OPINION: We’ll need a lot of coal for electric cars
Summary: The energy renewables zealots and their calls for the closure of coal-fired power stations — expecting solar and wind to meet Australia’s electricity demands — are all the more naive when you consider the increasing needs of a fast electrifying world.....
Those needs were on display recently during the US National Governors Association meeting in Washington, where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull led a significant business delegation looking to seize future trade opportunities between Australia and the US.
A key opportunity was the “Electrify America” program and the US Department of Environment national pollution reduction fund, which combined will result in more than $US5 billion ($6.3bn) being spent to create a charging station network for electric vehicles and other pollution reduction schemes.
Anyone who believes this level of change can be achieved in an Australia reliant on sun and wind for its increasing electricity requirements has rocks in their head.
The closure of more baseload power stations without full replacement at comparable low-cost-of-production capability and peak power generating capacity would be economic vandalism and threaten Australia’s economy, jobs and our standard of living.
The multibillion-dollar subsidising of solar and wind generation, which is well ahead of any other island country without baseload hydro or nuclear power generation, is threatening our place in an increasingly electrified world.
Even the Queensland Labor government’s 50 per cent renewables target by 2030 relies on schedulable, dispatchable and affordable baseload coal-fired generation for the other 50 per cent.
The closures of the Northern power station in South Australia and the Hazelwood power station in Victoria have resulted in the tripling of wholesale electricity prices in those states and the near tripling of commercial and industrial electricity prices to businesses.
The only possibility of restoring internationally competitive prices for businesses and the public is an open, competitive fuel-and-technology neutral bidding process to replace the low-cost baseload electricity generation lost with Hazelwood.
Such a process should pit proponents of base-loading wind and solar generation with pumped storage and batteries against high efficiency and low emission coal-fired power generation on a non-discriminatory basis. This would establish whether the sun, wind and battery proponents can match the 8c/kWh (at 2017 prices) that HELE proponents claim is possible for a Latrobe Valley Hazelwood baseload power replacement, with one-third lower greenhouse gas emissions than Hazelwood.
HELE proponents claim they can achieve such internationally competitive wholesale electricity generation costs, subject to having long-term, non-discriminatory access to debt funding and a technology-neutral and fuel-neutral open competition with any other source of baseload schedulable and dispatchable electricity in Victoria or NSW.
As director of a fund that has $200 million invested in electricity-reliant new-start businesses and technologies, Australia’s ability to keep the lights on and power the industries of tomorrow is a primary concern for me.
I am also associated with companies that would be active bidders in a competitive process as described to restore affordable electricity manufacturing viability in Victoria and, via interconnectors, to South Australia also.
While in Washington with the Prime Minister, I promoted the work of Brisbane-based EV charging-station developer and manufacturer, Tritium, which I chair.
I met with the governor and policy director of Nevada, with whom Premier Palaszczuk signed a sister state co-operation agreement, and with Electrify America, to discuss its infrastructure challenges and how Tritium’s world-leading ultra-fast EV charging stations could solve them.
These Australian-made products will probably lead the way in America, just as they are doing at home with Fast Cities Australia, a company working with the EV Council and motoring organisations to install a national “backbone” of ultra-fast chargers from Cairns to Perth. The impending success of the first stage — Cairns to the NSW border — will hopefully incentivise governments across Australia to extend the charging network on to Perth, which will accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles and electrify the transport sector in Australia.
This would deliver a whole range of national benefits, including reduced health costs as a result of the reduction of petrol exhaust pollutants, national foreign exchange benefits from reduced fuel imports, a greater-than-Paris proportionate reduction in the GHG emissions being projected for the transport sector, and a significant jump in national GDP — the bulk of financial benefits in the pockets of EV car owners and public transport users. But it all relies on reliable, affordable power generation.
Australians who want these advancements must open their eyes to the need for a reliable supply of energy that is available 24/7 and is not subject to the vagaries of the weather. It is vital to do so to safeguard a future where Australia takes its rightful place in a fully electrified world market, typified in part by the rapid take-up of electric vehicles and other green technologies capable of revitalising our environment and our economy.