Incompetent Andrews Government Refuses To Admit Mistake. Would Rather Hurt Victorians.

Victorian solar rebate mess

An exclusive shot of Solar Victoria’s efficient new process for handling solar installation businesses.

Well, that’s it.  They have made their decision.  The Andrews Government in Victoria had a clear moral choice.  They could either…

  1.  Admit they made a mistake with the Victorian Solar Homes Rebate, fix it or scrap it altogether and prevent hundreds of solar installation businesses from going under because of their incompetence.
  2. Pull a Donald Trump and declare the solar industry is actually winning bigly and anything you may have heard to the contrary are just rumours spread by Mexicans and traitors.

Unfortunately, they chose poorly.

Promoting Home Solar By Destroying Home Solar

I am upset because I was hoping yesterday, on August the 1st, the Victorian Government would either fix their horribly broken solar rebate scheme1 or just scrap it altogether.  They did not and continued with the same bullshit that is driving businesses bankrupt and harming families through no fault of their own.

The Victorian Government set out to help the residential solar power industry — without being asked — and is instead destroying it.  On their current course there will be massive job losses in the industry in addition to those that have already occurred.  The loss of competition will result in Victorians paying more for solar than they need to.  Everyone loses, including the environment.

When the Andrews Government said they wanted to promote the installation of rooftop solar on homes,  I believed them.  They said it was a $100 million scheme.  You’d think with a clear goal and that much money it would be impossible to fail.  Instead, they — for no good reason — decided to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, sharpen it into a shiv, and stab the solar industry in the back with it.

I don’t know what they were thinking when they designed the scheme but I probably could have told them they were on the wrong track when I was 8 years old.  I can believe politicians would be stupid enough to make policy this bad, I can’t understand why they’re not trying to fix it, as every day that passes is costing them votes.

While I can believe some politicians are this stupid, where was the oversight from the ones who know how a sausage is made and want their party to win the next election?  And where was the Victorian Public Service?  Has it been so badly gutted there was no one left to say,

“No Minister, if you do that you will destroy the industry instead of helping it.”

Or at the very least say,

“That’s very courageous of you, Minister.”

I think it was Lenin who said,

“You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.”

But no eggs needed to be broken at all.  The point was to help the eggs.  But the Victorian Solar Homes Scheme has been smashing eggs like a weasel with a hammer.

The Anti-Subsidy Subsidy

You’d think it would be pretty easy to subsidise something in order to get more of it.  For example, you could say:

“If you install rooftop solar we will give you $1,000.”

Or you could make things a little more sophisticated and say:

“For every kilowatt of rooftop solar power you install we’ll give you $150 up to a maximum of $1,000.”

That’s simple, easy to understand, and the required information — who has had solar installed and how much — is already collected.  It would be hard to make a mess of it and it’s the sort of scheme that would result in your goal being achieved.

With $100 million available that would be enough to provide subsidies for more than 100,000 homes.  But because you don’t want to suddenly stop it and disrupt the industry, you could taper it off as the funds are used up and maybe over 200,000 homes out of Victoria’s 2.5 million will get some amount of subsidy — or rebate as it’s being called.

And that would be a subsidy scheme with next to no overhead because it piggybacks on the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES)2 that already exists.  And this means I just came up with a better subsidy scheme than the Victorian Government in 5 minutes while blind drunk at 3:00 am in the morning.

But let’s assume you don’t think $1,000 is enough and you want it to be a maximum of $2,225.  Well, that’s fine, you can do that.  You have $100 million dollars.  Just increase the amount and give it to fewer homes.

But let’s also say that when you said it was a $100 million dollar scheme it was a complete lie.  That amount of money has not been set aside to fund the scheme and the only way you can provide it is if your party stays in power for the next 10 years.  That’s obviously not guaranteed and is less likely now.

So if the amount of funding you actually have is limited but you still want to offer up to $2,225 you might have the brilliant idea of limiting the amount of rebates that are available each month.

Congratulations.  You’ve just boarded the train to Cock Up City.

If you offer a $2,225 rebate in order to increase the amount of solar power installed, then no one is going to want solar without it.  After all, you’d have to be an idiot to refuse a couple thousand dollars of free money.  So unless there are more than enough subsidies to meet the increased demand — that is, the number is effectively unlimited — then the amount of subsidies offered will limit the number of installations when your goal is supposed to be to increase them.  This means the Victoria Solar Homes Rebate is working at cross purposes to itself.

When the rebates made available last month were all snatched up within three days and a piss-weak attempt was made to “fix” the problem this month by increasing the number by 10% and they were all gone in less than 2 hours, it means you have cocked up so much your todger is asphyxiating in the cold dark depths of space.

So Much Red Tape

No one is going to want rooftop solar power without a rebate, but if installers can go to work on those that have been approved that might be enough to keep them in business.  But that’s not possible because of the massive amounts of red tape the scheme is swaddled in.  It is ridiculous and has made a bad scheme horrendous.

I’d go into detail, but it makes me so angry I just want to scream at the top of my lungs, “Hey, what’s going on?”

We All Make Mistakes — Just Not This Bad

We all make mistakes and politicians are people just like us — except they have personality disorders.  But it’s one thing to make a mistake, recognize you’ve screwed up, and then take steps to fix it.  It’s another to be a complete dick, dig your heels in, and deny there’s a problem.  To err is human, but to let people suffer because you refuse to admit you’ve made a mistake is arsehole.

If the Andrews Government wants to survive they need to get rid of the mini-Trumps, arseholes, and liars.  They can’t kick out members of State Parliament, but they can stop them from producing policy that destroys businesses, is unnecessarily costly, and does the opposite of what it’s meant to achieve.  If they can’t do this and can’t fix their mistake, I will assume the state government is rotten all the way to the top.

I never thought that Victorian Labor would be worse for distributed solar than the coal chucklehead heavy Liberals, but they have managed to prove me wrong.3

Footnotes

  1. It has been changed so it is no longer a rebate and is instead a subsidy.  But we have been pushed past the point of caring about such niceties.
  2. The SRES lowers the cost of solar power through the creation of renewable energy certificates called STCs.  This is often referred to as the “solar rebate” even though it hates being called that.
  3. I have no faith in the Liberals, I just think they would have left solar alone and so this horrible sordid mess would have been avoided.  Of course, they could have created a horrible sordid mess of their own, but I find it hard to believe they could have topped this one.
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. Spot on Ronald

    But what can be done about it? As a small solar retailer we are bleeding from every orifice. We’ve sent letters to politicians, called them, pleaded with them, yelled at them but they simply parrot Lily’s “we make no apologies” line.

    We have never felt more abandoned by a government we so recently recommended, endorsed even cheer leaded due to their pre-election promises on renewables.

    Given that we would gladly discount non subsidised systems, and that clients would avoid all the headaches associated with the subsidy process and start receiving their energy savings months sooner, meaning hundreds or even thousands of dollars in some cases, is it even worth doing?

  2. Ronald Broadbent says

    At the end of the day, the industry has to stand on it’s own feet despite all the obstacles put in the way. There is an opportunity here.

    • What does that mean?

    • Ronald, the industry was standing on its’ own feet, and thriving, without this. It wasn’t asked for. In fact many have asked for it to be taken away entirely.

      Please advise what it is exactly you mean?

    • Michael uhe says

      You’ve totally missed the point Ron.
      Did you actually read the article?
      The government has screwed this up by setting a quota ceiling.

  3. “Incompetent Andrews Government Refuses To Admit Mistake. Would Rather Hurt Victorians.”
    WHY do you sound surprised??
    That’s what governments are elected for ~ any time, anyhow, anytime.
    I’d get a big stick and go looking for the fuckwits that elect politicians (of ANY shade)…. and then pay taxes to feed the bloody things.

    …..oops. I forgot. That’s where the subsidies come from, isn’t it?
    Seriously though, I can’t understand why people opt for a long-term commitment (of ANY kind) when OTHERS are free to pull the strings or ~ shift the goalposts at will. Get contracts signed BEFORE committing yourself, with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed.
    And the next time some politician, public official/real-estate-agent or wife changes the rules SUE THEM for breach of contract if nothing else. (Class-actions would be good if you could rely upon the Great Unwashed.
    Try it: you might LIKE it!

    • ps…..a hint from the hazy long-ago. Robert Menzies, for all his fascist tendencies, made this country work at its utmost capacity….and imported 4 million refugee migrants to build ‘The Lucky Country’. (which it truly was).
      From building the Snowy Scheme to building their own (regulation/fee-free) houses in their spare time with whatever was left over from their BASIC wages, they made it happen. Businesses of all kinds flourished and everyone got ahead. There were five jobs available for every worker, and about 90% of them were PRODUCTIVE wealth-producing (in economic terms) jobs.
      (These days I’d be surprised if 10% of jobs fitted that description).
      And Social Security/government handouts were so far over the horizon y’couldn’t have hit them with the Bismark’s guns. (in ref. to previous naval gunnery brags ).
      One major tool Menzies used was to fix wages and prices. Work and life became stress-free… and men (women didn’t ‘go’ to work) worked harder, more happily and proudly. (could tell you stories) Union bullshit was practically unheard of.
      You voters/taxpayers need to get the right political systems in place. One way might be to restrict politicians’/bureaucrats pay to no more than, say, 120% of the basic wage, since they produce NO wealth to the national kitty. (and make the bastards pay their own expenses!)
      All that’d sort out the solar industry, too.

  4. ginger perth says

    i wonder if this really was an accident, or incompetence.

    most of us know that both major parties rely on the biggest campaign fund donors, which at the moment seem to mostly be those who have become enriched from investments in fossil fuels.

    now if more aussie voters would refuse to vote for any party that is reliant on the dirty energy industries, we could turn this problem around.

    • Almost correct.
      However, the biggest campaign fund donors ~ if unwittingly ~ is the taxpayer.
      And the gripes aren’t about principles (eg the environment) they’re about who’s getting how big a slice of the cake.
      Ron Broadbent (above) was right: ” There is an opportunity here…. The fittest to survive will flourish and grow. Those who don’t qualify in terms of productivity or adaptability will to to the wall. Its the evolutionary rule, and one that brings out the best possible solutions.
      Most of that is predicated upon the recognition of the prospective customers about the value (financial and otherwise) of RE electricity. The guess is they won’t need much convincing. They (aka the ‘political contributors’) already know: everybody is just haggling about the price.
      …. and the more people who go alterntive the higher the price the hold-outs will pay for power, until they too become ‘converts’.

      It’s a no-brainer. (which is why the whole issue is so popular.
      But a DIY stand-alone (off the record) system is STILL the way to go. That’ll become evident when (to make up for losses of free sunlight) they’ll bung a tax on photons….. and the whole thing will cycle again.

  5. Andrew McNeill says

    Hi solar installers,
    It’s confusing what “little solar business” is griping about?
    I have limited funds & local installer on scheduled day setup panels etc and left. Onto next job. Paper work reasonably straight forward. Been enjoying solar input & lowered my bill.
    From consumer on lower income I’ve benefited from work.
    Always wanted solar but out of reach.
    I checked local solar installers before Vic govt input and quote they were flat out even if cld afford.
    Works for me.
    Cheers Andrew

  6. Lawrence Coomber says

    @Ron

    This is from a post of mine published on May 18th, 2017 in Energy-Post-Europe.

    It is a bit removed from Victoria and its current Solar machinations that you are hot under the collar about Ron, but more important from a global rather than a local perspective, and that is where we should all be shifting our focus to because as you rightly point out, its actually what comes next in global energy generation technology innovation (and that is not Coal, Solar, Wind, Hydro etc) that will save our souls; not the overly hysterical debate about current solar power issues which are irrelevant when put into a global perspective, because climate change and GHG emissions are a global phenomenon which includes Australia of course.

    As well intentioned and passionate as you are about the subject of solar power Ron (and passion is everything) your observations and ideas about solar power being a global main stream future energy source simply don’t stack up against current thinking at the international policy making level and what’s actually gaining traction and being implemented in highly populated regions worldwide.

    Early adopters of solar and wind energy are not all happy campers with many of their decisions in retrospect. No one can turn back the clock though, so there are many energy policy decision makers who have little alternative than to keep on making a square peg appear to be able to occupy a round hole in the energy equation context.

    Generally, that’s OK though, we are all familiar with and ultimately forgiving of stranded capital assets expenditure, commercial non-viability is often only exposed over time.

    Let’s look at an example hot off the press (back on 17/05/2017) in the ASEAN Region that might surprise you Ron, that seems to be diametrically opposite to your viewpoints on solar (and wind) power technologies being worthy of serious consideration globally moving forward.

    ASEAN covers a land area of 4.4 million square kilometres, 3% of the total land area of earth. ASEAN territorial waters cover an area about three times larger than its land counterpart or about 9% of the earth’s surface. The 10 member countries of ASEAN have a combined population of approximately 625 million people which equates to about 8.8% of the world’s population, twice that of the population of the USA, and 25 times the population of Australia.

    Collectively ASEAN released a report (17/05/2017) which states that their collective energy polices about to be made law will be framed about national power grids across all 10 countries being supplied by clean coal generation technologies. Solar and wind energy has not featured at all in this international energy policy framework.

    Here are the opening paragraphs of the report:

    “The delivery of affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity plays a central role in improving living standards and unlocking economic potential. Over the coming years, few places will this be truer than in the ten countries that make-up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).”

    “ASEAN’s preference for coal is forecast to continue as it remains the most economic source of long-term base-load generation. The IEA forecasts that the installed capacity of coal will increase nearly 150% from 2013 levels to 163 GW by 2035, covering over 34% of total power plant capacity in the region. Coal is expected to overtake natural gas by 2030 to become the largest source of power capacity.”

    “In terms of generation, the IEA (International Energy Association) forecasts a three-fold increase in coal-fuelled generation from 255 TWh in 2013 to 920 TWh in 2035. As a result, the share of coal-fuelled generation in total electricity generation is expected to increase from 32% in 2013 to 48% in 2035.”

    ‘Coal will be an important guarantor for sustained growth in ASEAN’S Energy Equation’

    Here is the report titled: THE ROLE OF LOW EMISSION COAL IN DRIVING A SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FUTURE

    http://www.aseanenergy.org/events/past-events/ace-wcas-joint-report-launch-jakarta-17-may-2017/

    PS: 2019 Update: The ASEAN Energy Report guidelines are now legislated policies in force throughout ASEAN member nations.

    Lawrence Coomber

    • Ronald Brakels says

      The Indonesian coal industry is writing legislation for the whole of ASEAN now? That’s surprising. But I think you’ll find most ASEAN nations will choose lower cost and lower risk sources of generation than coal with 100% emissions and carbon capture/removal. Here’s Lazards levelized costs of energy from November (Note their figures for rooftop solar don’t account for the advantages of self consumption):

      https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-and-levelized-cost-of-storage-2018/

    • Geoff Miell says

      Lawrence Coomber,
      You state:

      “As well intentioned and passionate as you are about the subject of solar power Ron (and passion is everything) your observations and ideas about solar power being a global main stream future energy source simply don’t stack up against current thinking at the international policy making level and what’s actually gaining traction and being implemented in highly populated regions worldwide.”

      Really, Lawrence? And yet new ‘firmed’ renewables (i.e. utility-scale wind and solar-PV) are now undeniably cheaper than new gas, coal and nuclear electricity generation technologies.
      See: https://www.lazard.com/media/450784/lazards-levelized-cost-of-energy-version-120-vfinal.pdf
      See: https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2018/Annual-update-finds-renewables-are-cheapest-new-build-power
      (See also Ronald’s reply to you directly above)

      As wind and solar farm energy contributions glut networks more frequently, fossil fuelled (and nuclear) electricity generators are finding it more difficult to compete, prompting a market signal to shut off.
      See: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-06/negative-prices-in-power-market-as-wind-solar-cut-electricity

      A global energy system – including heat and transport – that is 90 per cent renewables and dominated by solar, is not only possible by 2050 – it will also be cheaper.
      See: https://reneweconomy.com.au/solar-dominated-renewable-energy-world-possible-by-2050-and-cheaper-92830/

      Lawrence, it seems to me that India is apparently not following your alleged “current thinking at the international policy making level”. A Bloomberg article posted Aug 1, reports that India, the world’s number two coal buyer, plans to cut coal imports by a third over the next five years. India’s coal share in electricity generation is estimated to reduce to 50% by 2030, from about 72% now.
      See: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-01/india-world-s-no-2-coal-buyer-plans-to-cut-imports-by-a-third

      And China, the world’s largest coal consumer (and producer), is also apparently not following fossil fuel booster “expectations”. China will tighten coal imports in the second half of this year.
      See: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-07-18/china-s-top-coal-group-says-regulator-to-slash-imports-this-half

      Lawrence, you also refer to an ASEAN report, reportedly dated 17/05/2017, that includes a quote:

      “ASEAN’s preference for coal is forecast to continue as it remains the most economic source of long-term base-load generation. The IEA forecasts that the installed capacity of coal will increase nearly 150% from 2013 levels to 163 GW by 2035, covering over 34% of total power plant capacity in the region. Coal is expected to overtake natural gas by 2030 to become the largest source of power capacity.”

      Firstly, the IEA DOES NOT MAKE LONG-TERM FORECASTS – the IEA presents SCENARIOS.

      In the EIA’s “World Energy Outlook 2017”, on page 40, in the “Spotlight” box, it includes:

      “The scenario results presented in the WEO are sometimes mischaracterised as forecasts. They are not. Each scenario depicts an alternative future, a pathway along which the world could travel if certain conditions are met. The IEA does provide short- to medium-term forecasts for different fuels and technologies, but there are no long-term IEA forecasts; in our judgement, there are simply too many variables in play for this to be a viable approach.”
      See: https://www.iea.org/media/weowebsite/2017/Chap1_WEO2017.pdf

      The IEA reiterated their position last year on the release of their WEO-2018, including:

      “The World Energy Outlook (WEO) does not aim to forecast the future, but provides a way of exploring different possible futures, the levers that could bring them about, and the interactions that arise across a complex energy system.

      If there is no change in policies from today, as in the Current Policies Scenario, this leads to increasing strains on almost all aspects of energy security and a major additional rise in energy-related CO2 emissions.”
      See: https://www.iea.org/weo2018/scenarios/

      Secondly, planned global coal power capacity in pre-construction status has declined from 1,090 GW in 2015 to 339 GW in 2018, with the biggest drops in China and India. Japan has cancelled over 7 GW of proposed coal capacity since 2017, while South Korea has stopped issuing permits for new coal plants.

      While total coal power capacity continues to increase, net annual additions to the global coal power fleet (i.e. new capacity minus retired capacity) continue to decline. Net new global power was 19 GW in 2018 – the slowest rate of growth on record, and the fourth straight year of decline. If trends continue, the global coal power fleet capacity will begin to shrink, perhaps as early as 2020 (i.e. next year), with the consequence that global thermal coal demand is likely to then decline with it.
      See: https://endcoal.org/global-coal-plant-tracker/reports/boom-and-bust-2019/

      Thirdly, the Australian Government’s Office of the Chief Economist published on July 1 their “Resources and Energy Quarterly June 2019”, that included these statements (from page 50), indicating a declining global thermal coal market:

      “Compared to the forecast in the March 2019 Resources and Energy Quarterly, Australia’s forecast thermal coal export earnings have been revised down by $2.9 billion in 2019–20 and by $3.1 billion in 2020–21. The revision reflects a lower forecast benchmark thermal coal price, which declined at a faster-than expected pace in the June quarter of 2019, due to weak Asian demand amid a well-supplied market.”
      See: https://www.industry.gov.au/data-and-publications/resources-and-energy-quarterly-june-2019

      Humanity needs/requires net-zero carbon emissions energy by 2050, or human civilisation is a high risk of collapse due to dangerous climate change. Fossil fuels cannot and never will achieve zero carbon emissions. “Clean coal generation technologies” is just marketing hype to dupe the gullible and try to forestall the inevitable decline of the coal industry. Fossil and nuclear-fission fuels are finite resources, so they cannot drive a sustainable energy future.
      See my comments at: https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/moodys-report-climate-change/#comment-478403

      Lawrence, stop regurgitating apparently false and misleading propaganda (even if it’s more than two years old).

  7. Robert Edgerton says

    There is no such thing as clean coal and no way you can provide the required SAFE storage of the tonnages of CO2 required. If that is true ASEAN is in their own dreamworld (read postponing doing anything truly helping survival of mankind).

  8. I attended the Solar Vic Industry Forum at the Cardina Cultural Centre in Pakenham on the 20th June. They will remember me, because out of an audience of a couple hundred, I was asking the most questions.

    I expressed my concerns with the way this was going to be rolled out. In fact, I, and several others clearly warned them about this. We asked them, many of us in the industry asked them, to release an additional quota for the first few months so that the backlog of demand could be provisioned for.

    But what do we know, we are just dumb business people and tradesmen who have our finger on the pulse of the industry….! The government bureaucrats know best don’t they.

    Their failure with this roll out of rebates is compounded by the FACT that they were warned this would happen by those of us in the industry, but they chose not to listen.

    Why are they digging in their heels. They need to listen, learn, accept they got it wrong, and fix this now.

    They need to release an extra 5,000 rebates at the very least, so that the backlog can dealt with.

  9. Bruce Lade says

    Ron and Finn
    Whilst the Govt may not be able to manage a chook raffle if that what your graphic was (unless it was the industry afterwards?), they are very good at telling everyone else what to do – particularly notional self managing semi government authorities.
    SO a water business has to become and electricity generator – crazy huh!

    Its called behind the meter renewables. You will know about this.

    Rather than all funding regional power there will be hundreds at least of relatively small systems installed on water board land at authority assets that have variable demands and presumably the excess goes to the network also randomly – but does it really? what demand does it fill if teh network manager is not sure what is coming?

    Anyway the domestic industry should not overlook this opportunity and band together to compete with your bigger electro-mechanical contractors to supply this demand in which there will be much larger margins for successful contractors – but they have to have the resources of and perform like larger contractors. Also no deposits they have to financier their work.

    Anyway just a thought – it will be a big market which is already well underway

    It may be a bigger $ market than domestic subsidy market but i am not sure

  10. Des Scahill says

    This ‘on again’/’off again’ Victorian solar PV system cost rebate saga is typical of the complete national energy policy stuff-up successive governments at both state and federal levels have managed to collectively achieve throughout Australia.

    It can only get worse from now on I think

    As a taste of what we can maybe expect –
    : in June 2019, various regions in France had the hottest days ever recorded since weather records began.
    : Smoke from some 3 million hectares of burnt and burning Siberian and Russian Far East region’s forests currently on fire has now drifted across to Alaska. Fumes cover an area as large as the combined area of EU countries, with breathing difficulties being reported in many areas.

    Tundra on both sides of the Arctic Circle is on fire, destroying the permafrost.

    There’s lots of other places in Europe experiencing related ‘extreme’ weather events of one kind or another.

    So… more heat seems clearly on the way to the Southern hemisphere later this year and early next year.

    If it was worthwhile for a Victorian resident to install solar prior to the present ‘on again/off again’ rebate saga, I’d suggest it’s probably still worthwhile go ahead and do so. The rebate (if you ever get it) may take so long to arrive, that you would have saved nearly all of it (or even substantially more in some cases) via reduced electricity bills anyway.

    Which is pretty much the same point that Simon is making.

  11. While you shouldn’t attribute to malice what can easily explained by stupidity I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a deliberate act to slow down solar installs while looking like you were helping.

  12. Add a means test for the subsidy. Problem solved.

  13. Lawrence Coomber says

    Geoff Miell

    I understand that climate change is primarily fuelled by greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel energy generation globally and gasoline powered reciprocating engines.

    I also understand that over half of the world’s population are energy starved and as such are denied opportunities to aspire to the modern standard of living enjoyed by those of us fortunate enough to exist in an energy abundant society.

    It is axiomatic surely that the energy deprived must do what it takes to redress this imbalance. The maths around this premise are astonishing. The current world’s total generation output by all forms may need to increase by a factor of 50 over the next 30 years to begin to seriously start to redress this imbalance!

    Energy commentators and readers might benefit from pondering a bit on the simple term “new age global energy generation imperative”; it has a book worth of meaning in its few words.

    The “new age global energy generation imperative” demands an enduring energy generation science solution that: –
    1. Must be an energy dense technology able to deliver abundant, safe, clean and low cost energy;
    2. Reduce energy generation global greenhouse gas emissions to insignificant levels permanently;
    3. Be scalable and easily deployed cost effectively to power new age energy intensive industries and businesses;
    4. Be available through modular design to cost effectively benefit all people throughout the world.

    The key takeaway term is: “abundant, safe, clean and low cost energy”. A technology that gets that right – will precipitate a falling into line of the other critical requirements.

    SMR technology has distinct advantages over the other clean energy generation alternatives such as solar PV and wind power that we currently see being promoted everywhere in near hysterical fashion.

    So why isn’t there a critically needed and equally noisy global discussion going on about “new age clean safe nuclear energy generation” science? Or maybe that discussion is already maturing in the policy boardrooms that really matter, rather than the overly hyped mainstream energy media forums.

    From my vantage, I identify a distinct and purposeful connection between the Chinese “one belt one road” innovative technology global expansion policy in place now for over 10 years, and now starting to mature and the “new age global energy technology imperative”. I operate as a manufacturer in the renewable energy sector in China now since 2007 and have watched the China; Japan; and UK SMR consortia unpack scientific development and policies since its inception about 10 years ago.

    It has exciting implications for the global energy sector and climate change science.

    Learn more about it. Connect the dots commentators and readers.

    Lawrence Coomber

    • Geoff Miell says

      Lawrence Coomber,
      You state:

      “The current world’s total generation output by all forms may need to increase by a factor of 50 over the next 30 years to begin to seriously start to redress this imbalance!”

      Lawrence, I don’t see you providing any evidence/reference(s). Where did you get the “factor of 50 over the next 30 years” from, or did you just make that up?

      IMO, even if that were valid (and I’m not agreeing without evidence), that’s NOT THE URGENT PRIORITY.

      Lawrence, which part of: “Humanity needs/requires net-zero carbon emissions energy by 2050, or human civilisation is a high risk of collapse due to dangerous climate change”; do you not understand in my comment above? Or is that too inconvenient for your narrative, and you just ignore that bit? Or you don’t see any urgency to act rapidly to reduce carbon emissions – essentially denying climate change science?

      Who is the author of the so-called “new age global energy generation imperative” criteria? You, Lawrence?

      Why MUST energy generation be energy dense? Lawrence, what do you define as “energy dense”? Certainly, it is desirable, but why mandatory? Is it your intention to exclude/dismiss renewables at the outset and favour only nuclear power options – in other words, are you ‘stacking’ the outcome?

      Nuclear-fusion is certainly not currently viable and is unlikely to be for decades (if ever – who knows?) – so nuclear-fusion is not an available solution.

      Uranium is finite and is not an abundant fuel resource long-term. Some estimates indicate at current rates of consumption, known high-grade, economically-extractable uranium ores would be exhausted by about 2100. Substantially increased global uranium consumption would rapidly deplete these reserves sooner. Uranium extraction is only ever going to be more expensive with diminishing EROI.
      See Figure 113 in: http://energywatchgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/xInnbS-EWG-update2013_long_18_03_2013up1.pdfs_.pdf

      The thorium fuel cycle has not been established and is not proven technology, with costs thus entirely speculative.

      Nuclear fission technology is less safe/higher-risk than renewables. There are nuclear weapons proliferation and terrorism factors associated with nuclear energy that renewables just don’t have.

      Nuclear fission technology is not low cost and has never been financially viable without heavy subsidies from governments, often motivated by military purposes (i.e. for nuclear weapons, and nuclear propulsion systems for submarines, aircraft carriers, etc.). IMO, a ludicrous solution for poorer, “energy-starved” nations.
      See: https://reneweconomy.com.au/nuclear-energy-is-never-profitable-new-study-slams-nuclear-power-business-case-49596/

      Nuclear fission technology is not clean. Toxic nuclear waste will long outlast any energy benefits gained – a highly undesirable legacy to bequeath to future generations for millions (or perhaps tens to hundreds of millions) of years. There are currently no permanent repositories for high-level nuclear waste anywhere in the world, so there are no ultra-long-term safe waste storage solutions, only short-term temporary ones.
      See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-level_radioactive_waste_management

      Nuclear fission energy takes far too long to deploy. Even a country like France (and others), with multi-decade experience in nuclear power generation technologies, can’t deliver new operational plants on time and on budget. It seems EDF’s flagship Flamanville nuclear power plant in France has fallen behind schedule again – now 10 years behind originally planned and €7.6 billion over budget.
      See: https://www.ft.com/content/f522a3b6-af75-11e9-8030-530adfa879c2

      Lawrence, you also state:

      “The key takeaway term is: “abundant, safe, clean and low cost energy”. A technology that gets that right – will precipitate a falling into line of the other critical requirements.”

      IMO, overwhelming evidence indicates renewables satisfy all those criteria. Lawrence, why are you ignoring/dismissing renewables?

      Which part of “A global energy system – including heat and transport – that is 90 per cent renewables and dominated by solar, is not only possible by 2050 – it will also be cheaper” do you not understand in my comment above? Is it because you refuse to accept the overwhelming evidence, and your apparent wilfully ignorant ideology will only countenance nuclear energy options?

      Lawrence, you then state:

      “SMR technology has distinct advantages over the other clean energy generation alternatives such as solar PV and wind power that we currently see being promoted everywhere in near hysterical fashion.”

      On what basis do you make that claim, Lawrence? I don’t see any supporting evidence/reference(s) – just a baseless statement, including using the hyperbolic term “near hysterical”. It seems to me you reveal your anti-renewable, pro-nuclear stance.

      Where are SMRs being deployed, Lawrence? Are there any SMR units anywhere in the world operating now and demonstrating that they are reliable, safe, affordable, and rapidly deployable? You don’t offer any evidence, Lawrence, perhaps because there aren’t any examples – only a plethora of proposals and designs that have been around for decades (and gushing wishful thinking).

      This is what Wikipedia says on the economics of SMRs:

      “A key driver of SMRs are the alleged improved economies of scale, compared to larger reactors, that stem from the ability to prefabricate them in a manufacturing plant/factory. Yet, according to some studies, the capital cost between SMRs and larger reactors are practically equivalent [20]. A key disadvantage is that the improved affordability can only be realised if the factory is built in the first place, and this is likely to require initial orders for 40–70 units, which some experts think unlikely. [21]

      Another economic advantage of SMR is that the initial cost of building a power plant using SMR is much less than that of constructing a much more complex, non-modular, large nuclear plant. This makes SMR a smaller-risk venture for power companies than other nuclear power plants. [22]”
      See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_modular_reactor

      IMO, the Wikipedia references are hardly a ringing endorsement for SMRs.

      Nuclear-fission technologies have NEVER DEMONSTRATED that they are:
      • Affordable/low-cost (without large government subsidies, and for most countries it also requires strong military patronage);
      • rapidly deployable – a decade, and often significantly more, to deploy (i.e. plan, construct, commission) is IMO far too slow;
      • low-risk – only governments will insure and pay-out dearly when things go very wrong (e.g. Chernobyl, Fukushima) – commercial insurers won’t touch them because although serious accidents are rare, the consequences are catastrophic;
      • long-term sustainable – fast-breeder reactors needed to extend supplies of finite and relatively scarce high-grade fissionable materials have been a technical and commercial failure; and
      • zero carbon emissions – when the entire life cycle is considered (i.e. construction, operation, plant dismantling, and the nuclear fuel cycle) nuclear energy can by no means be considered carbon-free.

      Lawrence, it seems to me you are another wilfully blinkered commentator here at this weblog that refuses to acknowledge the inconvenient evidence – renewables have won the race! When are you going to discard the ‘rose-coloured glass’ perspective on nuclear options? Or do you want human civilisation to collapse while we dither about with excessively expensive, immature/slow-to-deploy, higher-risk, long-term unsustainable nuclear energy technologies that are ineffective at rapidly reducing human-induced carbon emissions?

      It’s clear to me you haven’t done your homework, and you are apparently also ignoring Des Scahill’s comments below (at Aug 6, at 2:02am).

      Lawrence, stop regurgitating false and misleading propaganda, and engaging in wishful thinking.

      • Lawrence Coomber says

        Thanks Geoff for your comments.

        Regarding your question:-

        Who is the author of the so-called “new age global energy generation imperative” criteria? You, Lawrence?

        The answer is yes it was me and in 2012 I recall, and I author everything I write personally Geoff.

        It was a relevant term then, and even more so now.

        http://www.2greenenergy.com/2017/05/10/solar-pv-record/

        Lawrence Coomber

  14. Des Scahill says

    Lawrence Comber,

    Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Technology still has some way to go yet. Even in China. To quote from this July 2019 article on ‘Neutron Bytes’ at:
    https://neutronbytes.com/2019/07/21/smr-work-advances-in-u-s-canada-china

    ‘China has started building its first small modular reactor (SMR) as a demonstration project. The ACP100 small modular reactor (SMR) will be built on the island province of Hainan accordong to a statment sent to wire services by the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).’…

    This demonstration project will be used to… ‘“verify the design, manufacture, construction and operation of the technology and accumulate valuable experience in small nuclear power plants,” CNNC said in a notice to western news media.

    The project was originally scheduled to go into construction in 2017. The company did not say when the project was likely to be completed. Given its size, a 3-4 year construction period is a likely scenario.”…

    However, China’s statements about its future wide deployment of SMR may well be ‘hype’…

    ‘Separately, Mark Hibbs, an expert on China’s nuclear energy program, said in a Twitter post last week that China’s recent announcements about its SMR work may be “hype.” He points to a decision which indicates China has dropped altogether its plans to build 20 of its 250 MW HTGR SMRs.

    According to Hibbs, the reason is the cost of the units “greatly exceeded” the cost of larger 1000 MW Hulaong One on a kilowatt cost basis.

    Similarly in the USA, things are very much still at the initial development and trial stage:…

    “NuScale / NRC on Schedule to Complete Design Review

    NuScale said in a press statement on 7/22/19 that the NRC remains on track to complete its review of NuScale’s design by September 2020, and the company’s first customer, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, is planning a 12-module SMR plant in Idaho slated for operation by the mid-2020s based on this certified design.”…

    In Canada…. ”Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) said in a press statement that is has launched the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), a new program that enables research and development to accelerate the deployment of small modular reactors in Canada…”

    My interpretation of the above is that its going to be at least 5 years before SMR technology even begins to be rolled out for initial use in the field, and thats making the optimistic assumption that it all goes well without a single hitch between now and then. The nuclear industry doesn’t have a very good track record on that side of things

    How long after that it becomes ‘mainstream’ and begins to be exported to other countries, and then incorporated into their grid systems is anybodies guess.

    And I’m not even factoring in the likelihood of wide-spread public opposition from just about everyone. Whether the opposition is misguided or not won’t really matter, it will exist nonetheless.

    The people I see entering into states of ‘near hysteria’ at the moment are the sundry advocates of coal and nuclear power who are just beginning to realize they’ve hitched their wagons to a falling star thats about to fall into the abyss of history never to be seen again

    Some of the more die-hard of those are of course currently desperately trying to ‘slow things down’ in the renewable area, by painting rosy pictures of future technology alternatives, and doing their best to obfuscate things as much as possible in the meantime.

    I’m thinking in particular of our current energy minister Angus Taylor. I don’t really know what he hopes to achieve with his ‘Commission of enquiry into nuclear power’, other than perhaps to ensure that yet again Australia does nothing at all to solve its energy crisis until at least 2050.

    So far as Australia is concerned, why on earth would we even bother with nuclear power at all? We’ve got vast areas of land to put non-polluting solar panels on, some modest wind and geothermal resources, and are surrounded by tidal water that rises and falls, and in some instances also has strong currents. The only major unresolved issue we have is that of ‘storage’ for night-time use.

  15. Lawrence Coomber says

    Des Scahill thanks for you insights.

    An emerging global ‘push back’ counterbalancing current renewable energy generation technologies is predictably gathering momentum; and a lesson we can take from the history of human endeavour is that “scientific advancement and technological know-how in all fields is never static; it evolves and improves; with the new ultimately condemning the old to obsolescence and irrelevance”.

    This principle is easy for most of us ordinary people to understand, and has proven to be immutable over time and applies equally therefore to all of the current crop of renewable and non-renewable energy generation technologies without immunity.

    Importantly for solar PV in its current format, will be that the new era generation technology paradigm will add much needed context to the global future of PV as an important player in “boutique role small scale applications” for the immediate future.

    So where are we incrementally and inexorably headed globally, with new era energy focused technology research and development?

    A good starting point for those interested would be this article published in the highly regarded South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) 19/08/2017 by US correspondent Robert Delaney headed, “Nuclear Renaissance – China is set to make an emphatic statement in clean power generation as it prepares to commission its revolutionary AP1000 reactor in Sanmen”, provides a compelling insight and analysis into the key ingredients of this subject, and in this we might see some important and irreversible signposts showing us the future routes to consider, and perhaps learn from.

    http://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/2107354/china-pips-us-race-start-worlds-most-advanced-nuclear-power-plant

    Lawrence Coomber

    • Des Scahill says

      Lawrence Coomber

      I followed your suggestion and read the 19th August 2017 article in the South China Morning Post.

      As you quoted, the 2017 article does indeed disclose that China ‘prepares to commission its revolutionary AP1000 reactor in Sanmen’.

      However, there are other sections in the article which make it clear that the rosy picture you’re attempting to paint is a misleading one. Here’s some successive more fuller quotes.

      ‘China will soon be ready to start commercial operations of the world’s first next-generation AP1000 nuclear reactor, possibly setting off a renewed push by the country into atomic power after years of delays and billion-dollar cost blowouts.’ …

      Please note the word ‘possibly’ and the phrase: ‘years of delays and billion-dollar cost blowouts’

      Further down the same article also says: ‘The No 1 reactor at the Sanmen power plant, designed by Westinghouse Electric Company, is expected to be ready for commercial operations on Friday after completing a 168-hour test run, Shanghai-listed China National Nuclear Power Company said in a statement to the stock exchange Thursday. It did not say however when the unit, in east China’s Zhejiang province, will officially enter commercial power production.’

      Elsewhere in the article it points out that ‘These types of new units, including the AP1000, were designed to be easier and less expensive to install and operate, as well as safer. But they ended up being more expensive and difficult to build than expected, especially in the US, where cost overruns ultimately forced the bankruptcy last year of Westinghouse’.

      This article from World Nuclear News:
      http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-First-AP1000-unit-begins-generating-power-0207184.html gives some further information.

      Unit 1 of Sanmen was finally connected to the grid in July 2018, according to the above WNA article. However, this initial ‘connected commissioning phase’ was then followed by a ‘gradual power ascension’ phase. The article indicates that it wouldn’t be until the end of 2018 that full power generation by the Unit 1 reactor would be reached, while Unit 2 was expected to ‘start-up’ in 2019.

      This wiki page at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanmen_Nuclear_Power_Station
      further discloses that the final contract for the plant construction was signed in July 2007. and I was able to ascertain that took roughly 3 years of contract negotiation with a number of potential suppliers before a final contract with the successful tenderer was concluded.

      The pair comprising the first 2 reactors was, at the time, estimated to cost $US5.88 Billion, (40 billion yen) , initial excavation work was completed in September 2008, while the first concrete pour was made in April 2009.

      It’s pretty clear from the above that it took some 14 years or thereabouts from the time the Chinese Government made an initial policy decision to build nuclear power plants to finally get one actually built and producing at its full rated capacity.

      Currencies and their conversion can be confusing, but in Australian dollar terms, using a current exchange rate of $1 AUD = .68 $USD, you are talking an Australian cost of approx $8.65 billion dollars.

      If we assume a total installed cost of $14000 for 6.6 Kw worth of solar panels on a roof, that amount of money puts a solar PV system on roughly 618,000 roof-tops throughout Australia. As each installation is completed, it immediately begins generating electricity, no need for such things as ‘run pretty much at full capacity. If you assumed $12000 installed cost instead, then over 720,000 Australian roofs could have solar PV installed.

      According to this article I found on RenewEconomy at:
      https://reneweconomy.com.au/taylor-presses-nuclear-button-as-energy-wars-enter-dangerous-new-phase-47854/

      it seems that over the last decade the cost of solar panels has fallen by 95% and the cost of batteries by around 70%, while the cost of nuclear power has trebled. Rightly or wrongly, the public is demanding ‘safety’ with nuclear, and that comes with a big price tag.

      One significant aspect that seems overlooked or ignored in this whole debate is the far wider issue of national security . It is a fact of life the we live in an increasingly ‘troubled world’. We can all endlessly debate the extent and nature of that ‘trouble’, the likelihood of it increasing, and just who the potential ‘bad actors’ might be.

      These days the potential ‘trouble’ ranges from attempts by passengers on international flights to hide missile launchers in their luggage and smuggle them into Australia, to the current President of Brazil sacking the head of that country’s space agency for daring to show him satellite photos that indicated that some 67% of Brazil’s Amazon forests have now been ‘deforested’, and that a further 2225 square kilometres disappeared in July 2019 alone. (See this NY Times article at https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2019/08/06/technology/05reuters-brazil-environment.html ).

      And perhaps mingle in as well a solid dose of diverse extreme weather events, the rising incidence of earthquakes and sundry unexpected volcano eruptions.

      The fact is if our national electricity supply gets disrupted in any major way, for whatever reason the collapse of significant portions of our entire economy follows quite soon thereafter. No working petrol pumps, no food deliveries to supermarkets, pumps in sewage treatment plants stop working etc etc etc.

      Solar PV presents a unique opportunity for Australia to diffuse a significant proportion of its entire national electricity production over a vast area, which would help significantly mitigate those effects.

      The situation in France is of some relevance too. About 75% of its electricity production comes from nuclear sources, with a further 12% from hydro. France originally embraced nuclear power with enthusiasm, building its first nuclear plant in 1977.

      Construction of a new reactor at Flamanville began in 2007 and was initially due for completion in 2012, but has been delayed several times, and its initial budget has more than tripled, to 10.5 billion euros. .

      France had five accidents that required reactor shutdowns in 2016, after eight the previous year. ( see https://www.news.com.au/world/europe/flamanville-plant-in-northern-france-has-been-hit-by-a-massive-explosion/news-story/28f0f083f4850f3289939ed489f56c95 )

      The French Atomic Energy Commission quite quickly concluded that technical innovation CAN NOT eliminate the risk of human errors in nuclear plant operation, and plans to reduce it’s nuclear power generation down to 50% of the nations total generation by 2025. That’s a fairly rapid rate of reduction, and consequently the growth in renewable sources has been dramatic.

      As a matter of interest, the Fessenheim plant, the first to be built in 1977, was located on a seismic fault line nearby to adjoining Germany. It’s been a source of concern ever since.

  16. Lawrence Coomber says

    Thanks Des you have made some important points.

    Nevertheless; we all acknowledge the clock is ticking regarding Green House Gas Emissions (GHG) and urgent attention (from united global rather than national perspectives) needs to be the next movement we witness unfolding.

    We have less than 50 years to have widely and globally implemented effective (in perpetuity) technological changes (and these changes needs to account for a doubling of the global population that will occur within this period) as well as at the same time, providing the means for the industrialising of all undeveloped nations to modern standards (which is an axiomatic necessity) moving humanity forward.

    This sums up the challenge, and there is a fair bit to work through. But it can be worked through and the first port of call is energy science and new age generation technology to make it all possible.

    So lets start with that proposition as the hub of the technological imperatives spoked wheel; and the spokes represent kindred new ara energy intensive technologies and businesses supporting the population advancement and modernisation, for example:-

    – new food production technologies replacing outdated and exhausted natural processes;
    – new water science technologies exploiting the global ad-infinitum existing and abundant global water sources (oceans) rather than relying on the vagaries of global climate.

    This of course won’t be possible to ferment at the cumbersome national political top level alone, but surprisingly perhaps, this global collaborative scientific imperative is already forming up as the major global scientific corporate players and leading research institutions, establish consortia and international partnerships to drive GHG emissions technology solutions programs forward.

    It is important to also understand that the global scientific community impetus is rapidly gathering pace around new era energy and GHG science, and some well-respected global scientific forums such as ResearchGate provides some interesting insights from within the broad ranging global scientific community.
    On the same subject Des, this forum might be of interest:

    https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_sources_of_clean_energy_and_RES_technologies_will_dominate_in_the_future

    Lawrence Coomber

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