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Net Zero and a surfeit of pies in the sky


This article is about Australia but it has obvious resonance for Britain.

THE other day Chris Bowen, Australia’s minister for a contradiction in terms (namely, climate change and energy), stood on the Gippsland shores surveying Bass Strait, imagining offshore wind turbines as far as he could see. And, following Die Hard‘s Hans Gruber’s take on Alexander the Great, when he saw the breadth of his domain he wept, for soon there would be no more fossil fuels left to axe. Poetic embellishment aside, that pretty well sums up the single-minded maniacal intent of Australian governments, federal and state, to replace entirely power sources which are reliable, constant and dense with those which are unreliable, intermittent and diffuse. What could possibly go wrong?

At the start of the new year, it is salutary to recall the grand schemes in train to rob us of the energy security that our fathers and grandfathers took for granted. My dad had confidence when he switched on the lights that they would indeed come on. His only concern was that his two children, including me, tended to leave them on when leaving the room.

Where to start? Best, I think, with the assessment by the AEMO [Australian Energy Market Operator] that we will need nine times the number of wind turbines we have managed to construct in the last thirty years and more, and nine times the number of solar farms, and five times the number of rooftop solar panels with attendant battery storage, to achieve the Panglossian goal of Net Zero in the next 28 years. Where will the turbines and solar farms be placed? Apparently, mostly in still-be-to-designated renewal energy zones, including offshore.

It’s pie in the sky, of course. Neither the manpower nor materials will be available. For example, does Bowen know where the specialist ships will be sourced to plant turbines in the sea? Reportedly, there is a world-wide shortage. Has account been taken of incipient objections to offshore wind farms by fisheries and wildlife aficionados? Has he assessed the increasing environmental objections to onshore wind and solar farms? It’s a delicious irony that environmental lawfare will be coming for renewables. Then there’s the transmission infrastructure, and the environmentalists don’t like that either as it traverses pristine landscapes, disturbing the habitats of our wonderful native species.

AEMO again. It estimates that 13,200 kms [8,200 miles] of high-voltage transmission lines will be required to interconnect the National Electricity Market – the South Eastern grid. How many large ugly pylons does that require? I don’t know; maybe 30,000 or so. Most of them to be built on cleared landscapes or on someone’s land. Imagine how much pain and cost that will entail. Expect governments to force landowners into compliance as reliable power sources are abandoned and demolished and the promise of a clean-energy utopia turns sour. That will be just one facet of the dystopia to come – an inevitable outcome of governments turning to the tenets of socialism in order to impose hardships on their subjects-cum-vassals.

Take the recent imposition of a 12-month price cap on natural gas with the accompanying portent of regulations to ensure producers charge ‘reasonable’ prices in the future – straight out of the communist Eastern European playbook. It’s just one sign of things to come. (Best to keep in mind that capitalism, freedom and prosperity occupy a small part of human history. Socialism and tyranny are always in the wings.) This climate scam, with which sadly most of the Australian population are willing fellow travellers, is a gangplank to the dark side.

If you think 13,200 kms of transmission lines is a pipedream, how about 28,000 kms [17,400miles]? This, according to AEMO, will be required if Australia becomes a ‘green hydrogen superpower’. At this point pipedreams become so stretched that words fail. Fools’ paradises will have to do. Take the planned green-hydrogen project northeast of Port Headland, the Asian Renewable Energy Hub. A 26GW project designed to produce ammonia from green hydrogen for export around the world. Envisaged is 6,500 square kilometres [4,040 sq m] of wind turbines and solar panels, a desalination plant to produce sufficient pure water to support electrolysers on a vast industrial scale, supplemented with an industrial process to convert the hydrogen produced to ammonia, for safer transport. Now imagine many such implausible schemes to fulfil Australia’s destiny of supplying green hydrogen to the world. World domination, no less. Move over, Fu Manchu.

All the while, as scheming to blanket the country with renewable energy moves way ahead of practicality and reality, actual reliable base-load power sources are being decommissioned and demolished. Liddell next year, Eraring in 2025, Yallourn in 2028, Loy Yang A in 2035; and, bet your life, more closures will be brought forward. Australia will run out of power. Blackouts will ensue. Don’t worry, governments have smart meters up their sleeve. These will become compulsory. They will allow the powers-that-be to monitor your electricity usage and to cut off those whose social credit score is not up to scratch. In renewable-energy newspeak, it’s called demand management. You’ll find it in the AEMO report.

Oh, this will never happen, some might say. The same healthy people who complied with orders to stay at home because of a mild illness that seriously affected only the old and sick. Governments learnt a lesson from that. They now know what servile sheep their populations are. Just waiting, wanting, to be told what to do. Please keep us masked, isolated and jabbed repeatedly with experimental vaccines.

Finally, to cap it off, as it were, we have the so-called Capacity Mechanism, which is supposed to bridge the transition from reliable fossil-fuel power to unreliable wind and sun power. The Energy Security Board (ESB) stupidly thought that gas and coal would play a part. After a good thrashing for being heretical, the ESB lost carriage of the Capacity Mechanism (in August). Now it’s with the states which, in Monty Pythonesque style, think that unreliable wind and sun should either be firmed with unreliable wind and sun, or with sources of power like batteries which are seriously inadequate, or with not-yet-built pumped hydro, or with not-yet-invented affordable green hydrogen. Weep, for we are in the hands of idiots who will turn despotic when their crackpot plans unravel.

Sorry, forgot. There’s the forecast, commissioned by Labor from RepuTex Energy – you know, the crowd that projected electricity prices would fall by $275 by 2025 – which has 3.8million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2030 and 3.8million households with EV charging points. Yes, those in charge are idiots. But, really, can they not do simple arithmetic? My back-of-the envelope calculation shows (explained here) that EV sales would need to form about 37 per cent of all new car sales each year from now until 2030 to reach 3.8million. As it stands, the Electric Vehicle Council reported in October 2022 that just 3.4 per cent of new car sales are EVs. It’s a good job. As I understand it, electricity is required to run EVs. And that will soon become a scare commodity. Store up candles and woolly underwear.

This article appeared in Quadrant on December 27, 2022, and is republished by kind permission

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Peter Smith
Peter Smith
Peter Smith is a frequent contributor to Quadrant Online.

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