Aussie Clean Energy Investment Falling as Political Support Falters

The Solar Duck Curve
The Duck curve. By ArnoldReinholdOwn work based on data from caiso.org, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Even a hint of political apathy is enough to crash investment.

Clean energy investment falls back to 2016 levels amid policy uncertainty

Katharine Murphy Political editor
@murpharoo
Wed 11 Sep 2019 04.00 AEST

The recent record investment in renewable energy is showing signs of slowing dramatically, the Clean Energy Council warns

A new snapshot of Australia’s clean energy sector warns new investment committed in the first half of 2019 has fallen back to 2016 levels, when Tony Abbott invited an investment strike when he tried to abolish the renewable energy target.

While the Morrison government has been trumpeting record recent investment in renewable energy to rebut persistent arguments the Coalition lacks ambition on climate policy, an assessment of the investment outlook prepared by the Clean Energy Council, to be released on Wednesday, warns the positive trend is in danger of abrupt reversal because of the ongoing lack of policy certainty.

“After a record breaking two years of investment in large-scale wind and solar projects, the pace of projects reaching financial close has slowed dramatically over the past two quarters,” the investment outlook says.

“Quarterly investment commitments in new renewable energy projects reached a high of over 4500MW in late 2018, but has since collapsed to less than 800MW in each of the first two quarters of 2019.”
The report says the large-scale RET, which winds down after 2020, led to 15,700MW of new capacity being financially committed over the past two years, with that generation either under construction or recently commissioned.

“But with the absence of policy certainty beyond the 2020 RET and a range of regulatory barriers to overcome, investment commitments in new generation have fallen dramatically this year.”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/sep/11/clean-energy-investment-falls-back-to-2016-levels-amid-policy-uncertainty

If clean energy is now cheaper than coal, why is the enthusiasm of green energy investors so dependent on the whims of politicians?

The reason of course is that claims green energy is competitive with fossil fuel are a lie, or at best a half truth.

Solar and wind energy supply tends to peak around midday, when electricity demand is low (see the diagram at the top of the page).

But peak demand usually occurs in the evening, when people cook dinner and switch on their home heating or air conditioners after coming home from work.

Solar power plants can’t supply electricity when people want electricity. Even wind turbine operators struggle; the wind tends to die down in the evening.

Without government support renewable operators would struggle to make a profit, because they would be fighting over scraps during low demand periods, and would consistently miss cashing in on peak demand periods.

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78 thoughts on “Aussie Clean Energy Investment Falling as Political Support Falters

    • Night-time charging would help level out the load curve. Car batteries could be a useful means of storing cheaper off-peak production. If city parking facilities were fitted with charging points they could make use of maximum solar output and become part of battery back-up we are always hearing is needed for solar.

      Tariffs could be used to curb the evening peak. If the higher cost of production was passed on to customers, they could chose to run appliances like washing machine, dishwasher and electric water heaters after peak demand.

      • Hi Greg,
        Night time charging does nothing to level a load curve if one’s grid is heavily handicapped with solar capacity, unless you propose installing floodlights over all the PV cells? If one foisted ‘smart chargers’ and a ‘smart grid’ on EV owing customers, the more likley outcome is the batteries are charged during the day at work, then discharged into the grid as distributed storage at night with the result that the car is flat in the morning when the owner wishes to drive to work
        Suggesting customers can run washing machines and dishwashers during the morning is all well and good, but the wind turbine factory or lithium processing plant that needs uninterupted 24hour a day production to produce all the clean energy capacity demanded by imaginary carbon neutral economies run on unreliables can’t afford the luxury of shutting down when low winds and inclement weather lead to a low supply/high tariff. Nor can a hospital decide to switch off life support machines during peak tariff hours to suit the supply whims of unreliables.

      • certain plans for Aussie power users do offer cheaper night rates
        but thats between 11pm /7am
        Im not sure about you but being able to do ONE load of washing on auto overnight and having to hang it out before rushing to work , is’nt appeaking to many busy mums or workers.
        being able to afford to cook in an oven only in those hours or over the wekend(same cheaper rates apply) also isnt ideal unless you shift work.
        and all electric aussie waterheaters DO work only on a night rate heating cycle unless you go and manually do a” day boost” switch..which you DO need to remember to reset or pay a scary bill later;-(
        sth aus has banned any electric storage heaters being used in new homes already- idiots.

        • Also do you want a washing machine running when you are trying to sleep? I do not. I prefer to be up and close by when my machine is running. Water damage if it malfunctions or a drain gets blocked up is not a good thing to deal with.

      • A shallow piece of logic. The problem with wind/solar is NOT only that it occurs at the wrong time of day (batteries can translate SOME of the power across day segments)
        but that it often doesn’t occur at full or even quarter force over DAYS (or even weeks for wind), long beyond the capabilties of any practical battery system.

        • In Alberta Canada, the coldest days of the year are also accompanied by the quietest days of the year and, on days when the sun rises late and sets early over the low horizon (ie: no solar possible). In Feb 2019, we had approx 3 weeks of highs less than -15’C and lows around -25’C with extremely little wind. (https://www.accuweather.com/en/ca/calgary/t2p/february-weather/52479).
          Our 1449 MW of installed wind capacity often only produced at rates of 20 MW or less. No currently advertised “green” power storage device / scenario comes anywhere near to preventing the entire province from freezing solid.
          On our coldest days of the year, when we need it the most, the wind blows the least.
          BTW, the same trend happens in summer. The hottest days of the year are accompanied by “hardly a breeze”.

      • The idea that we could use car batteries to store off peak production is one of the looniest ideas to come out of the global warming cabal.
        1) You are assuming that the batteries will be plugged in when off peak production is occurring.
        2) You are assuming that customers won’t mind the extra charge and drain cycles on their batteries (which shortens the already too short battery life)
        3) You are assuming that the customers won’t mind when they get up to go to work and find out that their cars won’t start because the charge in them was used to keep the grid up over night.

      • That’s so third world, the idea of running appliances based on cost of electricity! Australia has been moving in the wrong direction for a while.

      • Yo, Greg:

        Maybe working people could get up at 3am and do laundry!

        But seriously, people have a bad habit of wanting to come home after a working day, turn A/C on, cook dinner, wash dishes, turn on lights, and watch TV (or whatever).

        • I know, pass a law requiring businesses to stagger their work hours.
          Would help with traffic congestion as well.
          /sarc

  1. In the USA, the expirary for qualification for the PTC after 31 January 2019 means US wind turbines installations are going to plummet like a stone after they fully expire in 2021. That’s why the windmill ax-credit farmers are in a rush to get as many turbines started as possible right now in Texas and elsewhere.

    U.S. wind to ‘peak’ in 2020 as tax credits expire — report
    “A tightening window for developers to complete projects – before the wind PTC fully expires in 2021[*] – will trigger 14.6 gigawatts of added wind capacity in 2020 before a pronounced downturn, the analysis said. The consultancy forecasts a more than 50% drop in wind capacity between 2020 and 2022, as the industry’s primary federal incentive reaches its end.”

    https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2019/09/13/u-s-wind-to-peak-in-2020-as-tax-credits-expire-report/

    No doubt the subsidy farmers desperately want a Democrat President in 2021 to be able to sign some Congressional legislation extending the tax scam on the US taxpayers. Which no doubt Trump would veto, if if could even get through the a GOP-controlled Senate.

    Renewable tax-credit scammer and declared Democratic Presidential candidate Tom “Stinky” Steyer is setting up to transfer many tens of millions of his own dollars directly to the DNC and state Democratic Committees by exploiting a loophole in Federal Election Commission rules on donations. Stinky can contribute as much as he wants of his own money to his campaign committee account, simply by being a declared candidate. And then he will be able to transfer that unlimited amount from his campaign accounts to Democratic Party committees around the US to try to win the Senate for Democrats and of course the President for which ever DNC clown car passenger gets their nomination once he formally withdraws from the Democrat’s primary race. This of course completely bypasses the $38,500/year donation limit that normally applies. This is the only reason for his campaign, to bypass FEC limits on donations to Democratic party committees.
    And the Senate Democrats-engineered lack of a quorum on the FEC means the current commissioners will be unable to close this loophole before Stinky is able to drive his many millions to Democrats to try to buy their victory in November 2020.

    • That would explain the increase in traffic of ships offloading blades and tower sections on Harbor Island at Port Aransas, where they are being trucked inland with some annoyance. They are also dredging the channel for bigger ships, difficult because of constrictions. Recently had one on wrong side of channel, ferry at dock had to temporarily remove passengers without their cars, but only a near miss.

      Offloading takes place next to offshore platform storage, interesting contrast. (contradicton?)

    • The Mainstream Media gets away with donating about $6 Billion worth of free advertising to the Democrats annually.

      CNN should be fined $900 Million for the last 10 years when they ceased being a news organization and took up the burden of being the Ministry of Propaganda for the Democrat Party.

      The Republicans should set up the RNN (Republican News Network…similar to CNN = Communist News Network). That would multiply their donation base several fold.

  2. I can count on one hand the number of Oz politicians that are prepared to go on Camera and call out the CAGW scam for what it is , Craig Kelly is the standout in our defence against the Green dream .
    It seems the inner city Green voter has to be appeased while all others (the majority) have no voice because we have no Trump at the top .
    I’m hoping that when our PM meets Trump this week some of his mojo will rub off on Morrison .

  3. Show me that duck curve again with grid scale batteries replacing peaker gas plants…

    (And surely California wind is often contributing more in the evenings?)

    Californian load will depend on aircon use, which will be high when solar output is high

    • Griff, I’ll see your grid scale batteries and raise you a unicorn treadmill.

      Aircon use surges when people come home from work, not during the day when nobody is home.

      • griff lives in a world where if government passes a law requiring something, it will happen.
        Physics be damned.

        • Not many people have A/C in the UK it’s generally not hot enough in summer and electric/gas is used for space heating during winter. Electricity costs in the UK are quite high so most can’t afford A/C anyway.

    • why invest in expensive and polluting “grid scale” batteries, when you have ample clean gas available?

      It’s false solution to a false problem.

    • Musk’s wonder battery in SA is good for 109 MW and 129 MWh and cost $90 million. That is equal to a small peaker plant that can only run for less than 90 minutes.

      And no, aircon use peaks in the late afternoon everywhere, even in California. It is known as “thermal inertia”. The temperature does not peak at high noon.

    • Show me the duck curve using Unicorn farts to produce power.

      Will have unicorn power long before we have grid scale batteries.

    • The solar output in the duck curve above averages 5000MW for 10 hours. That is 5E10Wh. Grid scale batteries are costing USD1/Wh. At deep cycle, the best battery will last around 10 years. So USD50bn to store and release 6.6E17J over the life of the battery to shift demand and avoid running gas plants at night.

      The same demand could be met with 2E18J of gas (at 30% conversion efficiency) costing USD3/GJ, totalling USD6bn. So spend USD50bn to save USD6bn. That is a capitalist’s dream providing they do not have to live with the economic consequences; just lock in guaranteed returns.

    • griff, grid scale batteries are not now and never will be economical. Yes, everyone knows we don’t use petroleum for electrical generation….but we do use coal. Lithium batteries are 500% more expensive than coal storage.
      copy/
      Consider Tesla, the world’s best-known battery maker: $200,000 worth of Tesla batteries, which collectively weigh over 20,000 pounds, are needed to store the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil.[49] A barrel of oil, meanwhile, weighs 300 pounds and can be stored in a $20 tank. Those are the realities of today’s lithium batteries. Even a 200% improvement in underlying battery economics and technology won’t close such a gap.

    • Griff, you ever hear of “setback” thermostats? I wonder when they are set to lower the temperature. I’ll bet it isn’t when there is maximum sunshine.

  4. Eric, you said ‘Without government support renewable operators would struggle to make a profit’. Why should any industry be guaranteed a profit in a capitalist economy, especially one that produces a product guaranteed not to work most of the time?

    • The theory is that government money will lead to technological innovation which will then spill out into the general economy. A standard example is the integrated circuit whose development was spurred by the space race. link At least that approach realizes that the government shouldn’t be the one doing the innovating.

      In theory, wind and solar can power the energy needs of the nation with room to spare. There are just a few tiny technical details, like storage. It’s like Thomas Sowell says:

      Socialism is a wonderful sounding idea,” he said. “It’s only as a reality that it’s disastrous.

      Government money appears to have accelerated our progress into our modern technological society. Dumb people will use that as an excuse to throw money at everything.

      • The extra demand for integrated circuits due to the space race was so small as to be nearly measurable.
        Computer makers wanted them because they drew less power, were more reliable and were much faster than individual transistors.
        Radio makers wanted them for the same reason.
        The idea that the space race was a major driver of innovation is a complete myth.

        • Take a look at who invented the transistor – Bell Labs. That group was a major source of innovation during the fifties and sixties. Telcos desperately needed ‘mechanisms’ that could automate the connections of long distance calling, and the associated billing. Direct dialing was not an option in the 1950s. You had to place the call through an operator, who manually recorded the calling time, date, call length, etc., for the billing department to, again, manually, compute the bill.

          Can you imagine the impact on the quailty of life, and the drag on the economy, if it were not for the R&D of businesses based solely on their need to grow and expand, i.e. make more money?

          Would this have ever happened under a socialist regime?

          • Wouldn’t have happened under a Luddite regime, either.

            Imagine all the articles that could have been written about the end Western civilization as telco operator jobs were replaced by silicon.

            Early 20th century grocery store clerks walked around with customers, using hooks to pull products off high shelves before checkout…that was replaced by self-service shopping & check-out.

            My favorite has to be the great state of Oregon, declaring gas-pumping a dangerous task, and not allowing self-service gas stations, thus preserving jobs of bib-overall-wearing gas-pumping yahoos (in fairness, New Jersey also did this, but I think that was so mafia guys could wipe your windshield and solicit “donations”).

          • Gas pumping IS a dangerous task. It just isn’t a HARD task. Kind of like driving a car around at 60 miles an hour. You just need a few rules enforced to help keep thing relatively safe.

            For gas pumping those rules include not leaving your pump unattended while pumping, and not smoking. Simple things, but brake those rules and you’d find yourself banned from a station pretty quickly.

            I believe there WAS a study done on how much self service increased the rate of accidents at the pump, and it found it didn’t after a ‘learning period’ where drivers because acustomed to useing the equipment.

            Meanwhile, many gas stations now have upwards of a dozen pumps. Can you imagine what that would do to costs if they all needed attendants?

            ~¿~

          • You only have to look at the living conditions and progress made in the Eastern bloc during the cold war era to answer that.

      • Often I agree with Sowell, but not on the first part of this statement. Socialism is not wonderful sounding. No life, highly planned, orchestrated by bureaucrats, with subsidies for correct behaviour, without struggle and reward, and offering only guaranteed mediocrity, sounds at all desirable.

        • It sounds good to those who are convinced that the only reason why they aren’t successful in life is because some rich guy stole the stuff that should have been theirs.

          • This is the Left / Right divide.

            The Left believe they deserve stuff because they are good humane people.

            The Right believe they should keep their stuff because they earned it.

  5. Eric

    “The reason of course is that claims green energy is competitive with fossil fuel are a lie, or at best a half truth.”
    should be:
    “The reason of course is that the claims thatgreen energy is competitive with fossil fuel are a lie, or at best a half truth.”

    Great to see reality catching up to fantasy..!

  6. “When green energy isn’t so green: Retiring worn-out wind turbines is a wasteful process”

    https://www.theblaze.com/news/retiring-worn-out-wind-turbines-is-a-wasteful-process?xrs=RebelMouse_fb&ts=1568243144&fbclid=IwAR2gnQ2gRV31CxtoSkqCfI2OlegFZoZPgLuAM0Sj7Vw1G0g9NTrQ3UEbN7k

    “To make things worse, the United States will have to figure out what to do with an estimated 720,000 tons of blade material over the next two decades, according to the report.”

    • Getting rid of glass-fiber reinforced plastic isn’t easy. It can’t be recycled and it is damn difficult to even break up. Even garbage burning powerplants won’t touch it, melting the glass fiber eats up the energy gain and it clogs up your boiler with molten glass.

      I remember trying to get rid of a lot of obsolete largish missile containers of glass fiber reinforced plastic. They finally ended up being quietly buried in a distant corner of an airforce base, and the displaced earth carted off as landfill. Almost certainly illegal, but nobody had any better idea.

      • I had a similar problem, we dummy loaded them with sand bags and repurposed them as a training aid for reserve/guard guys for loading and unloading. Took a while to get the management to understand that no commercial hauler would touch them.

  7. our future will be renewable or will be nothing ! gaz was made by green energy first ! your analysis is just fake !

  8. In South Australia, where most of the wind is located, wind power has a habit of dying like that swan in Swan lake in late afternoon, and being strong at night, so wind and solar tend to produce a double-duck, with little output at the critical early evening period. Here is an example from Christmas 2016, as in cricket Australia is the lucky country, often having its peak demands curtailed by public holidays:

    https://climanrecon.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/sa_xmas2016_e.jpg?w=1024

  9. Mark broderick.

    NEWS SEPTEMBER 11, 2019
    When green energy isn’t so green:

    As it turns out, most of the wind turbine’s structure can be sold or recycled, but the blades — which are made of a mix of fiberglass and resin — cannot.

    “These towers may be supporting as much as 150,000 pounds, 250 feet in the air,” Rob Van Vleet — who is in the process of scrapping a wind farm in Kimball, Nebraska. “The stands are an inch and a half thick steel … so they’re very strong.”

    But, Van Vleet add, “The blades are kind of a dud because they have no value.”

    To make things worse, the United States will have to figure out what to do with an estimated 720,000 tons of blade material over the next two decades, according to the report.

    And how are the blades disposed of? The answer is cumbersome and costly. Because the parts are hundreds of feet long, they have to be cut up on site and then hauled away on special equipment just to get them to a landfill. HOW IS THIS HELPING THE PLANET 😐

    • I hope the people cutting those blades up have a good health plan; toxic chemical fumes and shattered glass and mineral fibres, kind of like slicing up synthetic asbestos…

    • Also as the blades still in use age, they start to shed microfibres. And often the ground underneath is used for grazing, so the animals can ingest the microfibres. Another problem heading our way.

      • How about an active volcano? And I’m being serious here too.
        The best thing to do with the blades is to melt them back into silicate.

  10. a raved up solar v setup in the riverland has just gone into zombie mode as the original mob planning to run it had their biggest proposed buyer OF the power drop out
    no one eles wants to touch it(wising up slowly) so now the councils got a bit of a problem with the land and debt incurred
    made me laugh

  11. $1.6B in Federal loan guarantees … $600M in Federal subsidies. For a total of $2.2B in taxpayer money wasted on a really kewl Popular Science magazine “answer” to Nevada’s energy needs.

    https://www.pe.com/2017/01/23/ivanpah-solar-plant-built-to-limit-greenhouse-gases-is-burning-more-natural-gas/

    Yeah … right. It’s just a coincidence that Nancy Pelosi’s and Gavin Newsome’s families are PROFITING from all that “green” energy “investment” (read: they’re spending YOUR money on THEIR own personal luxury lifestyles which include a carbon footprint 100x larger than yours).

    • This link about the Ivanpah bird mincer is dated early 2017. Have we an update on this showing how much natural gas is used not?

    • Are you out of your mind?

      Expecting the government to accurately plan for future costs?

      Nobody came close to accurately estimating, disclosing or internalizing decommissioning cost for nuclear…

    • I believe Germany is the only country that makes the wind farm operators responsible for their decommissioning.

  12. I’m astounded at the sheer ignorance of the renewable crowd. Not only are they pushing the wrong technology (renewable, not low/no carbon) but they are pushing a really stupid technology, one that requires duplication of capacity and all the costs of maintaining that capacity. If these morons would bother to look at future energy technologies that intelligent countries like China and India and Russia
    are rushing to devlop (smallmodular molte salt Thorium/uranium reactors, they would simply wait the few years before commercialization of this revolutionary technology. But NO……. these morons want to get credit for saving the planet NOW, although there strategy will actually take longer to implement.

  13. From The Australian (Mon Sept15 2019)-

    ‘Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has not ruled out scrapping Bill Shorten’s 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030, saying the party would now re-examine its promises on climate change.
    Mr Albanese and his climate spokesman Mark Butler both shied away from recommitting to the target on Sunday, amid frontbench division on how ambitious Labor’s 2022 election policy on climate change should be.
    “(The 45 per cent target) was a commitment that was given in 2015,” Mr Albanese told reporters in Sydney.
    Read Next

    “We will examine our short and medium and long term commitments on where we go on climate change but we won’t re-examine our principles. We want to work towards zero emissions by the middle of this century.”’

    So long Greta and the Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima. Think of it as an aspirational target grown-ups.

  14. Pre-dispatch bidding in the Australian NEM has become challenging for wind and solar. The subsidies, in the form of large-scale generating certificates (LGCs), have taken a price dive to AUD48/MWh (USD33/MWh). This follows the demise of the Labor party and continuing “policy uncertainty” – meaning target market share for intermittents has remained at the pre-election level.

    Coal fuelled generators are now able to tolerate the low negative prices that grid scale intermittents are willing to accept. That means the intermittents are voluntarily curtailing to avoid large negative prices. The coal plants are bidding enough capacity at high negative price to ensure dispatch in the knowledge that the grid scale wind and solar cannot tolerate periods of significant negative price. The dispatchable generators are able to force prices up to high levels during the evening peak when the sun has gone and wind not doing much. Wholesale prices in QLD and SA can swing from minus $200/MWh to plus $300/MWh on a daily basis.

    This link shows the situation in the Queensland market on 25 August:
    https://1drv.ms/u/s!Aq1iAj8Yo7jNgzu5YvqXCxNwLUSk
    The grid scale solar has curtailed through the peak of the day when the rooftops (yellow line) were doing their best. If the grid scale were not tracking arrays they would be even worse off.

    It is now a very challenging environment for the intermittent generators. This is probably the worst time of year for them because supply is quite good while demand is a long way below the summer peak. However this time of year is a good indicator of how it pans out. Grid scale intermittents will struggle to make money because their market share is being eroded by always dispatched rooftop solar eating away market share. The coal generators just run enough plant so they stay in production throughout the day, accepting negative price through the middle of the day but forcing price up at night so they are profitable.

    There are some co-gen plants that are suffering a little. Their waste heat is just sent to the atmosphere when prices are negative. So they are often taken out of dispatch when they could be generating. Note there are is no gas generation when the grid solar is curtailed. The gas used through most of the day is all co-gen that has zero fuel cost; just wasted heat. But they will not accept negative prices. In fact they are being paid to used electricity in the rest of their plant when prices are negative – seems screwed up.

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