Claim: As the world battles to slash carbon emissions, Australia considers paying dirty coal stations to stay open longer

Tim Nelson, Griffith University and Joel Gilmore, Griffith University

A long-anticipated plan to reform Australia’s electricity system was released on Thursday. One of the most controversial proposals by the Energy Security Board (ESB) concerns subsidies which critics say will encourage dirty coal plants to stay open longer.

The subsidies, under a so-called “capacity mechanism”, would aim to ensure reliable energy supplies as old coal plants retire.

Major coal generators say the proposal will achieve this aim. But renewables operators and others oppose the plan, saying it will pay coal plants for simply existing and delay the clean energy transition.

So where does the truth lie? Unless carefully designed, the proposal may enable coal generators to keep polluting when they might otherwise have closed. This is clearly at odds with the need to rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions and stabilise Earth’s climate.

Paying coal stations to exist

The ESB provides advice to the nation’s energy ministers and comprises the heads of Australia’s major energy governing bodies.

Advice to the ministers on the electricity market redesign, released on Thursday, includes a recommendation for a mechanism formally known as the Physical Retailer Reliability Obligation (PRRO).

It would mean electricity generators are paid not only for the actual electricity they produce, which is the case now, but also for having the capacity to scale up electricity generation when needed.

Electricity prices on the wholesale market – where electricity is bought and sold – vary depending on the time of day. Prices are typically much higher when consumer demand peaks, such as in the evenings when we turn on heaters or air-conditioners. This provides a strong financial incentive for generators to provide reliable electricity at these times.

As a result of these incentives, Australia’s electricity system has been very reliable to date.

But the ESB says as more renewables projects come online, this reliability is not assured – due to investor uncertainty around when coal plants will close and how governments will intervene in the market.

Read more: IPCC report: how to make global emissions peak and fall – and what’s stopping us

Under the proposed change, electricity retailers – the companies everyday consumers buy energy from – must enter into contracts with individual electricity generators to make capacity available to the market.

Energy authorities would decide what proportion of a generator’s capacity could be relied upon at critical times. Retailers would then pay generators regardless of whether or not they produce electricity when needed.

Submissions to the ESB show widespread opposition to the proposed change: from clean energy investors, battery manufacturers, major energy users and consumer groups. The ESB acknowledges the proposal has few supporters.

In fact, coal generators are virtually the only groups backing the proposed change. They say it would keep the electricity system reliable, because the rapid expansion of rooftop solar has lowered wholesale prices to the point coal plants struggle to stay profitable.

The ESB says the subsidy would also go to other producers of dispatchable energy such as batteries and pumped hydro. It says such businesses require guaranteed revenue streams if they’re to invest in new infrastructure.

A questionable plan

In our view, the arguments from coal generators and the ESB require greater scrutiny.

Firstly, the ESB’s suggestion that the existing market is not driving investment in new dispatchable generation is not supported by recent data. As the Australian Energy Market Operator recently noted, about 3.7 gigawatts of new gas, battery and hydro projects are set to enter the market in coming years. This is on top of 3.2 gigawatts of new wind and solar under construction. Together, this totals more than four times the operating capacity of AGL’s Liddell coal plant in New South Wales.

It’s also difficult to argue the system is made more reliable by paying dispatchable coal stations to stay around longer.

One in four Australian homes have rooftop solar panels, and installation continues to grow. This reduces demand for coal-fired power when the sun is shining.

The electricity market needs generators that can turn on and off quickly in response to this variable demand. Hydro, batteries and some gas plants can do this. Coal-fired power stations cannot – they are too slow and inflexible.

Coal stations are also becoming less reliable and prone to breakdowns as they age. Paying them to stay open can block investment in more flexible and reliable resources.

Critics of the proposed change argue coal generators can’t compete in a world of expanding rooftop solar, and when large corporate buyers are increasingly demanding zero-emissions electricity.

There is merit in these arguments. The recommended change may simply create a new revenue stream for coal plants enabling them to stay open when they might otherwise have exited the market.

Governments should also consider that up to A$5.5 billion in taxpayer assistance was allocated to coal-fired generators in 2012 to help them transition under the Gillard government’s (since repealed) climate policies. Asking consumers to again pay for coal stations to stay open doesn’t seem equitable.

The ultimate test

The nation’s energy ministers have not yet decided on the reforms. As usual, the devil will be in the detail.

For any new scheme to improve electricity reliability, it should solely reward new flexible generation such as hydro, batteries, and 100% clean hydrogen or biofuel-ready gas turbines.

For example, reliability could be improved by establishing a physical “reserve market” of new, flexible generators which would operate alongside the existing market. This generation could be seamlessly introduced as existing generation fails and exits.

The ESB has recommended such a measure, and pivoting the capacity mechanism policy to reward only new generators could be beneficial.

The Grattan Institute has also proposed a scheme to give businesses more certainty about when coal plant will close. Together, these options would address the ESB’s concerns.

This month’s troubling report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was yet another reminder of the need to dramatically slash emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Energy regulators, politicians and the energy industry owe it to our children and future generations to embrace a zero-emissions energy system. The reform of Australia’s electricity market will ultimately be assessed against this overriding obligation.

Read more: Climate change has already hit Australia. Unless we act now, a hotter, drier and more dangerous future awaits, IPCC warns

Tim Nelson, Associate Professor of Economics, Griffith University and Joel Gilmore, Associate Professor, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Krishna Gans
August 29, 2021 2:06 pm

For a reasonable base load, some German coal plants, planned to be shut-down are declared to stay on grid….

Reply to  Krishna Gans
August 29, 2021 5:47 pm

Wind revolution ending in Germany, no electricity grid can operate with unreliable, intermittent energy supply sources like wind turbines and solar panels with average operating capacity so low as compared to nameplate design capacity.

Consider owning a car that can only be expected to start 2.1 days in every week and with no guarantee as to which days it would start.

Reply to  Dennis
August 29, 2021 6:13 pm

Funny, I drove a car like that while in college in MSP/StP.
A worn out Chevy Belair or with the straight six.
In the winter it was reliable in it’s own way. If it started during the first cranking revolution it was golden. It would start all day. If it didn’t I’d have to go looking for a starter battery.

Bryan A
Reply to  Philo
August 29, 2021 8:50 pm

I had a ’51 Ford Coupe that was so reliable around town. BUT…every time I took it out of town, something would go wrong. Usually running out of gas (gas gauge didn’t work)

Reply to  Dennis
August 29, 2021 11:09 pm

Australia has about 11M properties. A home with 2cars each, each car going an average 40km/day. That’s average 7.5kWh per car, 15kWh average per 2car house. Most houses currently use 10 to 40kWh per day (no EV, no PV) less if they use gas or small appartment. YMMV.
Total of 127.5GWh/day for the 17M cars in Australia.
They expect some will be slow charging from solar PV at home/work, some charging at other times assuming excess wind is available. Hydro & BESS primarily for early morning & evening peak. Need other green sources of woodchip, waste, renewable fuels for extra when needed.
However, large cost of over-building to have enough through wind/solar draughts & seasons.

Tom Halla
August 29, 2021 2:15 pm

Any pricing scheme that does not require intermittent power suppliers to pay for their supply being intermittent will produce an unstable grid, which the article fails to note.
Grid electricity is a service, not a commodity, and no real grid scale storage installation is in service.

Bryan A
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 29, 2021 8:54 pm

Sounds like their Coal Generation is getting a deal similar to the one that renewables received, and the envirofascists are in an uproar because of it.
For the love of (the great creator) paying a generation source when they DON’T produce energy?

Reply to  Bryan A
August 30, 2021 8:05 am

paying a generation source when they DON’T produce energy”
It’s called security of supply. If we don’t have spare capacity, we have rationing. You can have one or the other, but not both.

Chris Hanley
August 29, 2021 2:30 pm

Rooftop solar panels and wind turbines are certainly not reliable sources of electricity for obvious reasons, a university degree is not necessary to understand that.
The highly credentialed authors have their ready solutions: “new flexible generation such as hydro, batteries, and 100% clean hydrogen or biofuel-ready gas turbines”.
Nowhere in their glib and shallow article do they explore the practicality or cost implications of their ‘solutions’.

Curious George
Reply to  Chris Hanley
August 29, 2021 3:09 pm

They only consider economics, not cost. 🙂

Reply to  Curious George
August 29, 2021 5:49 pm

I believe that their primary consideration is how to meet IPCC emissions targets and brag to the other club members of climate hoax.

Cost, benefit and economy are down the list of considerations.

Gordon A. Dressler
August 29, 2021 2:31 pm

In the title of the above article: “As the world battles to slash carbon emissions, . . .”

I, of one, would like to see some objective evidence . . . in fact, any objective evidence . . . that such a “battle” is occurring.

I realize there is a lot of political bickering over this topic, but that is far short of a battle IMHO. I will yield if one wants to substitute “skirmishes” for “battles”. 😉

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 29, 2021 2:42 pm

Its a “Conversation” article. Facts aren’t important.

Reply to  Voltron
August 29, 2021 3:00 pm

Had a good laugh that that one…of course their catchphrase is ‘Academic rigour and journalistic flair’
Compromised academics .
Adj Prof Tim Nelson has a day job
Tim was recently appointed the Executive General Manager, Energy Markets at Infigen Energy. In this role, Tim oversees the optimisation of Infigen’s portfolio of energy production, energy pricing, risk management and various channels to market…’
And ‘Prof” Gilmore
GM Energy Policy & Planning at Iberdrola Australia’

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
August 29, 2021 5:51 pm

China is on the other side of the race, adding emissions to replace what foolish nations reduce and add more.

Developing nation China.

Then add all the other emission increase sources.

Dennis G Sandberg
August 29, 2021 2:32 pm

Wise on the part of Aussie regulators. The cost effective solution is to stop building wind and solar because it’s a 40 year old failed experiment. It requires too much backup and batteries now and always will be too expensive (10X the cost of the panels and turbines for a few days of cloudy and calm). The small fuel savings that wind and solar provide do not offset their capital cost.
Worst of all their presence reduces baseload earnings forcing their premature shutdown and abandonment. Low information voters do not understand this dynamic so regulators need to continue the RE (Ruinous Energy) hoax or be branded deniers, oil shills or worse. So the solution is subsidize BOTH the conventional baseload and the RE. Is this crazy or what?

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Dennis G Sandberg
August 29, 2021 4:40 pm

It’s a bit worse than that. Even if you ignore the potential for extended periods of non-generation, you are only going to get 25% (an optimistic estimate) of the capacity from wind and solar. This means that you need to build 4x the current reliable capacity.

In the unlikely scenario where you get 25% of the capacity each day, you then need to store 18 hours of that each day, so your batteries need to be existing reliable generation capacity x 18 hours.

So if you had 1GW of reliable capacity, you now need 4GW of unreliable capacity, plus 18GWh of batteries, capable of delivering at least 1GW, and capable of charging at 4GW. Think about that, you need to be able to charge batteries at any time at 4x your existing reliable capacity.

Both generation capacity and storage capacity needs to be multiplied by the maximum number of days that you might not get your unreliable capacity. I’ve no idea what that figure is.

Then you need to add the power required to charge all of your EVs. What is that? Doubling the requirement of capacity? Then you need to add the cost of all the upgraded infrastructure to shift all of that power around, say 8x existing capacity, including doubling the capacity to each dwelling for their EV charging.

Proof positive that Climate Scientologists can’t do maths.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
August 29, 2021 6:19 pm

Actually Zig Zag it’s just arithmetic, sums subtraction, and multipliction and division. And the training to keep track of the decimal places.

It’s really just a basic bit of electrical engineering.

August 29, 2021 2:43 pm

One option not noted or proposed:
Simply stop requiring the electric market to buy wind/solar whether they need it or not. In addition, have wind and solar bid in the competitive marketplace like everybody else has to.
As it is currently, the utilities are forced to buy wind and solar whether they can use it or not. Drop this requirement and the whole problem sorts itself out. Competitive bidding and supply contracts will produce the greatest efficiencies. Wind and solar would not survive, and they know it.

Now look at this proposal. Coal is proposed to get a special deal akin to the favored treatment wind and solar have gotten from day one. Look at how wind and solar Howl in Rage and Pain as a result.

“What is best in life?” “To crush your enemies — See them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!”

David Hoopman
Reply to  TonyL
August 29, 2021 6:03 pm


“As it is currently, the utilities are forced to buy wind and solar whether they can use it or not. Drop this requirement and the whole problem sorts itself out.”

Bullseye, Tony. Regrettably, “the whole problem” is a function of a pretend problem advanced by people who recognize manufactured global climate panic is the key to forcing everyone to buy their bull**** products, for which there would otherwise be no market except among 5th-grade hobbyists who get a kick out of demonstrating that you can generate a milliwatt of electricity by sticking a nail through a potato.

August 29, 2021 2:44 pm

Only extended blackouts will convince the uninitiated that only nuclear and fossil fuel energy generation is reliable. When the people figure out that “government subsidy” really means “tax payer funded” the push back should begin. Until then it’s all funny money.

Reply to  markl
August 29, 2021 3:09 pm

They found that out in NZ recently, even though they have a backbone of hydro and steam geothermal they got caught out on the coldest night of the year/record consumption.
Some small scale rolling blackouts ( as they were only 200MW short in 7GW peak ). The last coal powered plant was blamed…they had 2 turbines running but didnt bring the 3rd on, as it requires 8-10 hrs notice. Reality was ‘the wind’ which had been quite strong in afternoon ….and then wasnt at the evening peak.

Reply to  Duker
August 29, 2021 5:53 pm

Should harnessed the hot air from Wellington’s Bee Hive of socialists pretending not to be communists.

Tom in Florida
August 29, 2021 2:49 pm

” This is clearly at odds with the need to rapidly cut greenhouse gas emissions and stabilise Earth’s climate.”

I am probably not the only one who stopped reading here.

Reply to  Tom in Florida
August 29, 2021 5:21 pm

I carried on a bit further in case they were offering to pay for coal mines to not produce coal. In this Hi Tech world, I could have a cyber Australian coal mine in my office that doesn’t produce coal, thereby stabilising climate. I could make up sh!t numbers and no one would notice whether the climate was stabilised or not, until the Guardian told them that it was. 5 years free money. What’s the exchange rate?

Reply to  philincalifornia
August 29, 2021 8:32 pm

You clever bastard! How can I get in on this?

J Mac
August 29, 2021 3:11 pm

The Aussies can battle the CO2 emissions the same way they are battling the Chinese Covid virus. Lock the country down and control all movements within!

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  J Mac
August 29, 2021 4:54 pm

They not only control all movement within the country, they are the only country in the world apart from North Korea that doesn’t let their own citizens leave the country. Arrivals are also extremely limited.

Celebrities and politicians on taxpayer-funded jaunts appear to be exempt, however.

Zig Zag Wanderer
August 29, 2021 4:27 pm

it should solely reward new flexible generation such as hydro, batteries, and 100% clean hydrogen or biofuel-ready gas turbines.

Typical newspeak. Batteries aren’t generators!

August 29, 2021 4:38 pm

Here’s an idea: get the government out of it. Let markets sort it out. This is just another too-typical example of government crafting new complicated rules to apply on top of the previous not-quite-complicated-enough rules, and will be supplanted in due course be even-more-stupendously complicated rules, each of which will make the system more expensive and more fragile.

Reply to  Felix
August 29, 2021 9:03 pm

And when it all crashes, they’ll say, “What? Don’t blame me. I was doing the best I could.”

Reply to  H.R.
August 30, 2021 7:28 am

You don’t know much about markets. Look around you. As Bastiat said, “Paris feeds itself” without government coordination and planning and guidance. If all that food can get from farm to city table, reliably, day after day, I think they can manage trivialities like power plants.

Reply to  Felix
August 30, 2021 8:29 am

Markets exist on a thick layer of regulations (and compliance activities) to control market participants. Things like food standards regulations, which mean you can be confident that sticking that burger in your belly is highly unlikely to give you salmonella. Or waste control regulations, which mean your contractor is highly unlikely to dump your waste at the side of some quiet country road.
In the thread above, somebody above said power supply is a service and not a commodity. Very true.
The most cost effective way to get a power supply is to pool resources through a common network to get the best out of economies of scale. This means loss of load probability is a common element of the service. So we all get the same power reliability, and we all share in the interruptions to supply if it comes to that. Securing capacity and security of supply is therefore a “common good” and a common good means a common price for all who benefit from security of supply (total capacity on the network).
That’s why economic power power supply (provided at lowest cost over a network) can never approach the ideal market.

Reply to  Jordan
August 30, 2021 9:14 am

Markets exists regardless of regulations, and you seem to be ignorant of the power of brands and the degree to which brand owners guard their reputations. Food safety regulations do nothing that markets don’t do on their own, as would be obvious if you weren’t so blinded by your Big Government bias. Read the news, pay attention. Bad reputations have sunk many brands, and brand owners react with alacrity to problems which might sink their own.

Here’s an experiment you can try. Google for automobile safety graphs, showing injuries and deaths per Vehicle Miles Traveled. Unless changes in government regulation are specifically noted on said graphs, you cannot tell from the graphs when government stepped in. The conclusion is obvious if you will open your eyes: automobile manufacturers care about safety long before government stepped in.

The same experiment is harder to repeat with other safety regulations since graphs of injuries and accidents are harder to come by. But it can be done for some, and you would be the wiser for doing so.

Or perhaps you’d rather continue rattling off the party line and not do anything which might change your mind.

Reply to  Felix
August 30, 2021 11:17 am

Felix – don’t be so offended by a viewpoint.
I am pragmatically accepting the need for regulations. I see it all the time (and I have to work with it). This doesn’t equate to a bias for Big Government. If that’s your reaction to my comment, perhaps you should stop to examine your own bias and ignorance.
Regulation is absolutely everywhere. From drug research and medicine all the way to waste disposal. FACT OF LIFE.
The problem with “Bad reputations have sunk many brands” is that it only does so after the event. It’s a bit late after you put the burger in your stomach and you got salmonella. Salmonella is a really nasty bug, and not just a day or two on the toilet.
Security of supply is a “common good” over a large power supply* network. Economics drive in this direction because it is the lowest cost way to get the greatest security. In this situation (which is the most common seen across the globe today), security of supply cannot be bilaterally agreed in a private contract. That’s also a FACT OF LIFE. Sorry to hear you don’t like it.
* edited to add “power supply”

Reply to  Jordan
August 30, 2021 1:35 pm

“after the event” — how many government regulations are not in response to events?

Reply to  Felix
August 30, 2021 3:16 pm

Felix – Fair comment to some extent.
Regulation is intended to obstruct future malpractice, and it seeks to do so in the public interest. There will be plenty of cases where you are correct and regulation is introduced on the basis of bad experience. But regulation can also be based on the reasonable expectation malpractice is likely to happen, and taking pre-emptive steps to keep things in line.
I’m not saying that regulation is always good, and I’m not saying more regulation is better. Regulation should always be minimised, so long as the public interest doesn’t suffer too much.
So you can enjoy that burger with greater confidence that the kitchen meets hygiene standards with enforcement (inspections) and you are unlikely to get salmonella or botulism.
You can eat that burger and be more confident it is not made of minced rat (or some other unsavoury ingredient you didn’t want to eat).
You can purchase goods and services with greater confidence that they meet trade descriptions regulations, so you get what you paid for.
State Aid rules seek to prevent governments giving preferential treatment to individual companies. So if you are running a business. you know you will get a fair chance of government benefits available to people in your market, and the government is not selectively going to your competitors (which would not be in your interests).
Competition Law seeks to prevent collusion, including price fixing, sharing markets, and monopoly behaviour. It requires companies to behave competitively, so you can be more confident that you can seek the best price and services in the market.
Financial services are licensed, so you can be more confident that you will not be ripped off and lose your savings/pension if you employ a licensed financial services provider who meet the licensing standards on measures such as qualifications and custody of your money.
Tax law requires companies and individuals to pay what’s required of them. So you can be more confident that when you pay your share of taxes, your bill is being minimised as other legitimate business and individuals are paying theirs too.
The list goes on, and on, and on Felix. Regulation is absolutely everywhere and (for the most part) it protects your interest and you are better off as a result. Be realistic about it. Be pragmatic.

David Hoopman
August 29, 2021 4:46 pm

Clean energy my a**

It’s almost embarrassing to say this, but evidently the academic community is oblivious to embarrassment. Anything that produces usable energy is going to produce—NEWS FLASH—unwanted emissions or waste requiring safe disposal. I am so damn sick of hearing about “clean energy” from the Have Everything Both Ways Club that I could just scream.

Get over it! Everything you do involves some sort of tradeoff. If you can’t live with that, well…

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  David Hoopman
August 29, 2021 4:56 pm

It’s ‘clean’ for the latte-drinking luvvies. They don’t have to send their children down dangerous and poisonous cobalt mines, so it’s not happening.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
August 29, 2021 9:11 pm

Right you are Zig Zag.

They just throttle them with masks so their precious little ones can rebreathe their waste exhalations until their teeth rot and their brains starve from oxygen deprivation, thus affirming that “Mommy really, really cares.”

*SPIT* Brain dead (but caring!) idiots.

August 29, 2021 5:04 pm

As the world battles to slash carbon emissions …

The world? By what metric pray tell? The majority of countries? The majority of the population?

The trouble with debunking the greenies is that you have to start just about with the first word that comes out of their mouths.

Reply to  commieBob
August 29, 2021 5:55 pm

The science is settled you know.

Reply to  Dennis
August 29, 2021 6:27 pm

The “science” is so mucked up nobody knows WHAT is going on. When most of the activity is just throwing words around nothing will get better. The government can play musical chairs with electrons, but they can’t control something they don’t understand. These professors use bafflegab to try and make a useless point that no one will believe anyway.

August 29, 2021 5:44 pm

Before the NSW electricity assets were sold to the private sector and before the Electricity Commission was abolished they had plans for adding new generator units to various existing coal fired power stations and reconditioning the existing generator units to extend the working life beyond the accounting based closure timing of 50 years.

Bruce Cobb
August 29, 2021 6:48 pm

Not that I believe it’s true, but if the coal stations really are that dirty, why not just hire a cleaning crew to come in and give them a good scrub-down? Problem solved!

August 29, 2021 6:54 pm

Neither C nor CO2 is a pollutant.
C is a greenhouse gas but not a pollutant nor toxic.
In 2018, The Australian Department of Science etc. conducted a review resulting in the National Pollutants Inventory (NPI) which does NOT include either C or CO2 as a pollutant.
Being concerned that while few were looking, there might be an inclusion of both on the list of 93 pollutants on the NPI which dates from a Federal Government review in 1995/96,I applied to be included in the distribution list for the White Paper, the discussion paper which I received and read.
I was wrong.
No inclusion of C or CO2 was intended nor has occurred on the NPI.
What I found was that there are now two categories of pollutants in Australia-
1.”Non-greenhouse gas pollutants”(including the original 93 pollutants).
2.”Greenhouse gas pollutants” (presumably ‘greenhouse gases’ that are claimed to be “pollutants”).
The second category exists because Australia is obligated to regularly report its greenhouse gas emissions pursuant to the Kyoto and Paris Agreements.
And the reason for the second categorisation?
Either bureaucrats at the UN IPCC or some scientists who fervently believe in “carbon pollution”,or both.

Reply to  Herbert
August 29, 2021 6:57 pm

Typo: “CO2 is a greenhouse gas but not a pollutant nor toxic” in the second sentence.

August 29, 2021 7:12 pm

Clean energy, what a joke. S&W are the most TOXIC and unreliable sources that exist today and only last about 20 years.
Then the entire TOXIC MESS has to be buried in landfill every 20 years and FOREVER.
And poor kids have to labor in Congo cesspits for a few $ a day and deaths from caves-ins etc are not uncommon.

August 29, 2021 7:13 pm

It is important to remember every form of storage (battery, pumped hydro etc) creates ZERO electricity 100% of the time.
Storage devices are merely recipients of electricity created elsewhere, often electricity created by coal and gas.
Also important to remember for every movement of this electricity there is a large Capital cost and conversion loss.
Also worth remembering there are many many many ways to create and store electricity…..some dumber than others.
Many years on from the advent of “renewables”, coal, gas, hydro and nuclear remain the smartest, most efficient and most reliable forms of electricity generation. 👌

Reply to  Rasa
August 29, 2021 9:22 pm

Sorry, Rasa. I could only click upvote once. It’s not a Democrat software package.

August 29, 2021 7:29 pm

Of course if we just stopped paying subsidies to unreliable wind and solar plant that produce nothing when we need power then the coal and nuclear plants could just keep on generating 24 x 7 without a need to be subsidised as backup power.

August 29, 2021 8:14 pm

“The electricity market needs generators that can turn on and off quickly in response to this variable demand. Hydro, batteries and some gas plants can do this. Coal-fired power stations cannot – they are too slow and inflexible.”

This is a lie.

Last 24 hours in NSW

7:00PM Last Night Peak
10.3GW Total
8.0GW Coal
0.8GW Wind
ZERO Solar

4:00AM This morning Minimum
6GW Total
5.5GW Coal
0.5GW Wind
ZERO Solar

Coal is keeping the lights on in NSW

Reply to  waza
August 30, 2021 2:26 am

Coal generators in Australia do a lot of load following, here is an example snapshot of how the rising morning demand in Victoria was met in 2016, note also the fluctuations in the coal output:

comment image

Peter K
August 29, 2021 9:03 pm

Mean while Coal Fired power stations, in Australia, supply around 70% of the energy needs, 24/7. The government needs to keep them going for quite some time yet. A lot of solar and wind farms, consuming thousands of acres need to be built, to replace these, given their low energy delivery ratings.

August 29, 2021 11:07 pm

“The electricity market needs generators that can turn on and off quickly in response to this variable demand. Hydro, batteries and some gas plants can do this. Coal-fired power stations cannot – they are too slow and inflexible
Well batteries are not generators, but back-up generators and I wonder how much more hydro power can be installed in Australia.
For what I can understand, PRRO does not look as a great plan. Obviously, the cost for the capacity availability (capacity availability is a necessity !) will be supported by the consumer bills. It would have been more fair to adopt what the Finkel Report stated some time ago, that practically meant that all the generators in the electricity market should be dispatchable. So that implied that intermittent solar and wind had to do a much higher capital investment increasing , according to their capacity factor , the installed plate power and assuring suitable battery , or gas or hydro back up. In that case the cost of the capacity availability would have been supported directly by them. Certainly investors in renewable power did not like it at all and if applied, would have slow down dramatically the investment in renewable power generation.

Your choice

Ken Irwin
August 30, 2021 12:34 am

Calling coal fired plants “slow and inflexible” is just too glib.
True – coal fired generation is slow to spool up from cold – and slow to shut down again when required.
But once up and running can respond from “hot standby” quite quickly.
This also depends on the coal being burned – hard black high quality coal is usually pulverized and burned in either fluidized bed or burned very much like a gas. Such plants can be quite agile.
Moving grate types use for brown coal or lignite are certainly slow to ramp up or down and therefore should be used for baseline generation.
Certainly all coal fired plants are optimal when run flat out but to label all coal as “slow and inflexible” is just part of the demonization of coal by willfully ignorant warmists.
Additionally most modern (Western) plants are clean, going to great lengths to remove pollutants from their exhausts.
But of course if you are stupid enough to believe that plant food is a pollutant then they are clearly hideous.

August 30, 2021 12:54 am

Only Australia is considering this: the rest of the world, outside China, is busy shutting coal plant down.

Peter K
Reply to  griff
August 30, 2021 2:03 am

China is currently building 120GW of coal fired power stations this year.

Reply to  griff
August 30, 2021 5:06 am

Australia keeps exporting coal to
Taiwan and a dozen other countries

oeman 50
Reply to  griff
August 30, 2021 6:53 am

Does “China” include India, Vietnam, and Indonesia?

Reply to  griff
August 30, 2021 7:56 am

It’s okay Griff if you build one of your advanced 1950’s HVDC lines to use we will burn it and supply UK as well.

Reply to  griff
August 30, 2021 11:52 am

Why exclude China from your comment? Is it because they’re single-handedly taking up all of the slack (coal, slack, slack coal – that’s a joke, son) and then some from all of the other nations.

Reply to  griff
August 30, 2021 1:48 pm

And what, my dear Griff, do you think about what China is doing? What do you think China must do as part of the great global emission reduction and coal reduction project? Should they carry on, because its only fair?

China mines and burns more coal than the rest of the world put together. And its building and financing coal plants all around the world. How do you feel about that? Do you think its responsible? Ethical?

When you say ‘the rest of the world, outside China, is busy shutting coal plant down’ its a bit like saying that everyone in the US, except for people who eat meat fish eggs and milk, are in favor of a strictly vegan diet.

Yes, indeed they are. That means 80%+ of the population is not in favor. Its a ridiculous way to put what is going on.

Similarly everyone except China reducing means that in fact the world is not reducing at all. If the world’s biggest emitter and coal user is increasing, face it, the world is not reducing!

Iain Reid
August 30, 2021 1:42 am

This report seems to show a misunderstanding of how grids operate? Since when do you switch generators on and off to balance load and demand, it’s inconceivable.
Coal stations are not inflexible, they work very well and modulate output as required using the turbine speed governor. Boiler steam pressure is maintained depending on steam demand based on turbine load, it’s pretty much automatic and works well. Not only that large turbo alternators have significant mass and high speed giving inertia which stabilises frequency.
Of course you can’t switch them on and off, they are not designed for such method of operation and is inherent in the nature of this type of plant.
How is it an economics professor thinks he has the knowledge and authority to write reports such as this.
Mind you from what I have seen before published in The Conversation this report seems up to their abysmally low standard.

Ken Irwin
Reply to  Iain Reid
August 30, 2021 2:30 am

Ian – I think you’ve nailed it – most people’s comprehension on how electricity works goes little further than an on off switch.
Problems like grid inertia, frequency stability, harmonics, power factor etc. are just noise to them.

Reply to  Ken Irwin
August 30, 2021 3:51 am

never a good idea to have a noisy grid.

Reply to  Ken Irwin
August 30, 2021 11:54 am

harmonics … are just noise to them

Did you intend to make this pun? It’s pretty good…

Bruce Cobb
August 30, 2021 6:15 am

Why not start your own blog. Then you can spout whatever nonsense you want, without fear of being “censored”.

oeman 50
August 30, 2021 6:59 am

A capacity payment is not a “subsidy,” it is a market feature that pays generators for being ready to generate when called on. Most of the electric markets in the US have such a feature, with the notable exception of ERCOT in Texas, which recently reaped the rewards of not paying for capacity.

August 30, 2021 7:53 am

Mark really we are hoping you are in the first to go and we will do anything to make that happen 🙂

Your own blog idea has merit can I offer a few titles.
Death of a civilization I did it my way
How to max out your exit to the next world

August 30, 2021 7:58 am

German car production is obliterated …

A quick web search doesn’t find any evidence of that. German car makers, of course, are experiencing the same supply chain woes that afflict all the other nations’ auto makers. It’s a sobering reminder of how intertwined the world economies are. The left understands nothing of that. They think they can make wrenching changes to the economy without having the whole thing coming crashing down about their shoulders.

A dear friend reports a very hot housing market in Rotterdam. That’s hardly a sign of a collapsing economy.

John Kelly
August 30, 2021 8:11 am

First semi-sensible thing from the government on power for years. Too funny these out-of-touch academics don’t like the idea.

August 30, 2021 11:46 am

peak oil happened years ago

No, it didn’t.Demand may have reached a peak, but there is still plenty of oil.Changing the definition of “peak oil” from peaking production to peaking demand won’t change the actual number of barrels of oil lying in reserve.

Reply to  ih_fan
August 30, 2021 11:54 am

He is so obsessed with peak oil which is WHY he failing to realize we will NEVER run out of out oil because it will someday become too expensive to use in large quantities. It is the ECONOMICS that will be the deciding factor and a replacement fuel that will inevitably takes it’s place.

David Blenkinsop
August 31, 2021 8:15 pm

In the “Questionable Plan” section of the head posted article, the statement is made that coal fired plants can’t respond to changes in demand, unlike gas, hydro or batteries?

Well, maybe I am missing some great insight that is available only to the authors of this sort of article. I could swear that it is a basic principle of all fuel burning power plants that they actually *can” be throttled up and down! I mean, doh, put in less fuel and water, that’s a throttle down, put in *more*, that’s a throttle up? The supposed inflexibility is never explained, unless it is just a psychological projection of the very real inflexibility of so called “renewables”, which are very often impossible to throttle up when they are most needed.

Gerry, England
September 2, 2021 3:37 am

In the meantime, the UK has blown up the Ferrybridge coal power station to ensure that it can’t possibly be used. Another step closer to blackouts, brownouts or grid failure.

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