Can Renewables Solve the Energy Price Crisis?

Posted: July 23, 2017 in Sustainability
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Did your power prices go up again this month? Mine have been going up two or three times a year for as long as I can remember.

According to the Australian Green Left Weekly, there is absolutely no reason Australia can’t have 100% renewable energy in less than a decade at sharply reduced prices.

The article refers to a May comment by the vice-president of Sempra Energy, one of the largest utility firms in the US – that there was no longer any technical obstacle to powering California with 100% renewables.  “We now have the ability to control the grid twenty times faster than you can blink your eye. The technology has been resolved. How fast do you want to get to 100%? That can be done today.”

The author Renfrey Clarke goes on to point out that most of Australia’s fossil-fueled generating infrastructure is past its design life. Prone to costly breakdowns, it’s extremely expensive to maintain and should be replaced.

According to a recent Australian National University study, it’s far cheaper to replace it with renewables.

Positing the future cost of solar photovoltaic and wind energy at $50 per megawatt-hour (MWh), the team concluded that the “levelised cost of energy” (LCOE) over the lifetime of a balanced, 100% renewable energy system (including storage) would be around $75/MWh. For comparison, the LCOE of electricity from new supercritical black coal plants was estimated last year at $80/MWh.

Clarke maintains the energy market is already outstripping these prediction. Recent unsubsidized price contracts for delivered renewable energy include $40/MWh for a wind farm in Morocco and $33.90/MWh for solar photovoltaic in Dubai.

For energy storage, the ANU study proposes the well-tested technology of “pumped hydro”. This is impressively cheap and its virtues are listed as including excellent inertial energy, spinning reserve, rapid start, black start capability, voltage regulation and frequency control. Australia has numerous good sites for off-river and seawater pumped hydro.

Still greater system security is provided by a combination of pumped hydro with battery storage. Using modern software, utility-scale batteries can be switched into the grid in milliseconds. A recent Bloomberg report states that lithium-ion batteries are expected to fall in price by more than 70% by 2030.

 

Source: Green Left Weekly

Comments
  1. Nothing what a government will do to save coal powered energy generation will halt or slow the solar energy’s march forwards.It is a no brainer. The sun is there always and comes free. Nothing can compete with solar.

  2. That’s something I find really exciting about living in these times, gerard. I live in a fairly small town of 55,000 and at least 6 of my friends drive second hand electric cars now. There’s a guy you can ring who will source them for you – he also repairs them. But the great thing is they break down far less than internal combustion cars.

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