Labour Go Nuclear

Commissions are coming thick and fast now. After it was announced by Keir Starmer that Gordon Brown would lead “a commission to settle the issue of the Union”, it’s now been announced that Brian Wilson would lead an energy commission. Anas Sarwar said: “I am delighted that Brian Wilson will be bringing his expertise to the table and I am excited to see how this commission can help plan a path to a brighter, greener and more prosperous Scotland.”

And what expertise he has. Wilson of course is a devout nuclear enthusiast. In 2013 he decried Scotland’s energy policy as “Salmond’s nuclear fatwa”.  In October 2005, he was appointed non-executive director of AMEC Nuclear Holdings Ltd, the nuclear services arm of AMEC plc. The announcement boasted that the firm is the UK’s largest private nuclear services business.

Sarwar told the BBC that “I think we should consider potential new (nuclear power) plants”- and certainly with a nuclear lobbyist chairing this is where they’ll end up. But what about the state of the current Scottish nuclear plants?

In 2012 the lone journalist who really cares about this stuff revealed that more than 400 of the recommendations made to improve the safety of British nuclear plants after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan last year still had to be implemented, according to the Brit government’s own Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

In 2013 it was announced that to clean up Sellafield was going to cost around £70 billion. 

That’s £70 billion, just to clean it up.

A report told that Britain is storing an “extraordinary accumulation of hazardous nuclear waste” in “outdated facilities” which will cost nearly £70bn to clean up, MPs warned.

In the same year the UK government was accused of “failing to keep its word” after an official document revealed that the cost of decommissioning nuclear power plants had been underestimated to the tune of £16 billion.

According to a House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts report the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s estimated cost of civil nuclear decommissioning increased by around £16 billion to £53 billion between 2007 and 2011.

According to the report: “The Treasury acknowledged that not considering these costs when the power stations were built had been a mistake.”

Fast forward to 2020 and The Ferret reports (‘Torness nuclear reactors predicted to start cracking in 2022‘): “Cracks that could increase the risk of a radioactive accident at Torness nuclear power station in East Lothian will start appearing six years sooner than previously thought, according to the UK government’s safety watchdog (ONR).”

Torness was originally scheduled to close in 2023, but in 2016 its expected life was extended to 2030. Since then, however, similar but older reactors at Hunterston B in North Ayrshire have started to suffer serious cracks in their graphite cores.

According to the latest published inspections at Hunterston, one of its reactors had an estimated 377 cracks, while the other had 209. The Ferret revealed in October 2019 that the reactors were beginning to crumble, with cracks causing at least 58 fragments and pieces of debris to break off.

Both reactors at Hunterston, which started generating in 1976, are currently closed and awaiting ONR permission to restart. One has been shut since March 2018 and the other has only operated for less than four months since October 2018.”

Down south the Hinkley Point C project is now estimated to cost £22-23bn. It was initially costed at £18 billion.

So despite the eye-watering costs; the huge and complex building run-in; the massive issue of nuclear waste disposal and the crumbling infrastructure of the current nuclear plants, it’s a great idea. Except it’s unclear what problem it’s solving. As the journalist Dominic Hinde points out: “This is a little odd in that Scotland already meets almost a hundred per cent of its electricity needs from renewables and is set to surpass this. Most emissions now come from heating, agriculture and transport.

Aside from all of this, the assumptions that underpin the argument to go nuclear and “keep the lights on” are always always about maintaining or increasing energy consumption when the urgent reality is for the need for a rapid and radical energy descent plan.

Further, as Peter Roche has argued: “It should be obvious now that Scotland can supply 100 per cent of ALL of its energy by renewables.”

Roche argues: ‘The Scottish Parliament should commit to a target of sourcing 100 per cent of all energy used in Scotland (not just electricity) from renewable energy by 2045 or earlier to complement the established legal goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland by 2045. This would be assumed to be achieved when a) the annual Scottish renewable energy production is a least as much as total annual Scottish energy consumption and b) all non electricity consumption in Scotland is sourced from renewable energy.’ This is necessary because:

  1. otherwise plans may be made for new nuclear and or fossil fuel carbon capture and storage (ccs) plants which will either not materialise or which will divert resources away from much more sustainable renewable energy such as offshore wind, onshore wind, solar pv, tidal and wave. Scotland has easily enough renewable energy potential to supply the nations’ needs and export much renewable energy elsewhere.
  2. the energy system needs to be decentralised rather than centralised as the case now. A decentralised system involving the integration of supply and demand through digitalised technologies fits well with renewable energy and storage systems and avoids the duplication and inflexibility of fossil fuel and nuclear systems.

Certainly the latest energy crisis has scared the politicians and “Net Zero” is now a sort of umbrella term for all sorts of madness.

But Labour’s enthusiasm for nuclear isn’t new nor is it confined to Wilson.

In February 2009 Labour’s man in Scotland Jim Murphy announced Labours commitment to a new generation of nuclear power stations in Scotland. In March of the same year Iain Gray – Scotland’s Homer – was broadcasting from Torness Power station. Of course that didn’t quite work out and it’s one of the reasons why Wilson is so bitter.

Labour’s nuclear links were legendary.

When he was ‘Environment Secretary’ (sic) David Miliband got himself all embroiled in a sleaze row over his links to nuclear industry lobbyist Alan Donnelly who chaired the minister’s local constituency party. Donnelly’s lobbying firm, represents the US multinational Fluor, one of the world’s biggest nuclear companies, which was hoping to win a stake in the £70 billion British nuclear waste market. Donnelly also founded and helps to run the Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum (Tanef), an organisation that aims to foster “strong relationships” between nuclear power companies and governments.

But Miliband and Wilson aren’t alone.

Yvette Coopers father, ex-trade union official Tony Cooper, is the former chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, and was director of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

Former Chancellor Gordon Brown (you know the one who’s sorting out Dalgety Bay?) – his brother, Andrew, is EDF’s head of media relations in the UK. Labour peer Lord Cunningham, Tony Blair’s former “cabinet enforcer” and the ex-chairman of the Friends of Sellafield campaign was also “legislative chair” of the Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum.

The extortionate build costs and the extortionate clean up and repair costs should preclude nuclear even if the environmental ones don’t. The myths of reliability really need exposed too – five out of fourteen of EDF’s nuclear units are offline as I write. Labour are flailing about announcing – or (re) announcing commissions for problems that don’t exist. Nuclear was a bad idea in 1979 and it’s a worse idea now.

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Comments (21)

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  1. Iain MacPhail says:

    Excellent expose of Team UK madness in the Energy sector (which complements similar wild eyed approaches to Europe, trade, single market, customs union, their actual land border, and concepts of truth, reality and the safety of their populace)

  2. Mark Bevis says:

    Often overlooked is the fossil fuel footprint of nuclear industry. I don’t mean in the construction, nor in the generation of the energy itself. But the waste storage. I have a friend who works as a welder. His company makes nuclear waste flasks. The safety constraints are so rigourous that a weld that would take 2 hours on an iron girder takes him two days on a nuclear flask, as each seam has to be sound tested for faults. If there is the slightest hairline crack in the weld, it is rejected. In addition, it used TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) rather than MIG welding. His company makes thousands of flasks a year!

    So if anyone tells you nuclear is carbon neutral or part of the net zero greenwashing, blow them out of the water with that fact. Unless of course, in future nuclear waste is going to be stored in the open…..

    As for replacing non-electric energy with renewables, note that electricity only constitutes 20% of any country’s energy use. The other 80% is heavy diesel used in trucks, trains and ships, aviation fuel, oil for lubrication, and the fossil fuels burnt mining, transporting and processing raw minerals.

    If any government is serious about net zero for the non-electric energy sector, then only the introduction of a massive horse breeding programme (or oxen, depending on the nation) would cut it. Any other talk of “net zero” will simply lead to net zero humans by 2050.

    I was in the position of having to listen to MSM talking about the Labour party this weekend – the Labour leadership really have lost the plot haven’t they?

  3. Peter Breingan says:

    Oh no – another reason to not vote Labour (and Tory of course).
    Hinkley Point C costs continue to rise – as they do every year.
    At the present estimate it is nine years late – now Unit 1 not planned operational until 2026 – this is certain to be delayed further.
    The Scottish reactors Torness and Hunterson B are approaching end-of life.
    Since energy is not a devolved matter – there will be big ructions over this.
    Finally who is actually paying for the Dounreay decommissioning, and will pay for Hunterson B’s and Torness’s?
    Suspect it will be the UK government – maybe we should put off independence until this work is completed and Scotland is radiation free.
    Sadly that may be in 100 years time.

  4. DUNCAN MANSON says:

    With the announcement today of a 2gw wind farm for the west of Orkney (enough for 2 million homes), the argument for nuclear is redundant. The same can be said for bought and paid for Scottish Labour, their stooges and establishment hangers on.

  5. SleepingDog says:

    How prescient the Falklands-War-era television energy-crisis series The Brack Report (recently shown on Talking Pictures TV) seems.
    Anyway, although nuclear fission should be killed off along with nuclear weapons, there is still (always) hope for civil nuclear fusion power, although that should really be a global research project whose fruits should be shared under idea communism. I entirely agree with the points in this article about going the renewables route while de-escalating currently hyper-wasteful energy usage. There must be ways of standardizing optimal energy unit use at scale, and with such quantisation, quotas and effectively rations (to prevent energy wastage by paying more).

  6. ColinG says:

    >”Except it’s unclear what problem it’s solving.”

    Perhaps you have missed the current energy crisis??

    This energy crisis is caused by over-reliance on wind and gas for electricity, causing shortages and price volatility. The amount of wind power available in any given year varies enormously and is completely unpredictable from year to year.

    The more we rely on wind power, the more price volatility there will be. These crises will repeat several times per decade in years when there is lower than average wind output, and consequent unexpectedly high demand for gas (or other stored energy).

    There is no way out of this by building more wind power. More reliance on wind just makes the volatility worse. Energy storage won’t solve it either because the amount of storage required is vast and would only be called upon in years when there was a “wind drought”. So storage would be phenomenally expensive; and it would create even greater price panic volatility as it approached depletion. Nuclear would be much cheaper than wind+storage. It is much cheaper than wind+gas at the moment.

    Nuclear power is much more reliable. A nuclear powerstation typically runs for two years on a single fuel-load; and additional fuel is easy to stockpile because it is 10,000 times as energy dense as coal. Yes, there have been some outages recently, but that is because almost all of the UK nuclear plants are running beyond their design life. The obvious solution is to keep building them at a steady rate.

    And, despite the polemic in the article above, nuclear power actually has one of the lowest environmental footprints, and is one of the safest sources of energy available. It is low environmental impact is due to the fact that it intrinsically needs very little materials, compared to other diffuse power sources such as wind and solar. Ironically, renewable generators actually use up a huge amount of non-renewable material in their construction. Nuclear needs less.

    Furthermore the amount of nuclear waste produced is relatively small, and it is fully managed so it does not enter the biosphere. Consequently it causes little harm. Waste from other energy sources such as solar actually causes more environmental damage because there is much more of it, it is unmanageable, and it ends up in the environment. Nuclear waste stewardship should not be characterised as a problem – it is a solution; a solution that other energy industries could learn from. If only the fossil and renewable industries looked after their waste as well…

    These reasons are why most governments are looking to use some nuclear alongside renewables. And those that aren’t, like Germany and Australia, are struggling with climate targets because of their inevitable over-reliance on coal and gas.

    1. I hand t missed the current energy crisis, though the idea that it’s caused by wind is hilarious.

      1. ColinG says:

        I suggest to you look into it, because pretty much every report on the energy crisis has mentioned lack of wind as one of the primary causes of the current energy crisis. It is major setback for the notion of using wind power as a national energy solution. Wind speeds have been at historic 20-year low this year and that is major factor that has inflated gas demand and prices across Europe, and in the UK in particular. This has put the problem of relying too heavily on gas+wind into sharp focus, and is a major reason why the Uk govt is re-focussing on nuclear.

        The basic problem of annual wind variation was outlined a few years ago:
        That example (and the linked research) showed that the low wind speeds in 2009-11 combined with a cold winter would have caused an energy crisis. The only reason it was not too bad was because we had not deployed much wind power at that time.
        Roll on 2021 – the next major wind drought – and lo and behold we have a crisis across Europe, and it is not even winter yet.

        Of course there are other factors at play affecting the gas price. But wind speed volatility is one of the toughest factors to address. The more we rely on wind, the worse it will get with every future wind drought. It doesn’t really matter what form of stored energy you use to try to balance this – whether it is fossil reserves or stored hydrogen – the quantity of stored energy needed to balance an annual shortfall of expected wind energy is absolutely colossal. One option would be to hold another source of energy in reserve, which would only be used in certain years when the windspeed is low, but that would be ludicrously costly and wasteful.

        So that is why everybody is looking to nuclear power. It is much easier to stockpile nuclear fuel because it has very high energy density (10,000 higher than fossil fuel) and it has very low environmental impacts. Nuclear fuel is also relatively inexpensive per unit of energy (the cost of nuclear power is mainly in financing the construction of the plant, not the fuel).

        Despite the anti-nuclear propaganda, overall nuclear power has low environmental impacts across the board:
        On this basis nuclear power is probably the most ethical energy source available to us.

        You can try to laugh this off, but it is a serious problem for anti-nuclear campaigners. First they brought us the climate crisis by promoting fossil fuel instead of decarbonising with nuclear power in the 20th century; and now they have brought us an energy crisis that threatens to recur every few years.

        Scotland would be better off maintaining its nuclear energy industry. Long-term it is going to rely on it, or depend upon its neighbours for it. We should be hosting the prototype fusion reactor for a start.

      2. Mark Bevis says:

        Mike, I posted a long reply to Colin G about this late last night and it has not appeared – it didn’t have any links so the spam filters shouldn’t be holding it – any ideas where it went?

        1. Hi – not seen anything and nothing pending. Sorry. Can you re-post?

          1. Mark Bevis says:

            Damn, forgot most of it now!

            Anyone who thinks nuclear waste isn’t an environmental problem obviously hasn’t heard of radiation. It’s a facile arguement because the industry admits it is running out of space to store the stuff. All energy generation forms have toxic pollution, but nuclear is the only that can sterilise the planet completely. Nuclear power should never have been invented, and anyway, the only reason countries have nuclear is so that they can make nuclear weapons – like a big boys club on the planet of macho men (men, it’s hardly ever women) who can annihilate their neighbours at a whim, either through accident or warfare. Oh yes, I remember now, the death toll from Chernoybl is now calculated at just shy of a million worldwide, including some in the UK. I rated nuclear power as the third biggest mistake in human history, after agriculture and economy.
            It doesn’t matter that nuclear is “the safest industry”, once it goes wrong it is murderous. When a windmill burns, no one dies. When a refinery blows up, perhaps 10-100 deaths occur. When a reactor fails, the death toll is counted in hundreds of thousands, it’s just they are not all at once (Hiroshima and Nagasaki excepted) so they can get away with ignoring it.

            Then there’s the delicate matter of 120 or so nuclear reactors on the coast worldwide that will be underwater at some point, we are gauranteed 17′ sea level rise already, and when all the ice goes it will be 200′. How does the nuclear industry propose to deal with that?
            In addition, as France found out last year, global heating is now making rivers too warm to cool reactors on random occasions, and they have to shut them down. We’ll see more of that as we go on.

            Anyway, the ghist of the commentary, after looking at collapsing EROEI, is rather than ramping up more of the same that got us into this predicament in the first place, we should be planning on using less energy. If anyone is not advocating Degrowth then it doesn’t matter, as Mother Nature will enforce it on you at some point soon. This is the bit people don’t understand – it may sound fascistic to interfere with the priviledges of mass consumerism and go anywhere travel, but in the end Mother Nature, Gaia, the planet, whatever name you use, will simply make it impossible to shop from the other side of the country, or too unsafe to fly, drive or sail anywhere we like.

            So let’s get ahead of the game and do a planned degrowth rather than let it happen randomly. My energy bills have gone up 20%, so have put my prices up accordingly, and more importantly I plan on using 20% less energy from now on.

            As for dams for hydro, it is well known they are a big source of methane production, due to the way they block the flow of rivers and dead stuff accumulates at the dam’s lake/reservoir. So that isn’t gonna save us either.

            I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again for other reader’s benefit:

            This is not a climate crisis. (Or in this case, an energy crisis).
            Climate chaos is merely a symptom of the predicament we are in.
            It’s not even a crisis of capitalism. Whatever -ism we would have had after WW2 would have got us to the same place.
            It’s not even a crisis of overpopulation and overconsumption (although they both play a huge part).

            It is a crisis of civilisation itself. How humans organise, feed and equip themselves whilst staying within the ecological limits of a now resource-famished planet along with all the other species on the planet.

        2. ColinG says:

          Mark, with respect nearly everything you thought you knew about nuclear power is wrong. This is understandable because there has been a lot of misinformation around, for decades. George Monbiot probably put it best when he said “The unpalatable truth is that the anti-nuclear lobby has misled us all”.

          In particular the anti-nuclear movement has persistently lied about the real (lack of) impact from radiation – including the erroneous figures you repeated about Chernobyl which Monbiot covers.
          The notion that a failed reactor results in “hundreds of thousands of deaths” is simply wrong. Typically it would result in approximately zero deaths. Chernobyl is fairly irrelevant because it would never be licensed in the West, but even Chernobyl only caused a fraction of the impact you are suggesting as Monbiot evidences.

          A typical worst-case failure for a non Soviet-design plant would be like Fukushima, where the radiation has not had any discernible effects of public health at all, and is not expected to (despite the fearmongering). Zero health impact from the radiation.:

          The worst mistake in history was the environmental movement’s decision to oppose nuclear power in the 20th century. This led directly to the existential threat of the climate crisis because they opposed the only viable alternative to fossil fuel; while failing to fight against fossil fuel for fear of promoting nuclear. Greens tacitly (and in many cases overtly) supported fossil fuel. This has resulted in creating an environmental catastrophe in the form of climate change, which was completely avoidable if purported environmentalists had supported low-carbon nuclear instead of supporting anything-but-nuclear. Ironically anti-nuclear “environmentalists” have opposed one of the cleanest, least harmful, and least resource-intensive sources of energy available.

          For what reason? Nuclear weapons? No. Plenty of countries have developed nuclear energy without weapons. All that is needed for weapons production is a small research reactor – not a huge fleet of powerstations. The reason countries developed nuclear energy for electricity was because over the long term it is a cheap, reliable and low-impact form of energy. A long-sighted public good.

          I do understand your point about staying within the resources of the plant. However with respect I disagree with your conclusion. If we want to minimise our resource use then the best source of energy is nuclear. It requires the least amount of material per unit of energy, and consequently has the smallest footprint.

          Fortunately environmentalists similar to Monbiot are coming around to the idea. Leading conservation scientists from around the world have called for a substantial role for nuclear power in future energy-generating scenarios in order to mitigate climate change and protect biodiversity:

          If you feel that the appropriate direction is to shrink back to a hunter-gatherer existence (which I assume you do, given you say agriculture is a mistake) then I can respect that position as possibly the only rational anti-nuclear argument I have come across. But assuming we want to maintain civilisation, as I think most people do, then there is no rational anti-nuclear argument – nuclear fission is the most ethical energy option available at the present time.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @ColinG, “or other stored energy”: what is the use of nuclear fuel or fossil fuel but the use of stored energy? Both of those fuels have negative environmental impacts and their use is defended by militarised states that make use of them for military purposes. Energy from renewable sources can be stored in various forms, one of which (hydrogen, commonly produced by electrolysis of water) has the distinct advantage of only producing water (again) as a byproduct when combusted. Besides, the nuclear lobby ideology is predicated on control of energy by the few, whereas most renewable schemes have the potential to be widely democratic and possibly community-owned. There was a madcap scheme for community-owned nuclear power stations, which belongs on the scrap heap along with the other fission models. If workable fusion power is achieved, it can be built as part of a global response to the climate emergency, with monies saved from the fission and fossil fuel cul-de-sacs.

      Besides, tidal generators can be always on, whilst overlapping renewable sources along with potential energy stores can meet any reasonable demand in Scotland, if other measures (efficiency, reduction in waste, combined heat and power, local renewable energy for industry etc) are put in place, as is only right and sensible. If the vast subsidies given to extremely inefficient (but profitable) extractive energy technologies had been directed to renewables instead, we would already have all the solutions we would need.

      1. ColinG says:

        Sure you can store renewable energy, but the quantities required to compensate for low-wind years are utterly vast. It needs gigawatt-years of storage, which would need to be replenished rapidly after every low-wind year. And whenever the storage facilities were almost depleted they would lead to exactly the same price panic as we see with gas, only worse because storage is finite.

        Yes, you can use many sources of renewable energy but wind is by far the biggest resource for Scotland. And it is quite possible for hydro, solar and wind to all have a bad year in the same year – that’s what has happened.

        >”nuclear lobby ideology is predicated on control of energy by the few”

        With respect, you should review your history. Nuclear energy has always been most successful as a publicly-owned endeavour, built and run for the public good – see France.

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @ColinG, on the contrary, France’s nuclear power has been heavily criticised for its secrecy, keeping its flaws, incompetencies, accidents, incidents and misdemeanours from the public eye. France’s nuclear policy was historically tightly controlled by secret committees and Executive authority, even more so than in other nuclear states. Without open scrutiny, there is no democratic control, no informed consent. Has this changed in the last decade? Rather than being for ‘the public good’, the original reactors were used to create fissile material for nuclear weapons (into the 1990s), and France’s nuclear arsenal can still wreak genocide at a moment’s notice.

          My understanding is that the new French nuclear watchdog ASN has been quite critical of the state of the French nuclear power regime.

          Are the French public behind their nuclear power? Do they really have a say? Perhaps once seen as a necessary evil, tomorrow an unnecessary one. My point is also about the concentration of profits and control within a secrecy regime with little accountability compared to the extremely high stakes of hazards (and it won’t just be the French who suffer).

          1. See also:

            South Australia’s Liberal government has celebrated the fifth anniversary of the controversial state-wide blackout by claiming that the state is now leading the country – both in terms of renewables, but also in the lack of any supply shortfalls.

            “Five years ago South Australia was plunged into a statewide blackout that put lives at risk, inflicted immense damaged our economy and made us the laughing stock of the nation,” state energy minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said in a statement.

            “Today South Australia has the best performing electricity grid in the nation as the Marshall government’s energy policies have strengthened what was a fragile, unstable and highly vulnerable electricity network.”

            The state-wide blackout, triggered by massive storms that tore down multiple transmission towers and three transmission links, quickly became a political football and an ideological battleground between parties pro-renewables, and those against.

            It amplified the “when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine” meme, but far from putting a stop to renewables, it ensured that more work was done to underpin the massive rollout of large scale wind and solar that followed.

            In the past 12 months, South Australia boasts of a world-leading share of wind and solar of 62 per cent (up from 48 per cent at time of blackout).

            Five years after blackout, South Australia now only state with zero supply shortfalls

            Giles Parkinson 28 September 2021 18

            South Australia’s Liberal government has celebrated the fifth anniversary of the controversial state-wide blackout by claiming that the state is now leading the country – both in terms of renewables, but also in the lack of any supply shortfalls.

            “Five years ago South Australia was plunged into a statewide blackout that put lives at risk, inflicted immense damaged our economy and made us the laughing stock of the nation,” state energy minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said in a statement.

            “Today South Australia has the best performing electricity grid in the nation as the Marshall government’s energy policies have strengthened what was a fragile, unstable and highly vulnerable electricity network.”

            The state-wide blackout, triggered by massive storms that tore down multiple transmission towers and three transmission links, quickly became a political football and an ideological battleground between parties pro-renewables, and those against.

            It amplified the “when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine” meme, but far from putting a stop to renewables, it ensured that more work was done to underpin the massive rollout of large scale wind and solar that followed.

            In the past 12 months, South Australia boasts of a world-leading share of wind and solar of 62 per cent (up from 48 per cent at time of blackout).

            That has been led by a world-leading share of rooftop solar that earlier this week reached 84 per cent of state demand, and could reach 100 per cent in the next month or so. That is unheard of in a gigawatt scale grid.

            The state also boasts new resources, including three big batteries – at Hornsdale (then the world’s largest), Lake Bonney and Dalrymple North – several large scale “virtual power plants,” and new synchronous condensers that (along with the batteries) can provide the critical grid services once delivered by coal and gas.

            The blackout also led to a more conservative approach from the market operator, which now seeks to ensure it has enough flexibility with the transmission links to Victoria, readily makes directions to ensure enough synchronous capacity and has introduced new protocols that allows it to shut down rooftop PV if needed.

            South Australia is adding yet more wind and solar capacity, including the country’s biggest wind and solar hybrid project at Port Augusta, and has a huge pipeline of new wind, solar, battery and hydrogen projects that will be unlocked by the new transmission link to NSW.

            The Liberal government has a stated target of reaching “net 100 per cent renewables” by 2030, but is likely to get there well before then. It is looking to produce five times the state’s grid demand from renewables in the future to satisfy the needs of renewable hydrogen and become a renewable export superpower.

            Van Holst Pellekaan noted that there were approximately 7 million customer hours of outages due to energy supply shortfalls, and said that number had dropped to zero since the election of the Marshall government in 2018, making it the only state in the country to avoid forced outages during that time.

            Interestingly, according to this graph provided by the minister’s office, it’s the two states with the biggest dependence on coal generators that have suffered the most load shedding – Queensland and NSW.


            These figures are deeply ironic, because as energy analyst Simon Holmes à Court point out, the blackout marked the point when federal energy ministers (then Josh Frydenberg) began to intervene heavily into state markets. It is still happening under Angus Taylor.

            “The system black… which for most South Australians lasted around 4 hours, was seen by many as the end to the state’s — and Australia’s — renewables ambitions,” Holmes à Court says.

            “As we can see from the data (see graph below), it was a minor bump in the road, a warning to AEMO and the states to lift their game and ensure the road to decarbonisation of the grid was well managed.”
            Changes to South Australia’s generation mix in past four years. Figures are average generation.

            It also marked a low point in mainstream journalism. Who can forget then ABC political editor Chris Uhlman’s attempts to sheet the blame on wind power, with a couple of nonsensical claims that “wind has to be backed up by baseload”, and that “wind power frequency fluctuates with the breeze.”

            It’s what happens when incomplete information is mixed in with an ideological bent. Baseload, still a favourite meme of mainstream media, is being consigned to the history books as the market moves on to flexible capacity, and batteries act as the sentries to frequency control – mostly needed when coal plants trip.

            But it seems the mainstream parties are still seeking to score political points from the blackout.

            “South Australians were let down by the former Labor Government’s chaotic energy policies that resulted in us having some of the most unreliable and expensive electricity in the world,” van Holst Pellekaan said in his statement.

            “The Marshall government has made over two dozen substantive interventions to get energy security back under control since coming to government.

            “What makes this achievement even more extraordinary is that the Marshall government has delivered a $303 reduction for the average household after bills went up $477 under the last two years of Labor.

            “And we still have more benefits on the way for South Australian via Project EnergyConnect, the interconnector between South Australia and New South Wales.” He was sharply critical of Labor’s continued opposition to that project.

            “Other measures adopted by the Marshall government to restore South Australia’s energy security include procuring world-first services from grid scale and home batteries to support the grid in disturbances,” he said.

            “We have commissioned world-leading power system physics advice on how to run the grid, which has led to new operating rules to handle existing and emerging threats.

            “We’ve brought in world-leading smart standards for solar, batteries, and appliances and supported key trials to make sure that consumers can be rewarded for supporting the grid.

            “We’ve also secured key national reforms so that enough system security services are bought by networks, retailers are required to contract firm supplies to support customers, and large users can be rewarded for changing their demand to support the grid.”

            by Giles Parkinson

    3. Duncan Manson says:

      Utter shite and you know it.

  7. J Galt says:

    Surely the way ahead for Scotland with it’s high annual rainfall is more – much more – hydro power.

    Yes the Dams disfigure the landscape but it’s concentrated in a relatively small area and much less disfiguring than enormous windfarms.

    Also the infrastructure has a much longer life than wind turbines which require replacement after 15-20 years.

    Energy can be efficiently “stored” with pump storage as at Cruachan.

    1. ColinG says:

      Hydro is indeed a good option, but it is surprisingly limited in Scotland despite the high rainfall. There was study of this in 2008:

      From the report: “…the theoretical ceiling for hydropower in Scotland study was found to be 5.4 GW. This would imply an annual energy of 47.3 TWh. In practical terms this is not achievable, since it would require *all* rainwater [in Scotland] to be used for hydropower. It is simply an estimate of the absolute ceiling that hydropower in Scotland could never exceed.”

      So if every drop of rainwater was somehow used for hydro generation, Scotland could support about 5.4GW of hydro. This is the theoretical limit.
      The figure for “technically practical” sites add up to about 2.5GW.
      The financially viable sites total only 657MW (2.77TWh annually) – equal to around half the capacity – or a third of output – of a nuclear powerstation like Torness. This would comprise over 1000 micro hydro sites.

    2. ColinG says:

      …and needless to say, hydro can also be affected by droughts in bad years, just as wind can be affected by low wind speeds.

      This is exactly what occurred this year, low wind speeds plus low hydro output at the same time, and is a significant cause of the current European energy crisis. See:

  8. Gercon says:

    Labour with their finger on the pulse.
    Or in the pie?

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