Until You Read It

On a Tuesday in June, in Adelaide, coinciding with a major conference looking at the potential of nuclear energy, the Conservation Council of South Australia announced an ambitious 100% renewable energy plan for the state. It was intended to show that nuclear energy was not merely unnecessary, but unwelcome and indeed a burdensome and unequivocally nasty prospect in every conceivable way.

It comes at a time when educated scepticism of such exclusive energy visions is finding its mainstream voiceIf nuclear energy is only to be feared and not considered, it insists, you renewable-energy-only advocates are far from convincing us.


The first curious thing was the near dearth of actual renewable energy available on the chosen day (the third set of peaks in the above chart). Is it too bold to suppose that these nuclear opponents would have made quite a point of all the wind and solar had the day been a cloudless gale? The second was the pamphlet which accompanied the announcement. It made no bones about reinforcing a collection of misinformation regarding nuclear power. It was also set out in the promotional formatting of a major telco, and the inclusion of irrelevant residual technical details on “Ethernet reliability” and “application-awareness” made it clear how much proof-reading was involved. Thirdly, the background paper itself (left uncited in the pamphlet) could only be described as a missed opportunity. In a process for gathering and assessing serious, detailed knowledge and perspective (namely, a royal commission) the case for expanding South Australian renewable energy to 100% in place of any further consideration of the nuclear fuel cycle has received the most cursory of efforts. Considering the calibre of the other submissions I have seen so far, I see this as a shame. Furthermore, the intrinsic anti-nuclear slant of the report actually distracts from the plan’s overall ambition, rather than reinforcing it.

Throughout the report there are many statements and anecdotes but no justification based on actual results from robust research, for example CCSA says that a 100% renewable energy plan will:

  • create jobs – no figures presented
  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions – no figures modelled
  • reduce air pollution – no discussion other than the assertion

Also according to CCSA, compared to nuclear their proposal:

  • is equally reliable – no modelling is presented, it is just stated to be so
  • is much less dangerous – not mentioned in report at all, without quantification. See ENSAD or ExternE for detailed comparisons of risk
  • emits less life-cycle CO2 – no figures cited
  • offers wider range of environmental and health benefits – no quantification
  • will be implemented much more rapidly – no quantification or examples used other than nuclear delays in Finland, France and US (rapid builds in China, Korea and other countries are not included)

Just stating it and referring to forthcoming modelling or an anecdote is not enough to justify commitment to an entire energy policy. This would not be a sufficient report to justify to investors to pursue such a plan. If a similar proposal for nuclear power in South Australia noted the above categories with no accompanying justification, would the CCSA accept that report in full?

The current status of South Australian renewable energy has received detailed, impartial and peer-reviewed analysis. For anyone wanting to extrapolate its future potential, I recommend beginning there. In his blog article regarding CCSA’s contribution, Ben Heard invites further critique on their plan, and I feel the following document provides at least the level of energy-literacy necessary to oblige.

An Analysis of “100% Renewable Energy for South Australia”



3 thoughts on “Until You Read It

  1. Compare the SA wholesale electricity spot price with other states in the table top right in the AEMO homepage
    Not somewhere to start a business. The old hippies love this 100% renewables stuff meanwhile young people are voting with their feet by leaving SA.

    • That’s the long and the short of it, John. At 7pm tonight, SA was paying over $60/MWh while every other state was in the low 30s. Invoking more FiTs and CfDs for new capacity which doesn’t add any further reliable supply (cf. AEMO’s wind capacity credit analysis, and Alinta’s conclusions re the cost of CST) is a big ask. In contrast, the fully dispatchable capacity of an EC6 as studied in http://decarbonisesa.com/2015/07/18/a-lot-changes-in-three-years-zero-carbon-options-2015-edition/ may be worth potential contracts for difference. Not being a finance guy, I don’t really know. But as with a lot of our generators – and industries! – in modern times, I suspect foreign investment will be crucial to moving forward in this endeavour.

      • CFD or high carbon pricing may not be needed. SA no longer has the coal fallback option while Cooper Basin gas will be gone in 20 years. Surely the rest of Australia won’t be so coal dependent by then which gives SA the early mover advantage.

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