Ex Hazelwood boss says solar + storage already cheaper than gas | RenewEconomy

Ex Hazelwood boss says solar + storage already cheaper than gas

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Former Hazelwood boss says solar and battery storage already beats baseload gas on price, and says decisions to scrap carbon price and renewable energy target may have killed any new investment in fossil fuel generation.

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The former head of Australia’s most notorious brown coal generator – the soon-to-be-retired Hazelwood plant – says solar PV and battery storage already represent a cheaper alternative to gas-fired generation.

In yet another clear signal that Australia’s energy markets are on the cusp of a radical reshaping, Tony Concannon, the former head of GDF Suez Australia (now Engie), says solar and battery storage already beat baseload gas on price, and its costs will continue to fall rapidly.

In a submission to the Finkel review, Colcannon – now head of Reach Solar Energy – cited a recent quote given to the company for a large solar farm (100MW) with a significant amount of battery storage.

“Reach received estimates in late December 2016 for solar PV and energy storage (40MWh to 100MWh) which translated into a tariff between $110/MWh to $130/ MWh,” Concannon wrote.

“This is already competitive with gas-fired CCGT and costs are expected to reduce further.”

The opinion from one of the hardest noses in the Australian energy industry – and his real-life example – fits in with similar claims by the likes of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Zen Energy Ross Garnaut, Carnegie’s Michael Ottaviano and numerous others.

It is also a blow to those who insist that gas generation is the only alternative as a transition fuel to a high renewasbles grid – a position given huge amplification by the Murdoch media and prominent ABC journalists such as Andrew Probyn and Chris Uhlmann.

Reach has received approval to build 300MW of large scale solar PV near Port Augusta, the home of the recently closed Northern power station. Already it has a contract from Origin Energy for two 110MW solar farms at the Bungala project, 10kms from the town.

South Australia, meanwhile, is looking to install 100MW of battery storage in a fast-tracked tender by the end of the year, and will also likely install a further 50MW of battery storage in association with a new emergency back up gas generator.

The falling cost of battery storage is taking most people by surprise, having fallen 40 per cent last year and with the head of Enel Green Energy, one of the largest renewable energy companies in the world, with a battery storage division, predicting it will follow the plunging cost curve of solar PV, as many have predicted.

Meanwhile, in his submission, Concannon noted that despite all his years (a decade) running a major coal plant, it was now clear there was no appetite for new coal-fired generators “of any technology type” in Australia, despite the insistence of many in the Coalition that this is the right way to go.

“Europe and the USA are exiting coal-fired generation and it is understood the World bank continues to not support coal projects and nor does any financial institution that has signed onto the Equator Principals which includes most global and Australian commercial banks,” he wrote.

He added that even if the government provided an immunity against a future carbon price, banks and investors would still see this as risky because they would fear that that immunity could be diluted or repudiated, just as the carbon price was junked by the Coalition government in 2014 and the renewable energy target was also cut.

“(These acts) have set the precedent in Australia,” Concannon wrote. In effect, he is arguing that the Coalition killed the prospect of new coal-fired generation because of the sovereign risk of not respecting policy. (No wonder they were celebrating, see pic below).

carbon repeal
Did they know then that they had signed the death-knell for new fossil fuel generation in Australia?
Concannon said it was also clear that Australia’s fleet of ageing coal fired generators were becoming increasingly expensive to maintain, leading to more outages (such as the recent closure of two units at Liddell in the recent NSW heat wave) and rising rehabilitation costs.

And despite the insistence of many that fossil fuels are key to provide “grid stability”,Concannon writes that grid stability services will be increasingly provided by new technologies.

These included even faster acting asynchronous inverter technologies and/or aggregated consumer generation, controlled load shedding (financial options paid to willing consumers), installation of frequency control on interconnectors (e.g. Murraylink), and synthetic inertia from wind turbines.”

He also noted that “there is a lot of Press reports and misinformation” on the topic of system security,  and it was clear that solar PV could help with system inertia and moderating the rate of change of freuenxy (RoCoF) which are key measures of system security.
But he says that the Australian Energy Market Operator and the transmission network providers are only just getting to understand the potential of utility scale inverter technology (wind and solar farms).
 Others have also expressed frustration that the regulators and network operators have been slow to absorb the potential of the new technologies, hence the slow pace of regulatory change and market rules.

Concannon says although they are asynchronous, and have little or no inertia, they can provide:

  • most ancillary services, especially in response to over-frequency events and reactive power;
  • are very fast acting (much faster than conventional plant) and this is anticipated to dampen the rate of change of frequency under severe network disturbances which in turn may reduce the amount of system inertia required to maintain the frequency;
  • and a re able to remain connected at very low short circuit ratio in the order of 1.5 to 2 (typically seen with weaker networks).

“Reach consider system inertia is important and will be provided by synchronous generation in the near-term, but will be increasingly provided by near instantaneous response from new technologies in the future,” he writes.

“These solutions are likely to include even faster acting asynchronous inverter technologies and/or aggregated consumer generation/loads, controlled load shedding (financial options paid to willing consumers), installation of frequency control on Murraylink, and energy storage/synthetic inertia from wind turbine.”

Even though solar and storage costs are chepaer than gas, Concannon says the market barriers are significant, and many developers will wait for market signals that recognise the services they can offer. This will require significant rule changes that are currently being resisted by existing fossil fuel generators.

“It will become increasing more difficult for a centralised system operator to manage a system which is becoming more opaque with behind the meter generation and/ or sophisticated aggregation of demand/ generation in the future,” he says.


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  1. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    That is a famous photo on RE, an deservedly so ! With possible captions like :-
    “I wish I knew the hell what we are celebrating”

    • Peter Campbell 4 years ago

      I hope their grandchildren and great grandchildren see the photo when they are old enough to be shocked and disappointed to learn what these clowns were celebrating.

    • David leitch 4 years ago

      I put that photo on my office wall so that every day I know why I am at work

  2. trackdaze 4 years ago

    Cant agree more that the abbott goverment has in effect expedited the demise of coal generation here in australia.

    It was a message from above when stop the boats, car manufacturing and those scary windmills Tony hosted world leaders in brisbane during a 40+degree heatwave just after china and usa had pledged to do something about carbon emissions (which they have done).

  3. Andrea 4 years ago

    Are you comparing apples with apples? The value of a solar PV plus storage system depends on the ratio of storage to PV size (i.e. how long it will last without sun.)
    100 (or 110MW?) solar PV coupled with energy storage (40MWh to 100MWh) is not as valuable as electricity from a gas-fired generator. Imagine those hot South Australian evenings. The sun has gone down so no solar PV. How long would the batteries be supplying power? (Less than an hour?)
    Also, the cited cost of between $110/MWh to $130/ MWh doesn’t compare favourably with AEMO’s cost for CCGT of $83/MWh (SA) or $70/MWh (NEM) (Ref: AEMO SA Fuel and Technology Report March 2017.)

    • JeffJL 4 years ago

      The big issue at the moment with the grid is not the production capacity but ramping speeds. Yes CCGT is cheep but it cannot be ramped fast hence the need for OCGT (peaker plants) which are more expensive and less efficient. Storage can reduce the ramping rate required to within the limits of CCGT and coal power stations improving grid efficiency and lowering wholesale costs.

      • Andrea 4 years ago

        Again this is not comparing the same thing. Batteries may have advantages in provision of FCAS. That’s an added advantage. But the comparison was for the cost of energy. Certainly I would like to see a rapid transition to renewables plus storage. However, claims that this is now cheaper than gas are very problematic.

        • Giles 4 years ago

          So, imagine then that if this is just the cost of energy, how much more competitive storage would be if you add in all the other “value streams” of storage – about 20 in all, including FCAS, grid substitution etc etc.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            So the heading could be: cost of solar plus batteries is dropping and is getting close to gas (though still more expensive), and that while these batteries can’t provide energy at all times (like gas could), they do have an advantage in providing a fast frequency response.

          • Giles 4 years ago

            Hmmm, heading too long and has two mistakes. As Concannon points out, solar and battery storage is cheaper (he puts baseload gas at $130/MWh). And those ex-engie people should know, they were senior executives in the biggest gas generation company in the world.
            And who says batteries can’t provide energy at all times, and who says gas can? Pelican Point couldn’t find any gas when asked to. Two weeks later both Pelican Point and Torrens Island tripped out. Two weeks before that the two biggest gas generators in NSW tripped out. That is not providing energy at all times. That is failing at crucial moments and putting the grid at risk.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            I was using AEMO figures fron dec 2016. What is the issue with these figures?
            Yes everything can fail. (Probably batteries too.) If batteries are to provide energy whenever, they will need to be very big. What would cost be then?

          • Steve159 4 years ago

            As per my post above, it’s not just about capacity factors, but also, as per Hunter Valley $600 million per year, in health costs due to pollution. Check it.

            “Hunter Valley coal’s annual health bill $600 million, doctors groups say” [Source: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/hunter-valley-coals-annual-health-bill-600-million-doctors-groups-say-20150222-13lfch.html ]

            Presumably you don’t have children, or if you do, they’re not in harms way (don’t live in the Hunter or Latrobe Valley).

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            I agree with you absolutely on health costs. My issue was with how energy costs were being compared. I would like to see a rapid transition to renewables. I am just concerned with these energy cost comparisons ( that don’t factor in health or environment costs) that are structured in a way that is open to attack.

          • Darren Burgemeister 4 years ago

            You arent factoring a decentralized distributed grid via Virtual Power Plants. 1000 homes = 5MW peaking plant. If you extend to all current 1.6 million PV homes that had storage that roughly comes out at 8GW. Now factor in the plants + storage, factor in private businesses that have much bigger systems.

            How many buildings in aus total? low ball it? 20Million? that would be ~100GW peak roughly.


          • Andrea 4 years ago

            10 million dwellings. Let’s say 8 million suitable buildings. 5 kW each, with average daily output of 20 kWh (around 23 in summer, 14 in winter). That’s 58 GWh per year. (Around 25% of current electricity usage)
            As to meeting peak demand (maximum 30 GW, and say for several hours) – well that would require around 4 kW per building sustained for several hours. Yes it’s doable. But I doubt if we are going to meet the whole electricity peak demand with batteries.

          • Darren Burgemeister 4 years ago

            but dont forget private ventures like sun metals that would be included too..

            Its just another factor, and the number will only grow as more buildings are built.

          • Tom 4 years ago

            I’ve been involved in massive surgical operations on people who have sustained massive injuries in the Hunter Valley coal mines. I’d hate to think how much the hospital costs plus the lost productivity from somebody who will probably never work again (at best) would be. Does this count as part of the $600 million? Because it should.

            Good ol’ John Hunter – a great place to learn about trauma surgery. The New England Highway and the mines provided a steady supply of really big stuff.

            We haven’t had that sort of trauma down in Tassie since the logging industry went broke just before the GFC.

          • JoeR_AUS 4 years ago

            You need a lot of PV’s and batteries when it been raining 2 weeks in Sydney and another week or so to go.

            Then you need to replace them all in 10 years

          • Steve159 4 years ago

            10 years?

            You appear unaware that LiFePO4 are warrantied for 6000+ cycles. I’ll let you do the arithmetic.

          • Brian Tehan 4 years ago

            When it’s been raining for a while at this time of year, power demand is lower and there’s lots of hydro potential. I think you’ll find that if you manage your batteries (there’s software) they’ll last quite a bit longer than 10 years. Power demand is higher when it’s sunny – and then the batteries are charging.

          • Calamity_Jean 4 years ago

            PV is known positively to last for at least 35 years. There’s at least one set of PV panels in Germany that’s over 35 years old and still going strong, putting out nearly as much power as when they were new.

            Ten years is the expected lifespan of lead-acid batteries. AFAIK all other battery chemistries last longer, sometimes much longer.

          • stephan011 3 years ago

            I’ve heard commentary that solar panels might last as long as 100 years and that 50 years is likely.

          • Calamity_Jean 3 years ago

            I wouldn’t be surprised, but there’s no proof of that yet. Solar panels haven’t existed that long.

            The world’s oldest working wind turbine recently turned 40 years old.

          • stephan011 3 years ago

            Yes, but there are plenty of ways to cycle equipment to accelerate aging, you don’t have to wait 50 years to know something about degradation rates. The failure modes will be known within a much smaller time frame.

          • Steve159 4 years ago

            Good point Giles

            Most of those who are pro-fossil fuels, or nuclear don’t appreciate that coal-powered stations, and nuclear don’t have capacity factors of 100.

            Nuclear, I understand is about 80%. Coal is lower.

            Solution is to simply add more solar and wind, and wave-energy to compensate. With lots of installations, capacity factor (as a whole) can surpass that of nuclear and coal, without all the scary downsides (e.g. $600 million per year in Hunter in health costs, $800 million per year Latrobe Valley.)

          • stephan011 3 years ago

            Nukes are 92% in the US, expect it’s about the same in Australia. Currently our coal capacity factor is about 55%, but could be higher.

          • Ian 4 years ago

            Giles, you might elaborate on that:’ Pelican Point couldn’t find any gas when asked to.’ The way I see this is that Gas generator plants may easily ramp up and shut down production of electricity, but the gas supply to these plants is more suited to continuous base load type power generation. Is this a valid conclusion and is it born out by the behaviour of the gas utilities looking for very high returns on emergency electricity supply and the actual failure to deliver supply when put on the spot to do so? The consumption of gas by a utility sized gas generator is not inconsiderable and its supply and storage needs expensive infrastructure. We are not talking the back yard barbie gas cylinder here it’s more like massive storage tanks or hundreds of Km of gas lines.

            As homes and businesses turn from domestic gas heating to electric heat pumps there will be fewer customers to smooth out the intermittent flows of gas required by dispatchable gas power stations.

            Is this a real problem or a house of straw?

        • JeffJL 4 years ago

          Goodbye Malcolm Roberts clone.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            JeffJL you appeared to have addressed that offensive comment to me. Please remain civil, and keep to the issues. There is no comparison between Malcolm Roberts (either the Senator one or the CEO of APPEA) and people who point out problems in cost comparisons
            IMO, it is important not to exaggerate the cost comparison between renewables and fossil fuels, because by claiming that renewables are cheap enough to compete, you are undermining the case for a Renewable Energy Target.
            Check the AEMO figures here if you want to engage in this discussion constructively:

      • davidb98 4 years ago

        what about the solar thermal… molten salt also planned for Pt Augusta…
        sounds despatchable ….. help the batteries a bit?


        • Calamity_Jean 4 years ago


        • JeffJL 4 years ago

          Solar thermal works just like CCGT or coal thermal. Uses the molten salt to heat and boil water. It will have the same ramping issues as CCGT and coal.

          • David McKay 4 years ago

            The idea of storage is there is no ramping except from initial start-up. Siting is important. There are many areas with 300+ days of sunshine. The transition is about multiple technologies sited in the optimum locations to develop reliability. First, lets get the market rules & regulators aligned with needs.

          • JeffJL 4 years ago

            All electricity supplies have ramping rates. Batteries are fast but molten salt, which heats a fluid to drive a turbine, has ramping speeds similar to coal.

            Solar thermal is a good way to produce carbon free electricity but it does not do what batteries can do in stabilising the grid with fast responses.

      • stephan011 3 years ago

        Do you where I can read more about this? I’ve been looking for a good explanation of the details of CCGT ramping dynamics and what that means for batteries to reduce duck-curve problems.

    • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

      Yes the capacity of the storage (and its power rating) needs to be carefully considered for warm evenings. But this is more a problem for retrofitting a badly designed solid thermal mass house than a lightweight house. The utility in the storage could be vastly increased for some applications as opposed to others.

    • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

      Yes the capacity of the storage (and its power rating) needs to be carefully considered for warm evenings. But this is more a problem for retrofitting a badly designed solid thermal mass house than a lightweight house. The utility in the storage could be vastly increased for some applications as opposed to others.

      • Andrea 4 years ago

        This was for a grid-scale solar-storage system. The suggestion was that it was competing with gas. What an individual might do with their home is another matter

        • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

          Of course, and its all relative. If it has been hot, and the solar is no longer contributing, and the wind for a long distance in any direction is becalmed, it is hypothetical situation requiring responsive, thermal, despatchable OCGT generation. Such as that proposed in SA. All the same many businesses would have very low energy consumption at that time, reducing grid loads.

          • Steve159 4 years ago

            ” If it has been hot, and the solar is no longer contributing, and the wind for a long distance in any direction is becalmed”

            Nah, show some imagination (in the positive direction). Tides still run (unless the moon has done a runner).

            Carnegie have it sorted. Up, down the coast. Solution easy. Next.

          • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

            No problem with that. In the fullness of time, add a few of the newer technologies to a growing stable of clean options.

          • Tom 4 years ago

            We’re talking about South Australia. What if it’s also a Dodge Tide?

    • Steve159 4 years ago


      On the surface, you’ve raised a valid point. How … ever, wind often works well at night in SA. But that aside, the issue is peak demand just after sundown. So, batteries or more batteries will fill that quite nicely, thank you.

      In any event, the trajectory is clear. Cheaper and cheaper batteries, more and more expensive gas.

      I’m not a betting person, but which technologies would you put your money on.

      • Andrea 4 years ago

        It is never wise to extrapolate. Also the wind output can be low for days. I will “put my money” on renewable energy because climate change is an extremely pressing problem and humanity must deal with it. I am not putting my money on claims about what is or may be cheaper. Coal wins hands down on that. We need to move beyond these arguments about what is “cheaper” and transition rapidly to renewables regardless of the cost

        • Ian 4 years ago

          The energy economy transformation needs an end point, a peak to conquer, or a goal to score. That has got to be 100% Renewables. Whether this is a day’s hike or a lifetime journey hard to say, but the climate science evidence seems to suggest an urgency of unprecedented proportions. That’s the given. The second issue is the rate of change of technology in the energy production industry. What seems like the best option now, most likely will be a stranded asset in a few years. Fiscally, we cannot afford to be surrounded by white elephant projects especially of the grandest kind, but again we cannot afford to let opportunities slip and be caught out with huge gaps in our energy supply network, especially as old coal-fired generating equipment reaches its senescence. Our best bet is to avoid fossil fuel based generating equipment, as that is a step in a direction reverse to our 100% renewables goal, and build out renewable generating equipment , namely solar and wind plus battery storage. The advantage of these technologies is that they are in-line with our goal, they are competitively priced and they are very scaleable. Adding more wind turbines,solar panels or battery storage is very easy to do. Upgrading hydro or building pumped hydro is not so scaleable, a project must be chosen and sized for the finished capacity, not much scope for increasing this later on or for cutting your losses on an obsolete facility. We have to look to the now, in terms of affordability and return on investment for these reasons.

          Exactly how much long term storage we need for those days or weeks of cloudy windless weather is anyone’s guess, and the most perplexing problem. Any old fool can construct a renewables and battery storage facility to cover the day to day variability in supply and demand. Even Mom’s and Dad’s can do that with solar on the roof and a ‘Tesla’ in the garage. It’s the other thing that needs more thought, and maybe a lot more investment. It’s also the problem most fraught with the risk of stranded assets, gold plating , and/or inadequate investment.

          We need to research the last mile, or the inaccessible fruit of a 100% reliable grid. Do we really need this reliability for every load application? Is spending 90% of the infrastructure budget on the last 10% reliability worth while? Do we need to be able to have hot showers absolutely at anytime considering one or two cold showers could mean much lower energy costs? Should flexible consumers of electricity be forced to subsidise more fastidious customer’s? Do we need a dirty great big gas generator to supply everyone when other generators ‘fail’, when a small distributed generator located at the premises of a critical application, ,like a hospital could do?

          • Calamity_Jean 4 years ago

            “Exactly how much long term storage we need for those days or weeks of cloudy windless weather is anyone’s guess, and the most perplexing problem.”

            Megawatt-scale wind turbines begin to produce some power at around 15 km/h although it takes a higher wind speed for them to produce at maximum. Photovoltaic arrays will produce some power in light overcast. Small amounts of power from each of many wind and solar installations totals to a significant contribution. “Many a mickle makes a muckle.”

            I’m in the US and not familiar with Australian weather patterns. Do you routinely have multiple consecutive days with thick heavy dark clouds and wind of less than 15 KPH? If that kind of weather is common along the coast, does it extend 500 or 1000 km inland most of the time? What I’m thinking is that you really don’t have “…days or weeks of cloudy windless weather….” often enough to worry about, at least not yet.

          • john 4 years ago

            To work out the output from a solar array anywhere on earth the NREL has this handy calculator and it does correspond very well with real life outputs.

            Once inland from the Great Dividing Range down the eastern seaboard of Australia the amount of sunshine is large.
            The southern coast is near the “roaring forties” and have good wind resources.

            The problem with the continent is the low population inland as the majority live on the eastern seaboard and around to Adelaide, with a few on the South West side as a more dense area.
            There is a site to find the energy and wind resources for Au.

          • john 4 years ago

            As a further help here is a link to Australia solar resources.
            Just click on any city mentioned and see the results.
            The same can be done for other places in the world or just use the NREL site.

          • Mike Shackleton 4 years ago

            Exactly, in 12 months of having a small (1.25 kW) solar system for my apartment and being able to watch the 30 minute feed in patterns on Powershop, it is rare for it to be so cloudy that the panels don’t at least generate enough electricity to run the fridge, standby appliances, lights and dishwasher (what I call my base demand) during the day. Add to that – as you said, if you get periods of extended rain in the SE of Australia the hydro systems switch to full tilt as otherwise the water just uselessly runs over the dam spillways.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            Ian, I am influenced by arguments re EROEI and ESOI. In regard to storage, pumped hydro comes as much better than batteries. But then you need to consider use of other resources (particularly for batteries) and availability of locations (for pumped hydro) etc. As always, there are trade-offs

            On the issue of grid reliability – well that is the big one! My suburb experiences the occasional blackout due to distribution line failures. But power shortages due to insufficient generation are considered a big political no-no. (Bit of a contradiction, eh?) But seriously, I think that renewables proponents need to deal more effectively with the issues of security and reliability. So far the fossil fuel lobby are running with it, and our response has been weak (or even denying that there is a problem). Yes, backup generation is a good idea for hospitals, etc. But there are equity issues. We could end up with wealthy households looking after their needs while leaving unreliable power to the masses. I don’t have the answer to what we should advocate for. Voluntary measures sound good, but what would the take-up be? Automated shedding of non-critical loads like aircon?

          • David leitch 4 years ago


            I thought I knew most of the acronyms in the literature. What is ESOI?

            Pumped storage is not necessarily better than batteries when you consider risk. I am not saying its better or worse I am saying that the issues are far more complex. For instance batteries can be distributed massively increasing grid resiliency. And of course they can be installed in increments as low as $2000 of invested capital taking 1 day. That has a big influence on the cost of capital. A new pumped hydro plant takes years to get built and has uncertain capital costs. On the other hand its effective life is longer. There are many variables to consider which on its own should make everyone and I mean everyone cautious about jumping to conclusions.

            An open mind is your best friend in this business.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            David, ESOI is “Energy Stored on Investment”. It’s EROEI for storage. Yes, each type of storage has its advantages and disadvantages. We probably need a bit of everything

          • stephan011 3 years ago

            Grid reliability doesn’t seem to be much of an issue, if there’s a modicum of care, put toward it:

            “US grid operator SPP cracks 50% wind for the first time”

            “With another generation record, Texas edges closer to 50% wind penetration”
            http://www.utilitydive.com/news/with-another-generation-record-t exas-edges-closer-to-50-wind-penetration-1/417089/

            “Solar Briefly Topped 50% of California Electricity in March”

        • Mike Shackleton 4 years ago

          Andrea, new coal fired equipment is just as expensive as wind/solar power, and that’s without trying to bring down the emissions with carbon capture and storage, which anyone with a rudimentary appreciation of the laws of thermodynamics will tell you, is the equivalent of a modern day perpetual motion machine.

          Not to mention, the investment timeframes required to make a positive return for coal equipment are in the decades, with the rapid price drops in renewables and battery storage going on, nobody can put their hand on heart and say coal fired is a good investment. In India and China the current crop of coal stations under construction are being acknowledged as stranded assets and they aren’t even complete yet.

          Add to that, we can deploy new solar at whatever scale we need in a 6-12 month timeframe, there’s no way we could do that with new coal fired stations. And we have Tesla claiming they can deploy battery storage in 90 days.

          • Andrea 4 years ago

            Mike, can you please provide the reference for your claim that conventional coal is just as expensive as wind/solar? The costs I have found are for new technology coal plants (such as supercritical). Obviously conventional coal is currently considered “unbankable” because they are considered too risky because stronger emissions policies are likely. But one needs to say that, not just claim that technology X is cheaper than technology Y. Also, it is not inevitable that emissions policies will become stronger in the future. Under the nationalist agendas being promoted by Trump et al, climate policies are under threat. IMHO, we need much stronger arguments for a rapid transition to renewables than those presented here. I much prefer the approach taken by orgs like 350.org, which are trying to undermine coal’s social licence.

            I have an excellent understanding of the laws of thermodynamics (being a mechanical engineer), but you will need to explain how carbon capture and storage is a perpetual motion machine. There are strong arguments against CCS (including risk). But I haven’t heard the PMM one! Please enlighten me.

            Modular energy generation has great advantages, including the speed of construction. However, there are issues around EROEI and ESOI, that seem to favour large-scale generators and storage. For example, pumped hydro is said to be 21 times better than batteries. Wind has a better EROEI than solar PV; however wind is more appropriate for large-scale wind farms. So it seems there are trade-offs.

          • Andrea 3 years ago

            Thanks. They said they didn’t include cost of storage in this comparison

          • stephan011 3 years ago

            Nope, that’s just the generation part. I’ve been trying to figure out the implied cost of stored kWh from the various new battery projects going in. If you have numbers for that, I’d love to know them.

        • stephan011 3 years ago

          Re: this point: “It is never wise to extrapolate.”

          I think technological learning-rates are a well understood phenomenon and can be relied up to deliver. We know that solar will continue to fall in cost, and we even know where those reductions will come from.

          We know that wind will continue to fall in cost, and we know the concrete steps we need to take, to get there.

          I think it’s reasonable to extrapolate when you have good data to support that extrapolation, don’t you think?

          For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the learning rate is the amount the cost drops for every doubling in production. The articles below have Solar learning rate at 21% – meaning the cost of solar falls 21% every time production doubles, and the Wind learning rate at 12%.

          Article on Solar learning rates (21%)


          Article on Wind learning rates (12%): https://irenanewsroom.org/2017/03/16/onshore-wind-industry-learning-fast/

          • Andrea 3 years ago

            Fine to extrapolate if all you are considering is, say, where to invest. But this is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the future liveability of the planet. Better to rely on mandatory schemes to drive decarbonisation rather than assuming that the market (based on these forecasts) will do it.

    • Tom 4 years ago

      My car only costs about $13 per 100km to run – and that’s all fuel.

      It’s so old it isn’t depreciating any more (because it’s not worth anything), and I suppose I’d better add rego and insurance to the “ongoings” – $1200/yr, 20,000km/yr, let’s call it $19 per 100km.

      It’s a shame the auto transmission is stuffed and needs fixing, hopefully before it leaves me stranded. I wonder how much that will cost? Possibly a bit of oil seeping through the head gasket too – I’m not sure, but I top it up from time to time just in case.

      Hazlewood, if you get my drift.

      • Andrea 4 years ago

        Well Hazelwood was certainly cheap because it was old and fully depreciated. But the comparison in the article was for new generators.
        It would be great to think that new gas was unbankable because of climate risk. But i don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think it’s helpful to claim that gas is more expensive than renewables because that undermines the case for a RET and govt intervention to close down coal.

  4. Ray Miller 4 years ago

    Concannon has more importantly voted with his feet and moved to a Solar company. Enabling new technology now exists to provide all the grid support services which the ancient technology did, and an order of magnitude better. We now have the computer power to manage and make predictions of the operating conditions. The energy storage technology has just moved for the future basket to the present.
    The missing element is lack of the management rules to light the wick, but with so many bush fires it is just a matter of time.

  5. solarguy 4 years ago

    As the Doors song goes…..and this is for Mr Roberts and co…….. this is the end,,,,,,da da da , everything that was, THE END!

    • Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

      they also sang BREAK ON THROUGH to the other side

  6. JoeR_AUS 4 years ago

    With the States, Territories and Federal Government all playing politics and Australian geared for 45m by 2050, we need to move all energy production and responsibility to the Federal level.

    This way we have one Government responsible and held accountable and a more likely chance of a National approach.

    • DJR96 4 years ago

      I agree. I wrote this not long ago:-

      Operational control of all the network components needs to be centralised to truly support the NEO. This is not the same as “nationalising” the network. Components and sectors of the grid can be owned by any entity. They are responsible for building and maintaining the infrastructure. They are responsible for bidding in an open market-place the price they need in return for their service. Just not the operational control. The AEMO oversees the current market and are best placed to do this. Although the systems in place may well need upgrading to fully implement such control. This is essential because relying solely on the market participants introduces opportunities for price manipulation which is fundamentally the reason for the higher prices this summer. Operating in this adverse manner is contradictory to the NEO.

    • Calamity_Jean 4 years ago

      I respectfully disagree. In both the US and Australia, it’s the Federal governments that are balking and dragging their feet on renewable power. In both countries, (some of) the States and Territories are forging ahead to carbon-free energy. Giving the whole responsibility to the Federal governments would make it too easy for the mega-rich fossil fans to prevent progress completely.

  7. Cooma Doug 4 years ago

    If the fox in the hen house, ie..certain market rules..are allowed to stay, the chooks are going to be far too nervous to lay eggs.

    If the fox is kicked out, the eggs will flow.

    In the future market if we loose suddenly, 600 mw generation from the grid, which is a typical big event today, nothing needs to happen on the grid. Milli second load side, non disruptive load shifting and response will cover it easily. In a grid load of 30gigwatts, the next 600 would be managed the same way.

    The fox in this hen house is a wedge against future market certainty. Nobody will put their chooks in there.

  8. Gnällgubben 4 years ago

    To play the devil’s advocate, it’s hardly surprising that people with a financial stake in renewables believes that renewables are the better solution.

    • Calamity_Jean 4 years ago

      It’s at least equally likely, if not more likely, that people who believe that renewables are the better solution and the wave of the future would acquire a financial stake in renewables because of that. IOW, you may have cause & effect backwards.

    • Mike Shackleton 4 years ago

      It’s a story as old as time that new ways of thinking/technology is derided by the incumbents, who will do as much as possible to protect their patch.

      When the 18th and 19th century industrial revolution was sweeping through the UK, people saw the changes as a danger – cottage weavers were losing out to the textile mills, who were housing their workforce and providing education to their children.

    • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

      Oh that would be me … with energy savings from the roof daily.

  9. Radbug 4 years ago

    How long will these incredibly cheap Li-ion batteries last before dendrites destroy their Faradaic Efficiency?

  10. James Ray 4 years ago

    The last two paragraphs hit home well:
    ‘Even though solar and storage costs are chepaer than gas, Concannon says the market barriers are significant, and many developers will wait for market signals that recognise the services they can offer. This will require significant rule changes that are currently being resisted by existing fossil fuel generators.

    ‘“It will become increasing more difficult for a centralised system operator to manage a system which is becoming more opaque with behind the meter generation and/ or sophisticated aggregation of demand/ generation in the future,” he says.’

    Renewable energy technology with solar and storage is technically and economically the best option now, it is just incumbent interests with the fossil fuel lobby and (likely corrupt) politicians (that likely do backroom deals with incumbent gas and coal generators). Somehow, we as energy consumers and citizens must free ourselves from the shackles of government and incumbent powers that hold us back from realizing a better life. We can not do so in the existing political and economic climate.

    While improving technology has its place, such as using smarter inverters that provide better grid services, and trading energy between local producers and consumers, the barriers to entry (inadequate governance) caused by incumbent interests is of more pressing concern. It seems like better governance that could be provided by the likes of Democracy.Earth is a good step in the right direction to resolve issues with not only the electricity grid, but also of many other woes that are caused by centralization of power.

    Have a look at this petition:

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