In Australia, Wind Power Is Already Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels, And Solar Is Right Behind

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"In Australia, Wind Power Is Already Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels, And Solar Is Right Behind"

According to the latest research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, electricity from wind power can now be supplied more cheaply in Australia than power from either coal or natural gas — and solar and other forms of renewable energy aren’t far behind.

Older coal-fired power plants from the 70s and 80s still compete at lower prices than renewables — but only because their construction costs have depreciated. For the deployment of any new power generation in Australia, renewables now appear to be the way to go.

Australia currently charges polluters $23 in Australian dollars per metric ton of carbon they emit, but the study concluded that wind power would still undercut fossil fuels even without that correction of the market’s failure to properly build in the costs of carbon pollution:

The study shows that electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm at a cost of [$80 per megawatt hour in Australian dollars], compared to [$143 per megawatt hour] from a new coal plant or [$116 per megawatt hour] from a new baseload gas plant, including the cost of emissions under the Gillard government’s carbon pricing scheme. However even without a carbon price (the most efficient way to reduce economy-wide emissions) wind energy is 14% cheaper than new coal and 18% cheaper than new gas.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s research on Australia shows that since 2011, the cost of wind generation has fallen by 10% and the cost of solar photovoltaics by 29%. In contrast, the cost of energy from new fossil-fuelled plants is high and rising. New coal is made expensive by high financing costs. The study surveyed Australia’s four largest banks and found that lenders are unlikely to finance new coal without a substantial risk premium due to the reputational damage of emissions-intensive investments – if they are to finance coal at all.

Here’s a graphic of BNEF’s findings, courtesy of Renew Economy:

So the study expects both coal and natural gas to rise in cost over the next two decades. Among other things, coal power consumes more water than any other source of energy. That will drive up coal’s cost, as fresh water becomes scarcer due to the very climate change driven by coal power’s carbon emissions. And in America, at least, there’s evidence that the major proven natural gas reserves will peak out within the time frame of BNEF’s analysis, rendering the boom in that energy source decidedly temporary.

Meanwhile, while the costs of solar and other forms of renewables are currently lagging, they’re dropping fast:

BNEF’s analysts conclude that by 2020, large-scale solar PV will also be cheaper than coal and gas, when carbon prices are factored in. By 2030, dispatchable renewable generating technologies such as biomass and solar thermal could also be cost-competitive.

According to companies like Ratch Australia, the cost of deploying new solar photovoltaics is already down to between $120 and $150 per megawatt hour, suggesting it may be dropping even faster than BNEF concluded. Kobad Bhavnagri, head of BNEF’s clean energy research in Australia, expects that by 2020 or 2030 “we will be finding new and innovative ways to deal with the intermittency of wind and solar.” And since Australia is most likely set for baseload capacity until at least 2020, when solar as well as wind will be undercutting fossil fuels, “it is quite conceivable that we could leapfrog straight from coal to renewables to reduce emissions as carbon prices rise.”

The world’s biggest manufacturer of wind turbines already has 50 percent of Australia’s market, which it expects to hold. And China’s largest manufacturer is eyeing the market as well. The deployment of rooftop solar is already dramatically reshaping the energy market in southern Australia, and the Green Party in Western Australia recently proposed installing solar panels on all public housing homes.

And while a move towards renewable energy by Australia’s economy certainly won’t fix global warming on its own, it’s a step in the right direction, away from the rash of heat waves and wildfires — worsened by the climate change driven by fossil fuels’ carbon emissions — that have recently slammed the nation.

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64 Responses to In Australia, Wind Power Is Already Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels, And Solar Is Right Behind

  1. The most positive thing I’ve seen in years on climate change is the rapid recent realization by the financial giants about “unburnable carbon” and the “carbon bubble”. So to me the key quote above is:

    “lenders are unlikely to finance new coal without a substantial risk premium due to the reputational damage of emissions-intensive investments”

    Both USA and China have shown that piling on lots more renewables doesn’t necessarily cut back on fossil burning. All of the above energy strategies won’t do it on climate.

    We need more than pro-renewable for a safe climate system…we need anti-fossil too. So heartening to see both carbon pricing and carbon-risk pricing emerging down under.

  2. Mark Harrigan says:

    It’s nice – but misleading. It is not comparing apples with apples

    The figures compare the cost of electricity production between:
    •Marginal costs of introducing incremental new wind, which will be intermittent with capacity factors around 30%
    •Marginal cost of introducing new modern coal, which would be baseload and quite large, with potential capacity factors above 85%
    •Marginal cost of introducing new baseload gas, which would be combined cycle plant, again quite large, again with potential capacity factors above 85%

    The headline from Bloomberg should read

    “New wind power at low penetrations cheaper than new baseload fossil in Australia”

    A fact later acknowledged on Twitter by Bloomberg when challenged

    By all means lets push renewables as hard as we can. But let;s not cherry pick the data – after all that’s what denialists do

  3. Joe Romm says:

    I’m happy to criticize bad headlines, but they don’t have to explain the whole story. I think the headline is fine. The denialists make up crap, so THAT really is not an apples to apples comparison.

    Also, true apples to apples would be paid off wind vs paid off coal — and wind would win again!

  4. Jean Netherton says:

    And in the southwestern US they are selling solar cheaper than coal generated electricity. The future is coming whether or not our bought and paid for politicians are ready for it.

  5. Turboblocke says:

    “potential capacity factors above 85%” potential indeed. In the UK actual capacity factors for conventional and nuclear was about 42% in 2011, falling from about 52% in 2007.

    see Figure 5.10

  6. Dromicosuchus says:

    …Right, before saying the following, I would just like to emphasize that I fully accept all the science behind global warming and recognize the extreme danger posed both to human civilization and to Earth’s biosphere by all the CO2, methane, and NO2 we’ve been churning out into the air. I’ve no interest whatsoever in advocating a laissez-faire approach to the climatological systems that are keeping us all alive, and think that we need to transition away from fossil fuels as soon as ever may be.

    That said, though…well, based on this and on other similar articles I’ve read, it seems to be the case that both wind and solar are rapidly approaching parity with fossil fuels, and in some places already have. Won’t it be the case that this’ll encourage a rapid decarbonization for purely economic reasons? I realize that there’s a huge installed base of coal, oil, and gas-burning plants already in existence, and those aren’t going to just be shut down, but is it reasonable to expect that in the near future, the only plants that it will be economical to build will be renewable ones, thus effectively shutting down the production of all new carbon-burning plants and forcing humanity’s emissions to stop growing and begin falling as, one by one, old plants are decommissioned? I get the impression, from articles like this, that the problem’s sort of solving itself–but that seems too convenient for me to quite trust that impression. Am I missing something?

  7. Gillian says:

    “The study surveyed Australia’s four largest banks and found that lenders are unlikely to finance new coal without a substantial risk premium due to the reputational damage of emissions-intensive investments – if they are to finance coal at all.”

    It’s nice bankers say they are leery of financing coal generators, now I want to see them equally nervous about financing coal mines.

    Currently, there is a loud grassroot campaign against one of the Big Four banks, ANZ, and their $1+bn finance for Maules Creek coal projects that will obliterate 700 hectares of remnant Liverpool Plains eucalypt forest in the Leard State Forest – rare habitat for a whole ecology of plants and animals, including koalas.

    Banks pay attention to grassroot community action – they spend a lot on promoting their reputations and public opposition can create a real stink.

  8. Joe Romm says:

    These are new plants. We need to cut emissions — and replace existing fossil fuel plants.

  9. Gillian says:

    Comparisons between an intermittent form and a baseload form might be theoretically interesting but they don’t take us very far.

    As far as I know, no one is pushing for an electricity system that depends 100% on wind generators. Proposals for 100% renewable electricity usually suggest wind as one element in a combination of renewables. The valid question re wind is whether it is cost-effective in a proposed mix of renewables.

    Solar Thermal with storage is commercially viable technology that offers baseload capacity that is better than coal or nuclear because it is dispatchable. The BNEF report shows that the cost of Solar Thermal will be comparable to coal by 2020.

    Deployment will be required if Solar Thermal is to achieve those projected lower costs, so it’s a good thing that Solar Thermal plants are now being rolled out in 10+ countries worldwide.

    Maybe the true comparison is not paid-off wind vs paid-off coal, but paid-off Solar Thermal vs paid-off coal, with some adjustment for the extra flexibility that Solar Thermal offers with respect to dispatchability.

  10. Merrelyn Emery says:

    One reason the development of the Galilee Basin has been slow has been the inability to find finance, ME

  11. gerald says:

    Renewables are the future.The sooner the major power producers embrace this reality the better it will be for all of us.

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ‘true comparison’ in my opinion, is between energy systems that put out large amounts of greenhouse emissions, which will destroy our civilization through climate destabilisation and ocean acidification, and those that do not, or emit vastly lesser amounts. Capacity utilisation etc, can go to the Devil. If renewables are, temporarily, less efficient, then so be it. Subsidise them until technology and mass production make them more efficient. Every gram of non-emitted greenhouse gases is worth its weight in something far more precious than mere gold-human survival.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I am so reassured that the banksters are concerned over their ‘reputations’. I mean, they are so very highly regarded in society for their sober habits, the absence of greed from their calculations and their general devotion to the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’. I rather imagine that their reticence might more probably be sheeted home to fear that litigation against those responsible, directly and indirectly, for weather and climate disasters caused by greenhouse emissions, launched by individuals, groups and other capitalists like insurance companies, may become a reality in the near future.

  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Figures like these make it obvious why groups are whipping small communities into an hysterical frenzy about the deleterious ‘health effects’ of wind farms – they are certainly damaging the healthy profits of the ff industry, ME

  15. Ben Heard says:

    Well mate, feel free to look up reports from the Australian Energy Market Operator on how our infrastructure is deployed. While we certainly have some peaky networks what with our temperature extremes, many plants do run at very high capacity factors.

  16. Ben Heard says:

    Isn’t is informative how Figure 1 includes natural gas and coal, but simply leaves out nuclear? This is distressingly typical of many so-called analysts in Australia, who are pushing technology barrows rather than hunting for the best solution to our existential climate and energy problem.

  17. Ben Heard says:

    For those less inclined to trust me for whatever reason, I hope you will regard Climate Spectator as a responsible voice calling for a much more critical look at this work.

  18. Gillian says:

    Tristan Edis at Climate Spectator drilled down in the BNEF study and uncovered the heroic assumptions that underpin the claim that renewables can compete with fossil fuel.

    Suffice to say that price parity isn’t likely for a while yet.

    He discusses these two assumptions…

    1- Banks are extremely reluctant to finance new coal fired power stations because they perceive a high risk that government will impose stringent constraints on carbon emissions in the future. According to BNEF this leads to a finance risk premium over lower carbon alternatives that increases the effective cost of new coal by $32/MWh.

    2- BNEF assumed the carbon price would ascend from $23 per tonne of CO2 to $44 in 2020 and keep rising further after 2020. Taking into account the 40 year lifetime of a coal this worked out to an extra cost of $51 per MWh once discounted back to today.

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Gillian, I note that the word ‘heroic’ is not used by Climate Spectator. I also note that they say point 1 is ‘spot on’. They dispute point 2 because there are many questions about how state govts, markets etc will behave in the next few years. That is fair comment. None of it really contradicts the original findings which simply acknowledge that when the tide turns, it sometimes goes out very quickly and that is what we are watching around the world, ME

  20. ToddInNorway says:

    Geothermal can be dispatchable and base load. Add this to PV and wind, which are complementary in their daily cyclic output at a large number of relevant locations, and give the system of energy storage, and it will work fine. BAck up the whole system with a few open-cycle natural gas plants that are mostly idle, just like they are today. Energy storage technologies are maturing rapidly, and will soon enable a very large penetration of renewables in the grid.

  21. ToddInNorway says:

    I have not read the report but the heroic assumption that the coal industry applies is that they can continue to find and mine cheap, high-quality coal across the globe, and thereby keep global coal prices low and stable. This is of course completely unsupported by all studies of global coal resources that are produced by relatively independent experts. Easy, Shallow, Cheap Coal is depleting fast and soon there will just be deep, high-sulphur, high-ash expensive junk left.

  22. fj says:

    Solar has always been cheaper. Can you even imagine the heating bill if we had to heat this planet?

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Climate Spectator’, eh? I mean, really, unless the usage is quite accidental, the title ‘Spectator’ is pretty familiar to entomologists who study the Right in action, and it represents a hard Right milieu not known for its concern over climate destabilisation.

  24. Spike says:

    Yes it is a great hope of mine (at a time when hope is sorely needed) that the public will leave behind the bought and paid for politicians and install their own renewables as the costs of these fall, or invest their savings into new large scale renewables developments as I have done.

    No doubt we shall see politicians on the right seeking new ways to frustrate and impede such developments at their masters bidding.

  25. Joe Romm says:

    Nuclear is absurdly expensive — indeed, no one knows how much new plants actually will cost.

  26. fj says:

    And, without wind power there’d be no Columbus Day.

  27. kermit says:

    HI, Ben. I followed your link and didn’t see any mention from this cost analysis about the the damage done from green house gases. If we factor in all of the changes in weather, the acidification of the oceans, a great extinction event, a possibly unbreathable atmosphere, and the end of civilization, how do the costs compare?

  28. Gillian says:

    Mulga – do you usually dismiss something on the basis of its name alone without reading it?

    If you read Climate Spectator occasionally you might be able to make an informed comment.

  29. Gillian says:

    True, ‘heroic’ is my word.

    Edis notes that the first point relies on governments not underwriting carbon risk then points to where the West Australian govt is underwriting carbon risk for the Bluewater 2 project and comments that the idea is not anathema to the QLD govt. So this assumption looks risky.

    He doesn’t mention the sleight of hand the Victoria govt has played to save itself and Alcoa $400m in carbon tax.

    On point 2, he notes that the assumptions are out of the ballpark because govt actions do not match policy goals.

    I wanted to draw attention to this critique because I’m weary of seeing the regular reports that renewables can compete with incumbents, or soon will, when it’s simply not true (much as I would like it to be so).

    It may be true to say that renewables would compete with incumbents IF the assumptions were true. But that is not how the BNEF analysis is being reported.

    It also disturbs me that references to the BNEF report are now echoing around the blogosphere, including here on TC, with next-to-zero examination of the actual report itself. Activists debase their currency when they accept reports like this without analysis.

    Edis finishes:

    “For new renewable energy projects to be viable at the kind of scale required to make a meaningful difference will require government policy intervention for at least some time to come. While the economics of renewables are far better than what critics realise, one needs to be careful making triumphant claims.”

  30. Gillian says:

    Related article here notes that some markets have crossed the tipping point for solar PV. As noted in the BNEF study, solar PV is already at parity in Australia.

  31. Ben Heard says:

    Joe, come off it. It is perfectly clear that nuclear is less expensive and more scalable than renewable technologies that may be able to give the same outcome. There are over 400 reactors operational and around 60 under construction. No idea? Only if you don’t want to know.

    You are defending willful blindness from BNEF.

    The Australian Energy Technology Assessment 2012 did not suffer from this problem and found “Among the non-renewable technologies, nuclear and combined cycle gas (and in later
    years combined with carbon capture and storage) offer the lowest LCOE over most of the projection period and remain cost competitive with renewable technologies out to 2050.” They even generate the exact same type of diagrams, see section 5 from page 79.

    Are BNEF such rubbish researchers that they missed this major release? I doubt it. It’s bias.

  32. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Every piece of research makes assumptions and I read many that do not report such assumptions. This one has the advantage of being explicit but that also renders it vulnerable to easy criticism. Debating the assumptions does not invalidate the findings and I just wish all the studies documenting the great economic advantages of fossil fuels would document their assumptions and the full range of factors included and excluded, ME

  33. Ben Heard says:

    Hi Kermit, you may be mistaking me as an apologist for fossil fuels. By all means dig around at Decarbonise SA, you will find I am the opposite!

    Sounds like we agree the problem is urgent, and my response is to support impartial analysis and deployment of the full range of solutions. That leads me to conclude a big role for nuclear power, which some disagree with.

  34. Ben Heard says:

    It’s true. If you have a little spare cash and some north facing roof in Australia, you would be mad not to put solar PV on it.

    That does not make it a utility scale solution or an effective pathway to rid ourselves of the use of fossil fuels. It’s a useful contribution.

  35. Ben Heard says:

    No, the headline is wrong, and the release does nothing to clarify.

    As they have admitted under pressure, recorded at the article linked by Mark Harrigan, the finding about wind prices is only relevant at low penetrations. That makes their comparison redundant, and it does not help us to find a useful way forward to getting rid of our fossil fuels.

    This pushes our national discussion backwards. False expectations are developed, and then experts are accused of being “anti renewable” when they try to point out the way things actually work. We deserve better from those who wish to be known as analysts.

  36. Ben Heard says:

    Todd, Australia is not Norway.

    While we have probably the best HDR geothermal resource in the world, we have literally been tipping money down holes in the desert outback for years now with nothing to show for it.

    It is proving almost intractably difficult to generate even small amounts of power, let alone large amounts, let alone transporting it the 1000s of km to where it is needed. The Australian Energy Technology Assessment 2012 does not see the price falling below $200 MWh by 2050, with the entrant plants being 5-10 MW. See page 75

    Hope is not a plan, know what I mean?

  37. Ben Heard says:

    We prepared an analysis and report to try to do exactly that with two reference solutions, a renewable and a nuclear, replacing two small coal plants in South Australia.

    Please note the reference renewable solution was adopted in full from renewable proponents Beyond Zero Emissions.

    The reference renewable solution is horrifically expensive with serious problems in reliability.

    Either we get open to the use of nuclear or we are stuck with fossil.

  38. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ben, Australia (people and pollies) has made it perfectly clear time after time that it does not want to go nuclear. I can’t see the national mood changing on that anytime soon or ever so why not accept that you have lost that battle, ME

  39. Geoff Sherington says:

    And how do the economics compare when you factor in the now-emerging data that windmill life is turning out to be about half of that predicted?
    Sheesh. Some people play with words and concepts just to feel morally good by some self-defined meaning of good.

  40. Ben Heard says:

    Two reasons: 1/Pretty sure I am in a better position to know. This is changing and changing fast. I will be speaking at this major mid year event

    2/ Giving up on nuclear is just tantamount to locking in coal and gas, which is not acceptable to me.

  41. Ole Laursen says:

    Huh? Where I come from (Denmark), the wind turbines from the past decades are doing just fine. Usually the manufacturers guarantee 20 years of useful life (or something similar), but it is probably to be expected that most can last much longer.

    It’s true that many of the oldest turbines in good spots (high capacity factors) have been taken down to be replaced by more efficient larger ones. The old turbines are then exported to other countries with more space and less wind penetration than Denmark.

    When you put up a wind turbine, you usually also pay for insurance. So there’s really very little to be afraid of.

  42. fj says:

    It is better than utility scale if it is broadly deployed and distributed and connected to smart microgrids.

  43. Ben Heard says:

    In Adelaide, a city of 1 million people, we now have nearly 250,000 household solar systems. They have sprung up like mushrooms. It is providing some mitigation benefit, for sure, but the emissions from our fossil fuel plants are barely abated in the context of actually wanting to decarbonise, not just nibble the problem.

    No, it’s not better than utility scale power. It is intermittent, it is dropping in output as our network hits it summer peaks in the evening, it is non-existent in our winter peaks, it does nothing at night, and on days of passing cloud, outputs will jump up and down in local network areas which is a pain to manage.

    I support it, I’ll get it on my house soon no doubt. But we should not pretend it is what it isn’t.

  44. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ben, we all know it’s serious decision making time now and I wish you well with your presentation and your conference. You probably also know one of my cousins (GR). This will be decided in the arena of public, collective opinion as it should be in a free country and as that opinion hardens against coal and gas, so it hardens aginst any technology that has a high risk of ecological damage. Given that we are moving into an era of increasing instabilty, the assumptions that underly the nuclear benefits look more risky than ever, ME

  45. Joe Romm says:

    Uhh, wind continues to drop in price, as does solar, so your comment about “low penetrations” is also “wrong.”

  46. ToddInNorway says:

    Although the article is about Australia, I did not mention any specific place in my comment. So someone has punched a few holes in the outback hoping to test geothermal power, and it did not work. So perhaps you should give up all hope for all renewables and energy storage? No, get over it and move on, Ben. Australia has vast solar insolation all over all year, so really all you need is a very aggressive rollout of PV, some reasoned load management and proper system of energy storage. Compared to other countries this is shooting fish in a barrel.

  47. ToddInNorway says:

    OK, now we know you are nuclear shill, Ben, thanks for informing us. How is that nuke in Georgia working out for ya? Vogtle? The new nuke in Finland? France?

  48. kermit says:

    Good to hear you’re not for pumping more GHG in the atmosphere, Ben. Nuclear has its own issues, however. Off the top of my head:
    1. They require a central large organization to pull the tech, materials, and people together to get a plant established. This means big profit for somebody, which is not bad in itself but I have to look askance at depending on corporate profiteers to make decisions for us. Recent experiences make me a little gun shy.
    2. They require high tech and a working infrastructure to be maintained. Will nuclear plants keep working after tsunamis, thousand year floods, wars, and other expected troubles?
    3. They’re good for a couple of generations, but they are still not renewable. Where will the nuclear fuel come from in 50 years?
    4. They are centralized. When society or the infrastructure falls apart, will they work as dependably as the solar panels on my neighbors roof or the wind farm on the local mountain range?
    5. You say they safe, but we have heard this before.
    6. Your misrepresentation of solar and wind costs are not reassuring.

  49. Ben Heard says:

    Really? Perhaps you would like to ask Bloomberg what they would need to alter in their work if they actually tried to deploy these technologies to the levels of penetrations needed to seriously displace existing fossil fuels in Australia?

    Tacking on new wind to the existing Australian grid is one thing. Using it and solar to re-boot the whole thing is quite another. Bloomberg knows it, I know it, you seem to think otherwise.

  50. Ben Heard says:

    It seems very arrogant of you to assume that I am commenting on a position of ignorance on these matters, then disagree with me backed up by no references or analysis whatsoever

    Yes, if we can’t make solar work here, what chance the rest of the world? The fact that it remains so damn costly at large scale here should provide a cautionary message

  51. Ben Heard says:

    Hi Todd,

    Having read the comment policy before I started, I’m pretty sure that type of think is not permitted, but perhaps the rules are different for those advocating nuclear. However since I seem to need to defend myself…

    “A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps a person or organization without disclosing that he has a close relationship with that person or organization.”

    You can read the acknowledgements section of that report here to ascertain whether the label “shill” is accurate

    I make my living here . My biggest clients are local governments.

    If you wish to stop attacking me and return to actual argument that can move forward, our cost assumptions are listed in full in the appendix. But if our conclusions simply lead to too much cognitive dissonance for you to remain polite, then I guess we are done.

  52. Ben Heard says:

    Hi ME,
    How refreshingly courteous. Thanks.

    Just to note the conference is not “mine”, I am an invited speaker along with dozens of others.

    I disagree very much with your high level assessments of ecological damage attributable to nuclear, most especially putting it in the same basket as fossil fuels. Perhaps we will get the chance to meet and discuss one day. In the meantime I have written extensively at my blog Decarbonise SA, as well as publishing many presentations and other media if you are interested.

    Perhaps as starter, here’s 9 minutes from me debating in favour of nuclear. We moved an audience of 1,000 Australians from a three way split for/against/undecided to a majority in favour. Enjoy, the full debate is available at ABC Big Ideas

  53. Ben Heard says:

    Ok, happy to offer some responses
    1/ Major solar projects run into the billions. A major solar player is Areva! We are stuck with big business mate, no way around it
    2/ On the basis of recent extreme events in the United States, a resounding yes, they are very robust. As to wars etc, I would just point at that they are probably more, and no less robust than anything else, but avoiding war is probably wise
    3/ Proven uranium resources are subject to the same market forces as any other mineral. With prices not changing much, exploration has been minimal. There will be loads out there, especially in Australia. The good thing is that you can double the price of U, and the price of nuclear electricity barely budges, because unlike fossil, fuel is a very minor component of electricity price. Otherwise, fast reactor technology like IFR will run on existing depleted uranium and waste, powering the whole world for, oh, 300 years with no mining required! Please see this 2 1/2 minute video to start

    4/ Two points here. Firstly, their use in no way excludes the deployment of solar PV. Secondly, I have no intention of planning around that particular eventuality!!! Plentiful clean energy should help us avoid it!
    5/ Yes, well the truth is irritating like that!!! Please see the comparative figures normalised for energy production and the independent source at this post
    6/ You will need to be more specific. Wind is not bad value in Australia in incremental additions, though it benefits from our Renewable Energy Target to pull it into the market. Solar PV is a no brainer in Australia cost-wise and penetration is rising accordingly, though it also benefits from subsidies. Solar thermal with storage is hugely expensive and I’m not aware of anyone disputing that. I have linked the Australian Energy Technology Assessment in a few other comments. 2012 work by our Federal Government. I don’t think my representations are much different to that. If you can be more specific, I can respond.

  54. Jan says:

    Exactly. Sh_t happens – but survival must be by intelligent design (ours).

    Also if the “externalities”, or health and other social costs, of coal ($500 billion/year from a Harvard U. study) were factored in where would our comparison be?

    But, your comment above makes even the real”bargain” of renewables irrelevant.

  55. Robert Marston says:

    The best average capacity factor I’ve seen for coal — in use averaged over a broad market without cherry picking — is 63%. Most are lower. Plus, the generation capacity is linked to a volatile and depleting fuel. In addition, the external costs are outrageous. How much does all the bad weather cost Australia each year, mate? How much more by 2030?

  56. Sorry, but Ben’s wrong. He creates the false assumption that wind would replace 100% of grid capacity and that grid management could not handle a sizeable portion of generation from solar pv and wind. Unfortunately for Ben, there are markets where this is already happening. Solar thermal can substitute for coal base-load. Solar pv is a peaking supply, so it provides energy when energy is highest value. And wind installed capacity is already cheaper than coal. Yes, coal has a better capacity factor in some cases. But this isn’t the only consideration for installed capacity. Costs over time and external costs are also factors.

    The headline isn’t wrong. It’s only wrong when you view it through the myopic frame you’ve described.

  57. Solar thermal can also be dispactable.

    These semantics arguments show that wind and solar really are competitive. And the prices just keep dropping.

  58. Hate to say it, but it seems to me that Ben is the one being both arrogant and short sighted. Cherry picking data and making sweeping suggestions without the needed support. For the purposes of keeping livable climates long-term, renewables are the only option. The fact that they’re cheaper than coal and nat gas by certain metrics is only icing on the cake.

  59. Ben, hate to say it, but you make outrageous claims and some pretty sweeping assertions. The support you provide is mostly cherry-picked data. Unfortunately, almost all new nuclear projects have been outrageously expensive. Low-cost nuclear just hasn’t happened.

    It’s like comparing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with existing evs. One is real and on the market, the other is an expensive pipe-dream for at least the next 20 years.

  60. Ken Bain says:

    Ben, you certainly are very informed about this subject. Can you tell me why you have not alluded to thorium as the fuel for nuclear energy as opposed to uranium? There are many benefits of thorium power as I’m sure you must know. I believe India and China are planning thorium reactors.

  61. Kent Doering says:

    Thanks Ole. I outsource for a major manufacturer of wind energy and know that Geoff Sherrington is dead wrong in his assertions about wind. The cool thing is, a University of Stellenbusch, Prof in the Republic of South Africa developed a new magnetic field type of generator which boosts turbine output by another 25% – meaning a 6 mw turbine will be putting out 8 mw in repowering. A Danish engineer for Siemens wind also designed a new kind of blade configuration which boosts energy on the turbine in lower wind situations- making it curved like a Saracen Sword- with serrations on the trailing edge like “dragons” teeth. Geoff Sherrington does not understand the concept of re-powering that you find in Germany and Denmark. (And the older smaller turbines go to wind rich coastal areas in places like Italy, Greece, Egypt, India.) The generators are refurbished, and the blades get a new coating, and voila, all they need is new tower.

    I was out on the new Hewin project last year, 90 miles off shore near German helgoland Island. 3.5 gigawatts of power on the first traunch, with two more traunches of 800 mWh each being planned after that by 2020. 5.1 GW altogether. Wind is the fastest building out form of energy in the world. Last year, EWEA,European Wind Energy Association, reported European Wind passed the 100 gWh installed capacity mark, with a prognosis for over 300 GW installed by the end of 2025. I understand Denmark will have 300 times the capacity it needs in wind, farm bio waste gas systems, urban bio waste gas and garbage incineration (for feeding long distance heat and power, solar heat and solar voltaic b 2025, i.e. totally off fossil for heat and power and train transportation and charging electric vehicles.

  62. Spencer Selander says:

    Being ignored here is ocean wave power, which is also being aggressively developed in Australia. This could replace fossil fuels for baseline power generation.

  63. Graham says:

    This is a very interesting paper ( on how we could achieve full renewable power in a decade if we threw everything at it and fully committed to the concept.

    I don’t think that will every happen though as too few people are worried enough yet and besides political and business vested interests would kill any such program, which includes the cessation of coal and LNG exports – since what is the point of getting rid our our emissions if we just ship all the fossil fuels overseas for them to burn?

    You can imagine the mining and gas industry bringing all their money and power to bear to torpedo any such effort. It is in their interest to burn every last gram of coal and litre of gas and bugger the consequences to the planet.

  64. Renewables like wind and sun are free, they don’t ruin the climate, and their costs are continuing to drop as they are developed, while fossil fuels steadily climb in cost. It’s a no-brainer that we need to invest heavily in these renewable resources, it’s only a matter of time before everyone will make the switch simply because they’ll be cheaper.