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Power failure: some inconvenient renewable energy realities

By Geoff Carmody - posted Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The problem

Electricity is more and more important for our power supply.

We debate power sources. But we rely a lot on fossil fuels. 'Green' car and other batteries, (such as the SA Tesla battery array), add power storage costs, whether re-charging using renewables or fossil fuels like coal.

Stated energy policy is to deliver affordable, reliable power, with lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Policy isn't delivery. Our electricity demand-supply balance looks wobbly on reliability, and is very costly.


We've only pursued lower emissions. Globally, we've gone backwards on these. For affordability and reliability, locally, likewise. Energy costs have soared. Local businesses are closing, and/or going offshore, taking emissions with them. Australian living standards have suffered, and will suffer more, as a result.

This is power failure.

The Government's stated policy goals provide the benchmarks for measuring failure.

Policy delivery has transformed us from a low-cost energy-competitive powerhouse to a costly-energy policy pauper. Global GHG emissions are still increasing. Nothing we do will alter this prospect much, if at all.

Why do we no longer deliver the two outcomes we once achieved: affordability and reliability?

The fundamental cause: politicians chased one new goal, and ignored the two old ones

The Government says we face an energy 'trilemma': supplying affordable, reliable, low-emissions electricity. They, the Opposition, and others, should know. They're all accomplices before, during, and after the fact.


Politicians put this 'trilemma' label on a problem of their own making over many years. It's become a policy excuse, in the last year or two, as adverse cost and reliability consequences of their blinkered energy policy have emerged. Blame-shifting is rampant.

These people didn't even talk about a policy 'trilemma' until recently. They only talked about reducing emissions. They hoped affordability and reliability would look after themselves – while denying they couldn't.

Affordability and reliability went backwards as the power grid staggered under a renewables policy onslaught that is also driving out lower cost dispatchable power supplies.

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This is an edited version of Geoff Carmody's 5 January 2018 booklet entitled "POWER FAILURE: affordable reliable renewables? Some inconvenient realities".

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About the Author

Geoff Carmody is Director, Geoff Carmody & Associates, a former co-founder of Access Economics, and before that was a senior officer in the Commonwealth Treasury. He favours a national consumption-based climate policy, preferably using a carbon tax to put a price on carbon. He has prepared papers entitled Effective climate change policy: the seven Cs. Paper #1: Some design principles for evaluating greenhouse gas abatement policies. Paper #2: Implementing design principles for effective climate change policy. Paper #3: ETS or carbon tax?

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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