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crunch time in energy « Previous | |Next »
June 1, 2011

One of the significant events in energy politics in Europe is the decision by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to close Germany's nuclear power stations by by 2022 and invest in renewables., grid infrastructure and storage capacity. Germany plans to double the share of renewable energy to 25% by 2020.

RowsonMNukesGermany.jpg Martin Rowson

Predictably, The Australian, in an editorial, condemns the decision as simply cosying up to the Greens, and it dismisses renewable energy as being impractical for an industrialized country. There was no argument for the last claim.

This kind of partisan politics----there there is no alternative to building new nuclear plants---- ignores what is happening in the energy world; namely that solar photovoltaic system costs have fallen steadily for decades. They are projected to fall even farther over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, projected costs for construction of new nuclear plants have risen steadily will be now cheaper than electricity from proposed new nuclear plants.

The Australian's proposal to develop a nuclear power industry in Australia looks more and more like whistling in the wind. Australian utilities are finding solar and wind energy to be profitable and preferable to risking investments in new nuclear facilities. Clean, efficient energy is the path forward; a pathway resisted by the mining industry.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:43 PM | | Comments (5)


We just installed a 1.5kWh set of solar panels and paid a fair bit less than $10,000 dollars [ignoring the government rebate] for such, all up, installation, inverter etc all included.

And part employed several persons in the process.

It will give us electricity valued at around $800 per year which is tax free income/savings as compared with the 10os of dollars we would have lost if we had that money invested and paid tax on the income.
Again, I am ignoring the govt and company rebate [54 cents per kWh] for electricity fed into the grid.
Not counting that bonus.

So the panels will put us in clear profit in about 13 years which is well within the expected efficient life of the system.

OK, those figures may be a trifle optimistic, then again they may be pessimistic.
And they assume the current price of electricity will remain the same, if it doesn't [and there is only one direction in which they will change ie more expensive] then we will be further ahead ... probably.

Now thats the least efficient scenario around re solar power.

Larger scale, not necesarily huge, will be more efficient and more profitable.

And the current $10,0000 dollar cost is decreasing, the price of solar panels have been trending down for several years and there is no reason to presume the capital costs of solar will not continue to decline in absolute and real terms in the near and longer term future to the point where the power generated will be as cheap, or even cheaper, than the average price of the current mix of non renewable power costs.

And then there are the hidden gains of solar which clinch their advantage over the non-renewables.

Far far less greenhouse gases produced, no toxic nuke radioactivity to avoid for hundreds of years, increased industrial and technological employment as the solar industry takes off in this country, no hidden social and health costs from air pollution from particle emissions.

I would make the case that currently solar is a reasonable option for households for generating power without government subsidies.
With government subsidies its a clear winner.

we have acted similarly. The solar panels on the household roof in Victor Harbor will be installed in mid July. It is a 2.8 kwh set --and so the capital outlay is greater even with a local council subsidy. It is being for similar reasons to yourself--it's a good investment.

The Germans are legislating to support the renewable energy sector with substantial electricity surcharges, subsidies, planning reforms and public research funds designed to double the share of power generated by renewables to 35 per cent by 2020 and much more beyond.

By the end of the decade, the German government by subsidising investment in renewable technologies, will have enabled German industry to lead the world in renewable energy equipment. Any large scale investment in either renewables, whether it is off-shore wind, or desert solar will have German companies at the heart of it

This will accelerate the reduction of costs through mass production, allowing renewables to displace fossil fuels more quickly around the world.

A pity Australia is not doing likewise.

for the right wing wing nuts the Earth is flat and two plus two equals five

From many in the energy business energy means "oil, coal, gas and nuclear" - the rest don't warant the title.They had hoped that solar and wind would go away.The fossil fuel crowd do not want to share the pie with renewables. Hence the attacks.

You have to acknowledge the sheer scale of the fossil fuel economy and that the carbon-based energy is at the very heart of the global economy. So any serious transition will be costly and it will shake up the existing organisation of energy production. it will involve pricing carbon to promote changes in consumption so that eventually production will shift in response; massive investment in renewables and mass public transport systems and strict regulations on inefficient energy use and polluters.