Essay by Eric Worrall
A string of early fossil fuel generator retirements is endangering the stability of the Aussie grid. But an even worse problem could be looming over the Aussie economy.
Don’t let fossil fuel plants retire too early: EnergyAustralia
Colin Packham Energy and resources reporter
Nov 24, 2022 – 3.48pm
Australia must adopt agreements between governments and companies that govern when a fossil fuel generator can be retired to ensure grid stability, the head of EnergyAustralia has said.
Under mounting social and economic pressure, several generators have announced plans to accelerate the closure of fossil fuel plants. AGL Energy on Thursday became the latest, announcing it would shutter its ageing Torrens Island B gas power station in 2026, citing the construction of a new interconnector cable that is set to plunge the generator into deeper losses.
The closure could have occurred as early as next year, but the South Australian government has struck a $20 million deal to keep it going until at least 2026.
Although there has been wave of new generation assets pledged, Mark Collette, managing director of EnergyAustralia – one of the country’s most measured voices in the country’s energy debate – said Australia was not developing new renewable energy generation assets quickly enough to compensate for the loss of traditional power sources such as coal.
…Read more: https://www.afr.com/companies/energy/don-t-let-fossil-fuel-plants-retire-too-early-energyaustralia-20221123-p5c0pc
The big missing asset is energy storage. But there are also massive shortfalls on the generation side.
So why would energy companies push forward with plans to retire fossil fuel generators early, presumably in the full awareness there are not enough renewable assets to replace the retired fossil fuel assets? Knowing that early retirement of reliable energy could hard crash the Aussie power grid?
Perhaps this is the wrong question. In my opinion, the right question is – how much taxpayer’s money would the Australian government be prepared to spend, if the Aussie electricity grid actually collapses? Millions of voters screaming for a solution, demanding the power be restored, no matter what the cost?
There is only one way Australia could rapidly raise the hundreds of billions of dollars required to set this nightmare scenario right – we would have to sell freehold access to our vast mineral resources. No taxes, no royalties, the new owners could come in, bring in their own workers, and extract whatever they wanted, keeping all the profits for themselves, in exchange for restoring Australia’s electricity supply.
If I am right, Australia’s leaders are walking Australian taxpayers straight into a trap, which could lead to an enormous long term loss of national income, and the rape of Australia’s mineral wealth.
Note I am not accusing anyone of deliberately attempting to engineer this nightmare. There could be bad actors involved, but bad actors are not necessary to explain what is happening. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” – Hanlon’s Razor.