Australia could be at 86% wind and solar by 2050 – on economics only | RenewEconomy

Australia could be at 86% wind and solar by 2050 – on economics only

Australia will likely source 86% of its electricity from wind and solar by 2050, based on economics only, and regardless of climate policy. It could get there a lot quicker with emissions targets, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.


Australia could source 86 per cent of its electricity from wind and solar by 2050, based on economics only and regardless of any climate or emissions policy, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The global research and news group says that level of wind and solar could be reached quicker, and will need to in order to match the Paris climate target of 2°C, let alone 1.5°C, but the transition to wind and solar is inevitable.

That’s because, according to BNEF’s Seb Henbest, wind and solar already provide the cheapest source of bulk energy for new generation, and will soon beat most existing fossil fuel plants on the same criteria.

Even with the significant amount of “curtailment” and storage that would be needed in such a scenario, a grid based around such high levels of wind and solar will still be cheaper than the alternative.

“This is not a prediction based on policy, just economics,” Henbest says in an interview with RenewEconomy ahead of a presentation of BNEF’s New Energy Outlook in Sydney on Tuesday.

Henbest says Australia will be part of a global transition, but would likely lead it because of its extraordinary wind and solar resources.

BNEF’s headline conclusion in its New Energy Outlook is that the world will be at 50 per cent wind and solar by 2050 – although, in effect, its analysis shows 48 per cent, but it couldn’t resist the “50 by 50” line. Total renewables by then will be at 64 per cent.

Australia will be a leader, but the UK (80%), Spain and Portugal (78%), Italy (78%), Germany (74%), Mexico (72%) and even France (72%), yes now nuclear dependent France, will sources more than 70 per cent of their electricity from wind and solar by 2050.

India, Philippines and Japan will source more than 60 per cent. The global average is brought down by the US (45%, coal is gone, but lots of gas), China, Russia and the Middle East.

Henbest says such a high level of wind and solar will require a whole new way of thinking about the grid. “Back-up and curtailment will be a feature, not a bug, of the future energy system,” he says.

“If you have lots of wind and solar – dispatch is no longer as predictable, it’s not as straight forward as in a world where generators are running almost at the same output all the time.”

It means that on some days there will be more energy produced in a single day than can be used – so there will be storage, and curtailment. On other days, there will be not enough, so back-up is required, either through that storage or the remaining fossil fuel (gas) dispatchable plants.

But Henbest underlines the importance of a change in thinking towards flexibility and dispatchability, rather than the traditional mindset of base-load and peak-load.

Right now, he suggests, even in Australia with levels of wind and solar up around 50 per cent in some areas, such as South Australia, it is still considered to be a fossil fuel grid with wind and solar as an addition. That needs to change.

This observation points to some of the political debate around energy now, and the strong attachment among conservatives to the idea of new coal-fired generators being built. Not because they are economic, although many are convinced they are, but because they preserve the fossil fuel vision of grids.

“If we recognised and removed the barriers, and did not lock in fossil fuels, then Australia will likely transition more quickly,” he says. And it would most certainly do so with targets that encourage and facilitated that transition.



Henbest says Australia will likely have a huge amount of capacity and generation and storage “behind the meter” and located in households and businesses – some 67GW of rooftop solar and around 60GWh of battery storage.

It will be a highly distributed system, with 40 per cent coming from the point of consumption – a target similar, although slightly undershooting, expectations from the Australian Energy Market Operator.

“This is likely to happen in the absence of government (policy),” Henbest says. “This is not just a function of tariffs.”

By 2050, there will be no coal, and just a small amount of gas – used less often but around the same capacity, unless alternatives like hydrogen and other technologies can deliver it more cheaply.

Utility-scale batteries will beat gas relatively soon for short peaks (see graph above), although hydrogen gas or another will be needed for seasonal storage.

There are no barriers in terms of land area or network capability. Energy market design will be critical, and Henbest notes that all governments will need to look, like Australia, at combining the needs of emissions and reliability.

He says the proposed National Energy Guarantee does that, although how it ends up with the final design – and whether the structure of the climate targets are appropriate – will depend on political outcomes.

For the moment, however, he says it has no bite. Like other independent analysis, BloombergNEF concludes that the current emissions targets mean that there will be no acceleration in the uptake of wind and solar.

And here’s the bad news. Even with BloombeNEF’s optimistic transition forecasts based on economics, the world still fails to get anywhere near the pace of change needed to honour the 2°C target in the Paris climate treaty, let alone the aspirational goal of limiting average warming to 1.5°C.

“There is a big gulf between the 2°C trajectory and where power emissions end up,” Henbest says. “That because there is simply too much coal in the system, and gas (if it was to replace coal) is too carbon intensive.

“So you need policy drivers to get (to the 2°C) target. Country by country you get a different story, but you do need a vision of what the new energy system looks like. And (politically) that’s very difficult.”

He notes that the private sector needs to recognise that the “writing is on the wall” and help pick out the strategy of how to win out in a new world.

(Some of that is happening in Australia, where the likes of Sanjeev Gupta and others are turning to solar and storage, while the likes of the Business Council of Australia preach disaster if the share of renewables exceeds 28 per cent).

“We do need active policy intervention to visualise the future system and put regulations and rules in place to get there,” Henbest says.

“Business as usual will not get us there in time, because there are complications with network problems, market rules, investment decisions.

“Do we need to incentives for solar because they are expensive? No. Do we need to provide a signal that recognises value to solar, yes we do. Same with batteries.

“To pay for back up and curtailment you need to think about price signals in a sophisticated way.

“How does private and the public system work together? This is not a hands-off policy situation. Getting the cheap stuff into the market looks very disruptive … and that’s the challenge.

“This is a global technology shift – and it will happen. Part of it is the rate of change, part of it is the facilitation.”

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  1. The_Lorax 2 years ago

    We need to decarbonise (i.e. electrify) transportation as well. Was that factored into these calculations?

  2. RobertO 2 years ago

    Hi All
    “If we recognised and removed the barriers, and did not lock in fossil fuels, then Australia will likely transition more quickly,” he says. And it would most certainly do so with targets that encourage and facilitated that transition.

    My thinking is that we could do this so much quicker possible as soon as 2025 – 2030 (somewhere in between would acceptable) if only the Fed Gov get out of the way. Even if Labour mandate 50 by 2022 I still think we could over shoot and be in the 70% – 75% area by 2022 and then Transport start to slow the transition down due to needing some TWh for transport (but Transport will not save coal).

    For the Coal Trolls read it and weep, coal is going !!!!!!! yipeeeee

    • Joe 2 years ago

      Rob, you inviting the Coal Trollies to go you? Here’s a thought, RE targets as such are not caps and we should never be afraid to think big and overshoot targets. We have a Climate Emergency on our hands and continuing the Coal / FF is incompatible with an environment fit for human habitation.

      • RobertO 2 years ago

        Hi Joe, No I just hope that the trolls would get the message that coal is dying, that all FF are dying, and it based on the economics of such a transition. No amount of engineering will save it.

        In the last few days I have realise I an a greenie. Saving the planet has alway been my belief, which RE is the way forward, and the byproduct has alway been cheaper electricity.
        As a mechanical person how could we burn a product that pours about 65 % of its heat (Heat is one form of pollution) along with all the other pollutants into our biosphere (the air we breath and the very top thin layer of water). Simple physics tell me that you can boil water in a pot if you heat from the bottom, it also tell me that you only heat the top downwards you can only heat at the most about 10 metres depth after that it has no effect unless you stir it somehow.

        In my younger day I always was a floating voter, I tried to work out who (which party) offered the best for the country I lived in. I have never voted for the greens as a party and I am still not likely to. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that we need a Labour Gov in both houses to keep RE going faster that COALition and their plans to stop RE if possible (it would require regulations because they are unlikely to get Legislation passed but anything is possible).

        • Hettie 2 years ago

          The best of all possible election results would be a House of Representatives with half to a dozen or more Greens, 70 to 73 Labor members (not quite enough to govern in their own right), a smattering of independents, and a seriously depleted Coalition.
          Have a look at the Green’s website, RobertO, and read the policies. You may be surprised at how detailed and we’ll thought out they are.
          Above all, do not believe what the Mudrake media tell you about the Greens.

          • Joe 2 years ago

            Hello again young Hettie. Nothing wrong with the ‘Red’ and the ‘Green’ parties ( great colours in The NRL by the way ) together in politik. We’ve seen it in Germany and we’ve seen it here in Australia. And yes the Australian Greens have got decent policies a few of which Labor have been happy to pinch and trumpet the credit…current Banking Royal Commission was Greens idea before Labor got onboard and made enough noise to force Two Tonguer Turnbull to finally cave in and establish The RC.

          • RobertO 2 years ago

            Hi Hettie, I suspect that I am one of many Australian that are slowly becoming (or have become) disillusioned with the politics of our pollies (regular lies, regular misinformation published, regular dishonest behaviour or simply profiting from their position people like the Obeids in NSW). If this group vote for the minor parties or the indepentants the we run a real risk of the COALition getting back in (the system make it a much bigger lottery as to whom gets power to rule).
            In the old days my engineering skills always directed me away from the greens, they were just too dangerous with some of their ideas, these days they are so much better.
            Everything we do has an environment footprint (most people know this but they do not know how to allocate a cost or $ value to it and therefore it is not counted). We have been doing it for so long there is not value in the environment, as I said the the year 13 boys at camp “We live in an economy not an environment. We breathe money and not air” (thanks to the RE writer who wrote that).

            The green do better at this than any other party but even then will they compromise when need to change Australia. To me (at this time) if Labour hold all the cards we might get an environmental change.
            Our worst position is COALition holding minority Gov (or outright) and holding majority in the senate (here comes coal power by law).

          • neroden 2 years ago

            Well, you folks have preference voting. In the House if you rank Greens #1 and Labor #2, you will probably get Labor anyway. That vote could only get the Libs in if there are an awful lot of Green voters in your area — if there are, you have to sit down and do some complex election-game-theory calculations.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Agree100%, Neroden.

        • Joe 2 years ago

          Hi Rob, I’m a greenie as well. I didn’t quite get it at the time ( hindsight is SO wonderful ) but my parents in the way they raised me, my brother and my sister, set the values that I today try to follow…look after the natural world ( its the only one we got!), grow your own, don’t waste, reuse as much and as often as possible and recycle what can’t be reused. Simple stuff really when you think about it but makes a big difference. On the politik I was once always ONLY Labor but that has changed in recent times. I’m a Labor HoReps and a Greens Senate voter. Labor has left me rather offside on certain issues…the Newstart, the Single Mums, the Asylum Seekers…the Labor social conscience has started to fray but I have the Greens to salve my disappointment. I’ve told Labor MP’s about my longer voting for them in the Senate and that they can have my Senate vote back again once they fix those issues that I just mentioned. I’ll never vote LNP or the ‘noisy minors’ ( the only noisy minors that I entertain are my feathered birdo friends who visit me in the backyard!!!! ). Labor will need the Greens in The Senate to get their agenda passed and with RE policy I think the two will be able to come together without too much argy bargy.

        • Hettie 2 years ago

          That is just as vain a hope as the hope that “people of faith,” any faith, would realise that they are mistaken. No fairies, and no sky fairies either.
          Belief in coal is just as irrational and fixed as belief in a religion.
          Believers see the damage caused, but continue to believe, just “because.”
          Best to accept that you can’t convince them all, and keep working for a zero emissions future anyway.

  3. Cooma Doug 2 years ago

    Looking at the climate issues now pushing into view around the globe, we will be at 100% long before 2050. Designing a power grid would chuck out the fossils from the thinking long before 70%.
    They will be shutting down much quicker. The money tree will start growing much faster.

    • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

      what money tree?

    • MaxG 2 years ago

      DO’t under estimate the liar & numnuts party; they are wreckers, soon passing laws that support their intent to build coal burners.

  4. Robin_Harrison 2 years ago

    *Australia will be part of a global transition, but would likely lead it because of its extraordinary wind and solar resources.* Not to mention exorbitant energy prices from the incumbents. They’re probably right that the energy transition will go ahead on economic grounds irrespective of govt policies, but is it time to mention the usual exponential growth rate of disruptive technologies to Bloombergs? Or maybe they’re trying not to alarm investors in fossil fuel industries.
    The energy transition is well under way but, if we are to have a sustainable future, it’s going to take more than just smart energy. Smart living must be the next transition and will probably prove to be just as economically smart.

    • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

      We need to DEMAND lower prices until there is equilibrium. Basically until the cowards who in our government enable their mates to overcharge us all (in return for political donations) are told to stop that practice. Turnbull is such a weak coward.

      • Phil NSW 2 years ago

        Ban political donations and kickbacks.

        • MaxG 2 years ago

          You wonder how this pracice was possible in the first place. What a wonderful vehicle for the elite to influence, and continue to determine the direction of plutocracy.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            What’s the alternative? (Here we go)

          • Phil NSW 2 years ago

            Be interesting how many sausages they could sell in a stand at Bunnings.

          • Ren Stimpy 2 years ago

            Yeah exactly and if people really honed in on what was in the wealthy’s interest to vote for. Sadly people are enamoured by cheap Liberal slogans such as “aspiration” which are designed to keep the wealthy comfortable comfortable, with the rest at zero wage growth. A landlord-serf arrangement. Welcome to the new America – Australia!

          • RobertO 2 years ago

            Hi Phil NSW Lots of groups that sell the sausages at Bunning are in support of volunteering support groups so I alway try to support them (it’s also bad for my health). If it’s for a political cause or group no way (my health is worth more to me).

          • MaxG 2 years ago

            🙂 I am not always ‘biting’… got to make a living too 🙂
            You may refer to Hettie’s post (further up) for an alternative.

        • Robin_Harrison 2 years ago

          They’ll simply find another way to buy these political puppets.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            If all candidates were publicly funded, by a set amount, everyone getsthe same, and receipts required to substantiate that the money was indeed spent on a specified list of allowable electoral expenses, it would be easy to see who was spending more than the allowance.
            Political advertising not by individual candidates strictly prohibited. After all, the Constitution does not mention political parties. We vote only for a local candidate.
            Leaders’ debates would be the only opportunitiesfor leaders to expound party policy, and must include the leaders of all registered parties. Strict debating rules.
            That is, each leader has 3 minutes to answer each question, and is heard in silence. All leaders are asked the same questions. Questions NOT provided to leaders in advance. You know what you are about, or not. Probably best to have each leader recorded in a separate room, so no one has the advantage of hearing the questions or what the others say.. If you waste your time waffling, too bad. It could be done, and given the feral nature of political conduct in this country, such draconian rules are needed to break the shit slinging model.

          • Robin_Harrison 2 years ago

            Some great ideas Hettie, most of which have been proposed in the past and voted on by our honorable politicians, from both sides, in one of the finest democracies money can buy, with predictable results.

          • MaxG 2 years ago

            🙂 Sound like a job interview… I reckon they’d all fail.
            Maybe epistocracy is an option…

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            A job interview is exactly what it would be!

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            And thank you for expanding my vocabulary. I have long supported some form of assessing voter awareness on polling day. Votes from those who do not get 3 simple questions right would be automatically informal.
            How to do it?
            BIG question bank held on laptops at every polling booth. Not on the internet, just AEC intranet.
            Each elector is asked a randomly selected 3 questions, and the ballot paper marked with pass/fail code by the electoral official.
            The sheep who have not enough interest in governance to know the answers should not be accorded the privilege of being counted.

      • Robin_Harrison 2 years ago

        Good luck with that in one of the finest democracies money can buy.

  5. RobertO 2 years ago

    Hi All
    “Utility-scale batteries will beat gas relatively soon for short peaks (see graph above), although hydrogen gas or another will be needed for seasonal storage”.

    We have one of the largest storage systems in the working of the Natural Gas Network. Re-purposed as a H2 system, re-engineered as storage/transport system all our curtailed RE on days when we have oversupply for our long term RE drought supply (this has already started in the 1990’s and it has nothing to do with the cowboy FF experts at the well heads. It an engineering change that was always going to happen simply because any leak is profit going out the door. Also give that we can manufacture CH4 in a factory we may simply keep it going using RE curtailment oversupply (extract CO2 from air add water add energy yes we can and so long as there is profit made it will happen)

    FC will become our main heavy transport movers, FC will become our main backup power suppliers, and if Japan goes to H2 as they are currently telling people then we have a ready made market for our oversupply of electricity. RE power market will change to a capacity system to help RE (David Leitch is correct on this one).
    FF of any sort in Australia will be banned. There will be lots of BEV cars, some trucks and busses but only a few FC mostly big trucks and tractors and a few cars and busses.
    As for pricing lots of the current issue is gouging by people able to manipulate the system to their advantage. System costs will stay high for sometime to come but eventually it will crash to where it should be at $20 per MWh generation, transmission will drop further and retailers will be the biggest losers. Lots of this will happen after FF are gone (unlikely to happen before 2025 to 2030 and more like 2040 to 2050).

    • neroden 2 years ago

      Due to hydrogen embrittlement, I think we will manufacture CH4 from ambient CO2 and hydrogen if we are going to put it in the existing gas piping.

      • RobertO 2 years ago

        Hi neroden, I really do not know where and what we as a country are going to do. Will we use FC’s, possibly but I am not sure. How will we transport H2 to these FC, I do not know, could we use the Natural Gas system, as a means of transport I am not sure. I suspect from an engineering point of view (if I have understood some of the information I have read) companies working on the Natural Gas pipeline have been building from materials that do not suffer from hydrogen embrittlement, both plastics and steels since the early 1990.
        Also repairs to systems are driven by leaks which in turn makes the company less profitable (and there are some parts of Europe using H2 pipes for many years without issues).

        Too many efficiency experts believe that companies are driven by efficiency and not by profit (those same idiots should be screaming about ICE cars at about 10%, or Solar panels at 16% to 26% and even Wind Turbine Generator at 59.3% (Bitz’s Law) so they are even less that that number.

        Will Japan go FC as they have stated. Should we sell our excess RE to them.

        There are now four thing I am certain of:
        1 There is no absolute right (correct) RE pathway we will be following.
        2 There is one absolute wrong pathway for RE and that is “We must do nothing about RE!”
        3 I have realised I am a greenie. Saving the planet has to be our only goal and the byproduct is cheaper electricity.
        4 I am becoming a grumpy old man

  6. Ian 2 years ago

    Bloomberg does a nice job of making forecasts but how financially feasible is a transition to 100% renewables and how quickly could this take without compromising on customers electricity bills?

    Making some assumptions:’s capacity factor is 20%
    2.wind is 40% on average
    3.we have equal amounts of generation (not nameplate capacity but expected yearly output for ease of calculation ) from both
    4.each costs $2/watt to install without any RES or other subsidies
    5.Australia’s electrical energy demand is 200 TWH with 19% already met by renewables
    What would be the cost to install the additional RE capacity, not counting storage? 162TWH needed per year or 18 500 MW. 9 250 MW each. Solar required is 46 250MW nameplate, wind required is 23 125MW nameplate. Cost: solar $92.5 billion, wind $46.25 billion. Total $138.75 billion. The $2/watt assumption may be a little over stated. If it was $1/watt then the cost would be $69.4 billion.

    What is the value of the wholesale market ? Roughly $70/MWH wholesale and 200 000 000MWH a year = $14 billion . That would be the amount available to the generator side of the electricity business.

    Considering that renewables cost next to nothing to run and finance is dirt cheap. Pay back period is between 5 and 10 years.

    The question remains as to how much storage you need for a 100% renewables grid. That’s anyone’s guess . But let’s say 8 hours storage per day . 200TWH x 8/365/24= 183 GWH at $500/kWH = $91.5 billion. If the wholesalers of electricity were to carry the cost of storage then that would push out the payback period to 10 to 20 years. If storage came out of the retailers and distributors pocket and if the payback period was set at 10 years this would add 5c/kWh to their cost of storage and distribution, well below the difference between their retail to wholesale figures. If storage was to be placed behind the meter and an incentive or subsidy paid then the community of all electricity consumers (ie everyone) will be required to foot this bill. Say a subsidy of 1/2 the cost of storage ( similar to our current STC’s for solar) ie a 2.5c/kWh cost would have to be extracted from generator,retailer or consumer.

    All very ball-park figures ,but just another way of looking at the feasibility of the task ahead. Given these assumptions, the cost is not so bad, and achievable within 10 to 20 years without adding a cent to customers bills.

    Storage is a big problem, 8 hours a day of it is relatively cheap, but is that enough? We may have to rope in all our options for storage. These are hydro, battery, flow battery, thermal battery (silicon or salt storage technologies), hate to add this in : hydrogen storage. Demand management will help reduce the amount of storage needed. BEV storage will probably be needed to either boost demand management or provide some of the storage requirements. Other aspects like interconnectors would play a role in reducing the need for storage.

    • Ian 2 years ago

      Off course a 100% renewables grid is not going to happen unless we have a 0% fossils grid. In order for renewables to increase in %age, you would need to decrease the fossil’s %age. Right now we could easily have a 100% renewables grid. We just need to shut down all the fossil fuel generators, the grid may not function very well or sufficiently but it would be 100% renewables. Silly idea, but it does illustrate this point 100% renewables means zero fossils.

      How do we achieve zero percent fossils? How do we get these sorts of generators to exit the market? What kind of withdrawal program would be kind to everyone?

      Lots of ideas.

      1. Governmental choices: legislation, replacement programs, targets etc -not going to happen, apparently.
      2. Economic competition
      3. Influence of renewables movements such as global climate change summits, shareholder activists, company policies

      All these are good but what is the affect of home and business rooftop solar on squeezing out fossils?

      Fossils generally means coal. Coal is diametrically opposed to majority renewables. Coal demands baseload, coal can hardly dispatch, coal needs demand management to fit its generating profile. Coal is not profitable if it does not run 24/7. Coal has been very reliable, grant it that.

      Solar in large quantities and behind the meter removes demand for a portion of the day. At that time coal has nothing to do, its turnover is zero when it has no customers for its output. Solar does not only reduce demand for the time it is generating in the day it also reduces demand for discretionary loads like water heating, which traditionally was shifted to the night.

      Even though roof top solar might not match the output of coal it will ruin the business case and profitability of coal. This may well be 1kW of behind- the -meter solar destroys the profitability of 1kW of coal. ( Duck curve for anyone?) The actual destructive value of BTM solar may be more or less a 1:1 ratio with coal.

      If 1kW BTM solar ruins the profitability of 1kW coal, then this country’s roof top install rate of 1GW a year will force the retirement of 1GW of coal a year. Therefore 48GW of coal will retire when 48 GW of BTM solar are installed.

      This is a useful mechanism ,but on its own is too slow.

      Wind and commercial solar also have destructive power on coal’s profitability.

      Wind is particularly useful because it’s generating profile is different and not well correlated to BTM solar . It might have greater than 1:1 destructive power against coal.

      To keep things simple, consider all renewables to have this 1:1 ability to oust coal:over 2GW renewables installed in 2017 means 2GW of coal profitability lost. At this rate, 24 years to get rid of coal.

      Next issue is this. BTM and largescale solar might destroy coal at a rate of 1:1 but these have only a 20% capacity factor vs coal’s 80 to 90% capacity factor( ideally if the old clunkers don’t break down). Now we see a little problem: coal must exit because it’s not financially viable , but solar or wind must take its place. We now see a sort of chain-reaction. 1kW of solar destroys 1kw of coal but 4kW of solar are needed to replace 1kW of coal. ie this years 1GW BTM solar demands next year’s 4GW of solar,wind etc.

      If this is an accurate modelling of the situation then in year 1 we have 1GW coal displaced, year 2 additional 4GW, year 3 additional 16 GW, year 4 additional 64 GW and job is done!

      Clearly this process is happening. Solar is displacing or at least pressurising coal and also clearly more and more renewables need to be installed to replace the coal that is retiring. Tricks like increasing and confusticating consumer bills , gaming the market, NEGging renewables, increasing storage , limiting solar feedin tariffs and other shenanigans have slowed the rate of this chain-reaction but the dam the fossil fuel industry has created to hold back renewables will just burst, and that will happen very quickly.

      • RobertO 2 years ago

        Hi Ian, My KISS statement for RE is this;

        2500 MW Name plate Solar CF 20% or 500 MW
        1200 MW Name plate Wind CF 42% or 500 MW
        625 MW nameplate Storage CF 80% or 500 MW

        2500 MW Solar + 1200 MW Wind + 625 MW Storage =
        500 MW Coal Retired

        In simple terms the solar make it hard for coal to make a profit in the middle of the day just on it’s own, weekdays say about 11 am to 1 pm 2 hr a day, and weekend 10 am to 2 pm.
        Add in wind (any time day or night) it can make it hard for to make a profit. Coal can still make a profit during the times when wind is not producing. Adding both Solar and Wind make it very hard for coal to make a profit (most coal will still be making a profit but some of the less profitable coal power station will be stressed, some may even retire at this point.
        Add storage to the equation and that auto retiring for coal.
        Interconnects add to the equation in the form that they move the requirement for all MW to be in the same state and they may also reduce the amount of storage required, and also that the most stressed (least profitable) coal will retire first.
        All other forms of generation increase the stress on coal so they will not help coal overall.
        Your numbers may be better that mine, but the the result is the same.

        Coal will retire progressively as we add RE and storage to the system (unless the Fed Gov can stop it, and they will need to stop households and small business as well, political suicide come to mind, but they will try to slow it down).

        • Mike Dill 2 years ago

          We can see that wind and solar are cheaper to build, when compared to storage. Therefore the limiting factor in your statement is storage.
          My guess is that 1MWh of storage eliminates at least 1MWh of coal, and possibly many times that amount, given sufficient wind and solar resources. Not just making it unprofitable, but eliminating the demand.
          Capacity factor is almost meaningless for storage, as it can respond when necessary. The ‘availability’ of storage, to ‘fill in’ for those renewables as a firming resource is very close to 100%.
          Where I am located, solar and wind, with one hour of batteries are good for about 70% of the annual demand. Two hours of storage gets that to 80%, and four hours gets that to 95% of annual demand. Yes, there is a place for something to fill in that last 5%, and we agree that coal is not the answer.

          • RobertO 2 years ago

            Hi Mike Dill, I do not want to scare too many people, that why I have tried to keep it simple and to show that Ian (and you) are possibly correct. The CF is only to show that I have considered the variability of RE and it just a general statement. As for the question how quickly could we, I would like yesterday, but the engineering in me tell me to be reasonable, 5 to 7 to may 10 years if we wanted to (as a Nation). There is no right answer, what happens will happen

    • RobertO 2 years ago

      Hi Ian,Lots of people are going to tell you, this part of your calculations are wrong, or they can not happen. RE is a very big mathematical equation where you take the statement that :

      H amount of Hydro + X amount of solar + Y amount of wind + z amount of any other form of generation = Demand required + Storage + management system (MD + Load shifting etc)

      So picking on just H we have
      Gravity (continuous or peak and what happens we it really rains, peak goes from peak to continuous or we get a large drought)
      Run of the River (same issues as Gravity)
      PHES (possibly the most stable, but if it built on a river then same as Gravity possibly reduced effects). What effect do interconnects have PHES (without looking at transmission losses, if fuel supply is free than how important are transmission losses)

      I may be good at maths but the best comment I can make I happy with your calculations.

      If we are to leave earth we will not take everything with us.

      Knowledge is so much lighter that any other element on earth.

      Hydrogen is the most abundant element in our known universe.

      Hydrogen for the above reason will happen (in spite of the efficiency experts).

      • Hettie 2 years ago

        Is solar CF really only 20%? That seems very low. I do realise that over the year, daylight hours can average only 12, regardless of geographic location, and that without tracking, production for the first and last couple of hours each day is greatly reduced, and somewhat reduced even with tracking, and then there is cloud to factor in, but even so, 20% seems very pessimistic.
        Comments please.

        • RobertO 2 years ago

          Hi Hettie, no and they are better than that. I was just using the KISS method of making a point because there are too many people who progress has forgotten (they remember the past only).

          Take my statement that FC will be part of our future (I am a nut job for making that statement, who known what the future holds, as mad as a hatter some would say)

          So below is a web statement about FC from December 2015 Read this and then consider this scenario and ask yourself “Is this possible.” With RE there are too many options to say which one is correct or which one mankind will take!

          I own a wind farm and AEMO tell me when I can supply and when I can not supply. Just down the road two new Solar farms are being built and they will face curtailment also.

          What can I do. Make H2, gives me an income for my lost RE power. What to stop me from buying some power from the solar farms to make more H2. So I ship my H2 to my factory in Sydney where I make electricity using FC. I use most of the electricity myself but after hours I export it from the factory until it no longer peak time.

          How big are my FC, how many can I install, and given that they are CHP units (I need the heat for my process in the factory overnight).

          Page 21 has this statement about a proposal and what I am saying is that FC are being built where the size is growing

          A proposed project would build a 63.3-MW fuel cell power plant in Beacon
          Falls on a 23.8-acre brownfield site that was a former sand mine. The project
          would produce enough power for 60,000 homes and could generate up to.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            OK. H2 production, PHES both excellent uses of excess solar and wind generation. No argument from me about that, and both are obviously essential to a 100% renewable future.

            What would you say is a realistic capacity factor for solar? Given that in this vast country what is possible in, say, Darwin and what is possible in the southern parts of Victoria are very different.

            I have banged on ad nauseam about the splendid production of my little system, and I know that there are many local factors contributing to its performance.
            So my expectations of solar capacity are clearly skewed by my experience. Hence, a genuine enquiry about a realistic capacity factor for solar, given a halfway decent location.

          • RobertO 2 years ago

            Hi Hettie, solarguy would have access to a program that would give you that information or he may be able to tell you where to look. I believe that they use it as part of the system they use to quote for installations.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Thanks for that, RobertO.
            Solarguy? Do you have some accurate Capacity Factor figures for solar, around this vast country? Just curious, as ever, but could be helpful in dealing with the ill-informed brigade.

        • Divergent 2 years ago

          Accepted solar availability is 14%, wind 30%. It gets worse. Irradiation levels over winter are half that of summer. So energy would need to be stored for half a year (impossible) or would need more than double number of solar panels.

          • RobertO 2 years ago

            Hi Divergent, So where in the world do you live? Our numbers in Australia are a little higher than what you have quoted.
            There is a wind farm in New Zealand who have stated they have a CF for the year (2013 if my muddy memory is still working) of 57% (Bizel limit is 59.3%).
            As for storage that a whole different story and too many ways to do it, it not really a question worth answering.

          • Hettie 2 years ago

            Irradiation in winter where I live is way more than half the summer level. Wet summer, sunny winter climate, and the cooler winter temperatures boost PV efficiency, as I’m sure you know.
            For example, my 5.3kW system in mid summer produced peaks of around 35 kWh, in 14 hr days. Now, mid winter, 10 hr days, a good day brings 27, 28 kWh. I make that 80% in winter. June is the darkest month here, with more heavy cloud and light rain than July, which tends to be clear and sunny, if cold by Australian standards, so I expect that the next few weeks will bring good production figures.
            For your information, location is 31•S, 1,000 metres up.
            Read this and weep for a climate less brutal than you must have.

  7. Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

    Screw curtailment, hydrogen or batteries or desalination are among the ways to use excess power. Also water heating or ice production (for AC use) are available. And lets not forget EVs…

    • RobertO 2 years ago

      Hi Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe, why do you think I keep telling people there is no single right answer when it comes to RE, but there is only one wrong answer to RE, “We do not need to do anything about RE!”
      Curtailment is the absolute last place in the list of good answers.

      • Barry Alternative Fact Covfefe 2 years ago

        Curtailment is an easy answer and the most commonly used one, even in nuclear/inflexible fossil situations.
        Humans respond well to easy answers, its one of the reasons reality deniers get elected over and over again.

  8. phillyc 2 years ago

    Water is often overlooked in all this. Just how much water is consumed in thermally generating electricity?

    “The 2012 report “Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity” estimates that a mega-watt hour (MWh) of electricity generated by coal withdraws approximately 16,052 gallons and consumes approximately 692 gallons of water.”

    A US gallon is 3.8 litres, therefore 2629 litres or 2.6kL per MWh.

    Australia uses 200TWh (200 million MWh) of electricity. Assuming similar conversion here in Australia and about 80% coal. 520 million kL * 80% = 416 GL which could be used for farming in the driest continent in Earth.

    That figure is what is consumed, not the extracted / withdrawn from river systems etc which is 65kL per MWh. About 10,000GL…

    All rough calcs done late at night!

    • RobertO 2 years ago

      Hi phillyc all good in theory but they do not actually consume water, they use water as a heat exchange mechanism to cool things down, and some to keep dust down. Water converted into steam is actually lost from measurements when it is lost to the atmosphere. The tiny amount burned in the boilers is negligible compared the amount lost to the atmosphere.

      The really good point is that 1 coal power station uses about the same amount as 20 PHES systems, so yes we can re-purpose the water easily. If the PHES system are very poor in their water management more if they are better.

      About 65 % of the heat from coal power is converted to heat, and most of that heat is dispersed in to our biosphere, about top 10 metres of water and bottom 5000 metres of air above sea level. The smaller the power station exhaust pipe velocity the lower the heat column will rise.

      • Hettie 2 years ago

        Surely PHES systems are essentially closed loops? Of course there must be evaporation losses, but how significant would that be?

        Your statement that one coaler uses as much water as 20 PHES, is meaningless without time frames. And the operative word is consumes, not uses. Coalers use their coal to generate steam to turn turbines, yes? And great clouds of spent steam are seen rising from the stacks. So that water is lost to whatever system supplied it. It has been consumed. Then there is the cooling water, some of which I think becomes so contaminated it is pumped into holding ponds and so contaminates the land. That water is not only lost, it poisons the environment.

        PHES uses the pressure of falling water to turn turbines, then pumps the water back to the high storage for re-use. The water is still there and is used many times. It is not being consumed.

        So some figures about how much water is consumed by a coaler, and how much is lost to evaporation from PHES, seems to me to be the only fair comparison.

        • RobertO 2 years ago

          Hi Hettie it’is just an engineers principle water in the atmosphere is still water but unable to be measured by the meter going into the power station or leaving the power station. Water lost by PHES is from 0 % (very good) to about 5% (very poor) via evaporation or lrakeage

  9. Greg Hudson 2 years ago

    ”unless alternatives like hydrogen and other technologies can deliver it more cheaply”
    I have a question for everyone… Could piped hydrogen (replacing ‘natural’ gas) be produced by wind farms using excess (curtailed) energy to extract the hydrogen from water. If so, we would have a carbon free energy source, and still be able to utilize the existing pipeline infrastructure (assuming it is compatible)… Comment anyone ?

    • Hettie 2 years ago

      We know that H2 can replace up to 10% of piped gas, and that electrolytic production using excess RE is viable, because both are already happening.
      Problem is that much of the piped gas infrastructure is old and leaky.
      Armidale, where I live, changed from piped gas to bottled in 2011, because fixing the pipes would be ruinously expensive. The problem of contaminated land where the depot had been was “solved” by covering it with concrete for a parking area.
      Seems to me that the era of reticulated gas supply must soon draw to an end. Victorian building regs notwithstanding.

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