Eco-Warriors Shun Cheap, Abundant Gas-fired Power

Commentary, Energy, Ian Madsen

Recently, Australia released a new national energy policy called the ‘National Energy Guarantee’ (NEG).  While Australia is a long way away from Canada, this policy has a sad resemblance to a similar Canadian policy.  It is a desperate attempt to make renewable energy projects in Australia viable when they are not.

The idea is to always have ‘dispatchable  power’, alternative sources, available to relieve brown- and black-outs resulting from its increasing dependency on renewable power. Yet, the Aussies will not use cheap and relatively clean natural gas power plants.

If the Australian power commission was smart it would build gas power plants even as back-up sources for days when little power is available from natural sources, sun and wind. Of course, Australians realize that other countries that have depended entirely on renewal power, have had disastrous brown- and black-outs.

Not only in Australia, but also in many other parts of the world, ‘dispatchable  power’ coming from non-renewal sources often need to come to the rescue.  So far, the policies in these countries to rely mainly on renewal power  has brought substantially higher rates to consumers, and greater consumption of fossil-fuel power–precisely the opposite of what these green programs were intended to do.

There are considerable scepticism about how, in practice, ‘dispatchable power’ would work without resorting to non-renewal sources. Battery storage is often cited as a way of saving surplus power to meet the power needs at a later time  Yet, so far there is no viable way to story large amounts of electric power.

Despite great strides in batteries, they are very expensive, at thousands of dollars for a home unit.  Moreover, the life of these batteries is relatively short. And, it is expensive to recycle the components.  Batteries are not risk free, as numerous fires caused by lithium-ion batteries demonstrate.

If consumers wants to risk getting burned up themselves to save the planet, they need to be told about all the hazards involved in relying on batteries

So, the ‘energy revolution’ that brought conventional utilities to the brink of disaster around the world have this in common: solar and wind power cannot be relied upon.  Power companies are demanding big discounts, meaning government subsidies, as a result of this unreliability.

In a more reasonable energy marketplace, controlled, natural evolution would occur: solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, biomass, and other renewal ways of generating electricity, would find their place and price in the marketplace.

Now, however, there is really no substitute for non-renewables. Natural gas is abundant, clean, versatile, and inexpensive.  Efficient gas turbines and fuel cells for making electric power make much more sense than force-feeding an unaffordable, artificial , costly, renewal energy structure onto a vulnerable public. The new Australian policy, the National Energy Guarantee, is built on fantasies about the production and distribution of ‘dispatchable power’.

No country—not even Australia—can have sound public policies by ignoring reality.