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Big Batteries: Elon Musk and Powering South Australia

At the end of last month, Tesla boss Elon Musk held a party in South Australia’s mid-north. It seemed premature, but Musk was typically confident. Construction on what will be the world’s most powerful lithium ion battery was going well.

It had to. Musk has made a self-testing gamble with the South Australian government: complete the project within 100-days and duly be compensated for it, or build it for free. This is the sort of technology gambit EM delights in, even if it risks putting him $50 million out of pocket. Should all go well, the battery, once connected to the grid, will be operational by December 1, storing energy from French renewable company Neoen’s Hornsdale Wind Farm near Jamestown.

“To have that [construction] done in two months … you can’t remodel your kitchen in that period of time.” Confidently sparring with the audience, he claimed that the project “serves as a great example to the rest of the world of what can be done.”

The contract between Tesla and the South Australian government stipulates that, “The facility will provide services to maintain power system security, integrity and stability for the South Australian electricity network, prevent certain load shedding events, provide supply during critical peak periods and participate in ancillary services and wholesale electricity markets”. Truly, a tall order, though scale is something that has never troubled the billionaire.

The experiment is both dazzling and troubling for the energy-confused politicians who find themselves incapable of dealing with Australia’s energy woes. In a country where energy prices, be it electricity or gas, are astronomically high; where supply is questionable and more than occasionally interrupted during the high points of summer, the brains trust has proven skint.

The only state to attempt to challenge the continent’s troubles is South Australia. That plucky, often neglected entity within the Australian commonwealth has also paid a price, having faced blackouts in September last year. These have, in turn, become highly politicised events, seeing the state singled out by lovers of coal and natural resources for being fundamentalist in greening the grid.

Be it the former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, or his deposer, Malcolm Turnbull, South Australia is seen as an example to avoid, rather than emulate. Certainly, Musk admits to an element of doubt, even if small. “There is certainly some risk because this will be the largest battery installation in the world by a significant margin”.

Far from being deterred, efforts are being made from Adelaide to adjust and adapt. This is a crisis abundant with opportunity. Forget smug Victoria and brash New South Wales, the most populous, and supposedly more “advanced” of Australia’s family of states. South Australia, always a curious aberration of Australian development, will take the colours of innovation. In addition to a gas-fired plant comes Musk’s 100-megawatt battery. The latter’s strength lies in its stabilising potential, shoring up shortfalls when required.

The other troubling catch in this is not merely the echo of utopian, spellbinding confidence. Dealing with wealthy moguls and creatures of business on such a scale can make the populace jittery and anti-corruption watchdogs nervous. When parliamentarians choose to throw in their lot with cocksure businessmen, certainly Musk’s clout, rewards can sour.

The Murdoch press, never to pass up an opportunity to target anything environmentally friendly, has eyes on the project. The value of the contract, for instance, has not been disclosed. Business information of a confidential nature has been kept under wraps, though there is that nagging issue of public accountability.

The opposition politicians are similarly sceptical about the Musk dance with South Australia’s energy market, considering it Mephistophelean in nature. “With every passing day,” suggested Liberal deputy leader Vickie Chapman last month, “Labor’s secret deal sounds more like a marketing con than a genuine plan to deal with South Australia’s electricity problems.”

Were the premier, Jay Weatherill, to not disclose “how much public money he is handing over to a foreign billionaire” the contract might risk, ventured Chapman, being investigated by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.

Musk is far from worried. He has a world to remake, grids to electrify, territories to save. While the Labor government in South Australia faces probing questions about deals with the energy devil, Musk is being pushed on another project: re-electrifying hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. “Let’s talk,” suggested the territory’s governor Ricardo Rossello, keen to take the solar energy and storage route. Musk seems more than willing.


94 comments

  1. Miriam English

    $50 million sounds like a lot to us ordinary folks (and it is), but remember that it is less than half of what Australia’s Prime Idiot has forked over in our travesty of a postal vote for prejudice.

    I hope the renewable future for South Australia works really well and they get to rub the LNP climate-denying, anti-renewable, coal-loving crooks in the LNP and Labor in the rest of Australia a good comeuppance.

  2. Roswell

    Miriam, it’s also chicken feed compared to what’s being thrown at Adani. Makes this $50M look like an absolute value-for-money deal.

  3. Andrew Chambers

    If our friends in .gov had a wit of intelligence they’d be putting the $1bil down as matching funding for the Southern Hemisphere gigafactory – to manufacture Australian invented technology – Zinc Bromide Flow Batteries as well as the flavorite Lithium (which may be better used, added to the diet of .gov.) Alas, they are witless.

  4. Matters Not

    Seems to me that Elon Musk now falls into the financial category of – too big to fail. At least his financial backers hope so.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that in this case. Perhaps?

  5. Abu Seme Alakat

    South Australia is blessed by Uranium, which we refuse to use ourselves – but sell to other countries. Idiocy.

  6. Jack

    Musk will deliver this battery farm, get paid and then move on. Nothing wrong with that at all.
    I just really hope this works and it can actually help SA during a blackout period, without being just another SA pie in the sky dream where they still have to rely on Vic power anyway.
    If it doesn’t we’ll be in the same loop with coal v gas v renewables argument for longer still.

    @Abu, not to mention it has so much stable geological land for the storage of spent waste too.

  7. Johno

    Abu Seme Alakat.. I would rather we leave uranium in the ground.

  8. Klaus Petrat

    Whilst I like the “DO” image of Elon Musk, I am amazed, that a project like this goes down without any public scrutiny. Who is to say that Musk has the best batteries in the world? Who is to say, that his batteries last more than 6 months.

    I love renewables and I know we must proceed on this path with all determination we have. Otherwise is to risk our future. But to accept a throw away line from an American Entrepreneur without any scrutiny is foolish.

    I wish SA all the best in this endeavor. I fear that this will be a gigantic failure, if not at first, then a little down the track. And guess what, the Libs will be reveling in SAs failure.

    A bit more thinking and market testing for the best available battery technology (and I fear it is not Musk’s) would have helped. But let’s see.

  9. Harquebus

    In my search for a price and information, figures of up to $250m have been stated but, as was said, we don’t know for sure. Also, the ‘Big Battery’ needs to be replaced about every 15 years or so. I can’t, at this stage, be more specific.

    The costs though include other factors such as toxic byproducts dumped unprocessed into the environment, slave wages in Asia, consumption of finite resources, CO2 pollution (from manufacturing) and the decommissioning and disposal. There is also the reliance on transport for maintenance so, some liquid fossil fuels will always have to be needed.

    “The problem we face is a liquid fuel crisis. Absolutely essential vehicles, such as agricultural tractors and combines, railroads, and trucks run on diesel fuel, ships on bunker fuel. They can never be battery or fuel-cell operated or electrified, nor do we have the decades it would take to build a new fleet even if there were a solution, or convert the existing fleet to run on coal (liquefied) or natural gas.”
    “oil decline will relentlessly shrink the economy.”
    http://energyskeptic.com/2017/transportation-how-long-can-we-adapt-before-we-fall-off-the-net-energy-cliff/

    Jay Weatherill’s Big Battery, along with every other nonessential that relies on transport, will die.

  10. Miriam English

    Klaus Petrat, actually it is widely felt that Elon Musk does have the best lithium ion batteries in the world. He’s spent big money on the best researchers to solve the main problems and I’m pretty sure he’s opened all his patents to the world. He wants to fix the world, not make squillions on an unfair advantage. I know he’s opened his patents on other things to do with electric cars, and I’m fairly sure he’s done the same with lithium batteries too. The problems with lithium batteries are actually pretty well understood.

    Here’s a lecture on the topic:

    Why do Li-ion Batteries die? and how to improve the situation [1hr 13min]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxP0Cu00sZs

  11. Joseph Carli

    ” Jay Weatherill’s Big Battery, along with every other nonessential that relies on transport, will die.”
    It has already succeeded..It has changed the conversation AND the actuality from “resigned” to fossil , to resort to renewables.

  12. Miriam English

    H, your broken record is repeating again. You might want to fix that.

    Lithium batteries do need to be replaced, that’s true. It’s one of the reasons they’re not my favorite technology (I prefer supercapacitors, but they’re still a little way off being practical). However, it isn’t a matter of a non-renewable resource being used up and dumped. Lithium batteries can be completely recycled. The reasons why they die (see the video I linked to above) is because a kind of skin forms on the lithium. There are various ways to delay that and extend the life of the battery. Elon Musk, I believe, has the longest lasting lithium batteries in the business. But they do need to eventually be recycled. Does that cost energy? Yes. Does that energy have to be petroleum or petroleum gas? No.

    You are way out of your depth, H. The waters keep getting deeper as new information is added, but you never seem to learn any more.

    We all know you think everybody’s screwed and that there’s no hope. Just go somewhere nice and quiet and have a good cry. Don’t try to convince others to give up. It’s cruel and pointless.

    If it turns out that you’re right, then we’re all screwed anyway and it doesn’t matter if you’ve convinced a few people of it. However, if it turns out that we can fix this, then every person you convince to abandon that work makes it that much harder to repair the damage.

    Either help, or STFU.

  13. Harquebus

    Miriam English
    The only thing holding us back from doing what is required is the likes of you saying basically, just wait, she’ll be right, science and technology will save the day so, in the case of “Either help, or STFU”, take your own advice.

  14. Miriam English

    And electric tractors and trucks are actually more powerful than fossil fuelled ones. Electric tractors and trucks are not impossible — they already exist. Tesla is creating a new line of electric trucks.

    But H, we’ve covered this many times before. Do you have a learning disability?

  15. Miriam English

    Unfortunately, H, what you think is required depends upon billions of people dying and society collapsing back to agrarian tribalism.

    That’s not a solution. That’s a definition of everything going wrong in the worst possible way. It’s merely a way of redefining the problem as the “solution”.

  16. Miriam English

    As for the people who are holding us back from that “solution” being those who hope science and technology can fix things, yes! Damn right. I truly hope we can save humanity from your “solution”. Your “solution” is what is known as a dystopia. I know you love the idea of everybody dying except you and a select few others, but really, H, that’s not a solution. It especially isn’t a solution for those billions who die.

  17. Miriam English

    And for the record, H, I’ve never said, “just wait, she’ll be right.” I’m aware that things are dicey.

    I try to adopt changes myself that will have good effects and I try to spread knowledge of ways people can help fix things. We need to embrace improving the world, each person at a time. That especially means cutting back on the obscene levels of consumption so conspicuous at the moment. That also means improving efficiency and adopting technology that’s sustainable. Sometimes that’s high-tech, sometimes it’s low-tech. I have no bias toward one or the other.

  18. nurses1968

    I love new energy, So much so I bought a BMW I3, but I think I was a bit hasty.
    Other than when I am at work, it was pointed out to me that at every recharge I am dependant on a coal fired power station, so I guess I drive an electric/ coal fired vehicle at present

  19. Joseph Carli

    nurses1968October 13, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I love new energy, So much so I bought a BMW I3,
    Y’see..you should’a bought a pushbike!

  20. nurses1968

    Joseph Carli
    I need to cover more than 200 metres at a time 😀

  21. Miriam English

    nurses1968, it will change as coal dies. Less than a decade away I expect most energy in Australia will be renewable. Africa generates half of all its electricity renewably.

    And Joe is right. Pushbikes are a great way to travel, especially if they also have an electric motor to assist. You’d have to be terribly unfit to be unable to propel a pushbike more than 200 meters. I’m in my mid-60s and its not unheard of for me to walk the 14km round trip to the nearest town and back. Riding a pushbike would be much easier. (Cars are better in the rain though.)

  22. Harquebus

    Miriam English
    Perhaps “basically” was the wrong word to use and “in effect” would have been more appropriate.
    Like you said, we’ve been here before.
    Avagoodwun.

  23. Abu Seme Alakat

    “it was pointed out to me that at every recharge I am dependant on a coal fired power station”

    Did you ask how long the battery is likely to last?

    Caveat emptor

  24. Joseph Carli

    ” Caveat emptor”……I shouldn’t wonder…

  25. nurses1968

    Abu Seme Alakat
    “Did you ask how long the battery is likely to last?”
    I did, 8 to 10 years optimum,
    “BMW is one of the few EV manufacturers that offer a clear battery capacity loss warranty, and has guaranteed at least 70% capacity for 8 years or 100,000 miles. The stated usable capacity for the 2014 i3 is 18.8 kWh. Therefore, the battery would need to degrade to 13.15 kWh to trigger a warranty claim.”

    That is way more than I need as the vehicle is part subsidised by my employer and they get traded after 40,000 kms

  26. jimhaz

    [Were the premier, Jay Weatherill, to not disclose “how much public money he is handing over to a foreign billionaire” the contract might risk, ventured Chapman, being investigated by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption.]

    As should be occurring with Adani.

  27. Zathras

    It’s just too hard. Whatever we consider gets trashed by somebody.

    Let the rest of the world do what they want but let’s just keep burning our coal until it’s all gone.

    Maybe later we can find a way to burn dead coral from the remains of the Great Barrier Reef or generate hydro-energy from rising floodwaters or capture thermal energy from the heat of bushfires.

  28. Brad

    Harquebus makes sense. It took nature millions of years to create coal, oil and gas reserves. In less than 400 years mankind has managed to burn up just under half of it. The ‘discovery’ of fossil fuels led to an extraordinary population growth (250 million to 7 billion). Now there’s less than 100 years of oil left and about 200 years of coal. Then what? Resources have been used up thousands of times quicker than they can be replaced, all with no real effort to change our wasteful Western economic strategies.
    If oil and gas and coal were priced according to their value as a store of transformed sunlight, which is what they really are, what would that price be? Expecting 7 billion people to lead our indulgent lifestyle and not making conservation of energy and decrease of population a priority is the fast track to entropy. Harquebus for Environment and Energy Minister.

  29. jimhaz

    Coal is a resource that many other countries do not have to export. It gives a competitive advantage to the country that will be lost with renewables in the shorter term (<15 years) after which solar technology may allow us to export renewable energy to Asia. In relative terms Australia would lose “balance of payments” advantages. Removing coal exports would cost Australia quite a lot. Import costs would rise. It is not that surprising that our government is reluctant to be at the forefront of renewable energy use. In some ways it is quite reasonable until such time as renewables production in overseas countries is at a far higher level – – but only if there was a clearcut specific plan to slowly reduce production, not increase it as the price must rise to cause the change to renewables.

    For myself, I still think all the coal will be used, so I’m not worried about that loss. I am not convinced that cleaner coal, say to the equiv of gas, is impossible down the track. The difference is that it will be used over a much longer timeframe thus give the earth a small opportunity to lose more carbon from the atmosphere (not that that can occur with world population increases). In being anti-coal all l’m seeking is something that will give us more time for economic and materialistic adjustment. Also renewables being domestic helps to prevent the loss via money to overseas investors. We really need to promote Australian owned renewables and have tight limits on OS investment in this area – as we will need to make up for the large export loss.

    What we need to avoid is the following present scenario of more coal used, more CO2 generated and still being of less to OZ, all due to greed during the boom where over-investment occurred..

    “Australia’s metallurgical coal export volumes are estimated at 154 million tonnes in 2012-13, up 8.5 per cent from 2011-12. However, owing to lower prices the value of exports decreased by almost 27 per cent to be $22.4 billion in 2012-13”.

  30. Michael Fairweather

    It’s good to see SA going for battery back up, the future is not in coal but in renewable energy, which will make more jobs for Australians . Most Australians have not seen what coal smoke can do, when in UK we had smog which was so thick and choking you could not see more than 2 mtrs in front of you.

  31. Zathras

    There’s a real possibility that in the near future, economic sanctions will be imposed on countries that refuse or fail to meet their international emission reduction obligations.
    A trade embargo or levy placed on Australian exports won’t do much for our economy.

    Neither will a reduction in coal exports.
    China has been buying about 49% of our exported coal but that’s expected to reduce dramatically as they move to other energy sources.
    Effectively paying Adani a $billion to take our coal away is no solution.

    It’s irresponsible and a bit crazy to think it will remain “business as usual” as long as we can keep digging up rocks and burning them while the rest of the world moves ahead.

  32. Terry2

    There is momentous change occurring right now around the world.

    Germany has committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 95 percent by 2050, the UK has pledged to wipe out coal power by 2025, France will shut down all its coal-fired power plants by 2023.

    There is a global movement and yet here we cannot settle on a clean energy target and we refuse to even allow discussion about bringing nuclear fuel into the mix.Yet we are happy to lend money to a dodgy Indian coal company to develop more coalfired power stations.

    There is something seriously wrong with our inability to move ahead and it is going to damage our economy if we don’t get some visionary leadership soon.

  33. Miriam English

    Brad, Harquebus doesn’t make sense. He just dismisses everything and says we’re screwed no matter what we do, that we might as well lie down and die. He’s wrong. Renewable energy sources really do work and they can provide us long-term energy without screwing the world.

    Yes, fossil fuels have helped to produce explosive growth, but they are disappearing faster than people generally realise. At current rate of use coal probably wouldn’t last 50 years. Thankfully coal use is collapsing. Coal companies around the world are going broke due to the drop in demand as coal-burning power stations are being decommissioned and new ones not being built.

    You are quite right that fossil fuels have been subsidised in a way that favors them and gives them an unfair advantage in the energy market. Expect that subsidy to dry up soon, and when it does you’ll see the shift to efficiency and renewable sources go into maximum speed.

    It’s true that there is no way that 7 billion people can live energy-profligate lives without making an utter mess of the planet, but things are changing. People want greater efficiency; they prefer to spend less on energy, and in a market where the cost of fossil energy always climbs higher, that is pushing change. The days are numbered for cars that currently waste more than 90% of their energy to drive a single human around. Homes waste stupendous amounts of energy; that’s changing more slowly, but it is changing. Industry has begun opting for greater efficiency as they’ve realised they can save vast amounts of money by simply not having to buy large amounts of energy. Renewable energy is growing at a rate that is astonishing.

    Things are changing. I would love for it to change faster, and it will, but in the meantime we must all do our bit to move things in the direction we want to go.

  34. Brad

    I like your optimism Miriam. I believe the majority would be happy with renewables. The sticking point is the collective lack of will to make substantial changes to our inefficient lifestyles. The govt sees more stuff circulating or services being used as GST events and consumers are likely to vote govt out if they required or priced a reduction in the carbon footprint of Australians. There’s a whole mindset to change.

  35. Roswell

    Harquebus for Environment and Energy Minister! Oh, shoot me. Please.

    Harquebus thinks everyone will be dead by the end of the century and has given up. I think we need a Minister who has better plans than one who wants to crawl under a rock.

  36. Roswell

    Somewhere in the galaxy there are surely planets, when on the brink of doom, discovered technologies that ensured their survival. There would also be some that didn’t.

    But I’m sure it can be done.

    I believe.

  37. Roswell

    I’d rather live on a planet full of Miriams than a planet full of Harquebuses.

    Gawd, imagine a planet full of Harquebuses. I dare you. ?

  38. Rapideffect

    Renewables only replace electricity which is approx 18% of total global energy demand. The other 82% of energy has to be generated somehow.

    Miriam English said:
    “Renewable energy sources really do work and they can provide us long-term energy without screwing the world.”

    This is completely false, renewables are far from clean or renewable.

    Miriam English said:
    “Renewable energy is growing at a rate that is astonishing.”

    Oil and gas are growing at a greater rate than renewables. Renewables account for 3.2% of global energy consumption.

    @Roswell

    The planet is full of Miriams (people that believe technology will save civilization) that’s why civilization is where it is. More consumption of non renewable resources to build and maintain renewables is not a solution.

    Don’t believe I dare you.

  39. Roswell

    I’m sorry. Dare me what?

  40. Rapideffect

    I dare you not to believe, instead look for the evidence.

  41. Joseph Carli

    Rapideffect wrote..: ” Renewables only replace electricity which is approx 18% of total global energy demand. The other 82% of energy has to be generated somehow.”

    It’s true..for example, my horses stand side on to the early morning sun so as to get maximum energy to warm themselves..but hey!..wait a minute..isn’t that solar energy in action?

  42. Roswell

    Rapideffect, you certainly do talk in riddles.

  43. Roswell

    Good one, Joseph. I’ll pay that.

  44. Miriam English

    Rapideffect, you’re an idiot. You keep repeating to same mantra of doom.

    Forbes is a right-wing money-oriented organisation. Here is what it was saying about renewables 2 years ago:

    Solar photovoltaics (PV) continued to lead the rest of the renewable energy pack, with growth in global capacity averaging 42% annually over the past five years. Concentration solar power (CSP) continues to show strong growth as well, with an average annual growth rate of 35% over the past five years.

    ……..


    Net power generating capacity added in 2016 by various technologies, GW. Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance/UNEP Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2017

    ……….

    An article in Time magazine (not exactly a left-wing, dewy-eyed, hippy magazine):

    Renewable Energy Continues to Beat Fossil Fuels
    Clean energy grew at a record pace as the United States added 22GW of capacity — the equivalent of 11 Hoover Dams — to the grid from renewable sources last year, significantly trumping new fossil fuel additions, according to a new report.

    The report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) cites the declining cost of wind and solar power, largely due to advances in technology, as prime reasons for the rapid adoption of renewables. The cost of building large utility-scale solar photovoltaic power plants for example has been fallen by 50% in just five years.

    Renewable energy companies have also benefited from the quick decline in coal power that has resulted from a combination of factors including stiff competition from cheap natural gas and environmental regulation. Coal-fired power plants now provide only 30% of the country’s electricity compared with nearly half of the supply in 2008.

    http://time.com/4662116/renewable-energy-fossil-fuels-growth/

    Brad, many governments are making themselves irrelevant. In Australia and around the world people are adopting solar photovoltaic power faster than they took up mobile phones. Half of electricity generation in Africa is photovoltaic. Bangladesh has the highest solar photovoltaic roof-top installation rate in the world. Citizens in Australia and other first-world nations are using less power instead of more because they prefer more efficient systems. These things often fly in the face of what governments want. Of course things move faster with enlightened governments. We see that in many European countries and we see it in China, but if people make changes themselves there is not much even the most stupid government can do to stop it.

  45. Harquebus

    Miriam English
    “He [Harquebus] just dismisses everything and says we’re screwed no matter what we do, that we might as well lie down and die.”

    That is not so and once more you are twisting things. You really piss me off when you do that which, is often and only because, I do not agree with your delusions..
    If we continue with business as usual, we will be screwed. That is not what I am advocating. There are things that we can do but, we ain’t doin’ ’em.
    Population reduction, economic contraction, rations and quotas, low employment…. None of these are even being contemplated so, screwed it is and your stupid renewable energy dream is only contributing to our worsening environmental nightmares.
    I read the carbonbrief article. The figures you state are “renewable energy capacity” and not the energy delivered. Can you provide us with that information?

    Roswell
    “Gawd, imagine a planet full of Harquebuses. I dare you.”

    If this was the case, we would not be where we are now. We would not have had the GFC, economic inequality would not be rampant, pollution would have been reduced, the environment protected, fisheries and forests preserved, we would all be living simpler lifestyles, working less and we would not now be approaching the human cull that we are.
    Nope. It is the economist mouthpieces of those that are destroying what sustains us that have taken precedence and our politicians have blindly obeyed.

  46. Rapideffect

    @Harquebus

    I found an article that may be of interest to you, if you haven’t already read it.

    https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/chinas-economic-boom-is-about-to-be-cut-short-by-peak-oil-warns-state-funded-study-exclusive-2533df2aeb6b

    @Roswell

    For someone not willing to debate and only joins the conversation to make snide remarks, I can see why you cannot comprehend what I am talking about.

    RoswellAugust 7, 2017 at 9:31 am

    Rapideffect really is a pain in the arse. A pain in the arse with tunnel vision.

    Why do we bother with her? Her comments are pathetic.

    Maybe you should take your own advice…

    @Joseph Carli

    Yes that is solar energy in action, but hey, wait a minute, I was actually talking about the technology that captures solar energy, renewables…

    Miriam English said:
    “Renewable Energy Continues to Beat Fossil Fuels
    Clean energy grew at a record pace as the United States added 22GW of capacity — the equivalent of 11 Hoover Dams — to the grid from renewable sources last year, significantly trumping new fossil fuel additions, according to a new report.”

    Fossil Fuels continue to Beat Renewable Energy

    “Oil remains the world’s dominant fuel, making up roughly a third of all energy consumed.”

    “Oil provided the largest
    increment to energy consumption at 77 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe), followed by natural gas (57 mtoe) and renewable power (53 mtoe).”

    “Oil remains the dominant fuel in Africa and the Americas, while natural gas dominates in Europe & Eurasia and the Middle East. Coal is the dominant fuel in the Asia
    Pacific region, accounting for 49% of regional energy consumption.”

    https://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/en/corporate/pdf/energy-economics/statistical-review-2017/bp-statistical-review-of-world-energy-2017-full-report.pdf

    From Miriam English’s carbonbrief link:

    “Despite the record additions, though, the renewable share of generation still only inched forwards by 1 percentage point. This is a far slower pace than what will be needed to keep global temperatures well under 2C as set out in the Paris Agreement.”

    It would seem Miriam English suffers from confirmation bias…

  47. Jan

    Dear Rapideffect Harquebus has an issue with all women as he likes to bully them online. I am sure he wouldn’t say a thing to a women face to face as I feel he is intimidated by them.

  48. Roswell

    Rapideffect, you don’t like my one-liners or snide remarks … well here’s some advice: if you don’t like me being here, then stay away. It’ll be welcomed by most people here if you took a hike. Miriam is right: you’re an idiot.

  49. Jan

    Rapideffect : Roswell is another bully sad to say !

  50. Joseph Carli

    Rapideffect..: ” @Joseph Carli

    Yes that is solar energy in action, but hey, wait a minute, I was actually talking about the technology that captures solar energy, renewables…”

    Rapid’..given that the amount of energy used to mine and process the materials used to make the components for renewable energy technology is the same whether it be powered by fossil fuel or renewable energy, you’d have to agree that as soon as we transit over to electric powered mining/transport (they already use electric-powered ore shovels) powered by renewables, the cost/benefit of using fossil fuel will be hopeless. as not only do you have to mine the coal/gas/oil, you have to process them and then there is the pollution to get rid of (a cost factor not as of yet considered in many cost/benefit numbers)..against the factor of free fuel for eternity.

  51. Kaye Lee

    Rapideffect,

    You are hilarious. You accuse Miriam of suffering from confirmation bias as you link to an article about a “study” done by the China University of Petroleum which says

    Without finding an alternative source of “new abundant energy resources”, the study warns, the 2018 peak in China’s combined conventional and unconventional oil will undermine continuing economic growth and “challenge the sustainable development of Chinese society.”

    This is at odds with the International Energy Agency Oil Report 2017 which says

    Twenty years of strong demand growth in China, fuelled by rapid industrialisation and infrastructure spending, is giving way to a slower pace as the Chinese economy moves towards a services and consumer-led structure. In the five years to 2016, Chinese demand grew by 4.8% a year, compared with growth of 5.5% in the five-year period ending in 2011. For the period to 2022, China’s demand will grow at an average annual rate of 2.4%.

  52. Miriam English

    Harquebus, I know I’m pissing in the wind here, but I’ll give it another shot. You think we need far less people in order for some to survive (contraception takes decades to have any effect, so perhaps you’re more keen on mass die-offs). You think we need a nice strong economic depression, rations and quotas, and massive unemployment. How can you NOT see that you are describing the problem and simply renaming it as the solution?

    You really have a bee in your bonnet about renewable energy. Have you noticed that increases in manufacturing efficiency have halved the price over the past 5 years? While it is true that price doesn’t completely tally with energy and materials use, it nevertheless does have a fairly good relationship. Your old EROI figures don’t fit the present time. Only the fossil fuel brigade think it does.

    Renewables together with efficiency are giving us access to all the energy we need. Yes, we need to consume less of the things that the crazy fashions and advertisers push people to want, but we’ve seen people willingly curtail consumption before in the 80s during the big oil price hike. The same will happen again when oil prices really bite once more. Increasing numbers of people are already doing so.

    Damn… thunder gotta go turn off my mains-connected damn computer.

  53. diannaart

    Arrived a little late. Again.

    However, am looking forward to seeing South Australia leading the way, shining the light, so to speak.

    Doesn’t matter if Musk’s deadline is not reached (well it does to Musk) but SA will be able to stave off blackouts this summer – provided the climate does not throw in another of those extreme storms at the wrong moment – y’all know the kind of storm I mean, the variety which wipes any power grid, no matter the power source.

    Please, please climate gods, do not throw a curve ball into this one, I really cannot handle another nanosecond of Turnbull and cronies telling whoppers about how energy grids work.

    Another plea, that the same microscopic scrutiny be given to ANY coal, gas or uranium proposals that is applied to anything renewable.

  54. Harquebus

    Jan
    “Harquebus has an issue with all women”

    I deny that. Care to provide a few examples?

    Rapideffect
    Muchos grazios. I had read about it.

    “researchers warn that if “new abundant energy resources” aren’t lined up, the situation will “challenge the sustainable development of Chinese society.””
    https://cleantechnica.com/2017/10/06/china-study-warns-impending-oil-production-peak-world-oil-market-squeeze-peak-recoverable-coal-2020/

    Kaye Lee
    5.5%, 4.8% down to 2.4% appears to me to corroborate “undermine continuing economic growth”

    Miriam English
    You are not comprehending what I am writing. (Rampant confirmation bias.) Population control is only part of the solution but, it is the most important.

  55. Roswell

    Me a bully? Nah. I’m just intolerant of idiots.

  56. Jan

    Too numerous to mention Harquebus. I am just the messenger. I hope you reach out for help and guidance very soon.

  57. Rapideffect

    @Jan
    Unfortunately many choose to bully each other on the internet, a bit more respect for each other would go a long way.

    @Roswell

    I think I’ll take my advice from someone who actually has real advice to give, but thanks for trying.

    @Joseph Carli

    “free fuel for eternity”

    So you choose to believe and not look at the evidence…

    @Kaye Lee

    You’ll have to do better than that. China turning into a consumer economy, great we’ll just have to find a few more planet earth’s then!

    @Miriam English

    Your solution (more consumption)is the problem, but hey don’t let the facts get in the way of your story.

  58. darrel nay

    In my humble opinion the population control arguments are a reflection of the growing sociopathy in our society – for me, the more people the better. As we move into space we will need more people. These tired old population control arguments stretch back at least as far as Plato and we have heard it all before.

    Cheers

  59. Harquebus

    Jan
    “Too numerous to mention”
    I’m only asking for a few. Wotsamatta? Can’t put up?
    I can tell you 100% that, if I had ever bullied anyone, I would be banished and never allowed back.

  60. Jack Straw

    The nutty provocateurs are out in force today.

  61. Jack Straw

    darrel ; Yes and Plato said an unexamined life is not worth living. Your time is up.

  62. darrel nay

    Actually, Jack, Plato was quoting Socrates and the quote referred to an “un-analysed life” not an unanylysed mind. Socrates was refusing to be silenced and I, too, will not be silenced.

    Our time is now!

    Cheers

  63. darrel nay

    Every comment I make is being held-up in moderation and it makes it difficult to have a synchronous discussion, so I will tend to make statements if this situation continues, but, I won’t be silenced by overly-deliberative moderation.

    Cheers

    I love Australians, whatever their political stripes and I appreciate alternative views rather than trying to silence them.

  64. darrel nay

    p.s Jack, your unexamined life was correct – I had a brain fart. It was Socrates though.

    Cheers

  65. Roswell

    Darrel, I think I’ve fixed that up now.

  66. darrel nay

    Thanks Roswell

  67. Jan

    Harquebus I can tell you 100% that, if I had ever bullied anyone, I would be banished and never allowed back.

    You do it everyday.You have been barred from from this web site so many times and then you return again and again.

    You had to mention semen in one your comments today didn’t you? Your constant snide remarks. I know you are a bully and it’s as

    simple as that.I feel you have a low self esteem that is why you are always trying one up on everybody.Your like a wild dog chasing it’s

    tail.

  68. darrel nay

    Sticks and Stones Jan.
    You used the same word.
    Is there a list of the words that are banned?

    Cheers

    p.s. I have seen Harquebus ‘bullied’ on this site plenty of times.

  69. Roswell

    Dianna, the blackouts started hitting SA big time soon after John Olson sold off ETSA to the Chinese.

    But now it’s Jay’s fault.

    Go figure.

  70. Rapideffect

    @Roswell

    No one deserves to be bullied or abused or insulted for expressing their opinion.

  71. Roswell

    I read or saw something just the other day about electric jets, but do you think I can remember where or what it was about?

    The only snippet I can remember is that they’re still a vision.

    Someone, somewhere, is keeping the dream alive.

  72. Michael Taylor

    I’m sorry that it’s come to this, but I’ve had enough of the constant attacks on authors, commenters and moderators, as well as the pattern of derailing posts.

    People with ‘history’ will now be having their comments moderated. It’s at the discretion of the moderator as to whether that comment will be cleared.

    It’s not what I’m happy about doing, but it’s been forced upon me.

  73. diannaart

    Roswell

    I wish I could figure the thinking of RWNJ’s … on second thought, no, I don’t want to know.

    I expect attacks on Jay Weatherell to ramp up as the next Federal Election approaches.

    … and apparently the foreseeable closure of Hazelwood (ageing & decrepit old coal power station) is Victorian State Premier Andrews’ fault can’t recall which RWNJ in Turdball’s coalition said it earlier this week.

    The good news is that lower carbon footprint, sustainable energy is the direction humans must take and most of the OECD countries are taking, lest we do find ourselves in the dystopian future Harq & rapid so gleefully predict.

    … it is sure gonna be interesting…

  74. Miriam English

    Rapideffect, your difficulties with comprehension are showing again. I’ve never said that more consumption is the answer. I repeatedly say that we need to consume less.
    By the way, that’s also one of the nice things about using renewable energy sources too: you consume less.

  75. Harry

    Miriam, I am with you. Despite the naysayers and the hand wavers, renewables and energy efficiency will drastically reduce emissions. The necessary and inevitable transition is only a matter of time and indications are that this could occur faster than many believe, once tipping points of price etc are reached.

    Not that any of current renewables are perfect but if history is any guide human ingenuity and necessity will lead to further increases in scale, effectiveness and lower resource use in their manufacture and rollout.

    Our population increase must also be tackled. I am not sure how and when this should occur however. But I do not buy the doom and gloom merchants. They may be fossil fuel shills whose aim is to delay the transition to sustainable living fir as long as possible so that their lords and masters will be able to wring the highest return on their increasingly shaky business model.

  76. Miriam English

    Harry, exactly. Efficiency is increasing in renewables and batteries (and supercapacitors), and in many other aspects of society. We need them to happen faster, but they are accelerating. As you say, when price reaches a tipping point on many of these things they snowball. At the present rate of acceleration it looks like fossil fuels will be overtaken by renewables in less than a decade.

    Human population is being tackled. There are massive projects to help lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty and end starvation. History has shown that when those people no longer have to scratch for their existence, they cease having so many babies. And as efficiency increases and we can do more with less, especially with renewable energy, those poorest people can be lifted to a luxurious standard of living without having to consume great amounts of resources. At the same time those advances allow us in the first world to live better lives on less, reducing our consumption. And with billions more educated minds going online, who knows where the next genius will come from to solve the next big problems?

    Information now about excess food causing a wide range of health problems means we can expect food consumption in the first world to fall, as many people are now regularly fasting to improve their well-being. Increased interest in vat-grown food (particularly vat-grown meat) will free up large areas of land from destructive farming practices.

    It feels frustratingly slow, but all this is happening right now. It would be faster if we didn’t have to contend with corrupt politicians, fossil fuel companies pushing misinformation, and counterproductive doomers, but it is proceeding despite them all.

    Things are changing for the better and they are accelerating. We’ve left it dangerously late, but I hope it’s still fast enough to avoid the worst. We’ll see.

  77. Miriam English

    I was thinking more about this today and pondering what brings people to certainty based upon incomplete information. That is the big difference between doomers (like Harquebus and Rapideffect), and deniers (like Tony Abbott and Malcolm Roberts), compared to other people who include uncertainty and are able to update their knowledge with new information.

    You’ll notice that doomers are absolutely certain of the future. They have no doubt at all that they know what’s going to happen despite relying on decades-old data from the infancy of modern renewable technology showing that solar photovoltaic (PV) cells took marginally more energy to create than they produced in their short lifetime. They wrongly generalise this to all other renewable technology and refuse to update that information now that manufacturing PV devices has become much more efficient and the devices themselves now last longer, giving them an extended payback period.

    Why isn’t the new information accepted? Because it undercuts the religious fervor of their end-of-the-world prediction. Even though they are not climate change deniers, they also take on and internalise a lot of the bullshit promoted by petroleum companies to confuse and disarm the concerns about climate change and its solutions. In this way they have some similar characteristics to actual climate change deniers like Tony Abbott and Malcolm Roberts. But the doomers are basically intelligent people misled by their fanatically held beliefs, whereas the deniers really don’t appear to have the intelligence to think in a clear fashion, and require others to do their thinking for them — they outsource their brains.

    Now consider those who do worry about climate change, population growth, potential food shortfalls, biodiversity collapse and a hundred other problems, yet seek solutions. These people know the dangers facing us, but look for ways to fix the problems, aware that many times in the past humans have faced terrible problems, but with application of intelligence we have found ways around the looming threats. I haven’t met any who unquestioningly believe that we will definitely overcome every problem without great inconvenience — those people would be as deluded as the doomers and the deniers.

    There are undeniably genuine risks, but there are also large numbers of incredibly smart people working very hard to solve those problems, and historically, humans are truly amazing at their ability to come up with unforeseen solutions in the face of apparently insoluble puzzles. These people admit their concerns and they value uncertainty. It becomes part of their analysis. Certainty has no place in a realistic view of the world. Change is the only guaranteed constant.

    Will we solve these problems? On balance, past evidence shows it’s pretty likely that we will, but that we’ll do so a bit late, and causing unnecessary trauma along the way, but that we will solve them. Is it certain that we will? Of course not. We might fail, but nobody knows for sure whether that’s our destiny.

    The spruikers of certainty impede work to fix the problems. The doomers cry that it’s a waste of time and effort, that renewables can’t work (even when they do), that we’re all screwed, and we should simply accept and deal with catastrophe. The deniers try to convince people that there is no problem to be solved and that we can continue on our current destructive path forever. The easiest way to see that both are wrong is in their certainty.

    The future isn’t here until it arrives, and human intelligence is astonishingly unpredictable and powerful. In the meantime we should work towards fixing our problems, taking in new information and learning better how we can make small (and big) changes that, multiplied over billions of people can make enormous differences to our future.

  78. diannaart

    Will we solve these problems? On balance, past evidence shows it’s pretty likely that we will, but that we’ll do so a bit late, and causing unnecessary trauma along the way, but that we will solve them. Is it certain that we will? Of course not. We might fail, but nobody knows for sure whether that’s our destiny.

    Exactly.

    Deniers and other anti-science spruikers seize on the unknown as evidence science is wrong, whereas science sees the unknown as a realm of possibilities.

  79. Miriam English

    Well put, Dianna.

  80. J Marsh

    I look at the solar panels on houses and think HMM what if each of those homes had battery back up?
    I am aware that a lot of households could not afford the cost but maybe they could be accessed the way we did the grid in the 70’s.
    I would think battery back up would take the pressure of the grid in peak periods. This surely would be an advantage!

  81. diannaart

    @ Miriam

    🙂

    @ J Marsh

    Electric cars will become more economical for the average citizen, perhaps neighbourhood battery centres would solve the issue of back up (more affordable if purchased by community) and provide a safe place to recharge vehicles?

  82. Miriam English

    J Marsh, there are a lot of advantages in battery backup. The difficulty (apart from high price) is the present state of battery technology. There is a frantic race on now to improve it, and there are many potential contenders for the best solution, but few things look really great yet. Lithium ion is still the best — which is why Elon Musk chose it.

    In the long run, my bet is on supercapacitors. They’re improving very quickly too, though still have some way yet to go. Supercapacitors store electricity, but differently than batteries do. They’re more like buckets that you fill up and empty. They don’t take part in any chemical reactions so there’s nothing to wear out, and because recharging doesn’t rely on reversing chemistry it can be done in seconds or minutes instead of hours. There are 2 main problems though:

    ▪ The amount of charge depends mostly upon internal surface area, and though we’re getting better at creating materials that replicate some of the feats of living things in creating small packages with remarkably large surfaces (e.g. your lungs fit inside your chest yet have roughly the surface area of a tennis court), we’re nevertheless still falling far short of what we would like. The experiments by Robert Murray Smith show how small experimenters can compete with the large corporations here.
    https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertMurraySmith/videos

    ▪ The other problem is that supercapacitors act differently from batteries. Batteries output a nearly stable voltage for most of their discharge cycle, then voltage rapidly falls off near the end. Supercapacitors start at high voltage and discharge rapidly at first, falling off in a smooth exponential curve, approaching zero voltage ever more slowly. Supercapacitors need a different kind of circuit to turn this different discharge curve into something more usable for standard electronics. A commonly used circuit is the “joule thief”. This converts the varying voltage to a constant voltage with varying amps (current). So it can be done, but the extra circuitry means they’re not just drop-in replacements. I expect what we may see soon is the circuit added to supercapacitors, the same way we see the recharging regulator integrated into lithium ion batteries nowadays.

    When either batteries or supercapacitors improve significantly we will see every home with a bank of them. And you’re right. They make good sense because they’d be a great help to the electricity grid.

    The big obstacle will be the corporate electricity suppliers. They see solar panels and batter backup as threats, when they should see them as assets that they can use to help them sell a service rather than electrons. While they have this antagonistic mindset they will work hard to oppose solar panels and batteries and fight against the good of our society, and they’ll spread nonsense propaganda denigrating solar panels to do so. We should never have privatised energy suppliers.

  83. Miriam English

    diannaart, you’re right. There has been a lot of talk lately of using the batteries in electric cars as a backup system for home power. And a few communities have installed backup battery systems to improve local power reliability. Most of those I’ve read about have been in Canada, though I’m sure they’re elsewhere too.

  84. diannaart

    Miriam

    I have been considering the problem of recharging electric cars which do not have convenient and secure garages in which to recharge. Therefore, the idea of combining localised grid systems as both power back-up and re-charge stations appeals.

    PS

    I have a pocket science calculator I bought in the 70’s – the lithium battery is just starting to falter now.

  85. Miriam English

    I should have mentioned that when supercapacitors achieve the energy density wanted they will probably be permanently built into devices because they will last the lifetime of the electronics they’re intended to power. They can be recharged millions of times with no loss of function. Then electronics will already have the circuit integrated into it to take advantage of the discharge curve of the supercapacitor. At that point you won’t buy supercapacitors to put in your devices. It’ll be taken for granted that you just recharge the devices in seconds and don’t need to think about the supercapacitor inside.

  86. diannaart

    Supercapacitator definitely the way to go… but predict tussle in marketplace as lithium type batteries DO require replacement and are, therefore, a money stream.

    Like so much that is worthy, capitalism often destroys – the mantra of “the market will decide” is such arrant rubbish when a good economic system needs to have a moral foundation – of course the top of the heap don’t want a moral market place, hence all the damn lies and warped statistics.

  87. Miriam English

    diannaart, Tesla have been building hundreds of recharging stations all over the world, including in Australia.
    https://www.tesla.com/en_AU/destination-charging
    And superchargers that can recharge a car much more quickly:
    https://www.finder.com.au/tesla-superchargers-map

    Only slightly related, I was just reading a proposal recently for using electric train power lines for electricity distribution to remote areas. With more efficient appliances and solar panels and battery backup such a system makes a lot of sense and would be less of an eyesore than the enormous towers we presently see marching across the landscape.

  88. Miriam English

    diannaart, capitalism and the marketplace have brought us some truly wonderful things, but as you say, it too often goes bad and becomes immoral. I think there’s a change happening at the moment though.

    Some capitalists are seeing the necessity and the value in a moral conscience. Not only is it becoming a selling point, but the consumers are beginning to use market forces in an unexpected way to thrash bad actors using their own tools.

    Just yesterday, I think, we had a win where Coles removed misleadingly labelled cat food from their shelves after widespread protests. There have been many such changes in recent years powered by people. All the banks that backed away from Adani didn’t do so just because it was financially unsound; their customers hounded them to take notice of the economics.

    Bendigo Bank makes a major selling point of the fact that they invest in local community and don’t invest in fossil fuels. Now we have ethical investment companies whose entire attraction is that they don’t invest in immoral industries.

    And people like Elon Musk spend fortunes doing stuff because it is the “right thing to do” and he wants a good future for his kids.

    Bill Gates, who was a quite immoral businessman during his time at Microsoft has woken up and realised that he needs to leave a legacy of good behind, so is spending billions helping defeat common diseases in the poorest parts of the world and to fund schools and education to help the future of those people.

    Opportunistic sociopaths like Martin Shkreli who raised the price of medication by 5,000%, simply because he could, have been widely condemned. Shkreli is facing fraud charges, whereas not so very long ago he would have been considered unwise, but not immoral. Things are changing.

  89. Harry

    Thanks for your comprehensive reply Miriam. Like you I am never completely certain about anything and am always open to persuasion, unlike some. I am confident that humanity will ultimately solve the challenging technogical problems we face.

  90. Andrew Chambers

    The Australian market has demonstrated that with some government incentive to engage the attention of consumers, that they will pick up on technologies and ideas that service their needs more efficiently and cheaply, hence the runaway success of two initiatives – PV arrays on private dwellings and the mass conversion to far more efficient appliances and light sources.
    These technologies have taken on an unstoppable momentum as they are returning on the investment in both reduced cost and greater certainty of supply, something our coal / gas fired for profit electrical supply companies cannot do. Fundamentally, this switch to privatization has been a disaster, for all parties, other than political parties who have grown fat and bellicose on their continual diet of corporate subsidy.
    @miriam – What are your thoughts on the Zinc Bromide Flow Batteries developed in Australia and being bought to market locally by companies such as Redflow who have a manufacturing arrangement with the Tesla Corporation and their Gigafactories?
    The future lies with a decentralised generation network of many individual residences and businesses sharing the generation and load over the interconnecting network. It will become another part of the business plan to deliver the generating capacity to support your business, just as it will be necessary for the private home owner to meet the demands for every additional load they add to the home (AC, a pool, big ass sound system…).
    This model carries across to all the needs of society; water, waste management, food, communications and creates local economies and local employment. These will not be high paying careers but permanent casual work supporting the local community and the lifestyle that community offers (a transition away from pure consumerism and the fetish of wealth and trinkets).
    That possibility scares the bejesus out of the party pollies and their corporate backers.
    Cheers!

  91. Miriam English

    Andrew Chambers, I’d been told by a few people to look into Zinc Bromide batteries, but hadn’t done so until you prompted me to, above. It sounds like a really interesting development. I like the fact that it can be completely discharged without damaging it, and that it can sit in a discharged state for an indefinite period without damage, however the fact that it must be periodically discharged completely in order to avoid growing metal dendrites that can puncture the separator is a little bit of a drawback. The new versions of the battery with a gel electrolyte instead of liquid are good too. It’s lower cost makes it attractive too. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it. Thanks for prompting me to look into it.

    As you say, any sane map for the future must require distributed generation. It would make the entire grid more stable and resilient and require less investment in giant centralised plants, but scares the corrupt ones in government and the those who fill their pockets with bribes.

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