered such a response on social media that he soon had both South Australia premier Jay Weatherill and prime minister Malcolm Turnbull on the phone, and had changed the debate about Australia’s energy future – something that thousands of submissions and endless reports had failed to do.

With any luck, this should be the wake up call needed to shake Australia’s politicians, regulators and media commentators from their delusion that fossil fuels are the only answer to Australia’s so-called energy crisis.

This assumption has been ruthlessly exploited by the “traditional” energy industry to call for a curb on new wind and solar farms, for the building of new “clean coal” plants and for the opening of coal seam gas reserves across the country – all in the name of so-called cheap, reliable and clean energy.

Of course, Tesla is not the first company to make the now obvious point that the solution relies not in new coal and gas plants, but in wind, solar and battery storage. But it helps to get media and public attention when two youngish, fashionable billionaires decide they can fix the country’s energy “crisis” in a Twitter conversation.

Professor Ross Garnaut, whose roles now included being chair of Zen Energy, said late last year that a large-scale battery storage of the size contemplated by Tesla could be built in South Australia by the end of summer.

AES said pretty much the same things last month, when it told a Senate committee that battery storage was already competitive and could solve South Australia’s, and Australia’s, energy security challenge. Carnegie has also been saying the same thing, as have software companies such as Reposit Power and others in the immediate aftermath of South Australia’s “system black” in late September.

The difficulty, they have all been pointing out, is that battery storage is being compared with coal and gas on the basis of only one of its value streams – either providing “peak” power, or grid stability services, known in the industry jargon as FCAS, or dealing with network constraints

Of course, it can do these and a lot more. AES and its local partner, Lyon Solar, cited 20 different values streams of battery storage – things like emergency response, integration of wind and solar variability, and as a significantly cheaper alternative to grid upgrades (deflecting or removing the need for new transformers and poles and wires).

The problem in Australia is that it is impossible for battery storage to exploit those multiple value streams at the same time. Even though battery storage can provide all the different functions of coal and gas, the rules don’t allow it.

The 30 minute settlement rule on wholesale electricity markets, which favours slow response gas generators to quick response battery storage, is just one of those rules that is being fiercely resisted by the fossil fuel industry, and repeatedly delayed by the national rule maker.

Indeed, while the coal and gas industry  have lost the environment and economic arguments, they still wield extraordinary power, known as “regulatory capture”, which has helped them stand in the way of the rule changes needed to redesign Australia’s energy market from 20th century clunker, to a cheaper, smarter and cleaner grid of the 21st century.

Those rules have allowed the fossil fuel generators to build up extraordinary market power, enabling them to act with impunity when withdrawing capacity, forcing up prices to ridiculous heights this past summer, choosing to leave equipment in mothballs and creating fuel shortages – as they have done most cynically – with the gas market.

As the old expression goes, give them enough rope and they will hang themselves.

Lyndon Rive, Elon Musk, Peter Rive

Musk, centre, with his cousin Lyndon Rive, left, who kicked off the series of battery storage Tweets with comments he made in Melbourne on Thursday.

The coal and gas generators can no longer even claim they are reliable. They have repeatedly failed in times of crisis and melted in the heat. Gas plants and coal plants have repeatedly tripped at times of high demand.

In the height of the January heat wave, the market operator had to intervene and take extraordinary action to protect the NSW grid, in case the modern Kogan Creek coal generator in south-west Queensland tripped and triggered a voltage collapse that could have switched the lights out in NSW.

As Musk has pointed out, the fossil fuel industry has been able to sow doubt and confusion about new technologies because they are powerful:

“They have more money and more influence than any other sector,” he said in an interview last year. “So I think the more that there can be a sort of popular uprising against that the better.”

Hopefully, these tweets, can help inject some sanity and some reality in Australia’s energy debate, and puncture the stubborn ideology that has prevented the Coalition, and much of mainstream media, from making any intelligent contribution.

As battery storage industry insiders were saying this weekend, if the rules were changed to allow the “big three” services of grid offerings – peak, constraints and FCAS – then it would be “game on”. The industry would never look the same again.

One thing these tweets and sudden government engagement must do is to bring some sense of reality to the modelling that goes into the big assumptions and policy proposals.

Last week, again, we took issue with the blind support of an emissions intensity scheme, not because we don’t like an EIS, per se, but because we don’t think policy choices should be made on the assumptions of technology costs that are two decades out of date.

It could well be, as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has suggested, more prudent, more efficient and less costly to identify where new power sources and new back-up is needed, and structure a series of auctions to find the cheapest price.

This is where the Finkel review can play a critically important role. Introduce some sanity about technology costs – let’s aim for solar and wind at well below $100/MWh and battery storage at less $250/kWh – and smash through the regulatory protections.

And when he is finished, in June, perhaps then Finkel can tweet the conclusions. That way, he can guarantee that the politicians will read it.

  

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  • cleveralias

    I’m not sure the costs are actually that clear yet…. is it really a 100MW facility… or a 100MWhr faciliy that’s being discussed. Regardless a great development.

    • Read the story. It says two options considered, depending on how many hours of storage is wanted. so either 200MWh or 400MWh likely.

      • Andrew Woodroffe

        And, of course, there is no need for it all to be in the one place and at once. You could put 10MWh at each of 20 substations, metro and rural, the com links are already in place.

        • Brunel

          That would be best – you would avoid transmission losses.

      • Miles Harding

        Two sizes on the menu. What is the nett benefit from doubling the storage capacity and cost?

        It’s time to do some modelling and actualy calculate the benefit from the battery and deterimine what else is needed.

        I’m confident that it will help a lot, but it is unlikely to solve SA’s energy issues on its own. Likely, some OCGT (near Adelaide, please) and a pile of wind and solar are going to be needed to make the solution seasonally capable and resilient.

      • Ian

        All very confusing. The discounted rate was $250/KWH. The facility being bragged about 100MW. What actually was agreed on as a storage capacity will have to be the stuff of legend. All because people don’t know the difference between a MW and a MWH! Short a battery and it can discharge in minutes. A 10MWH battery could produce 100MW for 6 minutes. Imagine the disappointment of Mr Cannon-Brookes when he arrives to inspect his new 100MW facility, congratulating himself for having struck such a hard bargain, flips the switch , sees the dial read 100MW and 6 minutes later the batteries are as dead as a car’s with its lights left on overnight.

    • Reading the tweets, it looks like either 25 MW or 50 MW (on the 4 or 2 hour system respectively) to get to the 100 MWh level. If the conversation has moved to 100 MW, then as @Giles:disqus said that will deliver either 200 MWh or 400 MWh depending on which system configuration is chosen.

      Cheers.

      Dave P.

  • My primary concern with a switch from 30 to 5 minute settlements is that it is likely to *reduce* the amount of generation and demand response to price events.

    For example, some large C&I loads still require FAXES to be exchanged before demand response kicks in. Obviously some high priced dispatch events are transitory in nature (e.g. transmission constraint sets causing a sub-optimal settlement). The expected length of a price event is a critical factor in deciding whether to invoke a demand response or turn on/up peaking plant. This is not decided by an algorithm – it’s guys on a desk assessing the information and making a call. Having a few minutes is pretty important.

    By spreading the price effect of a 5 minute event over 30 minutes, those “slower than battery” market responses are more likely to kick in.

    Perhaps the best way to settle this would be for the AEMC to make the rule change, but to give a (say) two year lead time before it becomes effective. That ramp up time wouldn’t slow down the deployment of batteries and it would give all other market participants some time to prepare to participate in this brave new world.

    Cheers.

    Dave P.

    • Mick

      “By spreading the price effect of a 5 minute event over 30 minutes, those “slower than battery” market responses are more likely to kick in.”

      Good point. But why should someone (demand side or supply side) be rewarded for a service that they can’t provide. That is – if you can’t respond to a 5 minute event (and price) – why should they get paid for it?

      ..I image what ever the case AEMC would be contemplating at least a two year lead time (mainly to allow existing contracts to wind up)

    • Chris Fraser

      What if a five minute event, is bargained for and settled 5 minutes before it is needed ? Too slow for emergencies ?

    • Gnällgubben

      “large C&I loads still require FAXES to be exchanged before demand response kicks in”
      LOL! That sounds funny but surely that is a problem that can be easily fixed if you really want or need to.

    • Tom

      @ Dave P – With all due respect the challenges that you have described are already performed on a 5-minutely basis.

      The bidding and the demand responses, with the associated facsimile messages and ramp-ups are already performed 5-minutely. It is only the easiest step of the lot – the settlement price, which is averaged out to 30-minutely.

      • Hi @disqus_z9XrmNc32c:disqus – don’t worry about the respect, I’m not sure I’m due any 😉

        To clarify – you believe a switch to 5 minute settlements wouldn’t disadvantage gas- and coal-plant and C&I demand response?

        I think that rule change would advantage hydro and batteries and disadvantage everything else. I think the constraint sets used to settle the market would be broken very quickly as games get played by whichever generator is setting the marginal price. Secondary markets such as FCAS would come under even more stress as everyone starts trying to optimise operations to match the 5 minute settlement period.

        In short, I expect we’d see a whole lot more spot volatility and a bucket-load of unintended consequences.

        Cheers.

        Dave P.

        • Tom

          @ Dave P – Hell “Yes” it would disadvantage coal and gas, but only from a revenue perspective rather than from a management perspective.

          A 5-minute spike at $14,000/MWh of which the top-up supply was supplied by a battery for 5 minutes only while a cheaper open-cycle gas turbine warms into action will mean that the battery gets paid approx $2500/MWh for the energy they supply for those 5 minutes (not $14,000/MWh), while the gas and coal generators get paid $2500/MWh for the energy that they’ve supplied for the whole half-hour.

          Even if it was one of those generators that did not supply the final 5-minutes because it “blew a fuse” which caused the price spike in the first place, they still get paid $2500/MWh for the energy they produced in the previous 25 minutes when the bid price was only $200/MWh.

          It’s absolutely rigged against the genuine peakers from a price perspective, but the actual management of the incumbents wouldn’t be substantially different if settlement changed to 5-minutely – just their profits.

          • Thanks @disqus_z9XrmNc32c:disqus

            I understood the math of 5 minute settlements. We agree that it would result in less revenue for “slow” response participants.

            I’m just less certain that this would be a good thing, given the relative lack of “fast” response participants in the market today. Hence, I think the change needs to be introduced with a long lead-time.

            Cheers.

            Dave P.

    • Michael Gunter

      C&I had to look it up, Commercial and Industrial apparently…..

      • That’s right – sorry for the acronym. I tend to dash off these comments pretty quickly and sometimes forget not everyone works in the energy industry.

        Cheers.

        Dave P.

  • Miles Harding

    It may be premature to pronounce all of the dinosaurs extinct.

    Coal will be slain by a duck. Either the belly of the duck gets them as they are forced to shut down at midday. Storage (batteries?) can rescue them from this fate but will wipe out the peaks they depended on for their operating income. Either way, coal (even ‘clean’ coal) is doomed.

    While storage in the form of batteries will be important, it can only supply a short term deficit and other types of longer term storage (pumped hydro) or short term generation (OC gas turbines) will be required to bridge shortfalls of longer duration.

    The fact that there is looming gas shortage, abeit an artificial one, it may be that our capacity to navigate the energy transition has been compromised by the fossil fuel lobby speaking through it’s mouthpiece, the LNP.

    Any orderly move away form fossil fuels will require transition technologies and fuels, as the system is being re-configured to tramatically reduce it’s dependence on fossil fuels. This (fake?) gas shortage has made the transiton more complex and expensive. The time to start this was at least 10 years ago.

    • lin

      “The time for an orderly transition away from oil is now”
      Yep. Now EV are an economic proposition and the oil companies are charging us the same for fuel with oil at $50 per barrel as they were charging when it was >$100, the sooner the better.

    • solarguy

      Yes I agree the writing has been on the wall for along time now.

    • Peter Campbell

      The time for an orderly transition away from oil was 10 years ago, when decent battery technology for EVs became available. My 8 year old DIY converted electric car is still going just fine. My 4 year old iMiEV is good as new. We have bought a tank of petrol only a couple of times a year for the last few years.
      These were running on accredited GreenPower until the LNP undermined the additionality of that. Fortunately I am in the ACT so we are well on the way to 100% renewable electricity by 2020.

      • edward demir

        Hi Peter
        Would you or anyone else know the progress of redflow zinc bromide batteries are going for large scale battery storage . Are they in the mix?

        • Peter Campbell

          I’m not really up to speed on batteries for stationary applications. I would assume that high energy density would be not as critical as in a vehicle.

    • Greg Hudson

      ”gas, is in short supply”
      What gives you this idea? We gave gazillions of cubic metres of it being exported daily. There’s no shortage, hence Turn’Bull’s speech yesterday re his discussions with the gas ‘giants’…

      • Miles Harding

        “,albeit an artificial one,”

        The problem I see is that the gas energy agenda is driven by narrow corporate interests maximising shareholder returns.
        There are a couple of issues that spring to mind here:
        It’s possible that

        a) the contracts are for fixed volumes and they have no additinal capacity to meet a domestic demand or (most likely)

        b) they are holding out for the domestic price to rise above the export price. There also seems to be a golden gouging opportunity when the domesatic suppy infrastructure (pipes and compressors) are factored into the local price.

        Building a gas terminal serves the same purpose, even if no gas gets expported, the local price will be then set by the world market.

  • barrie harrop

    Now the Sth Aust Premier and PM of Australia is dealing one to one with Musk, it’s a Thomas Playford moment for the Premier, “think big”—let’s say the State sets up Sustainable Energy Bond to fund 250,000 households with Tesla solar /battery over the next 3-5 years on favorable pricing and terms.
    In return Musk sets up his National HQ in Sth Aust for this venture and promises 10,000 new jobs in this period.
    Such a plan would be the single largest deployment of solar/battery in the world—in a State blessed with one of the best solar penetrations in the World.
    Such a plan would give Sth Aust world leadership in sustainable energy production and a secure grid.

    • trackdaze

      Lets call it a deposit on a gigafactory shall we?

      • Brunel

        SA should have got a gigafactory instead of a submarine factory. The Liberals are nutters but Labor is stupid too!

        • Rob Pilgrim

          That'[s because, in msany ways, ALP stands for ‘Alternative Liberal Party’; they spout the same free market, screw poor people crap!

          • Brunel

            Neither party is in favour of free markets – SYD airport is a private monopoly and no other airport is allowed to come up within a 100 km radius without the permission of Macquarie Bank!

            You are right in saying that the ALP and Greens did nothing for the homeless when they were in power. Rudd gave pink batts to people that already had houses and in some cases already had perfectly good insulation!

      • Greg Hudson

        One might also remember that SA also has a GM Holden factory in Elizabeth (suburn NE of Adelaide) that has either recently closed, or is about to… Yet another possibility for another Tesla factory.

        • trackdaze

          October I thought? May not let it go for strategic reasons.

          There was a mitsubishi plant too but i think thats now a housing estate.

  • Brunel

    On Thursday Tesla said between 100-300 MWh.

    I bet Atlassian does not know the difference between a megawatt and a megawatt hour.

    How many MJ per day does SA import from Vic?

    • Andrew Woodroffe

      Actually, a middle road for the DC connectors, Murrylink between SA and Vic and the Tasmanian link, is big battery storage at both ends. Quicker than new lines! Plus the 20 or so other benefits of such storage, as mentioned elsewhere.

    • Sunbuntu Ltd

      >I bet Atlassian does not know the difference between a megawatt and a megawatt hour.

      I will take that bet!!!

      Mike has been working on both energy and banking for the last few years.

      He will upset both “little carts”.

      • Brunel

        Well I saw an ABC Catalyst episode on batteries and the host who supposedly has a PhD kept saying kW instead of kWh!

        She said kWh not even once!

        Perhaps Mike is the same.

        • Ian

          What’s ( or is it Watts) an hour between friends. You say Poe-Tay-toe I say Pah-tah-tah. Power, energy it’s the same damn thing, baby. 😉 😉

          • Michael Gunter

            [nitpick] no it ain’t. I drive a 1 tonne car 1 mile (height difference) up a steep mountain road, using a cup of petrol. The speed I go is the power level, the rate that petrol is burned. I can choose to go uphill very slowly or very fast: the peak power level determines vehicle “grunt” measured in kW (old-timers used brake horsepower). …the familiar car sales pitch to petrolheads.

            The energy is the chemical bond energy in the unburned fuel at the bottom of the hill (E1), which is converted to waste heat (E2) PLUS the potential energy of a 1 tonne mass finishing 1 mile higher above sea level (E3). Conservation of energy means E1 = E2 + E3. So power and energy are different. Energy is also called “work”, but the rate of doing the work is called power. Vrooom!!

          • Ian

            Thanks for pointing that out to me, but didn’t you see my punctuation” 😉 😉 ” that means “wink wink.” Or ” Tongue in cheek”. Of course power is the (useful) rate of energy conversion, and the frustration of commentators is very palpable. Yours is a useful reminder that actually energy is neither created nor destroyed but only changed from one form to another, hopefully doing something useful along the way.

    • Malcolm M

      A battery system would allow more energy to be transmitted via the existing inter-connectors. At present flow on the inter-connectors is limited by (i) allowing enough spare capacity in case a gas-fired unit were to fail suddenly(~100 MW), (ii) an allowance for frequency control and stability (perhaps 40 MW), and (iii) when SA has a surplus of wind energy, there is a requirement for 2 gas-powered units for local momentum (2 x ~100 MW), even though the energy itself ins’t need in SA. By undertaking these 3 functions, a battery system would allow the inter-connectors to perform at their ratings, which are currently 600 MW via Hewyood, and 200 MW via Murraylink.

      • Cooma Doug

        Very true and correct comment.
        The battery rapid response energy in both storage and export will empower the interconnectors to run at max. At the moment they are used to provide things the battery will do.
        Each mw/mwh of battery can be multiplied by 3 when compared to gas because of the nock on affect
        enhancing the other assets.

        When you stand back from the old slow base load concept and replace it with high speed storage, the grid is a different animal.

  • Hayden

    Poor Mal can’t take a trick.

    Clean coal one week and clean bowled the next.

    • trackdaze

      Could Mal be secretly egging this on behind the scenes despite his party?

      Just a thought.

      • Hayden

        I’m probably the only person in Auz who thinks that our Mal never actually believed in it at all. Back in the day, it wasn’t unpopular in the LNP. Even Howard introduced some progressive moves. And it has always been popular in the community. So Mal sensed that he was on to a winner. He then made a name for himself as a progressive on renewables. And now to maintain his “leadership” he will do whatever Rupert and the controlling LNP right want him to do.

        Where does this “clean coal” nonsense come from ? Absurd.

        All he believes in is maintaining his rightful spot at the top of the pile. Whatever it takes. He’s the ultimate windsock. Witness his appalling election night speech to see how much it meant to him.

        A hollow man.

        • Peter Campbell

          Yep. I do wonder if Turnbull was ever all that serious about climate change action. Look at the company he chooses to keep! I don’t think it is too cynical to think he just found it a useful point of product differentiation back when it seemed useful to look more progressive than some of the other LNPs.

        • riley222

          Mal knows if he moves meanfully on renewables its either the end of his primeministership or the neanderthals will bring down the government. Can’t see him doing much but talk and try to give the impression he cares.

        • Gnällgubben

          There is a big difference between what is technically possible and what is politically possible.
          The number one priority for any politician is his or her own career. Malcolm wants to stay PM for as long as possible so he will need to walk a middle ground as best as he can weighing different opinions and trying to figure out what will give him the most political capital.
          “Clean coal” could be such a middle ground. On the one hand he can pretend to do something for the environment by replacing “dirty coal” with “clean coal” while at the same time not throwing his coal industry buddies under the bus.
          When he realizes that public opinion on the large sways to favor RET that may convince him that he will benefit more to go that route.
          What he really don’t want is to bet on the losing horse. Clean coal is probably the safer bet for now (for him) although this is changing.

        • stalga

          The SMH hinted last year that he had agreed to a Faustian pact with the creep faction but I tend to think you are right.

        • Richard

          He is the most contemptuous non leader this country has ever seen.
          It is really embarrassing that this country dishes up such people and they find their way to becoming PM

  • Rob G

    Nice to see Elon schooling the ignorant LNP. Pretty much refutes their entire position. I just wonder how long the loony right media will take to catch-up. I can just see the discussions on sky tying to reason against it… forever predictable.

    • solarguy

      And argue against it they will for sure, Rob. Andrew Bolt is a peanut.

  • Jonathan Prendergast

    There are a dozen reasons why this is not the bet thing for SA and our ‘energy crisis’, but also a dozen reasons why SA Government should step up and accept Musk and Cannon-Brooke’s offer. I think the should do it. (on the right terms of course)

    • barrie harrop

      Sth Aust is becoming an secure energy basket case options are running out and investment capital is in full flight out of the State, huge jobs loses are on the horizon -we need action now Tesla is good interim option.

      • Jonathan Prendergast

        Volatile energy markets helps storage investment. But yes, I agree. Drastic action is needed due to potential social and economic cost of electricity prices and reliability.

      • Brunel

        Cheap land and electricity could have been Adelaide’s USP.

        A factory worker on $18/hour could easily buy a house for $300k and thus Adelaide could have attracted a lot of factories.

        Instead, Adelaide has artificially high apartment prices, and a curfewed airport, and expensive electricity.

        • Tom

          I agree with everything you said except that a factory worker on $18/hr could easily buy a house for $300k.

          Approx. 2000 working hours per year – $18/hr = $36,000pa. $300k for a house is still a price-to-income ratio of about 8 times.

          How is any worker ever going to pay off a house 8 times their GROSS income during their working life? Remember – this is before tax, before paying interest (which at LVR 80% and 5% would still be $12,000/year), and before food, clothes or petrol.

          Loan-to-income of 5X is the absolute maximum that anybody could reasonably expect to pay off within their working lifetime.

  • Megs

    Not just Tesla. Looks like there are several excellent Australian based companies able to make a big difference with batteries and renewables. It would be exciting if they all got on board and made SA a global demo and centre of excellence . Sweep the dinosaurs aside .

    • barrie harrop

      Sorry no time for start up’s to have go we need scalable reliable energy now in Sth Aust ,sure encourage locals initiative most at using USA technologies in any event–but please do not bet the State on them things are getting desperate ,with massive blackouts forecasted next summer–people life’s are at risk . its no longer a plaything for start-ups .
      Now the Sth Aust Premier and PM of Australia is dealing one to one with Musk, it’s a Thomas Playford moment for the Premier, “think big”—let’s say the State sets up Sustainable Energy Bond to fund 250,000 households with Tesla solar /battery over the next 3-5 years on favorable pricing and terms.
      In return Musk sets up his National HQ in Sth Aust for this venture and promises 10,000 new jobs in this period.
      Such a plan would be the single largest deployment of solar/battery in the world—in a State blessed with one of the best solar penetrations in the World.
      Such a plan would give Sth Aust world leadership in sustainable energy production and a secure grid.

  • Tom Biegler

    Is it really necessary to hurl insults when discussing the physics and chemistry of energy storage and distribution? A bit of soul searching might help here.

    • Chris Fraser

      Perhaps … but the term ‘ignorant Ministers and regulators’ no longer causes offence …

    • Peter Campbell

      It’s not ‘hurling insults’ to point out and criticise the fact that the LNP delays and obfuscates and has a track record of going backwards on necessary climate change action. They are the ones who are choosing to ignore and deny the science. If they didn’t act stupid, they wouldn’t have people pointing out the stupidity.

      • Tom Biegler

        I wasn’t clear. I was referring to Giles calling people ‘dinosaurs’ because they question the feasibility of ‘100% renewables’. There is a legitimate technical debate, globally, on the best way to reduce CO2 emissions. That debate isn’t helped by insults. At present solar PV provides 0.7 EJ of the world’s total primary energy supply of 574 EJ. That’s about 0.1%, in itself enough reason to raise doubts. There are many others.

        • Peter Campbell

          Well, there have been quite a few studies now showing the feasibility of 100% renewable electricity in Australia. UNSW, AEMO and others. Personally, I’d be happy with 95%.

        • If they had gotten as far as considering 100% renewables, i wouldn’t call them dinosaurs. But as soon as renewables head towards 10 or 20%, they are screaming the lights are going out. They are dinosaurs.

        • Miles Harding

          100% renewables isn’t aspirational, it’s mandatory!

          By their very defiintion fossil fuels are finite and will be exhausted, either physically or economically, by the middle of this century. At that point, ready or not, the world will be running on 100% renewables.
          We have a choice as to how we get there; either by voluntarily making the change, in which case, economies, world temperature and climate stability may be preserved or by razing the planet to continue a 200 year old industrial experiment until we are forced onto a sustainable path.

          We are following the way of the dinosaurs.

          • Tom Biegler

            Not sure I follow the logic of how this will all happen – sounds like some sort of global plan, based on some academic’s Excel spreadsheet. Nice idea but let’s go back to basics. If one tries to imagine a world that could get to agree on just one really important thing, what would it be? I don’t know the answer and I can’t even imagine a process to get there, but I would happily run a book on it NOT being climate change. How about banning religious indoctrination? Or even religion? Or war? Or all crime? Or family violence? Or today’s popular cause, racism? By the way, why aren’t fission and fusion included in your solutions for the energy apocalypse? They seem likely candidates to me and they have little connection with fossil fuels.

          • neroden

            This will happen absolutely trivially. Fossil fuels are running out. As they run out they get more expensive. Eventually they are more expensive than renewables (already happening). Then people buy renewables instead, and only stupid people buy fossil fuels (why pay more?). After a while, when fossil fuels are only bought by stupid people who are going bankrupt from overpaying for energy, the governments of the world will start discouraging fossil fuel use and they’ll go away entirely.

          • Greg Hudson

            Agreed. And taking this further, petrol/diesel/LPG powered cars will also go the way of the dinosaurs.

          • Miles Harding

            Hi Tom,
            There’s no logic involved, only physics!

            I expect that all you have mentioned will be part of the great disruption that will herald the end of the capitalist (exponential inflation) age we are in.

            Fission is another fossil resource that would only last 50 years, at least the uranium part, if the world was to decide that nukes are the solution. This doesn’t look likely with the issues building and operating these facilities.
            Suppose we could get fusion to actually work at scale, it would then be limits to minerals and food needed to drive the (still exponentially) expanding human economy.

            The “Limits to Growth” study is as relevant today as it was when originally published in 1972, except that we have spent the intervening 45 years executing the ‘standard run scenario’, which ends in collapse. From my point of view, this outcome, or some facsimile of it is now inevitable.

            As individuals, all we can do is side-step and hope most of the sh**t misses us. As a society, captialism has us all is a death-grip and there is no hope until the capitalists realise that they are a subset of the environment and that nature does not care what they think, only what they do.

          • Greg Hudson

            California has mandatory rules for solar, Australia should too…

        • Barri Mundee

          The very fact that SA often sources about 40%+ from renewables (wind and solar) rather than just solar indicates that a high penetration of renewables is feasible given the political will.

  • Ken Dyer

    It would seem that the same issue holds true for battery power as it always had for information technology. The technology is only 10% of the solution, the other 90% is always the management and the politics.

  • solarguy

    Is June for sure when the Finkel report is due?

  • trackdaze

    Perhaps Mr Wetherall could ask the generators in SA to join in for some colocation of storage at their respective facilities and increase the scale.

    • stalga

      That would defeat the ultimate purpose of the batteries, lowering emissions.

      • trackdaze

        It would lower emmissions even at gas generators.

        • stalga

          I didn’t think they produced any substantial excess capacity. Unless the battery plant was owned by the generator it would likely be problematic.

  • Brenton Rowland

    Combine Tesla’s fast response 400MWh (for starters) of proposed battery storage, add some longer term storage from Molten Salt CSP or pump storage and build a widely geographicaly distributed network of Wind/SolarPV/CSP generation and SA could be Fossil fuel free. Just requires commitment and the right deal-makers to rework the wholesale rules and work with existing power giants.

  • Michael Murray

    $US250/kWh

    Is this the installed and operational price ? Or just the batteries ? I seemed to be reading all kinds of versions of this over the weekend.

    • juxx0r

      Just the batteries FOB California.

  • Radbug

    I’d like to remind you that the US DOE has, as its target, $US100 ($AU133) per kWh, so $AU250 per kWh is not particularly special. It’ll go a lot lower than Musk’s quote.

  • Cooma Doug

    Great article Giles thanks.
    * The Rate Of Change of frequency increases with each fossil fuel closure.
    There is one solution only.
    Battery storage and rapid response.

    * This is a technical fact. At the moment, so called clean coal base load is an extension of the problems, not a solution and very expensive.

    * Market rules need to change to incentivise the optimum technologies.

  • Brunel

    Interesting last line Giles!

    I guess the media cannot be bothered reading a 30 page report but can be bothered reading 140 character tweets. And when a tweet goes viral, the media has to respond otherwise even less people will read newspapers or watch the news.

  • RobbertBobbert GDQ

    …Professor Ross Garnaut, whose roles now included being chair of Zen Energy…
    Snout. Trough. Go for your Subsidised Snake Oil Life!!!!!
    Will Fall Over.
    Musk. The King Of Marketing and Government Subsidies and The Acolytes compete to see who can bend over in awe of The Green Money Seeking King.
    Will Fall Over.
    Peculiar that those Chinese and Indian Scientists have not been aware of this Green Storage trick yet remain hardcore on target to continue the fossil fuel extravaganza to power their mega cities by Fossil Fuel…IEO. May 11. 2016.
    Chapter 4. Coal
    In the IEO2016 Reference case, coal remains the second-largest energy source worldwide—behind petroleum and other liquids—until 2030. From 2030 through 2040, it is the third-largest energy source, behind both liquid fuels and natural gas. World coal consumption increases from 2012 to 2040 at an average rate of 0.6%/year, from 153 quadrillion Btu in 2012 to 169 quadrillion Btu in 2020 and to 180 quadrillion Btu in 2040…
    figure data…Throughout the projection, the top three coal-consuming countries are China, the United States, and India, which together account for more than 70% of world coal use….Electricity generation accounted for 59% of world coal consumption in 2012, and remains close to that share of coal use through 2040… Although coal consumption in China does not change much from 2012 to 2040, coal use in India and the other countries of non-OECD Asia continues to rise. India’s coal use surpasses the United States total around 2030, and its share of world coal consumption grows from 8% in 2012 to 14% in 2040 …
    So the Australian minnow is gonna add a few trinkets of renewable storage to assist the intermittent and poorly synchronised Solar and Wind bandits, that also need Coal or Gas back up. While the Big Kids on the Block keep going gangbusters for Coal and other fossil fuel…Sez Who…IEO 2016 again.
    .. OECD coal consumption settles around 43 quadrillion Btu through 2040 (Figure 4-5), and the coal share of the OECD’s total primary energy consumption falls from 18% in 2012 to 15% in 2040. Over the same period, the renewable energy (including hydropower) share of OECD energy use increases from 11% to 16%.
    So for all your fantasy, delusion and subsidy in the gobsmacking hundred of Billions you still have all Renewables, including the ones that can produce base load and synchronicity, Hydro and Nuke, at 16%.
    A lousy miserable 16% around about 2040.
    Mr Musk. Not actually the renewables magician you claim him to be and should anyone be distressed by the supplied figures…that will be all the acolytes…then take it up with The IEO or The USA International Energy Information Association( Obama Era) and the data…and The Power Nations of Asia and The USA and The Russians.
    They are not falling for Elon Musk, the Saviour and the fantasy of Solar and Wind driving baseload, or overcoming the intermittent nature of the beast of all scams, for major cities and economies.
    Or as Arthur Daly would say…A nice little earner Terry…A very nice little earner indeed.

    • Michael Gunter

      Make it so, Number One. such #certainty about the future, really? So if you believe in predictions, try this on for size: the North Koreans explode an H-bomb exo-ionospheric over NE USA. EMP knocks out the power grid for long enuf that all SFPs in dozens of NPPs boil dry and spew forth massive contamination just as happened at Fukushima-Daiichi Unit 3 (“the Devil’s Ejaculate”) so even before we succumb to the coming super greenhouse, a mad, cornered Stalinist despot with one ICBM and one 10MT H-bomb can do a Jonestown on a global scale.

      At the height of the Cold War my late father was on an obscure National Medical War Planning Committee, his surviving correspondence indicates they were workshopping a #MAD scenario how Victoria would cope with a 10MT airburst H-bomb over Melbourne. It reads quite surreal now but it’s only good luck not good management that we dodged that bullet. Now we have unstable, unpredictable #Trump and you think you can predict all this so far ahead?

      Climate change is accelerating, and no Dr Strangeloves in their bunkers can stay isolated from the biosphere for the 250,000 years of oh-so-slow geosequestration process — of billions of tonnes of dead phytoplankton on sour slimy ocean floors — as Third Rock slowly calms down from a Super Greenhouse event, well known to and understood by palaeoclimatologists: http://www.abc.net.au/science/crude (see interview with Lee Kump)

      P.S. what’s the conversion factor to SI units for quadrillion BTU? How many EJs or yotta-Joules would that be? WTF is a quadrillion anyway in terms of powers of ten? EJ is 10E18 Joules, YJ is 10E24 Joules I think

      • Michael Gunter

        BTW if i’m acolyte to anyone, I’ll put my money on Blakers pumped hydro as the way to go. Weatherill’s 250MW gas turbine fix seems fraught with problems. So let’s pull our finger out and get on with renewables+storage. MG twitter @voltscommissar former windsmith

    • Greg Hudson

      Do you sound like a FF lobbyist ?

  • Michael Murray

    If this claim on the AdelaideNow website is correct

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will on Thursday announce “Snowy Mountains Scheme 2.0” — a historic plan to boost the capacity of the NSW-based Snowy scheme by 50 per cent.

    The plan will add 2000 megawatts of renewable energy to the National Electricity Market, enough to power half a million homes.

    then it seems we have moved past “should we do renewables” to “how do we do renewables”. That would be amazing.

    If you google “turnbull snowy mountain” you should be able to find the page and it lets you in from google without a sub at least once.