March 04, 2018 | Graham

So how cheap is renewable energy?

This table from Peter Rees is an interesting analysis of proposed power plants for South Australia. At a time when zealots are claiming that so-called renewables (wind and solar) are cheaper than alternatives, the reality of building costs says otherwise. The notes and commentary are Peter’s as well.


The three renewable projects will produce a total average output of 208MW at a cost of $2050 million. (Intermittent with a few hours storage). Last June, AGL announced plans to build a 210MW gas plant at a cost of $  295  million. (Despatchable)

  1. The gas plant will probably employ less than 20% of the personnel required for the three renewable projects
  2. Gas plant maintenance is minimal, renewable maintenance is huge. EG The Tesla powerwall batteries are only guaranteed for 10 years and current replacement value is about $550 million.
  3. The gas plant doesn’t need backup, storage, subsidies or extra grid , renewables do.

The data above clearly show that the 3 proposed renewable projects for South Australia are extremely expensive, and mainly provide intermittent electricity. They are only viable because of hundreds of millions of dollars of ongoing subsidies and common sense should tell you that projects like this will massively increase the cost of electricity.

But we have a raft of “experts” telling us that they will:

  • “Put downward pressure of prices”
  • “Lower electricity prices significantly”
  • IN his marvellous chronicle of human gullibility, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles Mackay wrote: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

Posted by Graham at 10:38 am | Comments (13) |


  1. Comparison of the capital cost/kwH of a gas plant to solar and wind makes no sense whatsoever. You need to consider the fuel costs. The fuel input cost for a gas plant is higher than for wind and solar which are free.

    Comment by ColinTwiggs — March 5, 2018 @ 12:13 pm

  2. When they are that many orders of magnitude more expensive the fuel doesn’t make a significant different. They are substituting interest costs for fuel. Of course the costings above don’t account for the systemic problems associated with power generation that is only functioning 20% a day (solar) and requires back-up because it is unreliable.

    Comment by Graham — March 5, 2018 @ 1:41 pm

  3. The gas, (or Oil or Coal), is actually free too. It is the cost of the discovery, infrastructure, maintenance, depreciation, administration, labour, etc. that determines the cost.
    In the case of ephemeral sources of energy, you need to add the costs of supplying and maintaining a duplicated energy source (or sources) to provide the essential ‘baseload’ (24/7) power as well.

    Comment by Ian McClintock — March 5, 2018 @ 3:52 pm

  4. Make it a 25 Year ROI, add in CO2 emissions, the fuel costs and operating costs and you might have a good comparison to debate.
    The roof top solar installs come out at $16,000 each – seems about 3-4 time the current market price for a 5kw install.
    At least SA is not spending the same to refurbish two sporting stadiums !

    Comment by Julian Bowker — March 6, 2018 @ 6:24 am

  5. I’ve seen credible estimates that see unsubsidized renewables like wind and solar, produce power at around 50 cent per KwH.

    I Don’t know about you, but at that sort of money I’ be flat out running a fridge, the obligatory washing machine and the stove, let alone a light, the TV, the stereo or the laptop!

    As for the air conditioner during the next granny killing enduring heat wave! Forget it! Why during the worst heatwave in recent years, when the mercury climbed Above 47C out Charleville way.

    Folks in our cooked southwest reported electricity bills of up to $7,00.00 for the affected quarter. And a regional mayor reported the economy went into meltdown, [not her words, mine,] as a consequent result of destroyed discretionary spending! And this was subsided coal fired power?

    Moreover, renewables are not the carbon free power the ideologically driven, diabolically disingenuous green devotees claim?

    Wind turbines have to turn for a reported 30 years to offset the carbon created in their manufacture. And due to lack of transparency and credible reporting, nobody reports the mountains of waste. That continues to impact very negatively on the environment for centuries!

    Simply dumped in adjacent land beside China’s massive solar panel manufacturing plants.

    Everybody with a still functioning brain now knows Coal has a very limited future. Farmers and the corporate world, insurance companies, financiers and due diligence law firms are preparing for the carbon free world of tomorrow.

    With only a few recalcitrant intransigent or diabolically dumb politicians dragging the chain!

    Why some of our most conservative pollies, suddenly found their inner socialist and proposed the government built a government owned coal fired power station? And without first consulting the taxpayer!

    Is this the USSR?

    Even so, we simply can’t have a functioning economy if our future is too reliant on renewables, even with battery backup, which will need to be replaced in whole or in part every decade!

    And conflicted politicians, with demonstrably divided loyalties, obsessed by internal conflict and incompatible ideologies within their political structures? And arguably serving foreign investors or anybody else, before their constituents? Are not assisting!

    We need to come to terms with some politically unpalatable realities and what we need to do about climate change and the continuing supply of dispatchable, reliable, affordable, base load power!

    And that is not the current price gouged, privatised or corporatist model! It can’t be! And as self evident as the nose on your face or the staggering numbers on your power bill.

    I not public? Then rolled out as employee owned and operated co-ops? Why? because that model, even if necessarily financed and facilitated by government, will beat the pants of every other private enterprise model and the old public or sovietized model!

    And if mealy mouthed, Poppijay pollies (smiling jakasses with manure for brains) think that a couple of hundred a year, given as non core or unaffordale promises, [like the pensioner’s electricity supplement,] stripped from these eye watering power bills over a year, they’re seriously mistaken!

    And will know so they next time they ask the electors for another term or turn!

    Nobody still undertaking legally required due diligence is going to invest in Thermal coal, even if reported crooks and tax avoiding con artists have proposed they will?

    Always providing we lend them the money. Build facilitating infrastructure, subsidise their operations and guarantee their other loans.

    A few billions of which may find its way into un-numbered accounts in the Cayman or Virgin islands?

    And because I haven’t mentioned them by name! Nobody can say I was inferring that Adani were the crooks/con artists alluded to.

    That said, what can we do about our future energy needs? For mine, it can’t be fossil fuels or horrendously expensive unreliable and intermittent renewables!

    So what’s left? Well there’s biogas created by processing human or other biodegradable waste onsite and then using the methane thus created to fire up locally sited and transmission line free, ceramic fuel cells. Where the consequent exhaust product is mostly pristine water vapor.

    This 80% energy coefficient combination outperforms coal fired power, four to one and would put huge demands on our faltering steel industry and for the decades we’d need to retrofit these across australia.

    Moreover the system produces reliable, on demand power 24/7 and the particular combination as described, would produce a constant and ultra reliable, 50% salable surplus, and for up to century.

    Waste products would include sanitised recyclable water and carbon rich soil improver.

    After that and for dispatchable, reliable, base load power, night or day, whether the sun shines or the wind blows or the rains come and fill or top up our dams/hydro power? There is only nuclear power.

    Not high pressure, hugely expensive, traditional waste producing power that just spends around 1% of its extremely expensive enriched fuel. But Thorium powered MSR’s, we can mass produce right here, if there’s both Leadership, bottle and the political will!

    Plus an ability to put our fellow Australians and their future prospects and security ahead of all else, including various sacrificial political futures!

    I’m sorry and available. Always providing I live to see out one senate term. Where I can be guaranteed to be a maverick who regularly crosses the floor!

    Even so, as an energy minister, I can be guaranteed to bring both science, experience inside the power industry and rare commonsense to a preferred energy portfolio! And lots of questions on notice! I think I’ve already done most of the speeches?

    Perhaps someone else more capable could/should put their hand up? Barnaby? Got any more shots in that locker and can you get up to speed on nuclear power and MSR technology!? in around 8-10 months?

    Because political sacrifice, is what it might take to guarantee our Grandkids have a future. And you’d serve us still if we could throw you under the political equivalent of a bus!

    Incidentally, somebody else will pay for all our reactors, if we also use them as waste burners, reprocessing other folk’s nuclear waste! And where we’d be paid annual billions to prove such a, pre-burial service!

    We also absolutely must set aside recalcitrant political intransgesence. Dithering and the BS can’t do mindset as useful as tits on a bull, conservative mindset!

    And if you know you’re right! Then stay true to your political convictions regardless of the sh!t stirring and attempted bullying/bellicose belligerence, by the usual, brain dead suspects!?

    The brain dead smiling Jackass has had his turn and needs to be disendorsed/asked to leave and join Cory or someone he sees eye to eye with, if not the wider community!

    We’re in our current parlous position because of the professional naysayers on both sides of the aisle and the british disease trying to infect every part of what once was a superior, more egalitarian society!

    Sorry to be long winded, but these things need to be said!
    Alan B Goulding.

    Comment by Alan Goulding — March 6, 2018 @ 1:17 pm

  6. Apologies and correction. I Should be read as If, to make sense and Prove should be read as provide. Semm to be getting some uncalled for assistance by auto spell check?
    Sorry, Alan

    Comment by Alan Goulding — March 6, 2018 @ 1:27 pm

  7. And semm should be read as seem. Alan.

    Comment by Alan Goulding — March 6, 2018 @ 1:28 pm

  8. Comment above.

    “Comparison of the capital cost/kwH of a gas plant to solar and wind makes no sense whatsoever. You need to consider the fuel costs. The fuel input cost for a gas plant is higher than for wind and solar which are free.

    Comment by ColinTwiggs — March 5, 2018 @ 12:13 pm”

    Wind and solar are not free, they require expensive backup or ultra expensive storage to make them viable. They cannot exist stand alone.

    If renewables plants were required to provide a 24/7 service they would not be viable even with billions of dollars of subsidies.

    Wind and solar also incur extremely expensive grid control costs (FCAS) which should also be paid for by renewable generators.

    Renewable energy is basically junk category and despatchable energy is AAA rating.

    Comment by Peter Rees — March 6, 2018 @ 4:20 pm

  9. Not only do they need expensive back up, but miles and miles of expensive and vulnerable criss crossing, high voltage transmission lines and transformer stations, to be useful.

    And where even with the best technology deployed, we still can’t get past 10% averaged, transmission line losses or 64% distribution losses.

    If we spent the same proposed sums? Putting solar arrays on rooftops, then supported them with household battery back ups, we’d eliminate both transmission and distribution losses, the massively expensive transmission lines and the odd blackout?

    And at least provide domestic power 24/7? If limited to around the next ten years?

    I’d want a much bigger bang for my buck for the envisaged outlay!

    And today’s outcome is what one expects of irresolute Leaders unable to lead or stay true to their own convictions and just take some unpopular, but absolutely essential decisions!

    Even if that requires a political price!

    The snowy mountains scheme wasn’t universally popular, neither was the migrant intake needed to make it a reality!

    We need another visionary leader Curtain or Chifley, or a finisher like Menzies, prepared to put the nation and the people ahead of party political considerations, puerile partisanship and their personal political career/pension payday!
    Alan B. Goulding

    Comment by Alan Goulding — March 6, 2018 @ 5:32 pm

  10. This article in today’s RenewEconomy debunks the myth that South Australia’s heavy reliance on renewables is increasing electricity prices for that State:

    Comment by Gregory John Olsen — March 6, 2018 @ 10:45 pm

  11. Links prove very little except the views scripted ideological imperatives of their originators?

    That said, let me say this. Thermal coal has a future, just not inside the power industry!

    During WW11, South Africa, used a well known, hugely energy dependant process to turn coal into the petrol they couldn’t get! Modern variations produce. High quality gas, methanol (petrol substitute) And diesel and jet fuel substitutes. Ammonia, fertilizer and bitumen? Plastics?

    Just needs something like the 2-3 cents (projected) price per KwH, that we’d get by deploying thorium MSR’s. To make it both practical and affordable!

    And were that the case, Replace all our imports of fully imported foreign fuel? And put the 26 billion plus, we expend on tha to other purposes! Defense spending perhaps?

    Yes Dillbry, I am aware that these alternatives burnt in various combustion engines would create some CO2! But no more on average than currently, fully imported fuel! WE’d no longer import or burn!

    Even so, the first product we could create just by flame free cooking our thermal coal, would be methane and because it come from washed coal via a flame free method. And inside a completely closed environment. (recommended) Would be almost pure methane!

    Moreover most combustion engines can be re-tuned or de-tuned to run on compressed methane, (CNG).

    Even Gas turbines needed to back up the renewables the greens welded to! And without adding the particulates to the environment, created by smokey diesels. Which by the way, will also run on compressed methane!

    And with around 40% less CO2, for the same motive power.

    This portable fuel would serve us for the next thirty years or so as we completely and thoroughly, transition to new carbon free energy sources. Albeit, the screams coming from price gouging, collusive, tax avoiding, profit repatriating, energy company boardrooms could be heard from Sydney to Paris, New York and London!

    If tiny Singapore can build her own refinery with public money? Why can’t we do something similar?

    But as government facilitated and funded employee/working shareholder co-ops.

    Why that model?

    Because they’re far and away the most efficient and eliminate the unions from any part of the operations.


    Because this free enterprise, free market model, doesn’t need unions to protect/guarantee best possible conditions and safety; and maximise pay packets!

    Moreover as an alternative fuel with guaranteed, lower carbon emissions, we’d have less problems obtaining finance/backing.

    All we really need is, to reclaim our own thermal coal and repossess it from foreigners/con artists, who treat as their own personal asset! Even though they haven’t yet, got export licences, a credible, contractual, long term market, financial backing or environmental approvals, all of them!

    And too easy if we impose decent time limits on proper development and the promised jobs

    Nor have they the required infrastructure! Without which that coal will remain undeveloped for decades!

    If we’re really are worried about jobs and the environment!? Then let’s absolutely guarantee both and in full by backing in a government facilitated and funded employee/working shareholder co-op, to get a suitable mine and adjacent washing and processing plant built/up and running!

    Come on, we could do all of it if it were it a coal fired power station!
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan Goulding — March 7, 2018 @ 11:24 am

  12. I am aware that some nuclear operators when inspecting a forty years old Oak Ridge MSR, found some corrosion? And drew their extreme concern to this? And because, were this a light water reactor, their concerns would have been legitimate, given traditional light water reactors run at pressures of around or north of 150 atmospheres!

    Ostensibly, to keep the water liquid at the temperatures they operate at! And where corrosion would have created a weak point and a possible explosive rupture. And the water in the system instantly vaporizing and decomposing into hydrogen and oxygen as an extremely explosive mixture!

    And in part what probably occurred in the disaster that was Chernobyl? Where expanding rods expanded with the xenon created in all nuclear reactions, was logically implicated?

    And in airing their concerns, failed to realize that MSR’s operate at normal atmospheres! And use molten salt which only boils at around 1400C. Moreover operate in an already, safely contained molten state and were the xenon created By U133, is the less harmful xenon 33, used in various medical procedures as a breathed gas that assists lung scans, brain scans and those of several other important organs.

    Further, U133 is the only precursor of cancer miracle cure Bismuth 2/13. Which is an alpha particle isotope, that is attached to an antibody that then goes directly to the cancer cells, like a sniper’s bullet, leaving the healthy cell alone!

    Moreover, has no equal for treating death sentence cancers! Like some very nasty inoperable brain cancers and myeloid leukemia. And several others!

    This is why some corrosion doesn’t matter very much and in a MSR, is self sealing due to the medium bing exposed to outside temperature and a propensity to crystallize at temperatures below 400C.

    And because it operates at normal atmosphere the aforementioned nuclear isotopes can be very safely removed without the usual expensive shutdowns.

    Apparently, the indians have encountered some problems with thorium in their R+D nuclear facility. Arguably, because they tried to use it in a traditional reactor? As solid fuel ceramics?

    And apparently discovered they had no more success with this method than numerous others who’ve attempted to incorporate thorium into solid state fuel rods?

    The alleged difficulties don’t occur in MSR’s, which treat and renew the fuel as part of the operation and continue to do so until 99% of the energy in thorium or uranium or most nuclear waste is fully consumed. And gram by gram! In a solution where the nuclear material is comparatively dilute?

    Nuclear waste, in a MSR is just unspent fuel and years of additional and virtually free power. And from waste other folk would pay us annual billions to bury! And we would as per the contract, but only after we’d extracted every remaining erg of recoverable energy (98%) from the waste leaving less toxic material with a half life of just 300 years! This is the same material they’ve burnt for around 4.5 years, just to extract less than 1% of its full energy potential!

    Leave it with you, how long we’d power the country with the remaining 98%?

    What Am I missing here? Why the demonstrable reluctance on the part of some of our alleged leaders to crack with the only remaining dispatchable, reliable, baseload power in prospect, still supportable by Farmers still able to use their brains for critical reasoning, the banks/financiers, corporations and due diligence law firms!

    As a lad still going to school I did some metal work and learned among other things how to forge and blue metal. This is a process that first, heats the metal to the color of straw, somewhere between red hot and white hot, the latter is where steel starts to melt or burn.

    Anyway, the correctly heated metal is plunged into a bath of waste oil where the oil is heated by the metal way way past its burning point. But because the metal is now at the bottom of a comparatively deep bath, the oxygen is excluded and the oil carbonised at the interface where the fatty acid hydrocarbon (oil) and the heated metal surface meet. Thus putting a carboniferous protective layer on the metal.

    Newer methods still blue the metal but via a completely different chemical pathway? That may resist rust but without placing a layer of carbon on the metal surface, that combines with the metal as very high carbon steel or and other metal able to be heated to the point where a protective layer of carbon will literally burn it self into the outside atomic layers of the metal.

    I say this in the knowledge that Graphite (carbon) refractory grade, and fluoride just do not react with each other! And because this is so, would a layer of carbon do the same inside the exposed metal innards of a proposed reactor?

    Just a thought. If not, would a layer of graphene serve?

    With corrosion eliminated there’s no reason why these things couldn’t percolate a way for a century or more if only to completely consume the fuel.

    Further delay serves nobody. Not the consumer or the recalcitrant government! We have time, around a decade when a few of our aging, coal fired power plants will need to be replaced!

    What I am proposing, in comparative multiples (5-7) will cost far less than a new more expensive coal fired power plant! That being so, why aren’t we just cracking on building our own? If only to eliminate the middleman or the debt laden, tax avoiding, price gouging, profit repatriating, foreign investor.

    Government facilitated and funded co-ops would be the best possible solution! Could be done off budget! And allow the government to focus on it core responsibilities, without going into business itself.

    This PRIVATE ENTERPRISE model would and demonstrably so, beat the pants off other private venture, free market models or publicly owned and operated models; without trying and hands down! We’ve already wasted a couple of decades prevaricating and now need to crack on if only for increasingly urgent security reasons!
    Alan B Goulding.

    Comment by Alan Goulding — March 8, 2018 @ 12:24 pm

  13. A few thorium detractors, greens and brain dead troglobites? One and the same thing perhap? Have argued, because the MSR thorium reactor necessarily produces fissile material, U133.

    It can be weaponized? Well in a traditional enriched uranium solid fuel reactor the spent fuel pellets are removed then placed in a very strong acid or alkaline bath where the weapons grade plutonium is removed.

    I think, by oxidation or leeching, then chemical/catalyst assisted precipitation? Even so it takes quite a few tons of spent fuel to produce a few kilograms of weapon grade plutonium.

    In a MSR reactor, U133 is just grams of nuclear material already dilute in the molten salt solution at any one time. And only recoverable, one thinks, from the salt when cool and crystalline. And then as a very tiny percentage of the whole!

    We could recover enough in around four hundred years to replicate a Hiroshima sized blast, and then only after we’d killed a couple of hundred folk employed for the task, who’d have long since died of huge radiation poisoning!

    Robotics? Well possible if we were dealing with solid if spent fuel rods? But not with the many complicated steps and chemical engineering feats, required to extract the few available grams we’d create inside a MSR thorium!

    So just more of the hyperinflated green initiated fossil fuel serving, anti nuclear fear mongering the power hungry greens are now famous for?

    Thorium is the most energy dense material on the planet and in comparison as 350 MW reactors. the enriched uranium reactor would need 2551 tons of fuel during its operational lifetime.

    Contrast that with, the extrapolated from Oak Ridge fuel usage, of just one ton of much, much cheaper thorium burnt in the same sized reactor for is entire lifetime, and you begin to get the picture and the very real possibilities.

    Understand, this technology came out of the USA where it was first invented and then trialed for four of five years during the fifties and seventies and without accident or incident.

    But due to recently changed laws in the USA, those first to patent are the ones who then own the patent, even though someone else invented it and or is clearly someone else’s intellectual property.

    And the way things are progressing and the forbidding of experimentation by law, with thorium. The clever yanks look like being hoisted on their own petard, so to speak, just so they can”legally” steal other folks, far less important, intellectual property?

    Like the locally invented single step steel smelting or the locally invented pulsed laser beam, uranium enrichment.

    Both of which we should claim back with enabling legislation, then argue out an irrefutable we invented it case if the yanks want to fight to keep our intellectual property? And I care not who gifted it or what position or rank the held, given it was never ever theirs to give.

    Moreover, if they win then they’ll have absolutely no comeback when the Chinese try to gazump them over MSR thorium!

    AS for us, we should simply crack on with our own R+D, build a dozen or two, then pay royalties if we must, to any legitimate patent holder, but only if they have unchallenged clear title!

    As for weapons, we can make as many as we want, and with the Lucas Heights reactor, given all we need is to irradiate this or that material and in any quantity. To be ready to make as many grapefruit sized fusion bombs as we’d deem necessary for self defence or retaliation?

    And where we’d use them as stealth bomber delivered? Massive magnetic pulse generators and military target eliminators. With a mile wide ground zero zone!

    Infrastructure, communication, military bases, airfields, submarine and naval warfare shipping ports and the like!

    So, what I’m saying we already possess significant weapons material manufacture possibilities and not from within any future MSR thorium reactor or any material made inside any of them!

    Simply put, several or two dozen MSR thorium reactors won’t change very much except, our now economy crippling, energy bill! And AWOL self reliance.

    As well as spread the risk and retaliation potential. One smart bomb, enough to wipe out Lucas Heights and much of western Sydney?

    Well every boy and his dog knows we have one and where it is! They don’t need to know where any new one we build is or how many we might have or are experimenting with.

    The time for talking about it is over!

    As one legendary figure has said, the only thing to fear is fear itself! Particularly that which paralyzes you and your self reliant responses!

    If recent events have not thoroughly persuaded us, we need total self reliance in all things, what will?
    Alan B. Goulding.

    Comment by Alan Goulding — March 10, 2018 @ 12:07 pm

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