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Power failure: some inconvenient renewable energy realities

By Geoff Carmody - posted Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Either way – indeed, with today's power grid, both ways – back-up costs of our blended fossil fuel plus renewables power system increase.

Against the three policy benchmarks, how does our power system score after increasing renewables' share?

Affordability = fail. Reliability = fail. GHG reductions = fail. Living standards = fail. More RETs = success.


Now what?

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing (or even more of it) and expecting different results. Whether Einstein himself ever subscribed to this definition is debated. But Einstein wasn't dumb. Indeed, E = mc2 gives us a clue to a 'trilemma' energy policy improvement.

On energy policy, Australian politicians haven't been smart. Power realities have been ignored.

We can reduce the inherent tension between affordability, reliability and lower emissions.


1. Use nuclear fuels for peaceful power here. We already export them. It can be safe. Ask France.

2. Reverse state bans on gas development. These increase power costs. Give landowners a cut.

3. Phase out all RETs ASAP. On a reliability-equivalent basis, RETs are more expensive, not cheaper.


4. Require all power dispatch be on a reliability-equivalent levelised lowest-cost basis from now on.

5. If we must price emissions, a comprehensive, uniform, national emissions consumption price is best.

We can choose a better path. If we want to. Wemay well choose more of the same. Power failure.

It's our choice.

Whatever the causes of any global warming, the consequences of our policy choices are anthropogenic.

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This is an edited version of Geoff Carmody's 5 January 2018 booklet entitled "POWER FAILURE: affordable reliable renewables? Some inconvenient realities".

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About the Author

Geoff Carmody is Director, Geoff Carmody & Associates, a former co-founder of Access Economics, and before that was a senior officer in the Commonwealth Treasury. He favours a national consumption-based climate policy, preferably using a carbon tax to put a price on carbon. He has prepared papers entitled Effective climate change policy: the seven Cs. Paper #1: Some design principles for evaluating greenhouse gas abatement policies. Paper #2: Implementing design principles for effective climate change policy. Paper #3: ETS or carbon tax?

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