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Net 0 by 2050 – How big is the challenge?

By Newman Fergard

Given Angus Taylor’s figures have at times been rubbery (ref: Clover Moore’s travel “spend”) and the following based on figures published by the LNP government, this might not be accurate but the concept can be updated with real numbers when available. If you take a look at the 2019-20 tab you will see what I mean about rubbery – some of the reversals (minus figures) don’t make sense.

If we are going to reach net 0, we effectively have to stop taking fossil fuels out of the ground. That includes stopping the LNP “technology not taxes” concept of extracting fossil fuels, burning them in oxygen from the atmosphere and “most” of the resultant CO2 (supposedly) “sequestered” underground, because it (CCS) doesn’t work. While greenhouse gas emissions are the driver to “Human Induced Climate Change” the source is largely dominated by those associated with energy use, however other significant sources such as agriculture, etc. need to be addressed.

Energy – How is it measured?

Energy is measured in units of Joules. Energy used/produced in a period of time is a measure of power in Watts, where 1 Joule per second = 1 Watt, therefore a Watt-hour = 3,600 Joules. Residential consumption of electricity is measured/billed in kilowatt hours (20c to ???). (Ref: link to prefix definitions.) Electricity generators / power stations are rated by their generation capacity. Where fossil fuelled, theoretically the full capacity is deliverable 24 x 7 x 365, but recently appears subject to cartel like behaviour – “scheduled maintenance” during winter or summer peaks with “outages” somehow fixed once the spot price is high enough).Their unit output is measured in megawatt hours and depending on the contract basis are paid circa $50 (5 cents per kilowatt hour) upwards to… well… almost “the sky is the limit” – capped at $15,100 per MWh (2021-22) – phew!


Quarterly volume weighted average spot prices – regions


To give some perspective, a power station like Liddell (due to close 2023), originally had a rated capacity of 2,000 megawatts. Each megawatt produced on an annualised basis = 24 x 365.25 = 8766 megawatt hours, so it was capable of 17.5 terawatt hours annually. Converted to joules: 17.5 x 1012 x 3.6 x 103 = 63.1 x 1015 Joules = 63.1 petajoules.

Energy Use

We use energy largely without thinking about the source, which comprises:

  • Fossil fuels – Coal, Natural / CSG / LP gas and Crude oil and ORF
  • Renewables: Liquid/gas biofuels, Biomass – wood and bagasse, Electricity – solar, wind and hydro and Solar Direct – solar hot water. No nuclear or geothermal.



The 2019–20 key numbers are Coal: 1706.6 PJ, Oil: 2241.2 PJ, Gas: 1647.2 and Renewables 418.8 PJ = total = 6013.8 PJ with an 18-month offset in reporting.

Worthy of mention is that while we consume 6,014 PJ, we mine over 20,000 PJ and export the other 14,000PJ. We are a significant global fossil fuel player.

There’s 27.5 years till 2050 and 27.5 years since 1995, so allowing for the offset the 1992 – 93 figures are used as the starting point, viz. 1642.6, 1491.7, 707.0 and 243.8, total = 4085.1 PJ with an increase of 47% to present. Surprisingly this shows that per capita energy use has largely remained the same as the population grew from 17.7 to 25.7 million, an increase of 45% in the same period.

For ease of calculation since we are trying to get an idea of the scale involved, lets assume that population and energy demand increase by similar ratios to 37.3 million and 8854 PJ.

The transition to renewables effectively means electrification of source, so by 2050 we will need to invest in 8854 (target) – 419 (current) = 8435PJ. As shown previously, 2 gigawatt continuous generation is 63.1PJ per annum, so 8435 PJ = 267 gigawatts of continuous generation capacity is required. (To make matters worse, renewables have approximately 35% delivery rate so 763 gigawatts on ground capacity is required.)


Volumes could be written on how the last 20 (10 in particular) years have been wasted WRT the lack of design and funding to make the grid “renewable friendly.” It was not helped by climate change denial, lack of modelling of climate change impact on renewables positioning and lack of legislation for off-shore wind farms has left us playing catch-up.



Of concern is the lack of ”local-grid” planning to accommodate both rooftop solar and EVs, which might require some form of community storage.

The grid is currently structured around supplying users from fossil fuelled power stations, which will be progressively phased out. Unfortunately, most of the power stations are not at optimal “renewable” gathering locations. New transmission lines cost somewhere around $750K to $1M per km, so bringing the NT and WA into the current “National” grid is going to be expensive. However, compared to $38B wasted on job keeper overpayments we could have built 5 transmission lines between Sydney to Perth and Sydney to Darwin (3,300 and 3150km).

Make no mistake, significant (6 times capacity) upgrade to the grid is required if it is going to carry 267 gigawatts as opposed to the current 43 gigawatt generating capacity and unless it is given urgent focus will limit meeting emissions targets.


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  1. totaram

    Written on June 29. No comments as yet, on 01/07/2022. Interesting, isn’t it? It tells us why in simple terms. The content of the article is too difficult to process. Even if one does process it, comments are difficult to compose in a meaningful way This is only because readers here care about these matters. Just click on one of the videos of SkyNews and read the comments. The amount of nonsense you find there will curl your toes.

    Let’s stick to any matters concerned with energy and power, which were clearly defined here. These definitions are things that seem simple but are apparently difficult to conceptualise for many persons. It requires time and effort, which most people simply don’t have, because they are so involved with looking after their families and putting food on the table etc.

    So it is so easy for the purveyors of bullshit to bamboozle them. Just tell them that all troubles with the electricity grid, whether shortages, blackouts, or high costs, are all because “Greenies” have forced us to use renewables which are just no good, and just can’t provide something called “baseload power” which is essential for the health of the grid and “the economy”.

    The investment in the grid is required, but note that it depends entirely on the owners of the parts of the grid that are involved. Who will pay and who will benefit? The usual problems with an artificially constructed “market” for what should really be a state/federal monopoly. If anyone thinks this issue can be sorted out by a one paragraph discussion here, they are mistaken.

  2. Harry Lime

    Totaram,all anyone needs to know is, if we don’t take dramatic steps now, we are well and truly fucked.There is so much counter information out there, peddled by the usual purveyors of horseshit.We all know who they are..mainsteam media cockheads, whose only job is to generate a headline, facts be damned.Aided and abetted by those whose easy ride on the back of taxpayers for so long is now threatened by a better informed populace.
    The only thing that has changed around the way people respond to imagined threats is the narrow and viciously biased media we now sport.The garbage that passes for newspapers and television are caught in a financial bind of attracting”customers”,so they need attention grabbing headlines to hang on to’ customers’ Murdoch’s printed filth has been going backwards for years,so naturally he’s infecting the internet,but he’s only one of a crowded field of failing Media ‘Moguls’
    Newman Fergard’s article is a blueprint for immediate government action.Experts have been spruiking the same message for far too long.
    COOEEE, Chris Bowen…anyone home?

  3. Fred

    Don’t know if anyone else noticed the “Quarterly volume weighted average spot prices – regions” graph, but if you stand back and let it blur slightly, it shows the price was getting cheaper apart from the combined uptick for Q1 22. Labor might get lucky by being able to say they cut prices at the next election by simply letting whatever is happening happen.

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