A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Legally it’s the wrong time? Coal mine rejected by judge who hopes to change weather

Sometimes we have laws, and sometimes it’s the wrong time for them

A judgement today in a minor NSW court banned a coal mine in the hope of making storms and floods nicer for our great grandchildren. Curiously, it was not the much hated thermal coal mine, it was a coking coal mine – the stuff we use in making steel. It takes 600 kilograms of coal to make one ton of steel and Australian coking coal is considered some of the world’s best. It follows that either the world uses a bit less steel, or it buys the coal from somewhere else. Does the judge have something against steel? Let’s melt down wind turbines and solar panels instead.

Most likely the world will buy the coal from somewhere else. It will likely be less pure and more polluting with few environmental controls or worker’s rights, but hey-de-ho, Judge Preston is not there to worry about environmental global concerns. It’s not like he’s a judge in the NSW Land and Environment Court. Oh…

Effectively, an Australian court decided to increase global pollution by blocking a clean coal mine*. As usual, there is no scientific or legal consistency; No principle apart [...]

Welcome to renewables world: Australia plans for blackouts, throws billions of dollars, but ABC says it will get “cheaper”

The fear is palpable

How much fun can you have living in a global experiment?  In Australia, peak summer is about to hit in a post-Hazelwood-electricity-grid.  There’s a suite of committee reports as summer ramps up. Everyday there’s another Grid story in the press, and a major effort going on to avoid a meltdown.  Minister Josh Frydenberg announced today that “we’ve done everything possible to prevent mass blackouts”. Or as he calls it, a repeat of the South Australian Horror Show.   Politicians are so afraid of another SA-style-system-black that they are throwing money: The “Snowy Hydro Battery” will be another $2 billion. Whatever. It’s other people’s money.

This is what they are afraid of:

The red bars mean “Reserve Shortfall”. The dark blue matter is “Generation”. The graph covers two years (sorry about the quality) so the two red bursts are summer 2018 and summer 2019.

SA Medium Term Forecast, Outlook, AEMO, Nov 16th 2017, South Australia.

Oddly we are headed for a critical time, but this’s the most recent graph I can find  — thanks to Wattclarity –  from November 16th, 2017. (Here’s an earlier version from March 2017. and from Dec 2016). Perhaps there is a newer [...]

Australia, Denmark, Germany vie to win Highest Global Electricity Cost! (It’s the Nobel Price Prize?)

It’s not even close: If South Australia seceded it would have the highest electricity price of any nation on Earth.

 Australian Households pay highest power prices in the World, AFR.

South Australian households are paying the highest prices in the world at 47.13¢ per kilowatt hour, more than Germany, Denmark and Italy which heavily tax energy, after the huge increases on July 1, Carbon + Energy Markets’ MarkIntell data service says.

When the eastern states’ National Electricity Market was formed in the late 1990s, Australia had the lowest retail prices in the world along with the United States and Canada, CME director Bruce Mountain said.

 The Markintell report graph:

Hmm — odd coincidence of Price with Wind Energy Penetration:

Wind energy is “free” but countries with the most wind power are also the most likely to get to the top of the Prize Pool for exorbitant electricity. Wind energy penetration is highest in  Denmark (1st), Portugul (8th), Ireland (6th), Spain (11th), Germany (3rd). Conversely, renewable energy penetration is low in places at the tail end of the price curve like Luxemburg 6%, Estonia 15%, Hungary 7%, Lithuania 15.5%. In the low mid price range [...]

No wind or solar powered aluminium smelter anywhere in the world? Could be a message in that.

Matt Howell, the CEO of Tomago Aluminium Smelter, told a few home truths on ABC radio Monday.

To paraphrase in my own words:

1. Aluminium Smelters gobble electrons for breakfast. His smelter uses 10% of  the entire electricity supply of the most populous state in Australia (NSW).

2. If power goes out without warning for more than three hours, the smelter pot lines freeze, permanently. The company goes to the wall.

3. The largest battery in the world would keep their smelter going for all of 8 minutes. There is a good reason there are no solar or wind powered aluminium smelters anywhere in the world.

4. The government can ‘t let the market solve anything whilst it is simultaneously destroying the free market by propping up the market failures at the same time.

5. Electricity pricing has suddenly got very ugly. Their electricity bill may now be subject to price spikes where it could cost them $4 million just to keep one pot line running during that spike. It is as if suddenly gas stations only sold $400 per Litre petrol. (Which would be $1800/per gallon).  What he doesn’t [...]