Inflexible Fossil Fuels: Why Starting And Stopping Coal & Gas Power Costs Big Bucks

Starting and stopping coal or gas power stations

A power station control room. Starting up one of these things is not trivial or cheap.

Coal power is gradually being driven out of business by renewables.  It simply can’t compete on price.  Most people know coal and gas power stations have to pay for fuel while sunshine and wind are free, but not many know how much it costs to start and stop fossil fuel generators.

The cost is massive.  This is a major problem for fossil fuel finances because, as renewable generation grows, it creates more periods of low wholesale electricity prices that force coal and gas generation to either shut down or operate at a loss.

According to the Electranet report — Generator Technical and Cost Parameters — published in July last year, the cost of a cold start-up of all generating units of Australia’s largest gas and largest coal power stations is estimated to be…

If you instead consider Australia’s largest coal power station to be Loy Yang A and B combined — which is reasonable — then its estimated cold start cost would be:

The reason starting fossil fuel power plants burns big bucks is partially due to the fuel required to warm it up and get things started, but it’s mostly because of wear and tear from expansion and contraction caused by changes in heat and pressure.  It dramatically increases the need for maintenance and the frequency of overhauls.

I said overhauls, not overalls. (Image: The Observer)

Due to the cost, fossil fuel power stations hate to shut down.  But wind and solar energy are eating their lunch by creating periods of very low or zero electricity prices.  Solar power mostly does it around lunchtime, while wind tends to snack from the fossil fuel money fridge very early in the morning.

Cutting output to a low level during these times normally isn’t an option due to the inflexibility of most coal and gas power stations.  They simply cannot turn down the power as far as they’d like.  Victoria’s brown coal power stations are the worst in this regard and generally can’t operate below 60% of maximum output for an extended period without shutting down.  While a power station may have several units that can be shut down individually, starting them up again can still be an expensive problem.

If you want more details on why it is so expensive to stop and start coal and gas power stations and why it means fossil fuel generation isn’t just boned but super-boned, read on.  If you already know all about this, then good work.  You can reward yourself by reading a web comic.  But if you don’t know and don’t care, then, for your insouciance, I sentence you to watch this video by a high school teacher on why climate change is an absolute nightmare:

Start-Up Cost Components

It doesn’t cost much to turn on a PV solar system, whether it’s a tiny 2 kilowatt rooftop system or a huge solar farm.  The energy the solar inverter requires comes from the panels, so it mostly comes down to wear and tear on the switch.  Being turned on and off may cause some wear and tear on the inverter’s electronics, but it’s not going to be very significant.  Solar panels are a unique form of generating infrastructure because they may suffer less wear and tear from being used to generate electricity than when the system is off.  This is because they don’t get quite as hot when used to generate electricity.

When it comes to wind power, I’m afraid I only half understand how it works because I’m only half Dutch.

Looking at that sky, you can see why the Dutch decided to give wind power a go before solar.

But starting a wind turbine wouldn’t cost much more than solar, as the wind does most of the work.  The onboard computer will need a little power, and maybe the lubricating oil needs to be warmed up — but perhaps that’s only in cold countries?  I don’t know.  I lack the genes that would give me that knowledge.  Anyway, whatever the cost is, it’s going to be bloody low.

In contrast, fossil fuel generation has all kinds of start-up costs.  These are broken down into seven areas:

  1. Non-fixed labour:  A start-up involves more work than not starting up, so labour costs increase.
  2. General engineering costs:  People have to be paid to make sure stuff that’s not supposed to blow up doesn’t.
  3. General management costs:  Someone needs to make sure everyone shows up for work, follows the rules, adheres to safety procedures, electricity price offers get bid in, wake up Homer Simpson, etc.
  4. Maintenance and Overhaul Expenditures:  While any system of generation that requires flames and/or controlled explosions to generate power will suffer wear and tear while in use, one of the biggest causes of wear and tear is cooling off and heating up.  This is a massive cost for coal power.
  5. Start-up Auxiliary Power:  Most power stations cannot start themselves and require power from the grid to get going.  This makes a black start — which is getting a grid going again after a total blackout — a tricky process.
  6. Start-up Fuel:  Fuel has to be consumed to get a power station warmed up and working.
  7. Start-up Consumables:  Fuel additives, water, and other chemicals1 can be required to get a power station going.

How much a fossil fuel power station has to pay to cover these start-up costs depends on the type of generation and how cold it is when the start-up occurs.

Fossil Fuel Generation’s 6 Types

The report covered the 6 main types of fossil fuel generation:

  1. Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT):  Many small, controlled, gas explosions are used to spin a turbine to generate electricity.  The waste heat is wasted.
  2. Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT):  Same as OCGT, but the waste heat is used to generate electricity.  It’s more complex but more energy efficient.
  3. Gas Steam Turbine:  Gas is burned to boil water to create steam that turns a turbine.  It’s basically what happens when gas generation gets drunk and tries to be a coal power station.  While there are a number of small ones, the only large one in Australia is on Torrens Island in South Australia and the information in the report is based on it.
  4. Reciprocating Engine:  A giant truck engine with a crankshaft and pistons used to generate electricity.  Runs off gas, diesel, kerosene, or a mix.  The report only considers large ones.
  5. Brown Coal:  Low quality coal is burned to make steam to spin a turbine.  Very fatal.
  6. Black Coal:  Higher quality coal is burned to make steam to turn a turbine.  Very fatal but not as fatal as brown coal.

Hot, Warm, & Cold Starts

The report divides start-ups into three categories:

  • Hot:  The generator hasn’t been shut down for long.  Depending on the type of generator, this can be from 1 to 12 hours.
  • Warm:  I probably don’t need to explain this is the state between hot and cold.  Because they cool off quickly, the report doesn’t consider OCGT and Reciprocating Engine generation to have this category of start-up.
  • Cold:  Brass monkeys.  It can take from 1 to 48 hours to get into this category, depending on generation type.

The typical time each type of fossil fuel generation needs to be shut down to require a hot, warm, or cold start is shown in the table below:

Electricity generators - hot, warm and cold start durations

As you can see, the two types of generation that take the most time to cool off are the country’s single large Gas Steam Turbine power station and coal generation.  This is due to the massive size of these generators.  It is an advantage over other types of fossil fuel generation, but it is the only advantage coal generation has.

Start-up Costs

The table below gives the costs per megawatt (MW) of generating capacity for the different kinds of start-ups.  To determine the cost for an entire power station, multiply its capacity in megawatts by the relevant amount on the table2.

These estimates are for typical Australian generators of each type.  So it’s for a new reciprocating engine, since the only large ones we have are fairly new, and it’s for an old coal power station since the average age of our coal power stations is high.  The last time we built a coal power station was 12 years ago in Western Australia.  It was, of course, a huge mistake.

Electricity generator startup costs per megawatt capacity

As you can see, coal power has — by far — the highest start-up costs for every category.  This why the start-up of a large coal power station can cost over one million dollars.

Responsiveness — Coal Is Slow

When it comes to the time required to start up, coal power also takes the longest time in every category, as the following table shows:

Electricity generator start-up time

Coal power and Gas Steam Turbine require the longest periods of time to get going.  The Gas Steam Turbine takes so long because it operates in a similar way to coal power.

Reciprocating Engines and Open Cycle Gas Turbines are the most responsive fossil fuel generators and best able to respond to a shortfall in the supply of electricity quickly.

Minimum Stable Output

This final table shows the estimated minimum output different types of fossil fuel generation can operate at without shutting down.  There are two figures for CCGT because there are two main types.  As you can see, the first type of CCGT and Brown Coal have the least flexibility and normally can’t operate at under 60% of their full load.

Electricity generators minimum stable operating load

These figures will vary from power station to power station.  It may be physically possible for power stations to operate under these percentages, but it’s not done for practical reasons.  For example, while Open Cycle Gas Turbines can operate at a much lower output than 50%, most need to be run around that load or higher to limit their nitrous oxide emissions.

Renewables Driving Coal Power Extinct

Coal power’s high start-up costs combined with inflexibility means the decreasing cost of renewable energy is driving it towards extinction.

This is a good thing because it’s either us or it.  And I vote for us.

Two types of gas generation — Open Cycle Gas Turbine and Reciprocating Engine — can respond quickly and flexibly to changes in electricity prices and have relatively low start-up costs.   They can shut down during periods of low electricity prices that result from renewable energy’s zero fuel cost and start up again when the price rises.  But this won’t save them.

With the cost of renewable energy and battery storage still falling, this just means they’ll be the last to die.  Hopefully, it won’t be too long before all fossil fuel generation goes the way of the dinosaur.


  1. Yes, water is a chemical.  Here is its Material Safety Data Sheet.
  2. These estimates assume a cost of $10 a gigajoule for gas.  It’s under $7 at the moment, so the figure for gas generation would be slightly lower now.
About Ronald Brakels

Joining SolarQuotes in 2015, Ronald has a knack for reading those tediously long documents put out by solar manufacturers and translating their contents into something consumers might find interesting. Master of heavily researched deep-dive blog posts, his relentless consumer advocacy has ruffled more than a few manufacturer's feathers over the years. Read Ronald's full bio.


  1. Bob Gitsham says

    As a matter of interest I used to work as a Marine Engineer. Most of the ships I worked on were powered by large low speed diesel engines, but a few were powered by oil fired steam turbines. Coal had long gone out of use on ships because it was too difficult to handle, therefore too expensive..

    Shipping companies around the world have gone from coal burning to oil burning and then to Internal combustion as in slow speed diesel engines. This has been done purely on financial grounds.

    The slow speed diesel engines used roughly half the fuel of a steam plant of similar power output, at the same time requiring less maintenance.

    And as you have already noted the IC engine can be stopped and started in one fifth to one tenth of the time, and requiring less people to operate it.

    I could never understand why more power stations did not use IC. There are or were some notable power stations that did use IC.

    Gladstone Aluminium smelters, Broken Hill south, and central power stations, These were mining power stations. also the town power station IC.

    Peterborough had its own IC power station even though the ETSA grid went right past the town. The town station was run by the local council and I was told that the unit power cost in Peterborough was less than ETSA could provide it at the time. They did eventually shut the town power station down and go onto the grid, but that was only after all the major power consumers had closed down and the station was no longer worth running.

  2. Bob Johnson says

    That’s fine Ron but……in SE Queensland where I live we have had about 6 sunny days in the last 9. Before that there was almost 3 weeks where my 6.2kw PV system (which would put in up to 30kwh per day on a sunny day) did not get into double digits. Sometimes virtually nothing for days in a row. This is not unusual in this time of year . No start up trouble for the coal power stations! Grid scale batteries would be useless and not much wind either. So the other options are nuclear (ok I didn’t say that), or massively oversize solar and wind systems storing energy in massive pumped hydro or hydrogen storage systems. Now you are talking really BIG bucks. Another option is HVDC lines to somewhere that has excess power. Seeing the area affected is a semicircle of about 1000km radius that would also be rather difficult. So here we have the intrinsic problem of renewal energy in a continent without large nuclear or hydro power on tap, whatever renewable power capacity you have you also must have most of that in fossil fuel backup (allowing for some demand response and large capacity pumped hydro). Even SA has large diesel generators on standby to avoid blackouts.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      At current costs of renewable energy and battery storage, most fossil fuel generation will be driven from the grid. I’m assuming both will continue to get cheaper and we’ll get off fossil fuel generation entirely and it will be cheaper than not doing it. I could be wrong, but I warn you, that only happens three or four times day. (Admittedly more if I get out of bed.)

      One reason why we will eliminate most fossil fuel generation, even at current costs, is because of Australia’s massive hydroelectric capacity. Not only does it generate 7% of our electrical energy compared to 4% in Japan — a country that consists almost entirely of mountains and rain — but our hydroelectric damns have a high power to energy output ratio which makes them particularly useful for grid management.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Bob Johnson,
      Humanity needs to eliminate all human-induced GHG emissions ASAP, or there’s an increasing risk human civilisation will collapse later this century on an increasingly more hostile planet Earth. There is no carbon budget remaining for 1.5 or 2 °C warming.

      Per ERA5 data, the Earth System was already at +1.3 °C global mean warming (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial age) in 2020.

      +1.3 °C warming is already dangerous, as we know, because we are already experiencing it.

      Even if the world’s governments meet their current Paris pledges on time, Earth is likely to reach average global surface temperatures of 3 °C above the pre-industrial period during this century, with catastrophic consequences.

      Barring super-volcanic eruption, major meteor impact, and/or global thermonuclear war event(s), the Earth System is ‘locked-in’ to surpass the +1.5 °C global mean warming threshold, likely before 2030 (some say by early 2030s – whatever, precise timing doesn’t matter), and on current GHG emissions trajectory, is likely to surpass +2.0 °C global mean warming threshold before 2050. Only by drastically reducing GHG emissions before 2030 and to net-zero well before 2040, would it be possible to delay reaching the practically inevitable +2.0 °C warming threshold to the later part of the second half of this century.
      See Table 1 in:

      Per the Agricultural Systems paper titled “Increasing risks of multiple breadbasket failure under 1.5 and 2 °C global warming”, published Oct 2019, the Abstract includes:

      “Risks of simultaneous crop failure, however, do increase disproportionately between 1.5 and 2 °C, so surpassing the 1.5 °C threshold will represent a threat to global food security. For maize, risks of multiple breadbasket failures increase the most, from 6% to 40% at 1.5 to 54% at 2 °C warming. In relative terms, the highest simultaneous climate risk increase between the two warming scenarios was found for wheat (40%), followed by maize (35%) and soybean (23%). Looking at the impacts on agricultural production, we show that limiting global warming to 1.5 °C would avoid production losses of up to 2753 million (161,000, 265,000) tonnes maize (wheat, soybean) in the global breadbaskets and would reduce the risk of simultaneous crop failure by 26%, 28% and 19% respectively.”

      Inadequate global food supplies means global famine, and if that continues long enough, then billions will likely die. These are ‘threat multipliers’ for geopolitical conflict, and ultimately civilisation collapse.

      During WW2, the US Government spending on military outlays rose to 42% in 1943 and 1944. Great Britain allocated more than 50% from 1941 to 1944. Germany reached up to 70% in 1943. Japan: 43% in 1943, and 76% in 1944.

      “If we moved this fast to build a global machine to kill people, why can’t we move this fast so that the climate crisis doesn’t kill a lot more?” – David Spratt, Research Director, Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration

      But there are timely solutions to get most of our GHG emissions rapidly reduced by 2030. I’d suggest what’s stopping this happening is ignorance and lack of political will.

      For an example, see the YouTube video below titled “100% Renewable Energy solar/wind with pumped Hydro with Professor Andrew Blakers of Australia ANU”, published on Feb 24, duration 1:43:14, where Professor Andrew Blakers of the Australian National University talks about how to implement a 100% Renewable Energy future.

      • Ian Thompson says

        And yet, Geoffrey – SA has an array of large Fossil-fuelled IC engine-powered alternators, ready to “pick up the slack”. When do you see these being taken out of service? Existential Threat!, Existential Threat! We’re all doomed!

        Perhaps you could have them converted to run off ScoMo’s hydrogen?
        ScoMo’s people must have a money-tree growing out the back – as he’s said “We are not going to tax businesses out of existence to raise money for green project” (or, words to that effect). $0.5 million seems far too little, far too late, but I wonder where that money is coming from?

        • Ronald Brakels says

          There’s 116 megawatts of internal combustion reciprocating generators in South Australia — or thereabouts. And we’re down 760 megawatts of coal power over the past nine years. Maybe you are thinking of gas turbine generating capacity? Note gas consumption has also fallen.

        • Geoff Miell says

          Ian Thompson,
          I suspect the ICE generators will be used less and less as large-scale BESSs are deployed.

          Published today at RenewEconomy is a piece by Dan Cass and Bruce Mountain titled “Batteries, solar and wind can easily maintain grid security as coal retires”. It includes:

          “Batteries were originally built to help smooth out the variable output of wind and solar. But it turns out they can do everything a generator can and more besides. They are rapidly evolving the capability to provide inertia and system strength.

          The inverter which connects the battery to the network can be programmed to lower or increase frequency and voltage very quickly and precisely.

          A coal generator is only able to provide an inertial response equal to its capacity for around three seconds. A battery can provide inertia until its energy store is depleted.”

          The Clean Energy Council’s report, published Apr 10, titled “Battery Storage: The New, Clean Peaker”, proves that large-scale battery storage is now the superior choice for electricity peaking services, providing significant cost, flexibility, and emissions advantages when compared to equivalent open-cycle gas turbine plants.

          BESSs are a the superior choice for ‘peakers’ – follow where the money is being invested.

          And APRA is warning banks they will face lawsuits if they fail to account for climate risks.

        • Ian Thompson says

          Interesting – I was actually thinking of liquid-fuelled generators – which I may have (erroneously) assumed only ICE. I’ve since seen SA will (2017) purchase 9 x aeroderivative turbine super-fast start-up gensets initially running on diesel fuel, collectively producing 276 MW – what has happened to these?

          What happened to the AGL Barker Inlet Power Station – to be 210 MW of reciprocating fast-response power?

          The reason I ask – is that I’m sure I have seen in excess of 320 MW produced from liquid fuel for a short time (I had assumed this to be a warm-up run for reciprocating engines – but maybe a pre-season test for turbines)?

          The reason for my query, was that this power seemed to be in excess of any large solar generation I’ve ever noticed in SA (presently 0.004GW, but I guess it is late in the day – rooftop PV is 10 times that).

          Geoffrey – I think you might be confusing FCAS, with serious time shifting of demand – interestingly, Google popped up an advertisement for GENERAC (an American domestic standby generator) on the Reneweconomy website – maybe that’s saying something…!

          Whilst I was being a little tongue-in-cheek about the use of hydrogen, I did think it more than a little ridiculous to load-shift via hydrogen, to run a steam plant (what with all the inefficiencies and slow response times that creates) – although I guess in an emergency that could be done (e.g. if ALL the grid-storage batteries were going flat). It would make more sense to run a Gas Turbine from hydrogen, if necessary.

          I just can’t get my head around why we are not REPLACING dispatch-able power sources – but merely displacing SOME of fossil-fuelled power, whilst retaining existing fossil-fuelled sources as routine backup. In other words – when we grant approvals for a wind farms, solar farms, etc., why are we STILL not DEMANDING these be provided with load-shifting capability? After all, that is where we need to be, eventually.

          • Phil Venton says

            Here here! Power generation is in transition from coal to renewables and other low CO2 emitters like nuclear. Firming power is required into the foreseeable future.
            Barker Inlet is operating as required.
            SA government sold its GT’s, and they are available, currently liquid fuelled, but owners intend to connect to gas if the demand is sufficient.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Ian Thompson,
            You state: “Geoffrey – I think you might be confusing FCAS, with serious time shifting of demand…”

            I think you simply don’t look at (or is it that you don’t want to know?) what is happening in the real world. From the Clean Energy Council’s report I linked to in my comment above (on page 4):

            “Batteries have quickly expanded energy capacity to four hours and more, outcompeting gas to play the optimum intraday ‘firming’ role. Given Australia’s existing energy mix and diversity in renewable output, there are very few periods forecast to require more than four hours of storage in the next decade. For interday ‘seasonal’ firming, a combination of different storage technologies will be required in the longer term.”

            And on page 6:

            “Comparing the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) and levelised cost of capacity (LCOC) for a new-build 250 MW gas peaker with new-build 250 MW two-hour and four-hour battery storage systems, all located in New South Wales, grid-scale battery storage systems provide a peaking solution with a lower LCOC than an equivalent new-build open cycle gas turbine plant (OCGT or ‘gas peaker’). Battery storage also provides more than 30 per cent in LCOE savings, with both capital and operational cost advantages (before considering fuel and carbon risks).”

            Wallerawang NSW has two BESS proposals lodged with the NSW DPIE:
            * Neoen’s “Great Western Battery” for 500 MW with 1,000 MWh capacity, with plenty of potential/room to expand further.
            * Greenspot’s “Wallerawang 9 Battery” for 500 MW with up to 1,000 MWh capacity

            And there are other BESS proposals, including gigawatt scale.

            I see there are some serious ‘intraday time-shifting of supply’ BESS systems in the works, even if you can’t, Ian.

        • Ian Thompson says

          Geoffrey – firstly, I need to apologise for losing my temper when responding to another of your posts – although I see this has been censored anyway – pity, it contained useful information as well as a bit of a blast.

          I despair – can I ask you to please FOCUS Geoffrey – you spout details, but appear to lack any real understanding of the issues involved.
          We are in a CLIMATE CRISIS Geoffrey! Don’t get that? Ok, we have an EXISTENTIAL THREAT! Nothing? Collapse of Civilisation! Still nothing?

          The POINT IS, we need to be REDUCING GHG emissions, and we need to be doing this at an EXCEEDINGLY high rate IN THE SHORT TERM, and even AFTER THAT, if we are to survive. My calculations elsewhere show this.

          I’m more than a little panicked, as we (the royal we, the World as a Whole) are doing far too little, far too late. Even if we only plan to remove GHG emissions from HALF of our estimated 266,000TWh demand for 2050, using renewables, then we will need to implement about 50 TIMES as much wind and solar in the next 30 years, as we have done in the LAST 30 years. Do you COMPREHEND that? Or more…

          Your CEC quote states “there are very few periods forecast to require more than four hours of storage in the next decade”. Really? – and what are we supposed to do during those “few periods”? Run GAS plants, maybe? What about AFTER that decade, when less and less fossil-fuelled generators remain in standby service?
          4 hours? Around Midday in SA today, I noticed SA’s 2GW installed wind capacity had withered to less than 0.03GW – a capacity factor of merely 1.5%…! Right at this point in time (17:10 NEM time), wind generation is still only 0.15GW, and GAS is producing nearly 1GW, plus the battery is about to run flat. So, what would you do tonight if you had no GAS, the sun has gone down, and the battery is flat? Draw from Vic’s filthy BROWN COAL I guess? Even if you had 2 of your beloved (but as yet non-existent) BESS batteries, how would this help if you had been unable to charge them during the day, your demand at over 1GW exceeds their combined output, and the night is longer than 2 hours (2×1,000MWh/2x500MW = 2 hours).

          You talk about ‘intraday time-shifting of supply’, but we most clearly need ‘interday’, ‘interweek’, or possibly even ‘intermonth’ or ‘interseason’ time-shifting, even with a MASSIVE overcapacity. Also, what are the poorer countries (e.g. Bangladesh, India, and numerous others) going to do – after all, their per capita emissions may be a third of ours, but their populations totally put ours ‘in the shade’.

          All I’m seeing, Geoffrey, is a lot of Greenies running around with rose-tinted glasses – and absolutely NO CONCEPT of SCALE and time-frames – at all.

          Why don’t you (PLEASE!) focus on the real problem of reducing GHG emissions, World-wide, in a timely manner – URGENTLY – rather than just bicker on and on about my suggestion that an already-very-well-known low-GHG source of emissions-replacing technology could very well help do just that if allowed to. I suspect it WILL be used in other countries, anyway!

          BTW, your Energy Council link quotes ‘NSW’s plan to incentivise 12GW of renewables with wind and solar farms’. What is this, if not a form of SUBSIDY? Also, to paraphrase Ronald’s comment about nuclear – a BESS plan ‘in the works’, or ‘planned’, is not the same as one ‘being built’.

          If your objection to nuclear is primarily based on FEAR, as I suspect it is, I do recommend you read the following: – it is just possible you might learn something – I fear you follow too much social media – without discrimination between fact and fiction!

          • Geoff Miell says

            Ian Thompson,
            You state: “The POINT IS, we need to be REDUCING GHG emissions, and we need to be doing this at an EXCEEDINGLY high rate IN THE SHORT TERM, and even AFTER THAT, if we are to survive.”

            Yep. Ian, please stop reiterating to me something I clearly already know.

            Blakers and his team have outlined a plan to decarbonize the Australian grid. Ian, what do you think is wrong with it? More importantly, what competency do you have to judge, Ian?

            You also state: “Your CEC quote states “there are very few periods forecast to require more than four hours of storage in the next decade”. Really? – and what are we supposed to do during those “few periods”? Run GAS plants, maybe?

            Yep, until adequate wind, solar, transmission links and storage for intraday AND multiday are deployed and operational to fill any demand gaps.

            You state: “…a BESS plan ‘in the works’, or ‘planned’, is not the same as one ‘being built’.”

            Ian, everything worthwhile begins with planning.

            A Neoen representative told me at a Community Information Session earlier this year that it’s anticipated approvals for the “Great Western Battery” will hopefully be finalized by the end of this year, with a further year to procure, build, connect and commission by about the end of next year (2022), and be ready to be fully operational before the scheduled shutdown of Liddell Power Station in April 2023. I have no reason to doubt it. About two years is apparently all it takes to get a large-scale BESS planned to running. And many can be built concurrently.

            You still haven’t explained to me how the “argument that nuclear ‘takes too long’ is an irrelevant red herring”, Ian?
            How do new nuclear proposals, that have DEMONSTRATED time and again that they take more than a decade (and in many cases significantly longer) to plan through to becoming operational, help in any way with rapidly and drastically reducing GHG emissions before 2030?

          • Des Scahill says


            The article you refer to, written in 2018, and published by Yale Univerity, has the general theme that catastrophic events threatening the very existence of the entire global population loom menacingly on the near horizon, and concludes with the words suggesting that electricity generated by ….. “It’s (meaning nuclear sourced power) a valuable, even an irreplaceable, part of the solution to the greatest energy threat in the history of humankind.”.

            The article (in somewhat condescending tones) acknowledges that while ‘renewables’ have their place in the overall scheme of things, only a fear driven immediate purchase of a nuclear power plant , requiring hasty assembly and testing can provide a ‘bigger picture’ long term solution.

            You seem to have fallen so completely for this skillfully written propaganda opinion piece, that in your state of panic you failed to notice a link near the bottom right hand corner of the page to this article also published by Yale .

            You will find there a reference to a US$ 7 billion cleanup cost involving the removal of radioactive soils. .

            But to get back to Millstone, which first commenced its distribution of electricity in 1971.

            It just so happens that Yale University is located in Connecticut, (a state within the wider New England region). Connecticut already has an existing nuclear power plant which has the very appropriate name of “Millstone Nuclear Power Plant’ to identify its precise location and is the only nuclear plant in the entire New England region

            It’s now owned by Dominion Energy who acquired the plant in early 2019.

            During the 12 months to the end of 2019, which is the annual year end reporting date for USA annual financial statements, you can find various expression of thanks by Dominion to the .Connecticut State government for ‘fast-tracking’ the regulatory processes involved in obtaining approvals for the change in ownership of Millstone.

            Dominion’s acquisition came about because, during the previous 28 years or so, the Millstone nuclear plant had established a long history of breakdowns. outages etc, and regular safety inspections by the regulatory bodies revealed serious operating and safety concerns.

            Those all came to a head when it was discovered that:

            “The plant has had numerous safety-related shutdowns and at times been placed on enhanced examination status by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.[4][5] In 1999 Northeast Utilities, the plant’s operator at the time, agreed to pay $10 million in fines for 25 counts of lying to federal investigators and for having falsified environmental reports. Its subsidiary, Northeast Nuclear Energy Company, paid an additional $5 million for having made 19 false statements to federal regulators regarding the promotion of unqualified plant operators between 1992 and 1996” see:

            In their 2019 financial statements, which would be published in the early part of 2020, Dominion Energy give their acquisition of Millstone some prominence, Dominion was also at the time already flushed with success too,

            Just prior to the Millstone purchase, in January 2019, Dominion merged with SCANA Corporation, an energy company based in South Carolina, Negotiations with SCANA had been underway for a year.

            In March 2020, events took a somewhat dramatic turn. A scandal erupted over SCANA’s business and operating practices, which would eventually lead to South Carolina experiencing the largest business failure in its recorded history, and Dominion was also involved. Huge losses had been kep hidden from both the public and statutory view, and a rosy picture of ‘all is well’ had been substituted in their place.

            SCANA itself was the by-product of a previous merger of two utilities, one of those being the State Carolina Public Service Authority, a public utility owned by the South Carolina state government.

            Such were the complexities involved, that the overall financial disaster was nick-named ‘NukeGate’ because it was almost impossible to determine who did what to whom and when, and who hid what incriminating evidence where.

            In overall summary, the ‘Nukegate’ scandal arose out of an original plan in 2008 to construct just two AP1000 nuclear reactors at a cost of US $9.8 billion. Westinghouse was appointed as the construction manager.

            The AP1000 design allowed for modular construction and prefabrication of those modules which can then be simply put in place. This innovative technique is hailed as a ‘nuclear renaissance’. heralding a soon to arrive nuclear utopia.

            Construction actually begins in 2013, but numerous construction delays occur in the period 2014 – 2017 due to manufacturing errors and incompetence and the expected project total cost rises from $9.8 billion to $25 billion. At that point Westinghouse files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and construction is abandoned.

            The South Carolina state government ended up with a US$ 1 billion dollar legal bill, There would obviously also be the loss of any progress payments made as construction progressed, along with an initial deposit of some kind, and I suspect that maybe that could be as much as $3 or $4 billion. It is also known that for the next X years South Carolina residents are going to incurring a negotiated amortisation of some $2.3 billion of expenditure in the ongoing rate bills.

            Scana and Dominion end up sharing a $25 million civil fine from the SEC

            If you do a search using the term “Dominion Energy – Fines” you will find a lengthy history of quite large fines for a variety of offences.

            So far, all the available existing information I have seen concerning the nuclear power industry has not succeeded at all in convincing me that handing over the equivalent of a 10 km long freight train, with each wagon filled to the brim with $100 bills is the best financial decision Australia could make.

            What I see instead is an industry that has devoted so much money and effort for so long to retarding global research and implementation regarding renewable non-polluting sources of energy that it has, without realising it, successfully turned itself into a global vainglorious retardant.

        • Ian Thompson says

          Well, Geoffrey – I did explain why your argument that “nuclear takes too long” is an irrelevant red herring – but that post appears to have been redacted. Basically (and simplified), if we don’t release nuclear from manacles right now, it will only take even longer to get full size nuclear and/or SMR’s in place within 10-20 years even – which would then allow nuclear to ASSIST getting GHG’s under control – especially if it should eventuate (as I expect, and my calculations suggest) that the rate of rollout of wind and solar is simply far, far too slow, or the building of transmission links and battery systems is found to be cripplingly too expensive. That is about the timeframe when we will have come to the end of the easier process of simply DISPLACING fossil fuels, and will need to get on with the more difficult process of REPLACING fossil fuel (which will need systems that can stand alone WITHOUT gas back-up).
          A back-up contingency plan, if you like, or a means to get things back under control in an emergency, should your PLAN fail – as I feel is happening as we speak.
          Geoffrey – I am AT LEAST your peer, and quite possibly even far more competent than you to comment – and you speak of hubris…
          Would you also do me the courtesy (and most other people as well) of not reiterating the details of climate change and its consequences again and again, as we also already know.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Ian Thompson,
            I see you’ve resumed ‘normal programming’ – ignoring inconvenient evidence/data presented and engaging in delusional wishful thinking.

            You state: “…if we don’t release nuclear from manacles right now, it will only take even longer to get full size nuclear and/or SMR’s in place within 10-20 years even…”

            Ian, why divert precious time and resources to nuclear technologies that have DEMONSTRATED time and again they take DECADES to ramp up to meaningful levels and will be of NO benefit to the urgent and critical challenge of avoiding +3 °C warming or more NOW? If we/humanity can fully decarbonize electricity grids by 2030, and that’s what is now REQUIRED, then there is no need for new nuclear anyway. The evidence I see indicates your “back-up contingency plan” is entirely unnecessary and wasteful.

            The TIMELY non-nuclear solutions are already available to fully decarbonize the electricity grids by 2030. It just takes the willpower, resolve and efforts to achieve it – like in WW2, when governments dedicated large portions of total spending on military spending to enable their efforts.

            In the YouTube video titled “Climate Emergency: Is 1.5° really safe?”, duration 45:36, from time interval 23:11, David Spratt presents a table of military spending from 1939–44, in terms of military outlays as a percentage of national income. David Spratt said:

            “If we moved this fast to build a global machine to kill people, why can’t we move this fast so that the climate crisis doesn’t kill a lot more?”

            A very good question indeed, that politicians/leaders need to answer.

          • Des Scahill says

            Ian Thompson

            I read your April 25th reply to Geoff with some interest It is relatively easy to re-frame the debate in a number of alternative ways that ignore completely the minute details of climate change and its consequences.

            Doing so should satisfy your complaint that you are bored witless from being constantly reminded of climate change consequences because you know such much about those already.

            The extreme positions of my proposed re-framing are these:

            1. Person A claims that advocates of nuclear power are complete morons

            2. Peron B claims that advocates of renewables are complete morons.

            3. The two position are mutually exclusive enough to render it impossible to ever reach a compromise position that will satisfy both parities.

            4. Both A and B are allowed one gratuitous insult each in their replies. You may find that restriction a little irksome, but it seems reasonable to me.,

            Now, I will cheerfully concede that my overall view of myself is that I know very little at all, about not much at all, regading not only the scientific principles that underpin the operation of the entire universe around me, but just about any other subject you can think of.

            You, on the other hand have not only the benefit of numerous peers, but also the outstanding living examples set by our illustrious Prime and Energy Ministers who are so sick and tired of hearing even the words ‘climate change’ endlessly repeated, , that they now never utter them at all.
            It seems self-evident that I should initially adopt the Person A position

            Are you happy with that?

          • Ian Thompson says

            With respect, Des, your “re-framing” fails the test of logic at first blush.

            It is a pity an earlier post of mine was redacted, as it covered this very issue. And, I hope you will note I apologised to Geoffrey, regardless – appreciating that I wrote it from a position of complete frustration.

            To summarise – I am both FOR renewables, and FOR nuclear. According to your test, that would make me either a double moron, or far more WOKE than either you, or Geoffrey. I do appreciate that nuclear can not be at the forefront of GHG-displacement – and DO see that renewables will now need to “take the load” – and 100% agree with that approach.

            So – I actually agree 100% with you and Geoffrey – at least for the short to medium term. Where I differ, perhaps, is that it would not be prudent to totally ignore a very well known low-GHG energy source technology – that could well be needed to deal with unexpected outcomes of a wind/solar only approach. Call this a contingency plan, if you like.

            The reason for my concern about this issue, is that by 2050 the World is expected to be consuming ~ 266,000 TWh/annum – and by my could we are presently, after 30 years, less than about 1.5% of the way there with wind/solar/batteries, with less than 30 years left to go. Also, the MASSIVE costs of subsidising new, and regularly changing-out batteries, inverters, and solar panels, may prove prohibitively expensive – by then, SMR’s may well prove a better option. If they are not, or are not required, then so be it. I’m only recommending that we “hedge our bets”, and take the manacles OFF nuclear – so we can be ready if needed – rather than to be cocksure we won’t need them.

          • Des Scahill says

            I appreciate the humour in your reply.

            Don’t be concerned at all about being a ‘double moron’ – holding both views at once tends to be self-cancelling, In fact, you rate very highly on my alternative ‘notch’ scale, as do many others among the regular readers and posters to this blog.

            I can really relate to the ‘frustrations’ – in my wilder moments of fantasy, I’ve even considered erecting in the dark of night, a huge 50 metre vertical banner, located one metre inside NSW, at the NSW/ACT border crossing. Said banner would face outwards from the ACT, and be emblazoned with the words ‘

            ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’

            Seriously though, its good and also wise to debate alternative views on how best to achieve almost identical aims that are beneficial to society as a whole, have solid backing from science, and would very likely save many human lives.

            Australian citizens have a high level of general literacy which helps to make many people reasonably informed, and quite a number of polls and surveys show a rising level of both concern and awareness about climate and related energy issues. The latest estimate is that 84% of the population share those concerns and even though there will be varying intensity of concern – ranging from terrified down to almost apathy – that’s a potentially promising situation.

            Anyhow, I certainly didn’t mean to cause you any offence, and I’m glad you recognised that. As you rightly say, we have far more in common than perhaps we both realised.

            As a matter of polite interest, how far do you l live from the NSW/ACT border? (not that I’m looking for a ‘patsy’ or anything like that of course).

          • Ian Thompson says

            Des Scahill

            Thank you for your reply, and encouraging comments. I have been scratching my head about the extremely negative responses I have been getting, and regular accusations of being a denialist, which I find quite objectionable as this is certainly not true, and I AM agreeing with the initial approach at least, of using wind and solar to try to address our common, immediate, and critical concerns.

            Maybe by observations about the (real, observable) obvious limitations of intermittent sources of power FACTS, have been misinterpreted as my being against wind and solar – like the fact that yesterday lunchtime the whole of wind, throughout Australia, was only about 0.25GW, about 1% of demand – but the reality is that I am trying to get people to see the obvious – we are far, FAR away from achieving what we need to achieve in the short and medium term, and much, MUCH more has to be done, urgently. A few big BESS, and wind and solar farms, are not going to “cut” it – we need a whole lot, LOT more. Call it frustration, and disenchantment with all the B.S. that’s going around, if you like.

            I also found your comments concerning the Yale paper quite insulting – there is no way on earth that I have been ignorantly “taken in” by that link – which I included to try to offer some perspective on the REALITIES of nuclear safety – rather than the ill-informed social media (which I feel does a massive disservice to all of us, on almost all topics – this IS being fed by morons).

            The reality is, my interest in nuclear started way, way back – when I did a “Nuclear Engineering” unit during my engineering degree – at the time, the UK were running Graphite-moderated reactors (maybe older Magnovox, similar in principle to Chernobyl?, but more likely later Advanced Gas Cooled Graphite-moderated like Windscale), and the US were developing light water pressurised reactors. My Senior Lecturer had just come back from a sabatical at Lucas Heights. For this reason, I can claim to know a good deal more about nuclear, than most average “punters” – I could probably design one in principle, basic though that would be. I doubt Geoffrey Miell had even be BORN at that stage.

            About 30 years ago, at about the start of much talk about Global Warming, I formed the view that Nuclear may, in fact, save us – and at that stage, it could have, and avoided the muddle we now facing. But, this was not to be – and the country has procrastinated ever since. With respect, I DO consider Greenies contributed significantly to this mess we now find ourselves in – they helped put us there, and now want to lead us out of it! Self-serving? At that time, I suspect Geoffrey was still in short pants (or nappies, even).

            Your proposed ‘re-framing’ could go a little like this:
            A. Those who desire to reduce GHG’s quickly with, then continue with wind and solar for the longer term.
            B. Those who might also consider nuclear as a possiblity to help achieve the above cause at a later date, should circumstances dictate.
            C. Those who oppose nuclear under any circumstances, and at any and all cost.

            I quite clearly fit firmly in category B – you and Geoffrey C. Again with respect, I feel category C is irrational, illogical, and irresponsible – putting ALL of our eggs in one basket, full of holes, lacks common sense – but I can agree to differ.

            Des, I do feel we need to face FACTS. In 2020 alone, US nuclear generated 790 TWh of electricity , and in so doing saved ~ 63,200 human lives compared to using COAL instead (about 1.8 million lives in the previous 18 years, coal has about 80 fatalities/TWh produced, nuclear about 0.04 fatalities/TWh), and offset over 790,000,000 TONNES of CO2 being loaded into the atmosphere. Also, to put this into local perspective Australia’s electricity consumption has been hovering around a little less than 200 TWh/annum – so US nuclear has generated ~ 4 times as much, as Australia’s TOTAL electricity generation – we COULD have done it with about 12 nuclear plants or less, with zero (0) CO2 emissions.
            In 2018-19 Australia’s total ENERGY consumption was 6,196 petajoules, corresponding to 1721 TWh – which goes a long way towards explaining why our per capita CO2 emissions are so high – we use a lot more non-electrical energy, than electrical, compared to other countries. But, this is the energy we need to electrify, if we are to reduce our CO2 emissions to zero. Last year, US nuclear alone provided the equivalent of 790/1721 ~ 46% of Australia’s total energy use (ok, the dates of the data are a little skewed, but you should be able to appreciate the issue). But note that whilst I do feel we have an obligation to “pull our weight”, even if Australia produces 3 times the per capita emissions of EVERY other country on the planet (population 7,800 million, vs Australia’s 26 million), our total impact would only be (26×3)/7800 = 1%, if we did NOTHING.

            Des, from my calculations and reviews, I have no confidence AT ALL that we are on a path to adequately reduce our GHG contributions in time, nor that most of the proponents have a CLUE about the SCALE of the problem. Yes, I DO understand that the ratio of installed over-capacity, and the amount of storage required is a ‘balancing act’ – but I do believe the requirements of both are being grossly understated, and are MASSIVE if we are to have any confidence in power supply continuity.

            BTW – I live about 3,700 km from Canberra – but can regularly feel the puffs of hot air even from here.

    • Jol Parslow says

      I too am in SE QLD. One anecdote does not make an argument. I could say(which is true) that my 6.6kW system during the worst 7 days of the recent cloud & rain produced 1/4 29kWh, 2/4 22kWh, 3/4 17kWh, 4/4 4kWh, 5/4 7kWh, 6/4 19/kWh, 7/4 25kWh. That is an average of 17.5kWh per day production, versus average13.5kWh consumption. On only 2 days did consumption exceed production.

      This is at a time of year when the maximum daily produced is 38kWh and all days since then exceeded 30kWh. And yes it was cloudy that whole time 1-7/4 except the first and last day were mixed.

      You may have had exceptionally thick cloud, but any system gains from running cooler. My system is optimised exactly for True N and latitude unlike a lot of roof systems, and uses panels which perform better than most in low light.

      My point is not how good my system is, and of course many people can’t do what I did. My first point is that the ‘average’ system is probably between mine and yours.

      I use totally solar electricity to heat my hot water, and managed to get though the period without having to switch on auxiliary heating (wood stove). On most days there was some excess to charge an EV if I had one.

      My second point is that it would not take much extra capacity in individual roof top solar to ride out all but the very worst days. Improving panels, smart meters & new rules already elsewhere in Australia will probably allow up to 10kW of system in many places.

  3. Great analysis. Enjoyed the 30-min vid, too. Should be required reading / viewing for the COALition… .

  4. So what happens when we all start coming home from work in the afternoon and we all start plugging in our new shiny electric cars just as the sun is setting ? Admittedly wall charging only uses 2 to 3 Kw, but EV’s will charge deep into the night, every night of the year, only a million cars at first, then two million. Most people choose to charge at home for the convenience of it. Coal, boys and girls is here to stay for a long while yet.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Somehow I don’t think millions of EVs plugged into the grid is going to help coal power’s prospects.

    • Randall Mathews says

      Plug your car in at work and absorb the solar excess.
      Surely this is a no-brainer. You then drive the stored energy home and plug it into your house and cook dinner with it. FFS

    • Des Scahill says


      Extreme weather events (esp storms and cyclones) along with their increasing magnitude and frequency tend to completely sweep away such things as bridges, roads, and cause large slips that block local roads and highways.

      Add to that bush-fire impacts. Back in 2020, following the disastrous 2019-2020 summer bush-fires, the NSW Minister for Transport issued a ministerial directive ordering millions of trees to be cleared along ALL state administered highways in NSW. The intention was to increase the clearance distance on BOTH sides of the highways to 40 metres, from their present 20 metres

      One of numerous reasons for his directive, was the fact that large numbers of people all evacuating in haste from fire-threatened country townships, farms etc; found themselves quickly ‘blocked’ when they reached a state highway.

      Even after reaching a highway, fallen trees, rear end collisions causing some vehicles unable to be driven at all and thus blocking all the vehicles behind them, road clearing machinery and ambulances from elsewhere unable to reach locations, supplies of diesel fuel for fire tankers unable to be delivered and so forth were among the many problems encountered during those fires.

      This ABC article broadly covers the issue:

      Also, this Guardian article gives some further detail:

      It’s worth noting the highway pictured on that page. It’s quite evident that little would be needed to block it completely.

      One thing this highlights is that road vehicles will be of little use in a major natural disaster that requires the rapid evacuation of large numbers of people.

      It also highlights the huge ‘fix-up’ costs now being incurred because in the PAST, our Australian politicians largely ignored the worldwide evidence of mounting natural disaster levels. They chose instead not to take into account potential climate change impacts in their budget planning, because doing so implied a tacit acknowledgement that human induced climate change actually existed.

      The consequences from that past inaction are now beginning to arrive and the consequences of today’s ongoing inadequate responses will arrive in the not too distant future.

      NSW has responsibility for roughly 18,000 kms of of highway throughout the state, and employs around 130,000 people overall (including contractors). The transport budget is huge, but a large portion of it is directed towards fixing Sydney’s congestion problems including the upgrade of the Sydney Metro rail system. The state budget overall has also been affected by the need to divert funds toward stimulus and support packages of various kinds to mitigate the huge economic impacts of Covid 19.

      Page 3-6 of Budget Paper No. 1 states:… “The economic contraction due to the COVID-19 shutdown is driving a significant deterioration in State revenue. Relative to the 2019-20 Half Yearly Review, revenue has been written down by $17.6 billion over the five years to 2023-24.

      Similarly, previous forecasts of the expected NSW future population in June 2024 have been reduced by 376,000. A significant factor in that is a decline in fertility rates. ( see page 2:14).

      That decline in fertility rates alone pretty much blows out of the water many of the rosy population growth estimates used by advocates of nuclear power to buttress their specious claims. It seems to have been first warned of in 2017 ( see this BBC article:

      Subsequent research by others confirms that claim and pinpoints some causes. These include chemicals found in everyday items.

      “These chemicals include phthalates and bisphenol-A, which are found in ordinary items like plastics, pesticides, cosmetics and even some receipts, according to Axios.

      Phthalates, which can make plastics flexible and allow beauty products to absorb scents have been linked to a decrease in the in production of hormones like testosterone, according to a 2015 study from the National Library of Medicine.”

      At the very least it currently seems far more likely that populations in BOTH developed and undeveloped countries are far more likely to decline in the quite near future for a large number of reasons, and continue to do so for fhe foreseeable future.

      Making matters worse and perhaps demonstrating how ludicrous Australia’s energy policies are becoming, I’ll refer to a section of the latest 2020 annual report from the Shell Oil group which deals with the issues of climate change and energy transitions.

      In that section, Shell says such things as:

      ” We fully support the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep the rise in global average temperature this century to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius”

      “On February 11, 2021, we announced Powering Progress, our new strategy. Powering Progress is our strategy to accelerate progress to net-zero emissions, purposefully and profitably. One of the pillars of this strategy is for Shell to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050,”

      But Shell also cautions.. “we cannot transition too quickly or we will be trying to sell products that our customers do not want. Accordingly, other than our short-term remuneration targets, all targets are conditional on being in step with society. If society is not on the path to net zero for 2050, it is unlikely that Shell will meet its emissions targets”.

      With that in mind, they also set specific targets as follows for their Net Carbon Footprint (NCF):

      2030 NCF reduced by 20% from 2016 NCF;
      2035 NCF reduced by 45% from 2016 NCF; and
      2050 NCF reduced by 100% from 2016 NCF.

      It’s worth noting too that Shell now “have over 350 solar farms in the USA and South-east Asia. In Australia and in Oman, Shell is building its first large-scale solar farms”.

      As well Shell aims to have by 2025 “more than half a million electric-vehicle charging points for businesses, fleets and customers, at our retail sites and people’s homes This number is expected to rise to 2.5 million charging points operated by Shell by 2030”.


      Just to sum that up, what Shell is now saying is that provided customers in various economic, government and industrial sectors are serious about reducing climate change impacts, they are happy to work with them, but if they aren’t serious, don’t waste Shell’s time.

      It also means that a government (or anyone for that matter) could ring up Shell today and say something like “I’m looking for a quote for 14 separate solar farms of X gigawatt capacity in total to be progressively completed by 2023, but you also need to give me at least a 30% discount on an overall 100 thousand EV residential charge points”, and probably find that Shell would show considerable interest in having more detailed discussions.

      I’m not at all suggesting that Australia should do that of course,

      We can’t anyway, because no one in Government seems to have a clue as to what energy policy framework actually exists. That’s needed as a fundamental first step in order to provide overall governance and guidance regarding what types of things should be considered in the first place. Only then can you begin the process of working out how to fund those.

    • randy wester says

      In countries that have a lot of solar power, you’ll probably charge your EV during the day, when electricity is less expensive. Maybe while you’re at work, shopping, visiting, etc.

      Millions of EVs? It might be possible to make enough batteries for that to happen. For now, it’s a far-off worry.

  5. Richard Courtenay says

    I’d rather have the odd gas fired power station on tap rather than blackouts in summer due to air conditioners, car chargers, hot stoves etc etc all kicking in at dusk after a week of half charged big batteries due to overcast weather. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater before it is proven in adverse conditions. A whole solar farm is very easy for terrorists to knock out. you need multiple options to call on in a crisis.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      In my not at all humble opinion, fossil fuel generation will eventually be gotten rid of because it will be cheaper to do without it. If that doesn’t happen I expect it will be kept around. (But I don’t see how it won’t be cheaper to get rid of it if it’s made to pay for its externalities, which is the polite thing to do.)

  6. Phil Venton says

    1). While the start time data tabled is reasonable for heavy, continuous industrial GT’s, like those at Pelican Point, they are overstated for the range of “fast start” GT’s, or aero-derivative GT’s. These start and stop like an aircraft engine.
    2). I understand that the existing grid requires machines with a throttle to establish and maintain 50 Hz, which is then used by renewables to synchronise their inverters. I appreciate that grid batteries have reduced the need for the “throttle” since they can provide FCAS services instantly, but until the grid is redesigned and/or renewables are fitted with new technology that enables them to replace the machines with a throttle, there remains a need for firming power from machines with a throttle.
    3). I expect that in the longer term coal/gas plants will be replaced by the new generation of small nuclear plants (even it our politicians are reluctant to mouth the word).
    4). Don’t forget January 24 2019 (or close to that), It was a hot day, with SA power being well supplied by wind ans solar….but the wind stopped, and the interconnector failed. There was a power shortfall of approx 1500 MW – which fortunately gad and liquid fuelled generation was able to be started and accept the load until the wind started late in the evening. The Hornsdale battery was emptied in less than 2 hours. Renewable diversity will nor be sufficient for many years to remove the need for firming generation capable of addressing the vagaries of renewable generation.
    5). The NEM was designed for coal generation, and is quite unsuitable for the renewable environment. There must be a new way of providing firming generation with sufficient revenue for it to remain available – on demand, rather than wanting them to gamble on there being sufficient times when they can charge $14,500/MW. The British last year paid a conventional power station to remain available for firming power – if needed.

    So the picture is not simple, and like many things in life, the full picture must be seen and appreciated if appropriate decisions are to be made.
    (This may be a duplicate – I thought I’d sent it last night, but don’t see it in the published comments.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Phil Venton,
      Based on your comments above, it seems to me you don’t (or is it wilfully won’t?) see “the full picture”.

      Several of the 16 coal power plants in the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM) will be financially unviable and at least one is likely to face closure several years sooner than planned due to coal plants’ poor flexibility and inability to adapt to a rapid influx of renewable energy.

      Following the IEEFA report, EnergyAustralia has since announced Yallourn W (1,450 MW) will close early, in 2028.

      Delta Energy has also flagged the possibility of early closure of Vales Point B (1,320 MW), well before 2029.

      Which other electricity generators will close early next? Eraring (2,880 MW)? Gladstone (1,680 MW)? Perhaps Mt Piper (1,400 MW)?

      Phil, where will the TIMELY reliable electricity generation come from to replace the retiring power plants? Certainly not from nuclear. For an inexperienced nuclear power country like Australia, any operational nuclear power plant would be at least **15 to 20 years away** – far, far TOO LATE.
      See my comment at:

      There are timely solutions, if only you (and others like you) open your eyes to the critical challenges facing us, and the opportunities that are available.
      See my comment above at:

      • Phil Venton says

        Thanks Geoff,
        I fully appreciate your comment on coal plant retirement (and the intermittent load caused by renewables is accelerating the deterioration rate of these plants. . This is the reason that gas fuelled generation is seen as providing the transition. When the wind stops, something needs to fill the space as happened in SA on January 24, 2019.
        Most installed renewables need 50Hz from the grid, provided, currently by coal and gas plants. Until technology is developed/installed on all renewable generators, firming generation is required.

        • Geoff Miell says

          Phil Venton,
          Fossil gas ‘peakers’ are being outcompeted by battery energy storage systems (BESSs).

          More fossil gas means more expensive electricity/energy – there are already cheaper energy alternatives to fossil gas.
          Fossil gas is ‘dirtier’ than coal if ‘fugitive emissions’/leakage is more than 2 to 3% anywhere in the supply-chain.
          See the YouTube video in my comment at:

          If you had looked at the Andrew Blakers video in my comment above then I’d suggest you wouldn’t have said “Until technology is developed…” – it’s already available, affordable and rapidly deployable.

          Published today at RenewEconomy, by Andrew Blakers:

          “Pumped hydro energy storage comprises 95% of global storage power and 99% of global storage energy. It provides lowest cost storage for periods of more than a few hours.

          The global pumped hydro storage atlas lists 616,000 sites(4,000 in Australia) with 23 million Gigawatt-hours (GWh) of combined storage, which is two orders of magnitude more than required to support a global 100% renewable electricity system.”

          It’s clear to me you just don’t want to know. I think it’s wilfull ignorance and attitudes persisting and delaying timely action, like those that you seem to be displaying here, that could easily end human civilisation later this century.

          • Phil Venton says

            I think we are on the same side.

            I’m in the industry (gas transport side) and have a reasonable understanding of the issues.

            I have had rooftop solar installed since 2007 and currently operate an 11Kw system with 2 Powerwall batteries. I’m a renewable convert at a domestic level, with an understanding that renewables can and should make a real contribution to a low carbon economy.

            It’s not a religious moment.

            There are real practical issues associated with transitioning from coal to renewables and the sooner there is a broad understanding of the grid, the better.

          • Des Scahill says

            You were perhaps a little unkind to Phil, but at the same time I well understand your frustrations.

            Phil is mostly correct in saying ‘there are real practical obstacles….’ involved in upgrading the existing electricity grid so it can handle a variety of renewable inputs of varying proportions. (that’s how I interpreted what Phil wrote so he can feel free to correct that if I”ve got it wrong).

            To me though, the fact that such obstacles – including the continuing presence of subsidized coal powered generation facilities – still exist at all highlights the past unwillingness of national political leadership to make any real and coherent commitment to just about everything in the hope that doing so will completely avoid any possibility of being blamed for anything at all.

          • Geoff Miell says

            Phil Venton & Des Scahill,
            Broadcast on ABC 7:30 last night, in the segment titled “Climate Change Part 1: How climate change is affecting the Torres Strait”, from time interval 09:43, former UK Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir David King said:

            “What we/humanity together do over the next four to five years may well determine the future of humanity for the next few thousand years.”

            Either we/humanity resolve the “real practical issues” fast and effectively, or we reap the consequences of an increasingly more hostile planet Earth where increasingly more areas become uninhabitable. There is no planet B to go to if we fail.

            Professor Schellnhuber said:

            “If we don’t solve the climate crisis, we can forget about the rest.”

          • Des Scahill says

            Geoff Miell and Phil Venton

            Probably Geoff, the only difference between your views and mine is that I’m slightly more pessimistic – Where you see a 3 to 4 year time frame, I see more a 2 to 3 year time frame. ie. in 2 years time things will begin to go ‘bad’ world-wide at a rate faster than expected.

            I don’t think that really matters though. To use an analogy, the horses of climate catastrophe have already bolted, the stables are now empty, and “shortly” the Australian horse trainers and staff will be frantically trying to work out who they can blame for leaving the stable doors unlocked.

            You may think I’m overstating things a little, but if you have a read of my reply to Mark A on 20th April at 5:00 PM. above, you’ll find that the Shell Oil Company are now doing far more to mitigate climate change than the LNP.

            They’ve set clear targets, a timetable, put performance and progress measures in place, and have already built 350 solar farms from which they are now generating both income and cost savings, with more planned. There’s lots of other things they’ve done too, the solar farms are only a SMALL part of their various actions to date.

            When one of the world’s bigger polluters is now doing far more to combat climate change than Australia is that pretty much says it all.

  7. The thing I don’t understand is why don’t we have any internal combustion engine electricity plants?
    Surely they would be more viable than massive batteries (expensive to build and need to be large enough for several weeks of poor weather) or gas stations (which cost a fortune to start and stop – ICE plants would be able to start and stop like a car engine) and it can’t be too expensive as I know there are plenty of times during the day where it is actually cheaper for me to use power from my $300 generator from Bunnings than it is to use grid power (I am with Amber Electric – so they just pass though the wholesale price to me).

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Reciprocating Engines are internal combustion engine generators and are one of the few types of fossil fuel generation power companies are still willing to invest in. This is because they are extremely responsive compared to other fossil fuel generation and can have efficiencies of nearly 50%. Their drawback is a high up front cost, but because they are well maintained and have an easier time of it than truck engines they generally last a long time when used as peak generators.

  8. Ian Thompson says

    I am proud of you Geoffrey Miell – in another post you quoted the ACTUAL ENERGY DELIVERED by wind and solar in the OECD – rather than the highly unrepresentative and misleading “Installed Capacity” figures you usually use – Ronald, I think you, too, should take note. The other day I noted (around midday), that SA’s installed wind capacity of ~ 2GW, was generating a very paltry 0.07GW – today was somewhat similar, at 0.1GW. Now, I do not know for certain if this was a result of curtailment in preference for rooftop PV (producing between 2x and 2.5x as much as large solar), or due to a “wind drought” (more likely, as I recall SA was not exporting any power, and was using a LOT of Gas) – however either way, that looks much like a mostly “stranded asset” – UNTIL we have REAL storage, not just promises, and the tin-pot but famous BIG BATTERY (which “generated” only about 0.04GW for a couple of hours before going flat).

    Geoffrey, the figures you quoted (cut & pasted) were:

    • Hydro production was 1,556.9 TWh, up by 52.3 TWh c.f. 2019;
    • Solar production was 433.9 TWh, up by 72.5 TWh compared with 2019;
    • Wind production was 922 TWh;

    TOTAL Wind & Solar ~ 1,356 TWh. Hydro ~ an additional 115%.

    What you failed to quote, was total energy requirements, for example estimates OECD energy requirements in 2050 of about 200 Quadrillion British Thermal Units – corresponding to ~ 58,614 TWh.

    Now, we have been talking about climate change for about the last 30 years – yet in that time the OECD have only installed wind and solar to meet 1,356/58,614 ~ 2.3% of estimated requirements for 2050 – way, way less than 50% – and we now have less than another 30 years left to go. EXISTENTIAL THREAT NOTICE to you, Geoffrey – at this rate, we are not going to get anywhere even close to making it…!

    Even worse, the same site predicts TOTAL GLOBAL Energy requirements in 2050 of a little over 900 Quads ~ 266,000 TWh. I would think the OECD are well ahead of India, Bangladesh, China, and even the USA in implementing wind & solar – but according to your quoted figures, OECD wind & solar have only contributed in 2020 about 1,356/266,000 ~ 0.5% of what will be required Globally by 2050.
    Also note, most of the existing installed PV will need to be REPLACED once, some parts twice, in the upcoming 30-year time-frame.

    That site suggests we will only get to 28% renewables by 2050 – and more than half of that will be Hydro (for which we have less opportunities for in Australia). And STILL 20% COAL, 22% Gas, and 27% Petroleum Globally in 2050…! You could argue the figures – but what a MASSIVE shortfall…!
    And, we haven’t yet included the costs of storage, the regular replacement of batteries, inverters, and maintenance of wind turbine gearboxes, bearings. Nor – changing the vehicle fleet over to 100% electric by that time (Australia’s average age of the heavy vehicle fleet is 14 years, overall fleet 10 years – plus I suspect diesel vehicles will be “dumped” on Australia, as they become increasingly banned in Europe due to carcinogenic particulate emissions concerns).

    Geoffrey – the above is what I meant by SCALE – I think YOUR plan is failing us. Unless you are thinking of unintentional? genocide – in countries like Bangladesh, India, China, Africa, then I believe we will need MUCH MORE energy than the EIA site estimates (c.f. Lawrence’s observations of the “Global Imperative”) – as it is apparent they have not allowed for improving those countries’ quality-of-life by any significant degree – or anyway close to our relatively comfortable way of life – we may otherwise be talking AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE increase in energy requirements – or even 2 orders. The 0.5% figure then becomes 0.05%, or even 0.005%.

    So – if we have any chance at all of “getting there” – I do not feel it is at all prudent to “trust our luck” on suitable and reasonably priced grid-SCALE batteries (with adequate lifespan) being developed – nor for us to ignore obvious and known sources of EXISTING low-GHG energy – like nuclear – it is evident from the figures that we MUST secure more “strings to our bow”.

    BTW – your argument that nuclear “takes too long” is an irrelevant red herring – I agree it will take some time to develop and prove SMR’s, and construct a few full-sized nuclear plants, but we should take that risk just as much as we should for battery developments – if you are at all genuine about the seriousness of the EXISTENTIAL THREAT. We will never have the option for nuclear, UNLESS WE MAKE A START. I for one, would HATE us to be painted into a corner a few years “down the track”, and be then forced (with no option) into implementing nuclear with reduced safety standards – if we are, I believe this would be thoroughly down on you – and your disciples.

    At this stage, all I am saying, is that:

    1. We should be asking Government to revoke the ban on nuclear, and
    2. We (Australia) need to become heavily involved in the understanding and research of other developed countries, into the various nuclear options.
    3. We undertake serious & genuine planning work ahead of time – to mitigate delays of implementation – should the necessity arise.
    4. We then let nuclear compete on its merits.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Ian Thompson,
      Can you please explain to me how the “argument that nuclear ‘takes too long’ is an irrelevant red herring”?

      Here’s my counter-argument of why it is critically relevant:

      The GHGs already in the atmosphere, where the Earth System is already nudging/breaching 420 ppm atmospheric CO2 levels, and for all GHGs it has crossed 500 ppm CO2 equivalent threshold, means at least +2 °C global mean warming (relative to Holocene Epoch pre-industrial) already ‘locked-in’ for the coming decades. +2 °C warming would be extremely dangerous for humanity.

      Scientists know this from the paleo-historic record, when there was the Mid-Pliocene Warm Period around 3–4 million years ago, where atmospheric CO2 levels were in the range of 400–450 ppm, global mean temperatures were +2.0–3.0 °C (above Holocene pre-industrial age), and sea levels were +10–22 m higher than today (stabilised over centuries).
      See/hear from time interval 0:24:51 to 0:26:45 in the YouTube video:

      Above +2 °C warming may trigger a “Hothouse Earth” scenario of self-reinforcing warming that would be beyond human control. There are also increasing risks ‘tipping points’ could begin to manifest between +1.5–2 °C warming.

      Ian, while we wait for your nuclear technologies to be developed and deployed, which will inevitably be more than a decade way, probably more likely DECADES to ramp up to operational status of sufficient magnitude to achieve any meaningful contributions to reducing GHGs, humanity’s GHG emissions continue to accumulate and increase in the atmosphere, and by that stage already ‘locking-in’ on the irrevocable path to +3–4 °C before 2100. That’s likely ‘game over’ for human civilisation on a planet Earth too hostile in many regions (i.e. equatorial and mid-latitudes, including large parts of Australia) for humans to inhabit and a drastic reduction in global crop and livestock yields.

      Renewables + storage are the only solution scenario within the REQUIRED timeframe remaining (i.e. by 2030) to get humanity’s GHG emissions down fast NOW. Nuclear simply cannot.

      Nuclear has never DEMONSTRATED it can compete on its merits – it has always been substantially subsidized.

      Based on the compelling scientific evidence/data I see, your advocacy/faith for nuclear means likely human civilisation collapse before 2100.

      If humanity cannot achieve rapid and drastic reduction of GHG emissions WITHIN THIS DECADE (i.e. 2020s) then that means human civilisation will likely collapse before 2100.

      I repeat the quote broadcast on ABC 7:30 on Monday night (Apr 19), from the former UK Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir David King, who said:

      “What we/humanity together do over the next four to five years may well determine the future of humanity for the next few thousand years.”

      Ian, these comments are not for your benefit, because I think you wish to remain wilfully ignorant to evidence/data inconvenient for your narrative that ‘nuclear will save us’. My comments are for the benefit of others who may read them, and that may wish to know the reality of the urgent challenges facing us all and the opportunities that are still available, but not for much longer.

  9. Pierre Lantrin says

    Hello , how realistic is to have a production unit combining solar, wind, batteries, hydrogen splitting and hydrogen turbines? It seems to me that such an electricity production unit would provide an ideal solution. Pierre

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