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The Forum > Article Comments > Wind jobs falling into a federal black hole > Comments

Wind jobs falling into a federal black hole : Comments

By Ben Courtice, published 29/3/2012

Those who are serious about addressing Australia's enormous carbon emissions are starting to call for the most successful system, internationally: a Feed-in Tariff.

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If wind power is so good why does it need any subsidies? The Snowy Hydro doesn't get any. Maybe because that's because they provide a reliable service unlike wind. As several authorities like the Productivity Commission have pointed out wind power already has the advantage of paying no carbon tax. It seems they want two bites at the cherry.

South Australia provides a good example of the problems. Wind power needs either giant batteries (currently impractical) or fossil fuelled generators to cover dips and lulls in wind output. But SA is fast running out of both gas and coal to do this. It is claimed they are already paying some of the world's highest power prices. When gas in particular becomes very expensive it won't be possible for SA to provide reliable electricity supply. A feed-in tariff won't help when there is no more gas to make wind power useful.

By the way the renewable energy target is not aspirational it is backed up by stiff penalties called 'shortfall charges', currently $65 per megawatt-hour. The article presumes that the stick will still apply as well as the carrot.

The carbon price alone should be enough. Electricity retailers can then decide how much wind power they want in the mix. Wind does save some gas but barely enough to justify the expense. I'm not sure what the percentage should be but it may be Australia already has enough wind farms.
Posted by Taswegian, Thursday, 29 March 2012 7:53:14 AM
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In the same vein as Taswegian, let me add that Ben Courtice fails to address the key issue here: can wind energy subsidies be justified ahead of all the other ways governments might hand out their citizensí money? Of course, subsidies in the form of feed-in tariffs or other financial assistance will hasten the rollout of wind farms and will keep or create associated jobs and industries. But they would have a similar effect wherever that money landed. And they only provide those benefits at the expense of jobs and industries elsewhere. Ask the head of the Productivity Commission, or any other person with the smallest background in economics. Ben avoids the problem by simply accusing opponents of wind farms, or renewable energy in general, of being anti-science. End of story.

Implicit in this lack of attention to costs is the notion that carbon emissions must be reduced by any means possible regardless of cost. No doubt some people believe that, but such beliefs are simply not rational. One would hope that a campaign official from Friends of the Earth would not admit to such folly.

FOE might wish to crystallise the cost/benefit problem by asking themselves a few simple economically intelligent questions, like: is it better to spend $1 billion on wind farms than on engineering research to raise the perceived safety of nuclear energy up to the expectations of the Australian community? Of course that aim might turn out to be a lot cheaper to achieve, seeing as there are already many countries where those expectations have been met for the majority of their populations.
Posted by Tombee, Thursday, 29 March 2012 8:14:55 AM
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Wind power, which is supposedly the most economical of the renewable energies has been shown to have been a huge waste of money.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/billions-blown-away-on-wind-power-says-british-study/story-fn59niix-1226294168155?from=hot-topics-home
Posted by Shadow Minister, Thursday, 29 March 2012 8:46:29 AM
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Exactly, but I would add another few points.

I was surprised to hear that this turbine maker was still going. Most of that manufacturing, for better or worse, has gone off to China due to the high Aussie dollar. In any case, what has the fate of this turbine manufacturer got to do with emissions?

If and when any of the wind farms mentioned by Courtice get off the ground they could just as easily buy their turbines from overeseas as in Aus. He is confusing an argument for reducing emissions with one concerning the retention of manufacturing capacity in Aus.

The renewable energy targets are already set and are very likely unrealistic. Bringing them forward would create chaos.
Posted by Curmudgeon, Thursday, 29 March 2012 10:52:24 AM
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I suggest that the author Ben Courtice, and anyone who is tending to believe what is in this article should read the Jennifer Marohasy item at Domain today. We must conserve coal for essential chemical processes such as a reducing agent to allow production of metals from oxide and sulphide ores long into the future.
For electric power and transport, France is the country we should be following but probably utilising molten salt thorium reactors or at least the latest safer uranium reactors. Maybe the reactors could be built on barges floating on their cooling water lakes below, but away from, the flood-ways of inland dams. Such reactors would be free of earthquake and tsunami problems and provide local decentralised employment.
Posted by Foyle, Thursday, 29 March 2012 11:55:17 AM
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Yep, it is time we confined the use of wind to parliament, it's natural habitat.

For generating power, we have lots of alternatives, but coal & nuclear are best by far.
Posted by Hasbeen, Thursday, 29 March 2012 12:46:24 PM
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