Organisations like the Australia Institute and the Climate Council never miss a chance to attack fossil fuel energy and promote the cost and reliability merits of renewable energy.
Their claims crumble under scrutiny, particularly the Climate Council’s Big Bertha of Dubious Claims:
Renewable energy is “secure 24/7”. The CC has the audacity to include this as one of its three key claims about renewable energy, all of which are wrong, as we have explained previously.
On its website, the Climate Council itself exposes the inaccuracy of its “secure 24/7” claim. It acknowledges that wind and solar power can not fulfill electricity grid needs without complementary ‘dispatchable power’ being available.
Up until the last 10 years, ‘always on’ power has been provided by coal and gas powered generators, with additional ‘dispatchable’ power provided by gas ‘peaking’ plants which can be quickly switched on and off to meet periods of high demand.
Turn off either the coal or the gas and you are at the mercy of the wind and sun. As industry, businesses and consumers have found in 42% renewables South Australia, this is a perilous path. Blackouts can be the result.
According to the CC, this is just a “myth” as dispatchable power can be provided by “hydro, biomass and solar thermal”. The problem is, there is not enough hydro because enviro-activists won’t allow any more dams to be built – even in flood prone Gippsland, in eastern Victoria, not far from the La Trobe Valley coal-fired power plants. Biomass energy is a constructive conversion of waste to energy but it is not a dispatchable power factor in the national electricity grid and nor is solar thermal.
To quote the CC from its Finkel Review ‘fact sheet’:
“To maintain electricity supply, electricity systems need to keep supply closely matched to demand.
In addition, certain types of power plants and energy storage systems provide “inertia” which helps to maintain power when supply and demand become unbalanced, or unequal over short time periods.”
Correct! What this means is reliable (dispatchable on demand) power is needed because there are periods when wind and solar simply aren’t working – when the sun is down, when it is cloudy and when the wind is not blowing or is blowing too hard.
Electricity users – particularly in industry and business, need reliable continuous electricity. To guarantee continuous supply it is necessary to use either coal or gas-power electricity. Coal plants need to run continuously, but gas power plants do not.
That is why gas power is the ideal complement to renewable energy – and it is why the SA Government reached out for gas power to save it from the blackout situation a year ago and why it has included gas generation as an integral part of its plan to keep the lights on and the industrial fires burning in future.
The CC surely suggested to the SA Government that “hydro, biomass or solar thermal” could provide the necessary dispatchable power. But the fact is, they just didn’t buy it.
The same activists opposing fossil fuels also oppose more dams. Solar thermal could provide a part of a longer term solution, but it is a long way off providing dispatchable power. And unless the CC is proposing the creation of a heap of new rubbish dump energy traps in SA, biomass energy is unlikely to fit the bill either.
Unfortunately, the claim that renewable energy is “secure 24/7” today is fanciful. It is undoubtedly a good dream for the future, but it is not enough to sustain business, industry and millions of consumers today.